In north Derbyshire there is the small market town of Clay Cross. It's not by any means a pretty place but from Monday to Saturday it is bustling with activity.
This is shortly going to change. Clay Cross is being regenerated. This means that a huge new Tesco supermarket is being built in the middle of the town adjascent to the existing main shopping street. There will be a new road into the town that takes you right to the new Tesco front door and the main carpark will be........Tesco's car park.
They are building a new bus terminus. At the moment, buses stop on the road alongside the shops. The new bus terminus will be ............right outside Tesco.
At the moment you can get everything you could possibly want in Clay Cross. The selection may not be as up-market as in posher towns but you would not starve or go short of anything you need if you only ever shopped there. There are butchers, greengrocers, bakers, pharmacies, opticains, a card shop, pet shop, electrical shop and much more. These are all the items that will be sold by Tesco.
The new store will be huge. It must be to house all the "departments" advertised on the fences around the site. The fact that there will be a pharmacy and an opticians means that the floor space must be enormous to house all these things as well as the groceries.
I don't give much for the chances of the current shops in Clay Cross. This has happened before, notably in Staveley, where most of the shops disappeared one by one soon after Morrisons arrived in the early eighties. Pretty soon, all that will be left in Clay Cross will be betting shops, charity shops and hairdressers, everything else being wiped out by Tesco. The excellent wool and craft shop, along with a few other miscellaneous businesses, might survive if they can grab enough passing trade to keep going.
The question is, is this what people really want? Do they prefer the one-stop shopping experience to the old fashioned idea of going from shop to shop to buy the things they need? Are they looking forward to having the range of goods that Tesco will stock? Once Tesco completes it stranglehold on Clay Cross they will have no choice.
Another question is, how many Tescos do we really need? If you go for 5 miles from Clay Cross in either direction on the A61 you will find two other Tesco stores and a Sainsbury. There is a third Tesco 12 miles away at Clowne and several Tesco Express shops dotted here and there.
It would have been really nice to see a genuine regeneration of Clay Cross. Some of the existing shops are in premises that would definitely benefit from a face-lift. If half of them are still there in two years' time I will be very surprised. The regeneration scheme proposed some new retail properties behind the new store but where this has been done in other towns, they have not succeeded due to lack of trade.
They might as well take down the Clay Cross town sign and rename it now - Tesco Town.