Tesco to close 43 stores…

February 16, 2015

…but in Tescoville, they’re opening yet another Express (or it might be a Metro). This time in a new build block, clearly built with provision for a convenience store on the ground floor.

I have tried hard, but I cannot think of a convenience store that is not Tesco. True, in the outlying villages there is a Sainsburys local, a Morrisons [whatever] and a little Waitrose, but these are in the centre of their own little conurbations, not part of Tescoville. I’m not counting a Marks and Spencer simply Food outlet as it’s in a retail development and about the same size as the food hall in any regular M&S.

I put the tally in Tescoville as follows: 2 large supermarkets, one centre and one edge of town; 2 as part of an Esso garage shop [the little Waitrose mentioned above is in a Shell garage shop]; 1 in a converted pub, 2 in other converted retail outlets (one a car showroom). Another pub was down to be convered to a Tesco, but somehow the application failed due to a nearby existing store – and that’s a terrible place, I’ve been in there and report that first hand! There is also a Tesco metro in one of the outlying villages, being the only food shop in the entire village.

Of course there are other large supermarkets, a big Sainsburys, Morrisons, ASDA, scattered around the place, and I’ve not counted a co-op or similar, or the independents being shops pre-existing the convenience store craze. But how and why Tesco have so dominated the convenience store sector in the town is beyond me. It is of note that in the neighbouring smaller towns in the area, Tesco is conspicuous by its absence.

Mind you, it’s not sweetness and light in the villages. The above Sainsburys seems to have caused the closure of the nearby Budgens, which is now empty (despite the larger floorspace it had).

I was in Tescoville over the weekend, and rather forced to take a route I don’t normally due to traffic. So I was slowly climbing up a street that leads up the hill (the scene of a past adventure, lost to this blog) when I noticed a lot of blackboards in a pub presently called “Scorpio”. This pub had had a couple of recent transformations, but was a true carriage pub in that it had wide gates for horses to be led down to stables etc.

The blackboards clearly stated the pub was closing, or as they euphamistically put it, moving elsewhere within the town, and indeed by the time I was passing it was closed. And I also noticed that the premises – freehold – were up for auction. This was a pub that was in existance before the between wars facade that was built on that street, and which indeed reduced it’s floor space making allowance for a larger road; thus the pub was incorporated into the facade.

Nearly every second shop front in that road is an estate agents – since the 1970s to my certain recollection – one can only guess it will become another estate agent.

As I was driving a moving car, and it was dark, I had no chance to take a photo, although I will try if only for the record.

But on the topic of the supermarket Tesco, which dominates the town by number and size of outlets, their recent travails have been a source of schadenfreude. Although there is only one Lidl in the area – or is it Aldi? – anyway only one of the two, I was amazed to discover a “little Waitrose” at a petrol station opening in a nearby hamlet – albeit the sort of place that a little Waitrose would open. Affluent suburb. And a pretty good place it turned out to be, apart from a town-wide power cut just as I was about to pay for my petrol purchase.

A garden shed…

January 16, 2015

The shed that my father designed and built himself is over 40 years old and ten years of neglect hasn’t helped. I believe it to be rescuable still, but would need alternative storage in the mean time. And I could do with a shed of different dimensions.

Any ready-to-assemble shed that I have ever seen for sale has one feature that I cannot understand. The door is about 5’6″ high at maximum. Anyone taller has to bow as they go in. I also gave away one such shed from my Aunt’s place, although there was a favour in return so I cannot really complain. A neighbour had a bespoke shed made, but it is off square, the door doesn’t close properly, and not a good advert.

I happened upon a website offering shed plans for thousands of designs, and so I signed up. Disappointed that some designs that were illustrated by photos on the intro page don’t appear, and that there are many duplications of the same plans under different file names, and most of the sheds are far larger than the entire garden I have to put it in. But there is a reasonable selection, and one may serve as the basis for what I need.

But to my surprise were included plans for the A frame building that I referred to in a post about loss of data in the digital age (at the end of the post) However, if I posted the plans here, I’d be breaking the copyright.

I’ve made a number of comments about the ‘George V’. In recent days it’s had a repaint job, new signs – plural, there was one plus an empty signpost before – and even some decking added. The repaint job looked odd – all the woodwork in lightish brown, but then I saw another pub in my travels today done in exactly the same way, so this appears to be a corporate new look.

I’ll try and get a photo and put in here.

I don’t know how much the interior has changed, but it seems that this pub has remained open throughout this promised refurbishment, so I cannot imagine it’s too startling a change.

But this pub is still standing. My travels today took me past the site of ‘George and Dragon’, now completely demolished, and going to be the site of nine homes.

On the point of packing in housing, near where I live there was a 4 – 5 bed detached house in moderate size garden – probably 1960s. It was empty for a long time – I don’t know why. Planning permission was obtained to demolish it at put in three 4 – 5 bedroom houses. I see now that number has increased to five houses.

Tescoville (2)

July 22, 2013

I had been so astonished by the site of the oh-so-familiar blue painted barriers around the car showroom, which I reported for the first time yesterday, I didn’t record that it was next-shop-but-one from an independant of the ‘Costcutter’ chain, and a couple of minutes walk from a Marks & Spencer’s Simply Food. (There is also a food hall in the centre of town M&S).

