So, the comments rumble on. The Penny Post has done it’s fair share of reporting on the possibility of one of the big four supermarkets opening up in on of Cardiff’s most salubrious suburbs. There’s no doubt that it’s set the chattering classes away both off an online.
Most recently, over 1,500 signatures have been added to a petition against the installation of a 2,600 square metre unit in the old Pontcanna Pine building on Kings Road. This was followed by a residents meeting in St Katherine’s Church Hall in which over 100 residents gathered to voice their concerns over the issue.
Your Cardiff was there and filed this piece on the meeting and the vocal concerns of local traders. The campaign is not so black and white, however, as it first seems. 116 attendees mark a very small turn out in an area of this size.
There’s a plethora of varied comments on posts about the possibility of a Tesco or Sainsburys opening up in the area; and they’re not all against the idea.
Nathan Collins, a prolific commenter on all things Cardiff, wrote: “Ah, a meeting of the village elders – the 100 who know what is best for the area, and everybody else there need to be told, because they cannot be trusted – if it comes, the proles will shop there, so we must campaign and stop it, because we know best.” on the Your Cardiff site.
This was followed up by Andy Pontcanna (commenting on the same post) with: “Nathan, there was nothing to stop you going to the meeting and airing your views. These people were the 100 who turned up. If you didn’t then you can’t complain that your views weren’t heard can you?”.
So it’s clear that there’s more than one opinion on the matter. But should the local concern, onilne comments and offline rumour mill not focus on one simple fact?
If Pontcanna does not want a national supermarket chain, the residents needn’t shop there. None of the sites identified as a possible location are on a main thoroughfare with high footfall. Therefore, if the locals don’t ship there, no one will. The tills will not ring and the store will fail. (It’s worth noting that as well as the tills not ringing, the jobs that the development would create would also not exist). In same economic argument, there’s another essential business argument that no one seems to be addressing. If any of the big four supermarkets are even contemplating a venture into Pontcanna, then they’ll have done their research and identified a market need. If this market need exists, then it’s not being served by the incumbent local traders. I run a small business in the area and if my customers are not being served then I’m doing something wrong. It’s all very well complaining of competition from a national damaging the character of an area, but local businesses MUST be serving the needs of local people – that’s the right range of products at the right price.
If the incumbent traders are scared by the arrival of another competitor, they need to look first at their own stores and wonder why they’re worried about the possible exodus of their customers. Get this right, and the worries about loosing trade and loosing character become a moot point.
In other news, and in order to present a balanced argument, I’ve just come across this nice blog piece about the demise of Pulse Wholefoods in Pontcanna. (http://derecjones.com/2011/06/30/failure/). The painfully honest writing is a reminder why the demands made of small food businesses are increasingly hard to meet. By Jimmy Saver.