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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2007, 20:07 GMT
Shoppers shunning the high street
The survey found that most people favoured out-of-town supermarkets
Three quarters of Scottish shoppers surveyed are shunning traditional town centres in favour of out-of-town supermarkets, a new report has said.

The Federation of Small Businesses survey has been published ahead of the interim findings of a Competition Commission inquiry into the industry.

The commission has been examining the way the big supermarkets are operating.

More than 70% of shoppers in Alloa, Dumfries and Dingwall said they now shop less on the high street.

The FSB Scotland survey, which was looking at the effect of recent supermarket developments on three traditional town centre retailers, also found 93% of retailers in Dumfries and Dingwall said they had been negatively affected by new developments.

Councils need to start commissioning their own independent health checks
Andy Willox
FSB Scotland

According to FSB Scotland the result had been an increasing number of unit vacancies in the town centre and the slashing of shop staff numbers.

The report lists a series of recommendations, including the regular monitoring of the "health" of the town centre and the establishment of a town centre management or action group.

The group said town centre users and retailer surveys should also be carried out to identify areas of potential improvement or need for future action.

Andy Willox, FSB Scotland's policy convener, said: "As this research shows councils need to start commissioning their own independent health checks and retail impact assessments of what impact out-of-town supermarkets will have on existing businesses if they are to have any chance in stemming the decline of our high streets."

Dumfries town centre
In Dumfries, 67% of retailers surveyed saw a decline in business

The survey found 44% of retailers in Dingwall and 67% in both Alloa and Dumfries experienced a decline in business since the opening of a local Tesco store.

As a result, 53% of retailers in Dumfries and 38% in Alloa had reduced their staff.

However, the findings were disputed by Clackmannanshire Council, which said it had evidence that the arrival of Tesco and Asda in the county's town centres had not changed shopping habits "to any great degree".

Almost half of shoppers surveyed in Dumfries (43%) said their shopping habits had changed, with 78% shopping less in the town centre.

In Dingwall, 73% said they would shop less in the town centre while in Alloa the figure rose to 75%.

In each case study, up to 100 shoppers and 50 local retailers were surveyed from September to October.

Retail structure

The report concluded: "The findings of this study offer support to the broad view that large supermarket developments impact adversely on the retail structure of the traditional town centre."

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) referred the supply of groceries by retailers in the UK to the Competition Commission for investigation last May.

The market dominance of supermarkets Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons is being examined for the third time in seven years.

The commission's full report on its findings is due in November.

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