Letter: Superstores have passed their sell-by date

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Sir: Under the heading "Ulster reaps dividend of Sainsbury move" (21 June), Nigel Cope gave further credence to the misapprehension that supermarkets create employment - the opposite is the case. In only the narrowest sense can the introduction of Sainsbury to Ulster be said to create 2,000 jobs. There will be a net loss of employment.

The people of Ulster will not consume more just because a new shop arrives. Many smaller retail operators will close or reduce their staffing levels, distribution warehouses and cash and carry wholesalers will be similarly affected; and, if normal supermarket practice has been followed, many of the jobs at Sainsbury will be part-time. The figure of 2,000 will be "full-time equivalents".

Not that the arrival of Sainsbury in Ulster should be seen as bad news - the firm is well known for investing only in areas where prosperity is likely - the old gag in the sit-coms about places that "do not even have a Sainsbury's" has a considerable amount of truth. The decision should therefore be seen as a vote of confidence - but as good news in employment terms? Not really.

Yours faithfully,

Gordon Mitchell

New Brancepeth, Co Durham