Thursday, January 15, 2009

Shopping local: the benefits

Update on Tesco's plans to convert The Friendship in Knowle into one of their stores. The campaign against the plans is developing very well and I'm very happy to be playing a decent role in it. To date the paper petition organised by local shopkeepers has several hundred signatures. My e-petition has a respectable 67 signatures so far and has I note fairly recently been signed by Cllr Mark Wright (who is also the Prospective Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol South). I have submitted two letters of objection, have helped other people to voice their opinions (for and against!!) and will submit a statement to the council planners on the benefits of local shops (below) today. I've written direct to Tesco Corporate Affairs Manager Juliette Bishop (who has yet to even acknowledge it let alone reply!). Several news stories have gained publicity for the issue (eg here and here) and letters have been published in the local paper (eg here). The resulting online discussion has been very lively!

With other local campaigners I've helped to get local councillors much more active on the issue, overcoming what appeared to be initial reluctance. To his credit Knowle's Lib Dem Councillor Gary Hopkins has now done some very useful work which I and others opposing Tesco's plans appreciate. The issue: has been given more time for consideration; will now be going to a planning committee (though no-one told any local that it was to have been delegated to officers!) probably on Tues 18 Feb at 2pm; its been made clear that the Tesco plan cuts across council policy favouring district shopping; a public meeting will be held to debate the issue on 16 Feb, 6.30pm, Redcatch Rd Community Centre and will hopefully gather together many locals, businesses etc. I plan to attend the 16 Feb public meeting to contribute and plan to make a statement and/or submit my e-petition to the 18 Feb planning committee meeting once details are confirmed.

It appears that the council have not yet informed local people about the changes to planning application deadlines and extended time available to comment/support/object!! Perhaps the local media will help to inform local people of the changes along with this blog.

There are concerns that unless shopping habits change, high streets, small ranks of shops and corner shops will disappear. Popping to the local shop for milk, bread or tea… will not be an option for many unless more shoppers change their ways. By supporting local shops we can help slow down and stop this decline and boost the local economy as well as help in the fight against climate change.

The Office of Fair Trading has looked at supermarket dominance, referring tha matter to the Competition Commission. Small shops are currently struggling to survive due to the power of the big supermarkets, with thousands of independent shops going out of business each year. Supermarkets power has become huge. The four biggest already control over three quarters of the grocery market. Tesco alone take 30 per cent and is still moving into neighbourhoods all over the country including Knowle (see:

The All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group warned in 2006 that many independent shops could be gone within a decade unless action is taken now to curb the power of the biggest supermarkets. Big supermarkets have announced plans to improve their environmental credentials, but shopping locally is still a better option, especially if you leave the car at home and buy locally-sourced food.

The range of benefits from local shops is excellent: greater likelihood of providing local food; they often offer a much more personal service; they keep money circulating in the local area supporting other local businesses; along with street markets they offer affordability without roping you via special offers and some slashed prices into more expensive purchases (a Friends of the Earth survey in 2003 found that apples were cheaper in greengrocers than supermarkets and in 2005 a study for the New Economics Foundation found that street markets in London were "substantially cheaper" than supermarkets for fruit and vegetables); they are more energy efficient than huge superstores – a study by Sheffield Hallam University showed that it would take more than 60 greengrocers to match the carbon dioxide emissions from just one average superstore (more here); a broad range of local shops provides more choice than one big supermarket.

The Competition Commission should enact measures to achieve a healthy balance between the big supermarkets and local shops – but consumers should not wait for such action because it could be too late for many local shops if they do.


  1. I'm not sure about the arguments about corner shops being greener than a Tesco Express.

    Said Tesco Express will be serviced by a new distribution centre a few miles away in Avonmouth using one truck to deliver everything a few times a week.

    An Asian Trader will use a combination of multiple inefficient trips to national chains of cash and carry's and wholesale markets in St Philips, Kingswood and Avonmouth and deliveries by delivered wholesalers (who will have as little as 2 depots servicing the whole of the UK).

    Ultimately they will be selling the same national branded staple goods such are the demands of convenience (Heinz tins, Carling beer, Jacobs Creek wine, Kelloggs cereals etc etc etc). So to be truly green surely you should look at the most efficient distribution model from factory to shop.

    Because Tesco has the more efficient distribution model it offers lower prices to the consumer.

    In addition the data from the tesco clubcard will mean Tesco Express Knowle will rarely stock slow moving or unwanted goods and have a lower wastage that the equivilant Asian Trader as a result.

  2. An 'Asian Trader?!' Is this 1965?

  3. There is research to back what I've said (see the various links I've given and the links provided by those sites). Its not just about corner shops but about a balanced range of local shops.

