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.

It’s been just over a year since I last published anything. There are two main reasons – work and health (or lack of the latter).

Firstly to Pubs. One I don’t think I’ve mentioned is the Pheasant at Farnham, an old pub in a village that had two others, it didn’t survive, was demolished and made way for a surprisingly large number of housing units.

In Tescoville, the George V survives, in a livery of green that I’ve seen at various pubs which I take to mean some kind of chain, Scottish and Newcastle owned apparently.

The Terriers is now a Vetenarians.

One called the Happy Wanderer isn’t converted to a Tescos, shock horror! Permission refused, surely not because there is an independant (and completely awful, I’ve been in there and can state categorically this is the case) local supermarket opposite?

Somewhere or other in Tescoville I noticed some time ago another pub with what looked very much like the preparations for another Tesco…

Nearer my normal stamping ground the Hope & Anchor was forced to close, despite popularity and protests by the host and customers, and it looks just perfect for a supermarket conversion. No other supermarkets for a fair walk, although it is alongside a parade of other shops, largish building in good state of repair, housing estate with no shops to my knowledge behind it. But no clue as to who might take it over.

There are other pubs that I would count as vunerable – either they are the down-at-heel one in an area that, these days, would be classed as having too many pubs, or ones that are just closed down already and waiting to discover their fate.

The Black Dog, Ashford Common

September 15, 2013

On one of my regular journeys towards Tescoville,, I passed “The Black Dog”, which had been closed now for some time. And yes, the all-too-familar blue
boardings around the pub tells me that another Tesco express or local is being created.

The Black Dog survived for some time on being close to Kempton Park, a horse racing venue, and claimed to be last pub en-route from the M25 – trueish – there was/is a closer pub to the race course, but not if you take the first entrance to the racecourse on that route.

The Black Dog is on a junction of a lesser and a major road, and at the end of an arcade of mixed shops. There isn’t another supermarket in that parade, although there are shops that probably sell groceries. The competition is likely to be from a couple of petrol stations – BP with their M&S mini-store a couple of junctions further up, and a closer, smaller petrol chain with a smaller grocery section. Closer to Kempton Park is a big Tesco supermarket and a small M&S Simply Food.

Parking and road access may be more difficult for Tesco here. Being a dual carriageway main road, those heading away from Kempton Park have to get into the filtered turn-right lane – not the easiest in existance.

There isn’t an obvious candidate shop for closure when Tesco opens, unlike the Budgens when Mini Sainsbury’s opened on the ‘Green Man’ site, or the doomed looking Costcutter almost next-door to the now being built Tesco in Tescoville.

So yet again I ask – why is it always Tesco?

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.

The conversion of the ‘Golden Fleece’ to a Tesco Express is now complete.

The now transformed (in many senses) Golden Fleece

The now transformed (in many senses) Golden Fleece

I’ve made mention of ‘The Warren’ and ‘Duke of Wellington’ being converted to Tesco and Sainsbury’s respectively, and that they are at either end of one particular road. If you continue from Tesco to Sainsburys along the same road line (it changes name), at the next junction there is the ‘Windsor Castle’. I have had no reason to go there recently until last week, and I see that it how has ‘Freehold For Sale’ signs. That looks like one that is about to close (if not already closed – hard to tell).

Elsewhere, the conversion of ‘The Terriers’ is about complete, this time to a Vet practice (apparently). Further down that road is ‘The Beech’, which has For Sale signs up.

Meanwhile, in Tescoville, one of the ‘Local’ branches – doesn’t appear to be a conversion in this case – also houses the local sub-Post Office, to my surprise. I suppose no reason why not, but it does show how established these ‘Local’, ‘Metro’ and the like branches of the big chains are becoming. And of course they sell for higher prices than the same thing in the large supermarkets, trading on the convience of being local, but undercutting the previously established corner grocers/mini-marts and the like, either the small chains (Budgens, for example) or independents.

[Blog revised with photo added and text adjusted – took longer to get a photo than I expected]

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.

Becoming Tescoville?

July 21, 2013

I have commented on more than one occasion on how public houses are converted into ‘local’ or ‘Metro’ branches of the big supermarkets.

I also comented on the failure of the ‘Golden Fleece’ as a public house, how it was thought that it would become a local Tesco.

That work is now well underway. But within two miles, an old car showroom is also being converted into another local Tesco.

