A letter to the Prime Minister from a Wetherby shop owner

FROM: Nisit Kanabar, Castlegate Stores, Wetherby.

I WANTED to write to you, as you have recently been involved in setting up a committee to look at the struggling High Street.

In Wetherby currently we have 17 empty retail units. Totally there are around 100 retail units. Like many other towns we have felt the wrath of the recession and yet still Sainsbury’s are wanting to open a new store on the site of The Jarvis hotel, which has recently gone into administration.

Sainsbury’s are promising to work with the local community and businesses in town. They say their nectar card stats show that there is a need for another supermarket in town and that this new store will bring 200 new jobs and help local businesses, as they will attract more people to the town.

I would just like to list some points, if Sainsburys are given the go ahead for this store. Firstly 50 jobs would go at the current Jarvis site, another 12 employees would need to be re-deployed from Sainsbury’s current store on Crossley Street in the town and Sainsburys have quoted that the Morrisons super store in town is overtrading by nine per cent, so that is who they are targeting, quote by Jo Try regional development exec for Sainsburys. The hit on Morrisons turnover I would anticipate to be a minimum of 30%, which would have a vast impact on the stores overheads, so I would say, they would lay off 50 staff, then there is the M&S Food Hall in town, a similar hit in turnover, again staff lay – off 20 headcount.

Now we come to the life and blood of the town the independent stores, if each store in town lays off one person, due to the hit in turnover, we are talking a total of 155 jobs to start with. We ourselves currently employ 20 local people.

The population demographic of Wetherby is:

Total population aged 15+ : 21,347

Total of households: 11,174

Total men: 10,769

Total women: 10,578

Total population aged 15-34: 5,541

Total population aged 35-54: 7,143

Total population aged 55+: 8,663

Total population of social class ABC1: 15,215

Total population of social class C2DE: 6,132

Andrew our local butcher created a petition against the store opening and placed this in half a dozen local businesses.

On Friday I handed all collated petition sheets to Sainsbury’s planning officer Sue at their showcase of the new store on the Jarvis site, which was accepted reluctantly, as I was told by the Sainsbury’s team that this was not really good PR.

The petition has 4,034 names on it and was available to sign for four weeks before the Sainsbury’s roadshow. There are still names being put on the petition now.

My family has been in business for 50 years now and I am the third generation so I have extensive local and general knowledge about retailing.

My wife and I run three stores in the town. This proposal and the way Sainsbury’s has approached this, does not make sense to us.

I would be more then happy to meet anybody who could give a real justified reason why this store should be given the go-ahead and I would be really interested in your views with the current climate being as it is.

We, as a town welcome Justin King (chief executive of Sainsbury’s), Dalton Philips (chief executive of Morrisons) and Marc Bolland (chief executive of Marks & Spencer) to get involved in this debate, as ultimately the decision will affect them all.

I know that nationally there are a lot of very important issues that you deal with on a day to day basis, but this is our livelihood and our children’s futures and I speak for all the good people of Wetherby that are supporting this objection.

It would be very helpful to gain views and have some feedback.