    Being green is about being efficient etc of course but it also about relationships and local community. The effect of the big supermarkets in distorting the market, appearing in neighbourhoods around the country with little/no prior local discussion, unfair trading, threatening high streets...doesn't sound green to me. Supermarkets are: much more impersonal; circulate money away from local areas; about 'big is best' not 'small is beautiful' thinking; about centralised distribution, huge lorries, mass refridgeration/freezing during transport and in shops; large energy inefficient premises; focussed on people driving to them.

    Its true of course that local shops wont always be greener and like all premises and businesses they need to work on becoming greener. You fairly indicate some of their they collect goods and what kind of goods they stock and so on.

    However, on average they are greener. They also have the potential to become much greener than supermarkets can become and they fit in with the vision of a greener lifestyle whereas supermarkets with global trading do not. There may well be a role for supermarkets in a green society but with a balance between them and local shops and with significant changes in the way they (and the un-green local shops) operate.

    Tesco do not always have 'cheap' products and where they do they are often making someone else pay the price, whether its British farmers or South African fruit pickers...They keep prices down primarily because they have massive buying power not because of efficient distribution. There is no evidence that wasteage is higher in my local shop than in Tesco - the shopkeeper seems to be right on the ball about his stock (after all its his profit!) - in fact there are plenty of reports about how much stuff is dumped by supermarkets (I believe 'freegans' benefit from this a lot).

  4. Before I answer this, I should declare I work in food and drink sales and marketing.

    re Asian Trader comment:- this is what the industry refers themselves to as and has a magazine and awards ceremony named after the term - see and - so it is not racist in a a Prince Harry/Love Thy Neighbour way at all.

    To address Glenn Vowles Comments:-

    Para 1 :- Supermarket dominance in the marketplace, if this really was an issue the competition commission and OFT would have acted far earlier. The fact is companies like Tesco, Sainsburys and Asda are intensely customer focused and are successful because they consistently deliver for their customer base and ruthelesly compete against each other.

    Tesco Express is a corner shop/convienience store format and will enhance rather than compete with a butcher, florist or greengrocer. Take North Street in BS3 as an example, the new Tesco is really competing with the McColls and Costcutter, rather than the Ashton greengrocer and Southville deli. It would be fair to say both McColls and Costcutter both offer a poor consumer experience and competition will encourage them both to sharpen their pencil.

    Para 2 - Tesco DO have a far less centralised dirtribution model than their 'green' counterparts. Suma (you may have seen their name on your bag of lentils) are the major independent distributor and wholesaler of organic/green/health food products in the UK. However they cover the whole of the UK out of one depot in Halifax. In addition the volumes they sell means supplier trucks are delivering one pallet off of one truck into Suma, compared to a whole 22 pallet truckload into the Tesco depot in Avonmouth to cover the Bristol/SW area. Again the point is that food miles through Tesco are more efficient.

    Para 3 - Thank you for the recognition that the independent model is not perfect and quite inefficient!

    Para 4 - The big 4 multiple retailers all have local sourcing teams that work with regional suppliers and provide them with the opportunity to have their products stocked in a number of stores relevant to the size and ambitions of their business.

    The key for any retailer large or small should always be maximisation of consumer choice - if consumers are demanding ultra local sourcing then the retailer should be looking to meet this demand, however if they are looking for brands they trust with the addition of convienience then retailers should be offering this.

    Para 5 - Yes Tesco (et al) will bargain hard with their suppliers however (in my experience) they always start with the multinational suppliers and work back down to the smaller regional suppliers later or if they need to - generally they are uncomfortable in bullying small suppliers.

    They have the massive buying power because of the efficient (therefore green) distribution, these two factors are not mutually exclusive.

    As regards to Tesco being the cheapest, a Express format shop will never claim to be the cheapest. In this format they are selling convenience. If this shop prevents a few car journeys over the hill to tesco brislington then surely it can be only a good thing.

  5. You declare an interest - do you work for a major supermarket??

    You dont respond to the fact that the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission have now in fact acted. So they feel there are issues of concern.

    You have not responded to the fact that I referred you to research that backs my general thrust.

    Tesco Express is not a corner shop. If they sell meat they compete with butchers. If they sell fruit and veg they compete with greengrocers... Express stores are larger than many local shops, selling all sorts of stuff already sold locally!

    I dont doubt that the Tesco distribution model has been designed for efficiency on their terms. Such a system may well have a role to play in a greener future for shopping. I doubt that they are seeking efficiencies in the sense or on the scale that I mean them however.

    Your comments on 'Para 4' show the consumerist focus of supermarket thinking and action very clearly. Being green requires a focus on the local and on small and medium sized businesses, operating on the basis of meeting needs and building/maintaining strong local communities not on maximising consumption. Genuinely local produce is very scarce in supermarkets.