So in this town, there are: Two big Tesco stores, in the town centre and by a motorway junction, and now at least four ‘local’ Tescos. A big Sainsbury’s. There is a ‘local’ branch in a nearby village – on the site of an old pub which it demolished, as I recorded – but to get to that village by whatever route, you travel through countryside. That branch appears to have forced the closure of the established Budgens within a stone’s throw.

Back to the main town, a biggish Morrisons. A large Asda by the other motorway junction, an area that is becoming a town-on-the-hill, but somewhat separate from the rest of the town. A load of independant or small chain small supermarkets, often being forced out of business. Some of them are terrible (I have personal experience), lacking stock, service, and possibly are only really servicing a particular segment of the local population in the area – although I fail to see how they can even manage that.

I don’t mind that there are one or more ‘local’ style supermarket brnaches, but why are they all Tesco?

This ever greater dominance of Tescos in the town remindes me of the ‘Shoe Event Horizon’ in the Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s series – an economy where it becomes economically impossible to open anything but a shoe shop. Here, it appears to be impossible to open a ‘local’ supermarket anything other than Tesco’s.

I hear that Waitrose decided against opening a branch in the town, despite having significant present in the area. There is an Aldi or Lidl somewhere hidden away, but it cannot be a large branch – is the established dominance of Tesco showing?

As a brief note on Public Houses, the George V has had yet another round of advertising for a new ‘mine host’; others also have such advert up outside. Many public houses are now being converted to housing, other commercial premises (other than the supermarkets I have gone on about).

Yet more pub closures

May 11, 2013

I know it’s been a long time since I last reported. A horrible winter that affected me badly. However, I can report more on pubs mentioned before.

To start with one that I have mentioned a few times before. The Golden Fleece still claims to be “To Let”, but it has been gutted, and all the signs have been removed. Strong rumour, reported in the local press is that it will become a Tesco Local, despite national press claims that they will not be developing many sites due to current trading conditions. Personally, I think Tescos already dominate in the town, why not, say, Sainsburys?

But for a re-use of this building, it is a good idea to become a Supermarket-lite. It’s a large building, with large car-park and good access to the car park. More importantly, it’s surrounded by houses and housing estates, yet no other shop for a least a mile, so if ever there was a good place for such a supermarket-lite, this would be one. All to many other times – the ex-Green Man, for example – they are established within a short walking distance of an existing supermarket, be it of the smaller national chains such as Spar, Budgens or Co-op, or indeed one-off locally owned.

Next, I mentioned in the case of the Golden Fleece, a nearby pub, the Terriers. Well, after that relatively recent refit, and another pparent change of ownership, this has now closed. I’m told it will become a Vet’s practice.

Also mentioned at that time were The Dolphin and The Wanderer. These two are well separated, and apparently are still surviving, even if only open some of the time.

I mentioned some time ago that the George V was looking for a new tenant. Well, the signs for yet another new tenant are up again. Promising a refit as part of the deal, I note, and apparently a different pubco (or at least, a different trading name).

There are others that I notice as I drive around, but often I’ve not noticed their “decline”, so I won’t mention here today.

It was after dark when I passed the ‘Golden Fleece’ today, and there has been a significant change. For the past couple of months there have been a car or two in the car park, but it clearly was closed. Maybe there was a caretaker in residence.

But this evening (and as the clocks went back last weekend, it was now dark, hence the poor photos), the place had been boarded up in the modern manner, namely sheet metal over all the windows on the ground floor. Why they did not do the upper floors, which are vunerable to the stone throwers, I don’t know.

Boarded up – modern style. It doesn’t look good for the ‘Golden Fleece’.

So it is clear that the freeholder (no doubt a ‘Pubco’) of this pub has no hope of a new tenant of the place in the near future, even though the ‘To Let’ sign remains (I like the comment that the new tenant requires capital prominant on the sign – yes, wouldn’t they like to take that as soon as possible).

The pub sign, with the ‘To Let’ sign in the background. No point in using the Camera’s flash for these photos…

The next nearest pub is about half a mile away (yet in other areas there are still pubs literally next-door-neighbours that both survive), and while it is not in an ideal location, it clearly had a hinterland to survive until now.

I believe that within a mile of this location there are only three surviving pubs – The Dolphin, The Wanderer and The Terriers (although this may be beyond the mile). The Dolphin is moving into Gastropub territory, but as a large building, it has the room. The other two are still in the more traditional pub mould still.