‘If Tesco opens in Welwyn Garden City, Morrisons could close’ – report

A SHOCK new report has revealed a rival supermarket could be forced out of business if Tesco is given the go-ahead to build a new store in WGC.

Morrisons in Panshanger is at “risk” of closure as its trade would be hit first by the enlarged Sainsbury’s store in the town centre, then by a Tesco supermarket proposed for the Broadwater Road site.

This week the supermarket giants have clashed over the findings of the independent report, compiled by planning and economic experts for Welwyn Hatfield Council.

While Morrisons dismissed talk of any possible closure, Tesco bosses said, if anything, the report refuted claims made by those opposing its development, that the impact on the whole of WGC would be huge.

Tesco spokesman Michael Kissman said: “Only one shop that may possibly, in certain circumstances, close is not the impact that is being pushed by the objectors.

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“The report says the Tesco store will create many new jobs and give local people more shopping choice. I am really pleased these important benefits have been recognised by the council’s own independent experts.

“It does not support those who have claimed our town centre shops will be forced to close, instead it says Tesco will bring more shoppers to the city [sic].”

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Mr Kissman added: “Hundreds of local people have told us they support our vision for Broadwater Road, creating not just new shopping choice but new housing, offices and leisure facilities as well.”

Morrisons spokesman Julian Bailey told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “We are absolutely sure our fresh food offering at Morrisons in WGC will continue to be successful.

“We are sure our offering, which we think is very different to others in the town, can knock the spots off the competition.

“This is a successful store and will absolutely remain open.”

The report, by Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners, said it estimated the turnover of the Black Fan Road branch of Morrisons to currently be about 15 per cent below the company average.

This would drop further to 24 per cent when Sainsbury’s re-opens.

“There is risk this level of cumulative impact could force the Morrisons store to close.

“If the Morrisons store closes then the benefit of the Tesco store in respect of improved consumer choice and competition would be lost and the distribution of food stores in WGC urban area would be inferior.”

The report also revealed the Tesco store would have far superior public transport links, while the closure of Morrisons would have a “negative impact” on the numbers of residents who could walk to do their shopping.

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