Belfast Telegraph

Tesco choc leaves bitter taste at high street summit

By Claire McNeilly

The irony was sweet, you might say. Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) called a summit at Stormont to unveil a brand new plan to save town centres.

Representatives from small businesses attended the talks in their droves, and were rewarded with a copy of the masterplan — and a chocolate bar from Tesco.

The apparent anomaly left event-goers wondering if this was an ever-so-subtle subliminal message about the multinational, well-known for gobbling up local competition.

And there were a few ‘snickers’ and some red faces when it emerged that the freebie cuisine was from the supermarket’s Everyday Value range — which is actually made in France.

With the Long Gallery at Stormont — better known for its fudge — choc-a-bloc with more than 200 local businesspeople, some said the gaffe left a sour taste.

NIIRTA chief executive Glyn Roberts said the family-size bar had been supplied by Manleys, the company sponsoring the design of the report.

“It wasn’t our chocolate; it’s entirely a matter for them,” said Mr Roberts.

Despite it being a hot topic, there was no-one available for comment at Manleys. University of Ulster retail expert Donald McFetridge said the choice of confectioner could have been rather difficult to swallow for some traders.

“I was very surprised to hear that NIIRTA gave out bars of Tesco chocolate at the summit they had organised to allow small businesses to tell government ministers what they needed to do to help the high street,” said Mr McFetridge.

“One would have thought the organisation responsible for 1,300 traders might have sourced a gift from one of their members, as an example to Stormont. It would be awful if NIIRTA inadvertently offended someone.” But one industry expert said the event organisers had missed an opportunity to give the local economy a desperately needed boost.

“Commissioning a local confectioner to manufacture a chocolate bar would have created work in a factory in Northern Ireland,” she said.



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