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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 14:01 GMT
'Tesco Town' may face store wars
By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Welcome to Tesco Town.

Tesco shopping bag
Tesco say they are popular with shoppers in Inverness

Inverness boasts three of the supermarket stores and the chain has ambitions to open a fourth.

A survey in 2006 indicated Tesco had a 51% share of the market for groceries in the city, the highest rate of penetration for any locality in the UK.

And though the level of spending in Tesco is now reputed to be higher elsewhere, the nickname has stuck.

For some the tag and the chain's prominence is the cause for anger.

But the critics would be hard to dispute the popularity among many shoppers of the city's existing three stores.

Being Hallowe'en, one shopper said it was hard to argue against Tesco when you could pick up a pumpkin for less than a pound.

In the wake of the release of a new report by the Competition Commission, the supermarket has been accused of sticking to plans to build a fourth store on land banked at Holm on the Inverness and Dores road, Loch Ness-side, despite local opposition.

Three thousand signed a petition and said 'no', the planning department of Highland Council said 'no' and more importantly the councillors unanimously said 'no' and yet Tesco have taken this to an appeal
Steven Rodgers

Highland councillors rejected Tesco's planning application for it in March this year.

Steven Rodgers, who campaigned against the new store, said: "The public don't want it.

"There were over 500 people who attended public meetings and said 'no'.

"Three thousand signed a petition and said 'no', the planning department of Highland Council said 'no' and more importantly the councillors unanimously said 'no' and yet Tesco have taken this to an appeal."

Mr Rodgers added: "Whatever happens this remains part of their land bank."

Pie chart of shares of UK food and grocery retailing
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Tesco said it enjoyed huge support in Inverness and at its stores in a retail park off the A96 road, at Inshes and on Tomnahurich Street in the city centre.

A spokesman said: "Anyone who listens to the media and Mr Rodgers would think there is a ground-swell of opinion against Tesco in Inverness.

"In fact, that isn't the case and we've got a lot of support from Inverness people and that is because we have shown commitment to Inverness from 1994.

"If you go up to the stores on a Friday afternoon you will see the level of support we've got."

He said a public inquiry had been held on Tesco's plans for Holm and a decision from Scottish Ministers was expected in six to eight weeks.

Inverness does have other supermarkets - including a Morrisons - but it is Asda's moves to open its first shop in the Highland capital that threatens to spark store wars.

Asda banner at Inverness site
An Asda banner flutters at the proposed site in Inverness

Asda announced its plans to open a shop and petrol station on a site at Slackbuie on the Southern Distributor Road with a media event at the vacant plot.

To mark the occasion, green and white Asda banners fluttered in the wind like battle standards.

Earlier this week, Inverness Chamber of Commerce said it was consulting its members before a decision on whether to back the proposals.

However, chamber chief executive Casia Zajac said the debate should not come down to Asda versus Tesco.

Meanwhile, one man hoping the findings of the Competition Commission report will see Inverness shake off its Tesco Town reputation is local MP Danny Alexander.

The debate comes as a revamp of the planning system to allow greater competition between UK supermarkets has been called for by the Competition Commission.

Commenting in the wake of the report's release, he said: "People in Inverness certainly value the service that they get from Tesco, but they resent the lack of competition and want more choice.

"Implementing today's recommendations would help to deliver that."

If Scottish Ministers approve the fourth supermarket, however, it will make that tag all the more harder to shift.

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