COUNCILLORS have joined forces to plead with supermarket giant Tesco over fears a rebranded Leamington store will be unaffordable for elderly shoppers.
Clarendon ward councillors have written a letter to the CEO Jason Tarry about the impact of the decision to change the status of the Parade branch to an Express brand.
Branches under the ‘Express’ brand typically include prices to reflect ‘convenience store’ style shopping where customers buy goods on an as and when basis.
The decision has prompted protests from residents who fear price hikes could inconvenience local and elderly people who rely on its easy access.
In the letter, Coun Jonathon Nicholls claims lines in Tesco are already shorter, prices have risen and staff levels reduced.
He continues: “The current Metro is a keystone grocery and provisions store in the centre of our town, which has a population of 50,000. There is no other store like it in the town centre or within a single bus journey for many residents – the bus stops are adjacent to the store.
“There is a significant population of the elderly, less able and less well-off who rely on buying their groceries, greengrocery, and other essential items in one place conveniently and at fair prices.”
The letter describes the store as a key community asset, and suggests many shoppers will be forced to take multiple buses to alternative stores, or to contribute to congestion and pollution by car – the same reason cited against online shopping.
It further warns: “Your decision to change the status of our store is an unpopular one that will damage your reputation. It disproportionately affects the elderly, the less mobile and the disadvantaged.”
The letter includes clauses under The Companies Act which says the community, customers and environment must be taken into account when acting to promote the success of a company. It requests Mr Tarry provides assurance such considerations have been made.
A petition has also been launched which has so far gained over 400 signatures
Protester Peter Glanfield said: “There is real emotion and stress from the older shoppers in the Parade Tesco as they have supported us.
“Leamington has now in effect lost its main food shop/supermarket in the town centre causing distress to its oldest and most vulnerable residents who live here.
“Other local towns in Warwickshire and probably the West Midlands all have a food shop where elder or economically deprived residents without access to a car can make their main food purchases – usually in one bag daily on a very regular basis, week in, week out. Leamington is losing the one shop which they can afford to use.”
According to Tesco the decision reflected a change in shopping habits.
A spokesperson said the Metro format was originally designed for larger, weekly shops, but now nearly 70 per cent of customers used them as convenience stores so the majority would be rebranded as Express branches.