Thursday, October 30, 2008

Spin in Overdrive

Coleridge Labour press machine is in overdrive again. In yesterday's CEN, they had the front page splash claiming Tesco's were coming to Cambridge Leisure Park. Trouble is, today's CEN seems to have Tesco denying the story. I guess we will find out in time if it is Tesco who are telling fibs, which they have form for, or Labour making it up as they go along just to get their names in the paper, which they also have form for.

(UPDATE: Fair play to Labour, they do seem to got the story right on this one. Have to say I'm shocked by Tescos - they appear to be a complete shambles all of a sudden...)

The interesting question is what will people think of another Tescos in Cambridge. I am Tesco neutral - their stores are appreciated by many customers, but in some areas their presence causes legitimate concerns (like on Mill Road, regarding the diversity of other shops and delivery arrangements), and there must be concerns about allowing them a local monopoly. But every proposal should be considered on its merits, and the relevant part of our planning and transport regulation systems should be used to tackle the problems as they arise.

Labour's suggestion that the Cambridge Leisure park site is remotely similar to the Tescos situation in Mill Road however is clearly hysterical, as is the suggestion that Tescos should make full disclosure of their plans up front. Does this plea apply to all commercial enterprises, or just Tescos? Should the City Council provide full disclosure of every commercial project they are involved in even before decisions have been made, so other commercial enterprises can exploit the situation and remove all potential benefit to the schemes original proposer? Labour really are clueless when it comes to understanding how commerical enterprises work - which doesn't bode well considering how many of such enterprises the government is now running...


Thomas said...

"Have to say I'm shocked by Tescos - they appear to be a complete shambles all of a sudden"

What makes you think that a massive company which has demonstrated time and time again that it has no roots with local areas, should remotely have any idea about a new store when their PR office is phoned up?

As a conservative, I think you ought to be much more concerned about their increasingly excessive market penetration. At 51% of the food market, and 13+ Tesco-owned stores "there must be concerns about allowing them a local monopoly" is surely an understatement?

Chris Howell said...

Its a question of competence - if a competent press office wasn't sure of the answer, they wouldn't make something up that they would clearly have to retract very quickly afterwards. Tesco have got to be the biggest by excelling in all areas of their business (especially logistics and marketing and doubtless management of land assets and options), so maybe it is the beginning of the end if they are no longer at the top of their game in some areas.

A large number of stores in an area isn't bad per se, you need to weigh the risks of abuse of monopoly against the role large supermarkets have in providing consumers with low cost and convenient food. It doesn't bear thinking about what the situation would be like if the government decided food distribution was too important to be left to private enterprises and there should be a state monopoly - we are still in a position of choice, and as long as other providers are free to negotiate sites and try running stores better able to attract customers, there are risks attached to stopping Tesco opening new stores as well as allowing them to open that need to be weighed up on a case by case basis - and Cambridge Leisure Park is not Mill Road.