    The 'consumer choice' you refer to is something of a myth according to the evidence - big supermarkets manipulate shoppers in many ways and they are all versed in the science of persuading people to buy things (well described in a recent article in The Economist I have come to spend less now that I'm minimising my use of supermarkets and buying the vast majority of goods from my local shops - even though supermarkets claim to be cheaper and undoubtledly have many low-priced products! Couldn't be the supermarkets manipulating shopping habits to maximise profits could it?? Generating wants rather than meeting needs??

    You acknowledge that supermarkets bargain hard but dont address the two examples I gave. British farmers often feel unfairly dealt with. The charity Action Aid is campaigning for Tesco to treat South African fruit pickers more fairly.

    Supermarket buying power is down to their size much more than their efficient distribution. You call the distribution green (ie sustainable)- this cant be the case if you are flogging goods from all over the world (some arriving by boat, others by plane), driving them around in huge fossil fuelled, often refridgerated lorries now can it!! Green distribution is to be found where local shops and markets have local suppliers and is far from commonplace in industrialised countries!! The emergence of farmers markets and box schemes shows promise.

    You forget that people in Knowle can avoid car trips to Tesco Brislington by shopping local and on foot already. I do. They dont need another Tesco to avoid shopping at Tesco's!

  6. Anonymous said “The fact is companies like Tesco, Sainsburys and Asda are intensely customer focused and are successful because they consistently deliver for their customer base and ruthelesly compete against each other.”
    The fact is that the big four (including Morrisons) are intensely financial-market focused and are successful because they consistently adjust their offerings not so much for the benefit of what is essentially a captive market but for the benefit of their balance sheet and thus the financial investors that provide them with the asset valuations and derived finance to drive out competition. If some of the decisions made also benefit the customer this is a bonus but when Tesco need to they are quite happy to sideline their customers by, for example, reducing the offering in stores that face little competition and using the costs saved to fund stores that are in a more competitive situation - once the competition in a local area is reduced that store can then similarly be refocused and reduce its offering to support others.

    Tesco Express, in particular, is simply a financial response to growing public opposition to the number of large supermarkets being built (remember Golden Hill anyone?). The fact is that the Tesco Express format was tested back in 1993 but by 1998 there were still only 12 stores – Tesco had no real interest in smaller scale stores at that time, regardless of whether they might be able to offer a more convenient service to their customers. The simple fact was that smaller stores were less financially appealing to the investor market. However, as larger supermarket planning applications became increasingly contested in the late 90's, Tesco decided to revisit the Tesco Express concept because they felt (accurately) that it would be easier to push through plans for smaller stores within the existing High Street - and so from 12 stores in the first five years, it jumped to 100 over the next five years up to 2003. Tesco acquired a company called T&S Stores in that year, which gave them an already existing 450 stores that were converted to Tesco Express. Today they now have 800+ Express stores. The Tesco Express concept was NOT eagerly taken up by Tesco as a means of providing better customer service nor as a "green" initiative to discourage retail car travel - it was a finance-driven response that allowed Tesco to continue to grow their revenues in face of increasing opposition to further large stores. As for your comments regarding North Street, Tesco are not concerned with which competing stores they attract customer's from just as long as those customers shop at Tesco - if you don't want to compete with the local greengrocer, as Glenn says, you don't sell fruit and veg, Tesco Express do, and so they DO compete – to try to say otherwise is simply to deny the obvious. Tesco Express are 2,000 foot identikit stores designed to attract as much as possible of the local convenience retail market, and because they are backed up by the same distribution and support network that is needed to support larger 50,000 foot superstores they can out-muscle any local competitor.

    Your suggestion that Tesco’s distribution is somehow “green” does not stand up either and comparing it to Suma is a red herring - the fact that Tesco have 40 plus distribution centres across the UK does NOT equate to a decentralised distribution model unless both receipt AND delivery of the products are localised – which, as shown below, is true for only a tiny proportion of Tesco’s product lines – Tesco “decentralisaton” is one-sided. For example a supplier in the south west delivering to the Avonmouth centre for distribution to south west store may be a positive, but that same supplier will also have to deliver to the other 41 distribution centres – in effect the system is no worse and no better than Suma’s single distribution centre where the supplier delivers to just one centre. The reason why Tesco have so many distribution centres is simple, it transfers a major portion of the transportation costs to their suppliers allowing Tesco to concentrate on the shorter regional routes and thus save on transportation costs. The best solution is local suppliers delivering directly to local retailers, or at least to a local distribution centre for local delivery – that is an efficient system.

