A few days ago, on BBC Radio 4, I heard a piece about Gordon Brown (yes that Gordon Brown), leading a hands on campaign to keep Tesco in the centre of Kirkaldy. Leading from the front, he persuaded the owner of the building which Tesco lease to reduce the rent in an effort to make the economics add-up for them and to reverse their decision to close their store down which is seen as the anchor for the town centre.
As the landlord is willing to be flexible over rents, if I were Gordon Brown (or in charge of making the town centre work) I wouldn’t bother with Tesco.
Instead I would work to turn the building which Tesco is vacating into a food-market using local businesses and suppliers to offer good quality and affordable fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and other products.
This would entail a fair bit of effort in identifying stall-keepers; setting up supply chains and contacts, and with training and supporting locals who may not have ran businesses before.It would also require someone to act as curator to ensure quality and a generally high level of ambition.
I would put my efforts into removing our dependance on Tesco or any of the other big-boys in the grocery world. It won’t be easy but it is the sort of thing more town centres have got to do if they want to survive and thrive.
We should also be doing this on the sites which Tesco has left empty through their abandoning of some of their new developments.