/ Food & Drink, Shopping

A Tesco in every postcode – what’s the problem?

Tesco, the supermarket behemoth, will soon have a store in every UK postcode – that’s over 2,700 stores. But is a “Tescopoly” really such a bad thing? Why do we have such a rocky relationship with Tesco?

Riot police on horseback patrol the streets. An abandoned police car is attacked. Whispers abound of youths carrying petrol bombs. You may be forgiven for thinking this describes the recent riots, but no – this was a warm April evening in Bristol, the site of a protest against a new Tesco Express – the city’s 18th.

Death of the high street

Today plans for a new Tesco in Harrogate have been approved, meaning it’ll lose the accolade of being the only postcode area without a Tesco.

Like others before them, opponents of the store allege Tesco is killing the high street, as shoppers move away from town centres. Increased traffic and a soulless shopping experience are also cited as reasons for curbing Tesco’s growing power.

I’ve never really understood why Tesco is so vilified in the press and why people, running frantically for Waitrose, treat it with such disdain. I’ve always shied away from criticising Tesco – in fact I’m a bit of a closet supporter. If Tesco allegedly takes £1 in every £7 spent on Britain’s high streets, surely it must be offering a service lots of people want?

A local asset

Surely having a local Tesco is an asset? I often hear people, when discussing their new flat or house say “…and there’s a Tesco nearby”. In today’s fast moving world, I don’t have time to visit a host of small shops.

Tesco offers everything I need from my shopping experience; handy store locations, convenient opening hours, well stocked shelves, an excellent delivery service, tempting offers and a nice atmosphere. I’ve always found their staff polite and willing to please – in fact, having occasionally ventured into a Waitrose I’ve not found the experience there any better.

Still, Waitrose did come out top in our latest supermarket satisfaction survey, with Tesco appearing at a sorry second to last place. The main complaints were the quality of produce and the store environment.

But personally, I’ve never had a problem with Tesco’s produce nor its stores, which I find easy to navigate. Of course, I’m not blind to its rather bizarre pricing practices – 99p each or 2 for £2? I think I’ll pass…

Tesco – the Opera?

Plus, without investment from Tesco, it’s arguable that some sites would remain an eyesore in local communities. In Liverpool, where I used to live, Tesco spent several years and considerable expense cleaning a derelict former tar works site to be a new superstore. I visited it a couple of months ago to find the store doing a very brisk trade.

Despite the many parodies and protests, for me, Tesco offers a 21st century shopping experience and can be held up as a British success story. It continually seems to be innovating, every day entering a new market, from mobiles to insurance, gold to car tyres. Its growth has been mesmerising, similar to the likes of Facebook. We’ve had “The Social Network” – so why not “Tesco – The Opera”?

Then again, you might not be as happy as me about Tesco having a store in every postcode…

With a store in every postcode, has Tesco expanded too far?

Yes, Tesco's taking over (69%, 703 Votes)

No, Tesco provides a valuable service (20%, 199 Votes)

Only time will tell... (11%, 117 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,019

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Patricia says:
13 September 2011

The feeling I get these days is that money is more important to ‘Tesco’ than service, but Tesco exists only because we spend our money with them and I am as guilty as the next person as I keep going back. My worst experience was a rescheduled delivery (that was no fault of mine) which left me with sell by dates that had expired, items that had defrosted and fruit to be discarded. I was later refunded for sub-standard goods, but my disappointment with Tesco led me to the village shops where I now receive a better service. Choice is more restricted but local produce is a plus and the prices are not too bad. I still use Tesco sometimes for convenience, but support my local when I can.

Opinionated says:
15 September 2011

As a single pensioner I get the distinct feeling Tesco is not my friend – or at least that I’m in a minority as far as their ‘target market’ is concerned. It’s virtually impossible to buy small anything in their stores these days. (That goes for fresh produce too – I don’t want carrots the size of cucumbers or courgettes that are practically marrows.) What is Tesco doing transporting tomatoes from Holland at the height of summer? They also seem to split locations for some merchandise categories: I was looking for bacon the other day and the first product I found was in the ‘Finest’ range (more expensive, of course); the ordinary stuff was two aisles away. I like to bake but I’ve found it’s getting more and more difficult to find the ingredients I want for traditional recipes (flapjacks come to mind.) Something else is labelling – vegetable oil appears frequently in own brand products. This presumably gives them wriggle room on the recipe, but palm oil comes under this heading and I wish to avoid palm oil wherever possible – not only on environmental grounds but because it’s not good for you. (Morrisons, for example, are much better about this and state the type of oil being used.) What is also infuriating is to go to Tesco with a list only to find they’re out of stock of an item you particularly need: the one stop shop is a bit of a myth, I feel. If you want to buy a pint of milk and you’re in a hurry Tesco is the last place you should go. My local store has just been refurbished and reorganised, presumably for the benefit of its customers. Fellow shoppers seem to be completely perplexed at the moment because they can’t find things! Shoppers need to be eagle eyed when it comes to pricing: items flagged as offers aren’t always the best value. I’ve certainly seen offers where it’s cheaper to buy two small adding up to the same quantity as the larger ‘offer’ item.

Andreas says:
18 September 2011

Tesco certainly takes over our town. Tesco converts pubs into Express Shops here – see the following: http://www.heraldseries.co.uk/news/hsabingdonnews/9057255.Tesco_plan_for_third_town_store/ . … and the council can’t do much about it because it is legally easier to turn a pub into a shop than vice versa. We already started some protest actions in our town.