    As for local products, yes Tesco are really dedicated to local products. Of their UK sales of £35 billion, just £400m was locally sourced products (1.1%), and they have 30 staff dedicated to local product sourcing out of 283,000 UK staff. A typical Tesco Express stocks about 2800 lines, and of that maybe just 30 products will be local. Greenwash is the word I believe. A typical local greengrocers, with a turnover of £350,000 pa would only need to sell £75 worth of local products a week to perform better than Tesco.

    By the way, I notice that you don’t deny that Tesco bully small suppliers, only that they are (in your experience) low on their list. A dubious defence to say the least.

  7. Just to add, the previous comment was by me.

    Tony D

  8. Wow, I HAVE stirred it up!!

    To confirm, I work in food and drink sales and marketing for a small to medium sized supplier to both wholesalers/cash and carrys and supermarkets. Therefore I believe I speak with qualified personal experience on grocery distribution in the UK.

    Ultimately, this is a debate on the most efficient or green form of distribution from farm or factory to kitchen table.

    Local factory to store distribution is hugely inefficient, costly and unviable - imagine the number of badly serviced transit vans that would be on the roads if all suppliers tried to follow this model!!

    The shop, be it a Tesco Express or an independent convienience store will stock nationally recognised brands (Heinz, Kelloggs, etc.) such are the demands of the consumers who frequent these style of shops.

    Therefore a model of nationwide distribution will have to be used to service either store.

    Independent cash and carry from farm/factory to store distribution will be as follows:-

    1. Pallet is collected from factory by haulage firm
    2. Pallet is taken to haulage firms consolidation depot in Coventry
    3. Pallet is consolidated with other pallets into a delivery round and delivered to cash and carry central depot in London
    4 Pallet is then delivered to cash and carry in Bristol
    5 Store keeper collects case of stock off pallet from cash and carry and returns to their store.
    6 Shopper buys individual unit and returns home.

    Tesco will be as follows.

    1. Tesco truck collects multiple pallets of stock from supplier, using a method called backhauling, where they collect stock on their way back from store to depot. This ensures that there no Tesco trucks driving around empty and underutilised.
    2 Tesco delivers to depot
    3 stock is picked and delivered to store in consolidated cages.
    4. shopper buys individual unit and returns home

    It is not difficult to see which is the more efficient/low carbon/green distribution model.

    As regards the comments on Tesco local sourcing, there are an awful lot more than 30 locally sourced items in each Tesco. The beer and cider aisle would easily exceed this alone.

    If you were to consider the 30 locally sourcing people as a percentage of the buying team rather than a percentage of the total workforce the figure you quote would make a lot more sense. As they are considered as part of the buying team.

    My personal experience is that they work very hard to get the best local produce stocked in their stores. The south west will mainly be beers, ciders, cheese, dairy and meat (sausages being a large part of it). If the South West does not produce it then Tesco cannot locally source it - no there is no local pasta company, for example.

    To conclude, my personal experience is that it is a lot more efficient/green/low carbon to supply a Tescos express than the same store being run independently.

    I think a lot of this is snobbery and knee jerk dislike for a successful UK Plc (and there arn't many of those around at the moment!!!)

  9. "Tesco truck collects multiple pallets of stock from supplier, using a method called backhauling, where they collect stock on their way back from store to depot. This ensures that there [are] no Tesco trucks driving around empty and underutlised."

    But I thought you said that Tesco used decentralised distribution (using depots like the one at Avonmouth) to deliver to shops on a regional basis. If Avonmouth serves only stores in the south-west how will it collect stock from a supplier like HP Bulmer in Hereford (where 65% of the UK's cider is produced) on its return trip?

  10. I remember speaking to a Tesco's manger prior to the opening of the North St store. The person I spoke to gave a similar argument to the anonymous worker in the industry. Tesco's would have several deliveries a day - a meat delivery, a bread delivery etc etc

    Surely a bread delivery - will compete with Deny's bakery or Parson's bakery - both on North St, neither can compete with Tesco's - and Parson's at least claims to locally source its ingredients?

    Combine the fact that the small independents survive on the margins with Tesco's plus a rcession, then I really fear for their future

  11. I'm afraid you are turning reality upside down in your comments Anon. See this extract from the Tescopoly website for instance:

    The food industry is responsible for a third of greenhouse gas emissions and therefore has a massive part to play in tackling climate change. The bulk of these emissions come from food production. Tesco and the other supermarkets must do more to make sure that their production lines are sustainable - this needs to be prioritised above paying farmers the lowest possible prices. Research by Friends of the Earth has shown that low prices have reduced farmers' ability to produce food in environmentally friendly ways. This needs to stop.

