Mike Pearce in the Thanet Gazette ‘Tesco has become a hate figure’


Published June 28th 2013.

“THE year is 1813 and little Albert has failed to learn by heart the first three chapters of Leviticus.

“If you do not show greater endeavour, Napoleon will come and snatch you,” his mother warns the wretched child.

The year is 2013 and Wayne’s mum ain’t that bovvered that her chubby teenager hasn’t finished his 200-word homework on “My favourite soap star”, but which bogeyman can she call up, in the absence of a power-crazed Frenchman?

Probably Tesco.

“If you don’t watch it, they’ll build a store – and then where’ll we be?” she can ask, whacking him soundly round the head with a leaflet containing the latest food offers.

What is it about the country’s largest supermarket chain that has made it a hate figure, not just among anti-capitalists who have nothing and want to share it, but among the chatterers who would have us believe supermarkets are the work of the Devil?

Even before Government minister Eric Pickles discovered it makes sense to build a Tesco on what is – and would have continued to be – one of Margate’s most prominent eyesores, the salvos had started.

Boom! It will ruin the seafront.

Boom! It will be ugly.

Boom! Boom! There will be thousands of traffic movements and no-one wants it.

It is time to return fire.

What practical and fundable alternative is there to the Tesco development?

Can it really be uglier than Arlington House or the Turner shed?

If no-one wants it, there will be little additional traffic. And if there is, it means it’s wanted. Guaranteed win!

In fact Tesco is not wanted because it is not “cool”. In the same way pretentious folk weaned on drug-fuelled rock music ridicule the millions who bought Cliff Richard records, so Tesco cannot be mentioned without a thinning of the lips, a sneer and an uncomplimentary adjective – usually “evil”.

Tesco is guilty of something unforgivable when seen through right-on eyes. It makes profits. Large profits.

As in profits to take on staff. Large profits to take on even more staff.

It is an agreeable fantasy to imagine a world with no supermarkets, where every little shop in every little cobbled street is run by a little old lady with thin-rimmed glasses and thinning hair, sitting on a rickety stool and reading a dog-eared Penguin classic, forever hoping a kindly stranger will come in from the rain and buy one of the pashminas she has lovingly created from the hair of goats from the Isle of Capri.

An anti-Tesco scream goes up whenever and wherever a supermarket is planned. Out of town, near the seafront, at Westbrook, the default position is “How awful!”

For real awfulness, talk to anyone old enough to remember the pre-supermarket days when we toddled along to the corner shop.

Every item had to be searched for by the owner, there was always a queue, and, after you had waited 20 minutes to ask for 20 Park Drive tipped, you were told they’d run out.

I am a Morrison’s man (it’s less prone to swamping its stores with multi-buy offers which disadvantage so disgracefully the millions of us who live alone), but I admire Tesco for the service it gives, the 310,000 jobs it provides in its 3,416 stores, the dividends it pays and the profits it makes to guarantee its future.

Among the reasons we should be thanking Eric Pickles:

It is not a pie-in-the-sky project from a bunch of dreamers and the site will not revert to an eyesore within a generation.

It will not be subsidised through our taxes.

Oh yes – and it’s upset Mary Portas.”

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