When Sainsbury’s defeated Tesco in last year’s battle to secure the rights to open a store in Kelso, there was jubilation in many quarters in the town.
Sainsbury’s was seen as infinitely more preferable than Tesco, as it was regarded different for the Borders and would draw more people into Kelso who would then spend money in town centre shops.
However, local traders are now concerned that fresh plans by the supermarket giant to open a cafe in the new store will impact on similar businesses in the town, with shoppers able to get a refreshment and something to eat – and possibly not even bothering to visit the town centre at all.
The national retailer says the cafe proposal is a result of feedback received from public consultation events in which local people felt there should be somewhere for the elderly and vulnerable to sit and wait for the buses back into the town.
This claim has been met with some scepticism, given that Sainsbury’s is looking at laying on a shuttle bus to ferry people from the Springwood retirement village up to the new supermarket and back home again.
It would be naive for anyone to believe that the opening of such a large supermarket would have no negative impact on certain areas of local town centre trade.
Likewise, it is disappointing that, given the level of support Sainsbury’s received from the local community in Kelso, the company seems to be now adopting the kind of tactics which have made supermarkets and small country towns such awkward bedfellows elsewhere in the United Kingdom.