Allerton Road’s Seabrook crisp factory sat abandoned until Aldi bought the site with the promise of turning it into a new store. The eyesore is no more as the site is being prepared, but there are still mixed reactions within the community. Rae Coppola investigates…
THERE is not a bakery in Allerton, Bradford, nor a butchers, greengrocer or fruit seller. What the suburb does have are: two Co-operatives, and a group of independent shops. All of which set up a campaign to oppose the plan to turn the land from the former factory into an Aldi supermarket and car park before the permission was granted.
Joanne Chamberlain, owner of independent discount retailer More Reasons, said: “I got all the shops together and led the big petition against it.
“There’s just no need for an Aldi.”
However, the campaign was futile and it did not stop the global discount supermarket chain.
This means that the group of independent local retails will now be forced to live with the unpredictable, yet inevitable, consequences of the Regulatory and Appeals Committee’s decision.
Aldi have confirmed that their new store at the site is under construction and set to open on the 27th October 2016. Therefore, the shops have to use the time to prepare themselves, and their workers, for the worst possible outcome.
By granting planning permission, the majority of Bradford Council have ignored their own policy on protecting local shopping centres and small businesses. If even the council gave in to the pressures of the supermarket, what hope remains for the future of shops like Joanne’s small discount store?
Soon, as well as the lack of multiple grocers, Allerton may too push away the independent retailers it so desperately needs to protect for the sake of having a high street at all.
It is no surprise that the local businesses are fearful about the reduced footfall the new budget retailer may bring, as it is a fact that the opening of the nearby Asda store on Cemetery Road has already impacted on their sales.
She commented: “Every shop in the precinct was affected by the Asda, we’ve lost about 30 per cent of business already.
“We’re not looking forward to the Aldi opening, it’ll be even closer.”
The nearby residents according to and including Joanne, tend to do what they can to support the shops found in the Allerton shopping precinct, by purchasing everyday essentials like milk and bread along with other bits and pieces. The car park is usually busy, and the shops, more often than not, have at least one customer browsing the shelves.
Joanne said: “People can buy everything from here, we only stock what people buy, so if it doesn’t sell we take it out.”
However, much to the owner’s dismay, most still venture out to bigger supermarkets to part with larger amounts of money for their main weekly shop. What will happen when no more than 0.2 miles down the road, an Aldi supermarket opens its doors?
She said: “There’s enough competition as it is with Asda, Morrisons, and the two Co-operatives.
“So, to put it bluntly, the Aldi will make or break us.”
Competition can be healthy, but only if it is fair. A supermarket whereby everything can be found in one place and at a low cost is at a natural advantage in comparison to smaller shops that may not sell everything under one roof, especially when there is an overlap in the products they sell.
Aldi has previously been accused of going back on pledges to offer community facilities, squeezing out independent shops, for instance in Benfleet, Lancashire. It was there that the supermarket went back on their word and sold a limited selection of newspapers, despite leading local businesses to believe otherwise in the planning permission documents.
Therefore, Joanne and her neighbours at the precinct have reason to be sceptical, despite the company denying this and claiming to believe in supporting the communities within which they operate.
Joanne believes her shop offers consistently good service, and that’s what she hopes will ensure that her customers will remain loyal and keep coming back. She said: “We’ll carry people’s things to the car for them. You won’t get that at Aldi.”
“But, only time will tell if customers will carry on shopping here.”
Continuing to mock the budget retailers, More Reasons have hit back by since updating the profile picture on their Facebook page to a price comparison of how their shops milk is 10 pence cheaper than that sold at Aldi’s.
They are using their rivals “like brands, only cheaper” marketing campaign to their own advantage, and with good reason. The discount store will soon need all the help they can get to continue growing despite the struggles Aldi is set to cause.
Joanne said: “The picture pulls people in, it’s a lost leader, but if you can’t beat them, join them.”
As independent shops struggle, the amount of choice that is crucial for the continued growth of the local economy will be eroded, and residents will have to become open to the notion that, as Joanne said: “If you don’t shop local, you’ll lose your corner shops and soon it will all be online.”
In 2013, The Federation of Small Businesses found that “for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business (SME) 63p was re-spent in the local area compared to 40p in every £1 spent with a larger business.”
They claim this is because money from the store is siphoned away from local communities towards shareholders and funnelled to head office rather than being re-spent locally several times.
Joanne said: “There’s a social aspect to shopping locally too, people like to come in and have a chat, having the shops gets the elderly and lonely out of the house.”
Pointing out the full donation box and the Macmillan Cancer Support certificate thanking the independent shop for raising £23.91, Joanne added: “Even charities will suffer, little shops like mine do their bit for others.
