The BBC’s Panorama show on supermarket expansion, due to be broadcast tonight, is “misleading”, according to British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Publicity for this evening’s programme indicates that the UK’s major grocers are growing more quickly than ever, suggesting that one of Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons effectively gets planning permission for a new store “every working day of the year”.
But BRC Director General Stephen Robertson said that it is “ridiculous to portray healthy business growth as something sinister” and welcomed news of any business sector that is creating jobs in such difficult economic times.
BBC research suggests that campaigners are concerned for the health of local high streets, and reports that planning permission for 577 UK supermarkets was approved in the past two years, with at least 480 of these developments by the so-called Big Four.
Kantar Worldpanel data shows that till rolls at grocery multiples added up to almost 23 million in the 12 weeks to November 28th, which is a 4.3 per cent increase year-on-year.
Meanwhile the BRC cites figures from retail research organisation Verdict, which show that overall grocery retail floor space has increased relatively slowly over the last ten years at between one and two per cent every 12 months.
Many of the grocers are currently on major expansion drives at present, though, with Sainsbury’s announcing this autumn that it planned to expand retail space by 15 per cent before March 2011.
Since then it has added a number of superstores to its portfolio, including its largest stores in England, Scotland and Wales.
Robertson remarked: “Supermarkets have grown, steadily and consistently over the years, because they offer convenience, range and attractive prices and customers choose to use them. All the power in retailing rests with customers. They determine whether stores succeed or fail.
“It’s misleading to imply 250 additional supermarkets are being approved every year. The figures don’t allow for store closures and many of the new shops are actually small convenience stores.
“Supermarkets should be praised for the contribution the make to jobs, the economy and local communities including through the commitments asked of them by local councils as part of the planning process.”