    Fewer local farmers and shops mean both customers and goods need to be transported further. This means more pollution from cars, as people drive further to shop, and more pollution from aircraft and lorries, as food is transported from around the world. Indeed Tesco's business could be seen as one of the drivers behind the rise in UK CO2 emissions. More needs to be done to support local, seasonal produce - something that independent shops and supermarkets are well suited to. On the other hand, a 2005 Friends of the Earth survey found that Tesco came lowest out of the supermarket chains for sourcing British apples.

    Tesco's store sizes means they are some of the most energy-inefficient buildings in the retail sector. A Sheffield Hallam University study found that despite the new stock, large superstores are the most energy inefficient buildings in the sector. It would take more than 60 corner shops and greengrocers to match the carbon dioxide emissions from one average sized superstore. Although they are taking steps to increase efficiency, their commitment to building yet more stores means that these savings will be cancelled out.

    Tesco also encourages shoppers to travel by car. One in 10 car journeys in the UK are now to buy food. Work for DEFRA suggests that car use for food shopping results in costs to society of more than £3.5 billion per year from traffic emissions, noise, accidents and congestion. Tesco has been massively expanding into "Extra" format hypermarkets, which are particularly geared towards car-based shopping. The proportion of Tesco's floorspace taken up by hypermarkets is three times what it was 6 years ago.

    Tesco boasts about its progress on reducing waste and how it is following a market trend to introduce degradable plastic bags. But grocery packaging still makes up roughly a quarter of household waste, and the UK's biggest supermarkets distribute billions of plastic bags, which end up in landfill. Even degradable bags do not help, as they will still predominantly go to landfill sites where the lack of sunlight and oxygen will hinder rapid breakdown. To make a real difference the supermarkets need to stop handing out free bags altogether.

    A large amount of food is being wasted. Tesco was among the supermarkets found to be rejecting apples purely on cosmetic grounds by a 2002 Friends of the Earth survey of fruit growers.

    Biofuels - Tesco is a major shareholder in and customer of Greenergy Biofuels Limited, a UK company promising customers climate-friendly, sustainable biofuels from UK rapeseed oil. The organisation BiofuelWatch has, however, undertaken research which reveals that Greenergy's biofuels contain increasing amounts of palm oil, soy and sugar cane. All three are crops linked to large-scale rainforest destruction, massive greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and peat and forest fires, and in some instances to human rights abuses. For further information and to take action, please see the BiofuelWatch website.

    For further information on supermarkets' environmental impacts, please see the following reports:

    Green, healthy and fair, Sustainable Development Commission, 2008 - A review of the government's role in supporting sustainable supermarket food

    Farmers speak out on low milk prices, Friends of the Earth, September 2007- This briefing highlights the environmental and business impacts of the low prices being paid to dairy farmers.

    Checking out the Environment, Friends of the Earth, June 2005 This briefing looks at the environmental impacts of supermarkets at the local, national and global scale

    A Rough Guide to the UK Farming Crisis, Corporate Watch, May 2004 This guide argues that at the root of the farming crisis, are food and agriculture policies and global trade agreements which promote trade liberalisation

    How green is your supermarket? Norman Baker MP, March 2004 Mr Baker's comprehensive report sets out recommendations for supermarkets to improve their environmental performance.

    Eating Oil: food supply in a changing climate, Sustain, 2001 This report looks at the impacts on fossil fuel use of our dependence on imports for food and the use of resources for producing, processing, packaging and distributing food.

  12. “Said Tesco Express will be serviced by a new distribution centre a few miles away in Avonmouth using one truck to deliver everything a few times a week.”

    Having read the top comment by Anonymous again, I am now having difficulty believing that he really does have any real grocery industry experience.

    A 30,000 sq foot “normal” store would receive about 12-15 deliveries per day, and thus it might seem feasible that a Tesco Express at 2,000 sq foot might be able to be replenished by just “one truck to deliver everything a few times a week”.

    However, anybody who really has “qualified personal experience on grocery distribution in the UK” would know that this not possible. To start with, bread deliveries are supplied from outside the Tesco distribution system. A Tesco store receives two early morning fresh bread deliveries, one from Warburtons and one from Allied Bakeries. It will also receive two separate daily newspaper and magazine deliveries – one for News International titles by the wholesaler Smiths News, and a second for most of the other titles by Dawsons News. The store will also receive a daily Fresh Milk delivery from Dairy Crest. We can therefore see already that the one Tesco truck a few times a week is supported by at least 5 non-Tesco trucks daily. These same trucks will also be the same ones that deliver to the local stores.

    Tesco’s own in-house deliveries will also have to be by multiple trucks – Tesco expect an Express store to turnover about £65,000-£100,000 per day compared to an average of £4,000 per day for a normal local convenience store – that’s a lot of products and requires daily replenishment (not to mention the need to encourage consumption amongst their customers). So that means our “one truck to deliver everything a few times a week” now becomes one Tesco truck to deliver everything daily as well as the 5 external trucks.