The ubiquity of Tesco is worrying. It’s not so mush the very large stores as the metro and express chains that concern me. They are the final death knell for high street grogery. That said, I really can’t believe there is still snobbery abut the so-called superiority of Sainsburys own brand… The most notable feature of my local store is the tired sad-looking fruit and veg. It’s hard to believe a store that tries to sell this stuff has any claims about great own-brand products.

Trust not says:
19 September 2011

Not just the stuff inside is terribly displayed, I returned from overseas, to see an ugly building, with concrete pavers all around. In the middle of a lovely market town, made of Ham stone it looked like an Alien. How could they, who do you blame, what regard do these faceless people behind the name have for our towns. Do not shop there that is the answer, you have the power, have you the will?

Donald Morrison says:
21 September 2011

In my experience Tesco products are generally of a not very good quality. That they are everywhere is also very bad news since it restricts consumer choice, with other retailers with less resources frequently having to close as a resiult. They also tend to treat their staff in a very poor and bullying fashion. That, as I understand it, they pay money to certain political parties is also concerning. I can’t believe that they don’t expect some pay-back for this, which I very much doubt is in the interest of consumers.

Sonasallsorts says:
23 September 2011

Tesco is very clever at studying its clientele, and expanding into new areas of commerce – finance etc etc. – to cover almost the full range of demand by shoppers. I can understand why people find it convenient and may welcome a new store in their area. But the ever-growing invasion of Tesco stores is extremely scary. Tesco (along with Walmart/Asda) seems to want to take over the world. And in certain areas, such as the Highlands of Scotland and the Northern & Western Isles, it is well on the way to having a monopoly. Its turnover is greater than the GDP of many countries. It can afford to employ huge legal teams which can run rings around even large local authorities, and probably even the Parliaments. But it seems it doesn’t pay its dues by being heavily into tax avoidance.
People should boycott the stores as much as possible, this is the only way to curb Tesco’s power.

You have hit the nail on the head.. How about this then. A report in the paper said that a man walked out of Tesco with a portable telivision he hadn’t paid for. THREE police cars rushed to the store and the police helicopter scoured the area. When I reported the theft of an expensive watch the police said. ‘Well you shouldn’t have left it where someone could get it.’ End of. Tesco are getting like the Maffia. But are we just jealous? Wouldn’t we all like to make big money and avoid tax? Tesco treat there customers as idiots. Well aren’t they?

I definitely agree as most others do in your poll, that Tescos seem hell-bent on obliterating our high streets of shops and then to have total control of our shopping experience.
They [Tesco] only lower their prices when they have to [competition from more shopper oriented supermarkets] and never lead the way with regard to prices on the shelves.

I am a Tesco shopper for the odds and ends that I can’t buy elsewhere, but I certainly do grudge spending ANY money at ‘Big-Brother’ at all.
My local Tescos, last Tuesday morning at 9:30 am was deserted, and is there any wonder why?
Shoppers are now at long last, voting with their feet!

Dream on James.We all hate Tesco and then go and shop there. they don’t mind, they are not looking for honours, just your money. – then they shove it in a tax haven to avoid tax. everybody is frightened of them- councils, police, government, tax inspectors, they have got there by relying on the stupidity of us shoppers

Philip Hellawell says:
25 September 2011

Tesco just keeps getting bigger and bigger.It’s far too powerful and won’t stop until it sells EVERYTHING to EVERYBODY.It sickens me to keep seeing articles in which we hear how councillors put forward the notion that if the new Tesco supermarket opens in their area it will create lots of much needed jobs.Balderdash!.Just as the new jobs arrive,existing small,friendly family businesses close down with the loss of at least as many jobs;it simply represents a re-distribution of wealth and power.At the same time it sucks the character out of a town and DECREASES not INCREASES choice.Also,Tesco plays mind games with its customers eg If It costs an item as being profitable at £1 it offers that item at,say,£1.50 singly or £2 for two.That increases their transaction volume and anybody who buys just the one item they really need pays a silly price.This ‘buy two’ policy promotes food waste as well as making life difficult for cash-strapped lone dwellers.I dislike their greed;Is there anything they don’t sell?!

Its odd that when Tesco want to open a store, people protest. If its Asda or Sainsbury (i personally prefer them both to Tesco) nobody seems to care. Tesco get accused of destroying the British high street. Tesco is a British company and was born out of the British high street and now IS the British high street.

In general terms, the Internet killed the high street long ago. Not Tesco.

Sonasallsorts says:
26 September 2011

I agree that you can’t blame Tesco alone for destroying the British High Street, and yes it was founded as British company. But my major concern is that it is acquiring far too much power all over the world – along with other companies such as Walmart/Asda and CocaCola who can do as they like because of their power. They pay rock-bottom wages and exploit farmers, finding ways with their Big Legal Guns to get round restricitions. Other supermarkets are not blameless, but several of them – notably Waitrose and Marks & Spencer – at least make attempts to have some ethical standards. Tesco seems only to offer lip-service to keep customers happy and increase their profits. If we don’t resist – and much the best way to do this is NOT TO SHOP AT TESCO – I think we may ultimately be very sorry.

shop at the co-op. it’s the most ethical , but could do a lot better

sorry about that, all meant in good faith

I too have never understood the anti-Tesco stance when Tesco is a British company benefiting the British economy. The major alternative is Walmart, which seems to be a well known ubiquitous USA high street usurper which even people in the USA don’t seem to like judging by some comments I have read online.
There is the possibility that maybe some of Tesco’s rivals fuel the fire of opposition.

Please explain? How do they ‘ benefit the British economy?’