“That was just from two months of donations, I’m always calling charities to come empty the boxes.”
However, the Aldi website states that they support charities, with the cost of every bag going to the RSPB, and offering in-kind donations of products and samples and charity collections in store. Also stating that: “Alongside our Charities of the Year, our regions also support more local projects and charities.” Therefore, it remains in doubt whether or not charities will lose out due to the stores opening.
At present, they have only one store in Bradford at Valley Road but there are exciting plans for the future.
Mark Taylor, Property Director Aldi Stores commented: “Aldi is looking forward to opening our 2nd store in the City of Bradford on Allerton Road creating 40 new jobs. The new Aldi Store will offer those residents living on the West side of Bradford the opportunity to purchase Aldi’s award winning products and excellent value fresh produce.”
Aldi may be growing at its slowest rate for four years, according to Kantar, but its sales are still up 15.1 per cent year-on-year. Families on tight budgets or those on restricted time scales can’t help but shop there.
Mr Taylor said: “Aldi has targeted Bradford as a real opportunity for growth and investment. In addition to the new Allerton Road store Aldi will be opening a new store at Idlecroft Road, Idle in November this year. This will then be followed by another new store in early 2017 at Stanley Street, New Bolton Woods which is to the north of the city. This will give Aldi four stores in the City of Bradford by the middle of 2017 creating over 120 new jobs.”
Joanne commented: “Aldi might be creating jobs, but they’ll potentially be putting others out of their jobs. “They’re big fish eating little fish.”
She vowed: “I’ll never shop there, just like how I don’t shop at Morrisons or Asda.”
However, ninety-eight per cent of local residents welcomed the plans with open arms after a newsletter was sent to 1,000 households within the Allerton area, inviting comments on the plan.
Mrs White, of Canford Drive, Allerton, was one of them.
The former Seabrook’s factory worker, and kitchen assistant at a local school said: “I responded straight away, it’s about time they did something about Seabrook’s.”
“I worked there many years and can’t believe it’s taken this long to get pulled down.”
The factory and its land has been derelict since 2004, and as if being an eye-sore was not enough, ever since closing it has been victim to persistent vandalism and arson attacks, bringing the communities reputation down with it.
The public have long campaigned for a solution, as you could not help but look at the unsightly area, especially when going down the main road to get to the town centre, or even in the opposite direction towards Keighley.
Their prayers were answered, and the factory was demolished in September of last year to make way for the both dreaded and anticipated Aldi store.
She exclaimed: “I was over the moon when I got the news!”
“Finally I won’t have to see it from my bedroom window.”
She said: “I’m glad it’s going to be an Aldi, they sell quality food at a reasonable price all year round.
“I normally shop there or at the Asda anyway, but have to travel to get to the Aldi. It’ll be nice to have one within walking distance.”
“It’d take me no more than five minutes to walk there to get my everyday essentials like milk and bread. I’d go in the car for my main shop though so I don’t have to carry everything home past that busy road.”
The narrow Allerton Road is often congested as it already serves a great deal of purpose, for example providing access to: a school, shops, a number of take-away shops, and a laundrette.
Objections were therefore raised by the other 2% answering the newsletter regarding how the Aldi will increase this amount of traffic, and potentially cause danger.
Aldi combated the issue by proposing off-site works to ensure a second Zebra crossing will be added to the road, and the bus stop is to be re-located out of harm’s way.
She said: “I think it’s a good idea to have the crossing, it’ll make the busy road safer for the children getting to school, the congregation getting to church and the people wanting to go to the supermarket.
“I’ll still be careful though, cars don’t always stop.”
Mrs White is not the only one turning to retailers outside the ‘Big Four’. According to the BBC there has been a steady decline ever since game-changing German competitors Aldi and Lidl cut into their market share, offering comparable quality products at lower costs.
She said: “I’ll still support my local shops, especially Paper Works in the precinct to get my cards. They have a real personal touch unlike the big supermarkets.”
“You always see the same faces so you get to know them.
“I like having the occasional chat with the owners and bumping into my neighbours.”
However, if the ‘Big Four’ are struggling to compete, what does this mean for the independent local businesses? Will customers convert to shopping at the budget supermarket instead? What will happen to More Reasons and the other shops in the precinct?
Perhaps, Aldi will play fair and be good neighbours that do not displace business or increase traffic.
Perhaps, like her, the public will continue to shop locally and ensure the communities economic growth.
Then again, perhaps not.
It is fair to say only time will tell what the future holds for the shops of Allerton, and that their fate is in the hands of the local residents.
NOTE: This feature was researched an written for a University assignment, it was intended for publication in a local newspaper like Bradford's The Telegraph & Argus.