Dundee Supermarket Sweep

16 Sep
Asda pic by Dominic

Asda pic by Dominic

As a Dundonian away from home I like to keep a close eye on my home city’s economic news, mostly through the Courier’s website. I hate it when something bad happens there, such as when NCR closed down its manufacturing plant there, or more recently when computer game company Realtime Worlds went in to administration (although there is hope that some of it can be saved).

I’m always hoping to see good news, but I see something about once a year that really annoys me – “excitement” about a new supermarket being built in the city. Just today I’ve seen that Asda will be building a new supermarket on the old NCR site.

Alan Mitchell, chief executive of Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce  said the move would be a major economic boost. “The proposals will bring a significant amount of investment into the area, as well as creating up to 480 new jobs at a time when they are needed most.”

Woop-di-do! Another supermarket for Dundee!

I think this dependence on new supermarkets and treating it as if it is really good news for the city is really quite depressing. Are there thousands of families sitting around in Dundee thinking, “you know what Dundee really needs? Another supermarket! I just don’t have anywhere to shop in this fine city I wish there was another supermarket so I could shop there.” Are there folk in Edinburgh and Aberdeen looking at the news thinking, “Smashing! There’s a new Asda being built in Dundee – let’s travel there to do our weekly shopping in future!” No they are not.

Fact is there is a finite amount of supermarket shopping that can be done in an area. All that will happen once this supermarket is built is that people who used to shop in one of the other supermarkets in Dundee, will now shop at the new Asda. These other supermarkets will have slightly fewer customers and one of them will close down eventually. We don’t suddenly have a need to do more shopping just because there is a new supermarket in the city!

More likely is that the supermarket continues to put the squeeze on small and independent retailers in the city.

And as for the job creation? Well I do think it’s nice to have the construction work while the supermarket is being built, but the fact is that the jobs that are being created at the supermarket are mostly low value positions. They are still welcome and essential for a diverse economy, but I don’t believe we’ll end up with 480 net jobs created and they are in no way comparable with 480 skilled jobs being lost at a manufacturing plant.

I wish the city would show a bit more ambition. It’s become too predictable that as soon as some major employer shuts down, Dundee City Council is imagining a new supermarket for the site. Could they not have shown a bit more ambition to get a major employer in there? You know – one of the ones that actually exports something so isn’t dependent on recycling the same pot of consumer retail money the is swirling round the place. I know it’s not easy – no-one is going to move there just because there is a vacant plot – but by putting an identi-kit supermarket on the site we’re losing a potential site for something that could have had net benefit to the city.

It is disingenuous* to suggest that a new supermarket is a “major economic boost”.

Until I see a proper company bringing 480 jobs to Dundee I just can’t get excited. Until then the supermarkets can sweep off.

*yeah I’m not really sure disingenuous is the right word. Sounds quite good though!

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