Former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy believes the rise of supermarkets and the closure of small shops is simply “part of progress.”
He made the comments while speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. Sir Terry also described some high streets as “medieval” and said that the way people live their lives has changed.
He conceded that seeing boarded up local shops is sad, but that this happens because consumers are choosing to shop at larger stores. The benefits of shopping at out-of-town stores simply outweigh the downsides, he said.
When Sir Terry was asked whether he thought it was simply “tough” that a family butcher’s shop had to close because it was unable to compete with the “three-quid-chicken” that can be bought at a supermarket, he stated;
“Small benefits for thousands of families can be a big loss for the family of the butcher but you can never be casual about it. You have to ensure the better organisations come through.”
Sir Terry knows he won’t please everyone with his views on supermarkets but he insists that the vast majority of people prefer larger stores.
“I felt very strongly inside that Tesco was doing the right thing, in terms of how it was conducting its business, how it was serving ordinary people and how it was employing ordinary people but I realised I wasn’t winning the argument for some people.”
The British Independent Retailers Association said that 98 per cent of the country’s grocery industry, which is worth £150 billion, is controlled by only nine stores.
But deputy chief executive Michael Weedon points out that as large chains are closing, more properties are becoming available at rents affordable for independent retailers.
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