Praise is due for superstores

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The Independent Online
From Ms Frances Elliott

Sir: Peter Popham's article about out-of-town superstores and, in particular, Tesco at Dorchester (Magazine: "Doomsday for rural England", 27 May) needs a counterbalance.

Many reasons lie behind the decline of certain town centres: the recession, too much town centre floorspace, inadequate and poor quality car parking, have all had an effect. Small shopkeepers themselves have said that they are concerned about high rents (with upward-only reviews), the cost of utilities, the uniform business rate and discount stores as well as superstores.

The superstore enables us to provide people with a huge range of products with consistently high levels of quality and customer service. Economies of scale allow us to buy and sell many goods, not only petrol, more cheaply than smaller retailers. And the beneficiaries are millions of consumers. The economic efficiency of the format, combined with strong competition among stores, has helped keep food inflation levels consistently below the retail price index. As a result, the proportion of household expenditure taken up by food has fallen from 15 per cent in 1980 to 12 per cent in 1992.

The architecture of our store outside Dorchester may not appeal to Mr Popham. We worked closely on the design with the Duchy of Cornwall and the local council, just as we adapt most of our stores to conform to local authority practical and aesthetic criteria.

Mr Popham is as entitled to his architectural sensibilities as any one else. But I object to his assumptions about the service given by our staff at Dorchester. They work very hard to get to know their customers and to help individuals who need an extra hand. And they play their part locally in other ways. Last year, for example, they won a National Training Award for the workshop and student placements that they organised for a local school. To sneer at notices describing fund-raising events for charity because the language is not quite to his taste is a surprising reaction.

Yours faithfully,


Corporate Affairs Director




6 June