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New Tesco store will entice more shoppers to the area, says expert

By Claire McNeilly

Published 26/03/2011

A massive supermarket situated on the outskirts of one of Ulster’s commercial hubs need not pose a danger to existing traders.

Indeed, Donald McFetridge, from the University of Ulster’s school of business, retail and financial services, said the decision to open another store on a satellite site could bring more shoppers to the town.

His comments came after Tesco received the go-ahead to build a large store near Banbridge after two previous planning applications were rejected.

Objectors claimed the development would damage the town centre. But Mr McFetridge said its very location could actually entice more shoppers into the wider area.

“Consumers are more aware of the money in their pockets than ever before and they are looking for value for money,” he said.

“Another supermarket means more choice and that can only be a good thing for those with ever-diminishing incomes.

“The local high street is, however, still a feature of the great Northern Irish shopping tradition and people still value it despite all the stories about empty premises and local favourites disappearing.”

Tesco’s decision to open a store at the Bridgewater Retail Park is expected to provide a jobs boost for the area.

Economist John Simpson said its existence should not threaten independent retailers based in the town centre.

“The outlet will be a more attractive location for people coming from longer distances who prefer to do their shopping out of town,” he said.

Retail outlets offer patrons free parking, discounted prices and, quite often, a greater choice of stores in one massive location.

But Ballymena mother-of-three Cathy Wilson (46) said there was no comparison between shopping there and in the city centre.

“My favourite time of the week is going into town on a Saturday with the kids,” she said. “You catch up on the gossip and spend time walking round the shops.

“I personally don’t want to do all my shopping in sprawling retail parks. They claim to be convenient but it's always at least a five-minute walk once you've finally found somewhere to park.”

Announcing plans for the new Tesco development on Thursday night, Environment Minister Edwin Poots said it was “great news for Banbridge”.

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