It has been interesting in the Totally Locally office over the past day or so.
Chris and Beth went to a meeting with 2 consultants from Sainsbury’s and Lynne Midwinter (Todmorden Business Association, Totally Locally & Incredible Edible) to discuss Sainsbury’s opening up a store in Todmorden and the potential affect on the town.
Whilst I was not at the meeting and therefore can’t comment on it, it was clear that passions were running high on their return.
For Chris, it manifests itself in a massive flash of passion, creativity and thought.
Talk of taking on supermarkets, stopping the build and saving the town from slipping from what it has recently achieved (a model English market town) were thrown around on the office.
For Beth, with her background in town planning, she put forward the fact that there is a good possibility of the scheme going ahead (despite her objections), and with her logical mind, she was working out how to make best of the situation if it happened.
Therefore for me, it is my role in these situations to take on the mantle of Devil’s Advocate in these situations. Is it really Totally Locally’s fight? What about the jobs created? What about the convenience for shoppers? Will the new store lift the profile of the town?
My stance was not helped by the fact that the representatives of Sainsbury’s went straight out of the meeting with Totally Locally into a Council Meeting and, as fed back to us by slightly surprised attendees, intimated that they had the backing from Totally Locally. Whilst we are flattered that they think that our campaign and brand is strong enough to influence people, we can quite clearly state that we did not give our backing to the plan.
So we then talked over this for well over an hour and while we did not resolve every detail, question and hypothetical situation we were left with the following:
QUESTION: Do we (Totally Locally) endorse a Sainsbury’s in Todmorden?
No, the clue is in the title of the campaign we are helping Totally Locally independent companies in the area.
QUESTION: Is it Totally Locally’s fight to try and stop, fight against Sainsbury’s?
No, at the end of the day we believe in free markets, don’t like protectionism, etc. However we will more than happily promote the good independent shops in the area , remind the people in Todmorden of the things that they already have, such as the market and the existing shops. The fact that these shops will support their local economy because they will spend profits, etc in the area and with local suppliers,etc.
It is difficult to defend the argument. What about if I need to do my shopping after the kids have gone to bed? Where can I get my groceries, soap, shampoo, etc?
This is the convenience factor and argument of Supermarkets. Now if the markets had their own shop which stayed open until late selling goods from the market and giving away free Incredible Edible vegetables, maybe there is a counter argument for this. But that is a whole different campaign…(hint!)
QUESTION: Will Sainsbury’s use local companies?
I am not sure that we can answer this really, however – I suspect that they will not use local architects for the design and build of a store, I would not expect local companies to be used for the build or fitting. Will the shelves simply be stocked by whatever central buyers believe is right for Sainsburys? Will there be any local produce?
Who will win the cleaning contact? Who will print the signage? Who will be asked to do the marketing around the area? Locally companies?…. I suspect not …Will the profits be reinvested into the area… I guess only if you are a shareholder that lives in the region…so we are left with the salaries that they will pay to local people.
QUESTION: But won’t Sainsburys create new jobs?
Yes, there will be new employment created in Todmorden by a Sainsburys open but at what price? Will the Market and other local shops suffer drops in revenue as a result. Probably which means that local shops will have reduced revenues which may mean laying off staff, reducing their spend with local suppliers due to slower stock turnaround, or potentially closing all together. Obviously this is something that Totally Locally isn’t too thrilled about if this happens.
So where does that leave us?
This is not an attack on Sainsbury’s by any means. I am sure that if we ran the Sainsbury’s company…or any other supermarket for that matter…we would look at doing a similar thing…but is it right for Todmorden? That is something only the people of Todmorden can answer. Is there a gap that the local shops don’t offer that Sainsbury’s does?
Totally Locally will always focus its energies on promoting good local independent businesses and wouldn’t back anything other than this… and we will help these businesses as much as we can in trying to attract people to spend a little more of their money in the local area.
We don’t try and dictate or preach to people about where they shop, we simply seek to remind them that there are great local shops in their area and urge them to try them out.
As I have always said, when I look back to my youth and the shops that I remember vividly they were all little independent shops with nooks and crannies to explore, filled with people that gave me suggestions, recognized me and were, plain and simply….nice.
Totally Locally Nigel
Please feel free to comment – that is what this is all about!