The ‘Costcutter’ is going to struggle, but I’d suspect that most of the business at the M&S Simply Food will remain there.

The motivation behind these two recent blogs is that it always seems to be Tesco. I’ve just remembered a third already existing ‘local’ Tesco in the town, cannot imagine how I could have forgotten it until now.

So this town has two major Tesco stores, three (at least) existing ‘local’ or ‘Metro’ Tesco stores, and at least two under construction. Rather a lot for one town. I’m surprised Sainsbury’s haven’t put one in.

Now OK, the total floor space of all the Tescos probably don’t add up to the hypermarket sized glass-sided warehouse branch on the A4 in Slough, but then this town is no-where near the size of Slough, either.

I must vary my route from now on, keeping my eye open for all the closed down pubs and other shops in the area, to see if this town really is becoming Tescoville.

It is interesting to note that some of the satellite towns in the area house a Sainsburys, and/or a Waitrose, plus M&S, but I’m unaware of even a converted telephone kiosk into a micro-Tescos in those towns.

I was in one of the Tescos – for research purposes – and I saw some goods branded ‘Fresh & Easy’, that is the Tesco-owned brand in the western US that hasn’t done well. Since it was fresh produce, it did seem hard to imagine why they were using the US brand on the goods.

It has been some time since I made any report on anything at all – it has been a busy time. But it has not escaped my notice that there have been more changes regarding pubs.

The ‘Geroge V’ seems to be staggering on, the ‘Let this pub’ sign appearing and disappearing. The ‘Golden Fleece’ seems to have closed down again, and a ‘To Let’ sign has reappeared, and all the theme night posters disappeared. But these pubs are still pubs, at least for now.

Now to the buildings that have changed. Two of those mentioned before are now ‘Sainsbury’s Local’ – The ‘Green Man’, and the ‘Duke of Wellington’. The former is an all new building, demolishing an historic building in the process, the latter refitted into the existing (1930s (?)) building. Another building being refitted is ‘The Warren’ (another 1930s building?), becoming a local Tesco’s, but that refit is still going on – as of today, it looks almost ready to receive stock.

The transformation of the ‘Duke of Wellington’ completed as ‘Sainsbury’s Local’ supermarket

As I drive around on business or simply on my necessary journeys, there are just so many pubs that are not open now when formerly they would have been; are they closed – open on weekends only? Closed – for business? Closed – to be sold for other purposes?

In my opinion, the traditional pub is within a few years of extinction. There was a radio programme this week that reported that in some areas of the UK it was uneconomic to open an ‘Off Licence’ (a shop selling alcohol for consumption ‘off the premises’) due to illegal imports of cheap lager and spirits – or just simply illegal manufacture in the UK. If Off Licenceses are uneconomic because of this illegal trade, no wonder public houses with their much higher overheads are closing down.

If such news makes it to radio programmes, it clearly is well advanced.

The illegal trade is only going to increase as the UK duty rate on alcohol is far higher than that across the channel, meaning that it is economic to go to France, fill a van with lager, and drive back (if you can do so evading customs) and sell it cheaper than the UK price. So doing it on an industrial scale clearly is highly profitable for the illegal trade. And the government needs revenue so much it’s hardly likely to cut the rate of duty, even if it were not afraid of the consequences of freely available cheap booze on the English.

It was that fear, during the 1914-18 war, that caused the introduction of so many of the restrictions of opening hours etc for the pub trade. The recent loosening of these restrictions – in a vain attempt to create a ‘cafe society’ – is also too late, and ineffective with the high rates of duty to contend with.

I find myself in an odd position here.  Banging on about a subject, yet I’ve not actually been in a Public House (‘pub’) for…I forget.  Oh, no, I remember, I said once before, 2010, on the day of the funeral of my Aunt.

Anyway, I noticed yesterday, driving past the building that was once ‘The Warren’ that notices are up on the temporary wooden partition that now surrounds all building works in the UK – quite why (law?  good practice?) I don’t know.  Anyway, the signs show that the building is to become a ‘Tesco Metro’, a rival company (albeit larger) than the one (Sainsbury’s) working on the (smaller building) ‘Duke of Wellington’ at the other end of the road.

Other Public Houses I have kept my eye on appear to have got new tenants; ‘George V’ and ‘Golden Fleece’ have, the latter putting out loads of banners indicating a themed night just about every night (Pool, curry, whatever).  ‘George V’ seems to have rather an amateur as the new tenant, given the poor quality of the new signs.

I did not report ‘The Terriers’ (which I remember as ‘The Black Boy’) which was up for sale, but now under new management, as the phrase goes, also under the tie of a brewery company formerly unknown in the area – Greene King.  What I remember as ‘The Cock Inn’ (on Cock Lane) has morphed yet again – it was closed for some time after its ‘Red Lion’ incarnation – as ‘The Junction’ restropub.

I wonder just how much the current recession is both populating these surviving pubs with new tenants, and the dire state of the market they are competing in.