As a long term business resident of Clerkenwell, (we first came here in 1989 when it was little more than a ghost town), I have watched the area develop beyond all recognition over the last few years.
As new businesses and private home owners moved into the area, it became apparent that more retail serviceswould be needed and only a few years ago, Tesco opened one of their metro stores across the road from our office. Ever since, it has become a hub of activitycleverly stocking products that target the indigenous population. I am sure the branch has done very well.
Last Thursday, Waitrose opened a spanking new store literally next door to Tesco. Boasting double the floor space of its neighbour, this Waitrose store has been beautifully fitted and the produce, layout, lighting – in fact everything, has made the Tesco offering look very passé.
With only a few days trading actually having taken place, it’s too early to say who will prevail, but watching these rival behemoths slug it out reminds me of two market traders side by side at their stalls selling the same produce. While Waitrose appear to have tried to claim the food higher ground by selling quality produce, they are both now competing for certain items on price and are not being particularly subtle about it. Special deals and promotions, a range of loss leaders, buy one get one free in fact all the usual supermarket techniques are being employed to try and grab market share.
As an interested onlooker, I am not convinced there is enough business in the area for both to be profitable and I suspect that Waitrose, with its more sophisticated and trendy offering will be the winner. However, I don’t expect Tesco to go without a fight and watching these big boys slug is out is very enthralling. Part of me feels that they could surprise us both by between them, increasing the size of the market by attracting more people from further away, (at the moment it really is the local offices and homes who are the patrons). What is absolutely clear is that the range of food choice has never been better.
Anyway I am just off to get my breakfast from Waitrose/Tesco. Watch this space.