Monday, 13 February 2012

A CHOICE: SUPERMARKETS OR TOWN CENTRE SHOPS

Kent Green Party is urging the Government to refer the major supermarket chains to the Competition Commission on the grounds that their free car parking constitutes unfair competitive advantage over smaller town centre retailers. Dr Hazel Dawe, Campaigns Officer of Kent Green Party, explains:

“I have written to the Government on behalf of Kent Green Party urging them to help save our town centre shops. At present, supermarkets have a clear and overwhelming competitive advantage as a result of having free car parking which many small high street retail businesses do not. Kent Green Party believes this advantage is unfair, and is one of the factors contributing to the decline of our shopping centres in Kent and Medway(1).

“Recently, we have seen supermarket expansion imposed on Hythe and supermarket retailers are hovering around Westgate with proposals which, if implemented, will wreck the independent and smaller retail businesses that offer real choice in that part of Thanet.

“Research has shown an average supermarket cuts local employment in its vicinity by about 250 jobs after five years of operation (2). When local councils give planning permission to supermarkets for new development or expansion, they are actually cutting jobs in the local economy not adding them.

“Independent small retailers of all kinds and our expanding network of farmers’ markets in Kent are far more valuable to people for real choice and for keeping up local employment than supermarkets will ever be.”

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FURTHER INFORMATION: Dr Hazel Dawe, Campaigns Officer of Kent Green Party, on 01732 355185 or 079444 71083. Contact address as above. Dr Hazel Dawe is a Law Lecturer and has taught both Consumer Law and Sales of Goods at University level. Promoted by H.Dawe and published by Kent Green Party, both at 27 Audley Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1XF. Monthly free ezine KENT GREEN NEWS available for subscription at www.kentgreenparty.org

Notes:

1. Other key factors are the Government’s cuts in which the loss of one public sector job means a loss of spending in the economy which removes one job, on average, in the private sector; internet shopping continues to increase; the Government will not allow local councils to block either supermarket or out of town retail expansion despite this being damaging to high street enterprises because of oligopolistic pricing advantages. In short, where there is too little competition amongst some of the larger retail enterprises what happens in practice is that they may easily be able to keep prices up amongst themselves. This is enormously assisted by free car parking for supermarkets and in out of town retail developments. This is also widely seen as applicable to pricing in the energy industry where OFGEM continues to fail to act in the interests of both the consumer and competition.

2. 2. Information from campaigning group Sustain, In particular, their publication A Battle in store. A discussion of the social impact of the major UK supermarkets is instructive and should act as one basis for Competition Commission action concerning supermarkets and their continuing expansion: http://www.sustainweb.org/publications/?mode=info&id=106

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