The Budgens store in central Ludlow is to close less than a year after it opened in place of the Co-op. Last week, I launched an online poll. It asked the simple question: “Which retailer would you like to replace Budgens?” Nearly a thousand people voted. Around 50 people wrote comments on the poll page and many more aired their views on Facebook. Several people emailed me or stopped me in the street. Thank you for a great response.
I am surprised by the outcome of this poll. But I am not surprised that many people are saying they want a store that sells a wide range of cheap clothing and shoes.
Waitrose has won the poll by a large margin, with 40% of the vote. That surprises me. True, Waitrose started with a strong lead with one-third of the vote. But then it fell back to under 20% and trailed behind M&S Simply Food. But in a strong rally in the final two days of the poll, Waitrose piled on the votes.
This is the final line up after a week of polling and 947 votes.
There were some no hopers in the poll. Nisa and Spar didn’t get a vote. One Stop, Tesco Express and Co-op Food all got a score of less than 2%. I like Harry Tuffins but our local retailer was only supported by 4% of voters.
I am really surprised that Lidl didn’t do better. A lot of people have told me they like Lidl but it only attracted 7% of the votes.
M&S Simply Food did well at 19%. Sainsbury’s Local followed with one in eight votes, 12%.
Would Waitrose be good for our town? On balance, I think yes. It’s a destination shop. People will say: “Let’s go to Ludlow. It’s got a Waitrose and lots of interesting shops.” But that is a personal opinion and a lot of people don’t agree with this assessment. Several people who commented on my poll think a Waitrose store will kill the independent traders in the town centre.
Jeff: “Waitrose WILL kill our town.”
Raj: “Personally, I would like to see an M&S or Waitrose apart from that I think they would kill the independent shops and the character of our town.”
Chloe: Please not Waitrose. They would kill this town in one fell swoop.”
When I compiled my list of retailers for the poll, I was thinking of convenience stores – smaller food retailers. One I missed off the list and mentioned by a few people was Iceland. Other wanted Home Bargains. One wag, using an obviously false name, was Algernon Ponsonby-Smythe:
“Fortnum and Mason is Obviously the answer. The Queens Grocer would be well at home in our well heeled town.”
That reflects a view in our town that many of the shops we have are “not for us and not for the majority.” They are for the relatively wealthy and for visitors.
A lot of people are want something other than a convenience store. Most want a clothing retailer. Primark tops the list. Millets, Next and Miss Selfridge were among the other stores mentioned.
On the food side, it’s not volume shopping we lack in Ludlow. We have enough retail space to satisfy our main shop and daily top ups. What we struggle with in Ludlow is choice.
I’ve been told that people go to Leominster to shop because they prefer Morrisons. They go to Shrewsbury for Asda and Shrewsbury or Kidderminster for Sainsbury’s. It will be very hard to recreate that degree of choice in a small town like Ludlow. We don’t have enough spending power to keep more than a few stores in business.
We are a small town and our retailers serve a population of around 40,000 people in the town and across a wide area. This widespread population spends around £74 million a year on food. About £54 million of this is put into local tills (72%). The rest of the food spend is in the larger towns, with £4.55 million being spent at Morrisons in Leominster, £1.65 million at Sainsbury’s in Shrewsbury and £1.53 million at Kidderminster Sainsbury’s.
People who live in Ludlow itself spend £15.10 million on food each year. Of this, £14.75 million is spent within Ludlow (98%).
These figures suggest that Ludlow doesn’t need much more retail space for food shopping. We have enough room for the tins, packets, vegetables, fruits and packs of meat we need day to day.
The clear message from my poll is that people would like more choice. Especially for buying clothes. Just 22% of us usually buy clothing and shoes in Ludlow town centre. Most of us shop elsewhere, including 23% of us in Hereford, 17% in Shrewsbury and 6% in Kidderminster.
The most popular choice for a clothing retailer is Primark. People value the wide range of clothes it sells and its low prices.
Kate: “We need an AFFORDABLE clothes shop that covers men, women and children’s clothes and shoes.”
Daniel: “A cheap clothes shop where you don’t have to pay £20 for a kids t-shirt.”
Sian: “Kids clothes shop or a primark, b&m or home bargains but still should think about the kids in the town coz m and co are just too expensive.”
There were a wide range of other stores mentioned in the comments on my poll. Some people would welcome a Wetherspoons or McDonalds. Others think the Budgens site should be used for community purposes, paint ball, or perhaps it should be knocked down and replaced by apartments.
This poll has shown, not for the first time, that our town is divided. There are those that want a high end retailer to come to Ludlow. Waitrose has topped the poll. Others are crying out for cheaper clothing and for many, that means Primark.
We will, of course, have no say on which retailer will replace Budgens. But we can make our voice heard. Perhaps, just perhaps, retailers will listen.
I think Waitrose would be a good option for drawing people into the town centre. But Primark would be a far better choice for som many people in our town that live on stretched incomes.
. Source: This area is known as the study area in the Retail Impact Assessment (RIA) for the Rocks Green supermarket proposal. The study area stretches from Bishop’s Castle to Bucknell and Tenbury, and Cleobury Mortimer to Cravens Arms.
. RIA Tables 5a & 6a. Data for 2014.
. Ludlow is defined as Zone 1 in the RIA.
. Source: Household surveys for Rocks Green RIA. Table Q10: Zone 1. The data are for 2014.