    Except that if Tesco did use just one truck they would be breaking Food Safety regulations. To quote Tesco themselves; “Each Tesco Express is a single unit of up to 3000 sq ft, stocking around 2800 lines, including fresh and frozen food, ambient goods, a bakery and, in many cases, wines and spirits.”

    Everybody who works in the grocery business understands fundamental food hygiene regulations about the storage and transportation of different product categories.
    Frozen food has to be transported in a refrigerated trailer set at -18 or slightly below. A second category is Fresh Foods - this means products kept refrigerated but not frozen (chilled) and has to be transported at a temperature between 1 and 4 degrees centigrade.

    Another type of fresh food and yet another category is what the supermarkets call “produce” but the general public usually know as “Fruit and Veg” – this is transported at “normal” temperatures but is still temperature controlled, to maintain a temperature of between 10 and 20 degrees centigrade whatever the outside temperature.

    A fourth category, Ambient goods, refers to pretty much everything else in the shop and includes tinned goods, boxed goods, household products, beers, wines and spirits, and health and beauty. To avoid contamination or infection ambient has to be transported separately from produce. Finally, certain high value goods including tobacco products are usually delivered under yet another system. Bakery products for in-store finishing are also delivered separately.

    Now, it is possible on modern trucks to subdivide the trailer unit into two separate sections, each with its own temperature zone but even allowing for that we have at least 3 Tesco Distribution deliveries a day. So rather than the one truck a few times a week, the reality is at least 8 trucks on a daily basis.

    Finally, as for all this being serviced from the new Avonmouth distribution centre 10 miles away – the Avonmouth distribution centre will only service chilled Fresh Foods deliveries. Rather than being a regional centre, it will actually serve the whole of the south west and south of England and all of Wales. Other non-Fresh Food deliveries will have to come from Magor in Gwent, Didcot in Oxfordshire, or Thurrock in Essex, and even from Southampton and Coventry.

    There are a number of other comments about distribution that he has made which when looked at in the cold light of day serve to demonstrate that he has little or no real knowledge about how food retail and distribution works in reality. His comment about each Tesco having more than 30 local products in beers and ciders alone can be shown for the falsehood that it is by a simple visit to the nearest Tesco Express. I visited three (one in Bristol city centre, plus two in Yate on my way home) plus the larger Tesco Metro in Broadmead – all four combined didn’t produce 30 beers and ciders, and that was even allowing for the fact that I counted products like Blackthorn, Diamond White etc as local or regional.

  13. I thought this was a debate about Tesco Convienience format vs a competing independent in Knowle

    It seems the anti Tesco brigade are conveniently mixing up Tesco superstores and Tesco convienice stores - 30,000 or 3,000 sq feet for the footprint of the Friendship for example?

    I think you will find the Magor depot is shutting to make way for the new Avonmouth depot.

    As regards a Tesco Express shifting more stock than a similar sized independent surely this is a good thing as there will be inherent efficiency (ergo carbon) savings in distribution.

    Much in the same way it is more efficient and green for us to catch a bus or train than use a car for journeys, it is more efficient for goods to travel in larger haulage quantities than individual van deliveries. This is where Tesco makes the efficiency savings.

    Again back to the central point I am making - be Tesco or independent, both will be stocking national brands, so an open minded objective look at each distribution model from factory to store is required, rather than a prejudicial anti-Tesco approach.

  14. Its not just about Tesco for me, although I do feel they set a very bad example in many ways. I dont want to see any big supermarket chain setting up in The Friendship. Ideally I'd like to see a properly run family pub, selling good food and drinks, set up in The Friendship. It might even be possible to have some flats above the pub. Local pubs are a great community focus and it is a great shame to see so many closing locally.

    Its of great concern to me that the council may not, cannot or will not deal with Tesco's plans within the context of an overall plan for shopping in Knowle and the wider city and how we want it to develop into the future. Its of great concern to me that Tesco is not here in Knowle talking to local people about their plans - if they were enacting their 'good neighbour' policy they would do this as a matter of course.

    Local production for local needs, with short travel distances for goods is not what Tesco is about, quite the contrary. They are in fact further away from this than existing local shops let alone the types of local shops and markets that greens want to develop. Without a big change in their practices all shops, but the big supermarkets in particular, cannot be environmentally sustainable. With their emphasis on global trading, maximising consumption, market dominance, shopper manipulation and huge profits at any cost, how can any of the big supermarkets fit into a green future, Tesco in particular??

  15. The reason The Friendship is shutting is (apart from not being very friendly last time I checked!) because the the landlords have assumed they can keep on increasing the rent and charging the tennant a fortune for beer.

