It is now November 2014 and it is interesting that the previous front page, posted here as long ago as Wednesday, 11 July 2012 opened with the words: “We are aware that there is considerable interest in the reasons why Sainsbury’s have not yet started work on the Abbey Mill site.”
At that time we explained that it was because… Read more…
But now we are in Autumn 2014… and still there is no sign of construction starting.
Sainsbury’s own explanation: Over the last 18 months, Sainsbury’s have explained the inaction by protesting that they have much to do before they can start.
In the spring/early summer of 2013 a reported conversation with Sainsbury’s suggested that the project was on hold and that the decision whether or not to proceed would be reviewed in spring 2014. This was probably an indiscretion.
In August 2013 they issued a more detailed statement… Read more…
Most recently, in July 2014, in response to a specific enquiry, Sainsbury’s explained their two months newt capturing programme. Read more…
All of this should be seen in the context of current market conditions.
In November 2013, Sainsbury’s announced that they would no longer go ahead with 15-20 stores, for which they had already received planning permission – a request to know if the Bishop’s Waltham site was one of these was rejected on the grounds of commercial sensitivity.
In May 2014, Sainsbury’s stopped work on its Wadebridge store in Cornwall, after work had started on it in March… Read more…
Sainsbury’s sales for Q2 in 2014 were 1.1% down. But the split was significant:
Convenience (smaller high street stores) +18%
Online sales +10%
Supermarket sales - 3%
The changing pattern is evident.
In July, Justin King left Sainsbury’s after 10 years at the head of the company. Mike Coupe, previously Sainsbury's group commercial director, succeeded him as chief executive.
In June IGD, the industry body, published its forecasts for the UK grocery industry for the next 5 years. It said that the three fast growth channels of online, discount and convenience stores would account for 110% of the cash growth in the market, with shoppers increasingly using these channels in addition to or instead of larger format stores. Read more…
In June Netto, a discount supermarket chain owned by Dutch company Dansk Supermarked, announced a joint venture with Sainsbury’s. They plan to open 15 new stores in an area within 120 miles radius of Leeds. In July it was announced that Sainsbury’s would convert some space in one or two of its supermarkets for Netto to open a store – with a separate entrance.
Tesco has also recently made some big decisions – to build houses on land earmarked for supermarkets, to change its chief executive and to drop its plans for a superstore in Romsey. Read more…
Everything in the environment identifies big shifts in the grocery market in the 6 years since Sainsbury’s came up with their plan for Bishop’s Waltham in 2008 (news first leaked out in January 2009).
The long delays in starting work here and the cessation of construction at Wadebridge suggest that a significant review is under way. It would be normal for a new chief executive to allow a decent period to pass before announcing big changes.
With their planning permission expiring this December, we would expect an announcement, one way or another, after the newt re-location exercise – so, in October or November.
All this may be a triumph of hope over experience, but hope does spring eternal!
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At that time we explained that it was because of a proposed Department of Transport Stopping-up Order for Station Road. In March John Hayter, a Bishop’s Waltham resident, had filed his objection to this Order and in June the Department of Transport announced that a Public Local Inquiry would be held.
This was held in Winchester in October 2012 and the result – that the Order could, after all, go ahead – was published in January 2013.
Since the planning conditions attached to Sainsbury’s planning permission require that development could not start until the Order was approved, the earliest Sainsbury’s could have begun their construction work was in early 2013.
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In August 2013 they issued a more detailed statement: “Sainsbury’s remains committed to its plans for Bishop’s Waltham and is currently undertaking a number of technical surveys on the Abbey Mill site. The surveys are required to finalise a detailed construction programme for the new store and to discharge the various pre-commencement planning conditions associated with the planning permission.
A start date for the construction of the new store cannot be confirmed until the technical surveys are completed and the pre-commencement planning conditions are discharged. It is anticipated that the surveys and the associated work will be completed towards the end of the year . Once the surveys are completed Sainsbury’s will update the local community.”
In a similar form of words to those used earlier, in April 2014 Sainsbury’s responded to an enquiry stating that they had “been progressing technical surveys to inform the detailed construction programme for the new store and to help discharge relevant pre-commencement planning conditions before work can start on the site.”
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Most recently, in July 2014, in response to a specific enquiry, Sainsbury’s explained their two months newt capturing programme. “There will shortly be activity taking place on the former Abbey Mill site, to discharge some ecology planning conditions related to our planning permission. It is anticipated that the work is likely to commence on Monday, 28 July.”
The work involves capturing newts and relocating them. Sainsbury’s have been issued a licence by Natural England to complete this work at the site. The licence requires the newt trapping to be undertaken for a period of approximately 60 continuous days.
Sainsbury’s added that: “These works, and a series of additional planning conditions, need to be discharged before a programme of works can be confirmed. As such, a start date for our Bishop’s Waltham scheme cannot be confirmed at this stage, but we will make a further announcement on our plans as soon as possible.”
It is clear that this 60 day period runs to the end of September, with the current planning permission expiring in December 2014.
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In May 2014, Sainsbury’s stopped work on its Wadebridge store in Cornwall, after work had started on it in March. The Cornish Guardian reported that, “Sainsbury’s said today the Wadebridge store was one of a number it had decided not to build at this time.” A Sainsbury’s spokesperson told the Guardian that: “We can confirm that work on our planned Wadebridge store will not be completed this year. Over the coming weeks we will complete site work and make the area safe and secure. We recently announced a small reduction in the number of new stores to be built in 2014 and have with regret decided not to progress plans.” (http://www.cornishguardian.co.uk/Shock-Sainsbury-s-calls-halt-new-Wadebridge-store/story-21115744-detail/story.html)
This is clearly a sleight of hand (or an awful corporate error) because there is no way that they would have started work on a store that had already been identified in the previous November as no longer needed. So a further review must have been underway – and stopping a store after construction has started suggests a significant review at that!
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The Telegraph commented that: “sales from superstores and hypermarkets will fall by 4pc over the next five years despite a 16pc rise in overall grocery sales. Sales from discount chains such as Aldi and Lidl are forecast to double over the five years – giving them a 10.5pc share of the grocery market compared to 6.2pc at present. By 2019, therefore, they could account for £1 in every £9 spent on groceries in the UK.
Meanwhile, online sales will grow 119pc and convenience stores such as Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local will increase by a third, according to IGD. This means that, for the first time, sales from convenience stores, discounters and the internet will overtake superstores and hypermarkets by April 2019.”
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Tesco has also recently made some big decisions – to build houses on land earmarked for supermarkets, to change its chief executive and to drop its plans for a superstore in Romsey.
In July Tesco, who have one of the largest ‘land banks’ in the UK, announced that instead of building supermarkets on some of its land it would instead be building 4,000 new homes. A Tesco spokesperson said: "In response to changing customer shopping habits we have decided to reduce the amount of new store space we build each year, building fewer large stores. Where we no longer intend to develop sites, we sell them, lease them or develop them for housing.
Also in July, Tesco’s chief executive Philip Clarke left the company after a further drop in sales. Mr Clarke had been chief executive of Tesco since 2011, but has overseen three years of declining sales since replacing Sir Terry Leahy.
On August 21st, Tesco announced that it would no longer go ahead with its planned superstore in Romsey. Tesco regional corporate affairs manager Jack Pearson told the Daily Echo: “As we announced earlier this year we are building fewer large stores. Customers are increasingly shopping online and in convenience stores and we have reconsidered our proposal in the light of these changing habits… We will continue to serve our customers in Romsey through our home delivery service and from our other local stores.”