Sainsbury’s opens tomorrow morning – preview

Along with fellow councillors and other representatives, I took a tour of the new Sainsbury’s supermarket at Rocks Green this evening. Our visit took place as staff and contractors were completing last minute jobs. The shelves are stacked, except for last minute goods such as fresh bread.

The store is bright and brash and it looks like, you guessed it, a Sainsbury’s supermarket. It is ready to go.

Sainsbury’s has taken on 99 “colleagues”, nearly all from the local area, or from as far away as Craven Arms and Cleobury Mortimer if you think our near neighbours are not local.

We have a lot to learn about how this store will affect our town. Many people I have spoken to are looking forward to it. It is bigger than the other supermarkets in town and from what I could see on the tour has a good range of fresh produce, as least as much as Tesco, and lots of tempting food, as well as household goods. I began to salivate when I spotted the deep fried sweet potato strips but, alas, I can’t buy those until tomorrow.

There is no café in the store. It has a Starbucks self-service unit. There is cash machine outside and an Argos service point inside, both of which will be welcomed. There is no date yet for opening the petrol filling station where construction is yet to begin.

People have been concerned about the impact on the town centre and other retailers. I have no doubt that Sainsbury’s will draw trade from the Co-op, even more so when the petrol filling station opens. Tesco is likely to take a hit and Aldi less so. There is a danger of reduced footfall in the town centre and for our independent traders. That could be devasting after the struggles that our small shops have faced during the pandemic. But I don’t want to be pessimistic. Our traders in the small shops and on the market have a lot of resilience. They have a good and distinctive offer. I hope they will continue to attract people into town.

I remain concerned about traffic at Rocks Green. Vehicles will feed in and out of the car park using a ramp off Dun Cow Road. We can expect peak period congestion as vehicles try to turn right onto the A4117 towards the Rocks Green roundabout. I think before long we might need improvements to the junction as well as lowering the speed limit for approaching traffic.

I am also concerned about buses. The store does not have a dedicated bus stop. We will need to see how that works. I am more concerned about delays to the buses. If the 422 gets seriously delayed by congestion, it will need to skip the next run. That could leave people stranded as the bus travels different ways each half hour. We will be monitoring that closely.

The store opens at 8.30am tomorrow. We councillors and others will be there to witness Viv Parry officially opening the store in her role as Deputy Mayor for Ludlow.