    Now they are getting stung by the credit crunch, the tenants can't pay their bills to the landlord and the banks want their loans back so they are selling pubs off piecemeal around the country.

    These pubs, like the Friendship, are sold by the landlord with a restrictive covenant that means they can never be reopened as a pub or restaurant - in my opinion this is the true scandal that should be focused on as it is distorting the market and killing off community meeting places across the country.

    Which is why so many pubs are being converted into Tesco Express Shops as there is no other real use for the land - designated commercial by the council they need to be turned into shops. It is only companies like Tesco that have the capital resource to convert the premises.

  16. Comment 1 "I thought this was a debate about Tesco Convenience format vs a competing independent in Knowle. It seems the anti Tesco brigade are conveniently mixing up Tesco superstores and Tesco convienice stores - 30,000 or 3,000 sq feet for the footprint of the Friendship for example? "

    Read what I said again - here it is: “A 30,000 sq foot ‘normal’ store would receive about 12-15 deliveries per day, and thus it might seem feasible that a Tesco Express at 2,000 sq foot might be able to be replenished by just ‘one truck to deliver everything a few times a week’”.

    There is no attempt in that sentence to imply that Tesco are planning to open a 30,000 square foot store in Knowle, merely an attempt to illustrate why somebody might erroneously think that it was possible that a "Tesco Express will be serviced by a new distribution centre a few miles away in Avonmouth using one truck to deliver everything a few times a week" which was your comment.

    Comment 2 "I think you will find the Magor depot is shutting to make way for the new Avonmouth depot."

    The Magor depot was expanded just a few months ago with a major investment in new technology (leading to 35 redundancies) and is designed to handle ambient grocery. A few miles away the Chepstow depot is a 20-year old facility with no room for expansion and is designed for composite (temperature controlled) distribution. The new Avonmouth depot will be a facility designed for Composite distribution to replace the Cheptow DC. Here is a press story including comments by Juliette Bishop as to why Tesco are closing down Chepstow and re-locating the 750 jobs to Avonmouth:

    Comment 3 "As regards a Tesco Express shifting more stock than a similar sized independent surely this is a good thing as there will be inherent efficiency (ergo carbon) savings in distribution. Much in the same way it is more efficient and green for us to catch a bus or train than use a car for journeys; it is more efficient for goods to travel in larger haulage quantities than individual van deliveries. This is where Tesco makes the efficiency savings."

    There is a major difference between using energy efficient methods to meet existing demand (such as an existing need to travel to work), and creating more consumption and energy use by driving up demand (by encouraging people to travel more). In the latter case, whatever the method of motorised transport use, it produces more carbon emissions.

    Because Tesco expect such an intense level of sales per square foot for their stores they have to either eliminate competition or drive up consumption and usually a combination of the two. The bare facts are that the new store manager (if the store is built) will have a sales target of around £2-2.5 million per annum. This means that one of two things have to happen; either the people of Knowle are going to find an additional £2.5 million to spend in the middle of a recession and increase their consumption (and thus energy use - so much for being greener), OR, Tesco will have to take business away from existing local stores who have a greater share of products supplied from local sources (and thus a greener supply chain as explained below). Either way, the result is a less green way of providing groceries and local shopping.

    Comment 4 "Again back to the central point I am making – be Tesco or independent, both will be stocking national brands, so an open minded objective look at each distribution model from factory to store is required, rather than a prejudicial anti-Tesco approach."

    The truth is that I have looked at each distribution model with a balanced viewpoint –what you appear to find “prejudicial” is the fact that I find the Tesco model less economically efficient (for everybody but Tesco, and possibly not even for them in the longer term) and less environmentally sound than a fully localised distribution system, the latter system being one which you refuse to even consider after dismissing it with an unsubstantiated and prejudicial viewpoint about badly maintained transit vans.

    In order to respond to your central point, I have highlighted some statements you have made, to which I have posted an example of why I think a local distribution model is more effective – feel free to answer the comments and rebut the points raised.

    1 “there are an awful lot more than 30 locally sourced items in each Tesco. The beer and cider aisle would easily exceed this alone”
    A quick walk around any Tesco Express will confirm the lack of local and regional sourcing. In the South West food retail market as a whole, local and regional foods account for nearly 20% of the market by sales value racking up over £800 million of sales, yet none of the big four supermarkets even offer a 5% share, whilst Tesco only have 1.1% sales from local products. Your focus on national brands appears to blinds you to an objective view of the effects a higher percentage of local versus national product mix in a local store might have compared to the tiny local mix in a Tesco Express. Looking at your own grocery area, one major cider producer (HP Bulmer) has established for one of its brands that every litre of cider transported through the national distribution system of companies like Tesco produces about 130g CO2e of transport emissions. In contrast a distribution system using a fully localised system of local producers working with a co-operative wholesaler delivering to stores within a 30-mile radius (the benchmark for local produce) could reduce those emissions by nearly 70%. Using this as a benchmark, a local store that provided a product mix by bulk of 20% local to 80% national products could reduce the total transportation emissions of his products by 15%, whilst a 30% local mix would reduce emissions by over 20%. Can you see how this might be more environmentally sound, whilst also benefiting the local economy?

    2 "Tesco Express will be serviced by a new distribution centre a few miles away in Avonmouth using one truck to deliver everything a few times a week"

    The Avonmouth depot will only distribute chilled Fresh Foods, a high proportion of which will be pre-packed meat delivered from a meat packing facility in Huntingdon after being collected from abattoirs around the country (like the one at Chew Magna, 9 miles from Knowle). Those same abattoirs supply local butchers directly without the need for a 350 mile round trip to Huntingdon and back via Avonmouth. In this instance the Tesco model would produce over 14kg CO2e from transportation for every carcass (and the resulting meat) - even allowing for backloading, whilst the local model would produce 1.3kg CO2e for each carcass – a reduction of over 90% even without any backhauling. In addition, a localised distribution system could also allow the use of a vehicle like the Smith Newton, a 7.5 tonne electric truck with a refrigeration option which has no carbon emissions and is capable of carrying 20 beef carcasses. The use of the Smith Newton for localised distribution is already in operation in London with several companies, whilst a 9 tonne electric truck is already used in Bristol as part of the freight consolidation scheme for Broadmead.

    3 "Tesco DO have a far less centralised distribution model than their 'green' counterparts"

    Half right. Tesco do have a less centralised distribution model then many “green” counterparts who operate at a national level, but a much more centralised distribution model then suppliers (green or otherwise) who operate a truly local model. However, even for national “branded” products, the level of difference in supply line efficiency is not as clear as you might think either.

    Tesco have a large number of depots (40+) but they are designed to focus on a particular vertical aspect of the supply chain, for example Ambient or Composite (i.e temperature controlled), for which they serve a large area with varying degrees of geographic spread. The most decentralised part of the supply chain is that for Chilled Regional Distribution Centres, of which Tesco, have 10. In other areas, for example Frozen Foods, Tesco have just one National Distribution Centre and thus offer little improvement in the supply chain over your model for an independent “green” wholesaler.

    Furthermore, many 3PLs, and hauliers are now able to offer suppliers access to national distribution models as efficient as those of the major food retailers. A fact recognised by the fact that Tesco themselves have now out-sourced much of their own distribution to third parties.

    4 Backhauling "ensures that there [are] no Tesco trucks driving around empty and underutilised"

    The dependence on nationally and internationally sourced products and an imbalance between inter-regional supply and demand, means it is impossible for “backhauling” to operate anywhere near 100% efficiency in a supply chain like the one operated by Tesco. Although retail operations like Tesco have managed to increase the average payload weight carried per mile by their lorries by 5% and have introduced computerised routing systems, warehousing management software and are making greater use of telematics and even RFIDs, the weight-utilisation rate of laden lorries actually fell from 62% in the mid-90’s to 57% in 2003 and is now at 53% for the food supply chain. This is partially because supermarket chains like Tesco have increased the average lorry size of their distribution fleet, partially because programmes like FGP have failed to prove as efficient as expected, and partially because increased traffic congestion has limited the ability to find, collect and deliver suitable backloads – about 30% of primary distribution routes are subject to delays of an hour or more, with 10% being subject to delays of over 3 hours. This has been compounded by the introduction of the working time directive. As a result, contrary to what you might think, a sizable proportion of Tesco trucks are effectively running empty or under-utilised at any given moment leading to Tesco missing their target of reducing their CO2 emissions by 10% last year by well over half.

    In conclusion; I am not particularly anti-Tesco towards the people who work there below board level. Because of an earlier working relationship with the company, I still have several contacts within the company. The sad fact of the matter is that there are many people within the company who, if given the right encouragement and resources, could transform Tesco and the quality of its relationships with local food producing organisations, farmers, and suppliers whilst alleviating its worse effects on the local job market and the built and natural environment. Instead it chooses to subjugate everything to the bottom line, and because it is the dominant food retailer that forces everyone else to pursue the same course of action. A walk along the high street of a small town in France with its host of independent local butchers, bakers, fishmongers, greengrocers, and other high quality local tradesmen and food markets at a scale not currently seen in the UK, even in much larger and relatively wealthy cities like Bristol shows what could have been and what could still be.


Genuine, open, reasonable debate is most welcome. Comments that meet this test will always be published.