Shutters come down on Supervalu in Banbridge - with Tesco getting the blame

The SuperValu store in Banbridge which will close in the next fortnight
Gary McDonald Business Editor

BANBRIDGE town centre's main independently-run supermarket confirmed the inevitable yesterday when it said it will definitely close in the next fortnight.

As revealed in the Irish News last November, the Supervalu store in Newry Street, a major footfall driver in Banbridge town centre for other traders, seemed set for the axe after its owner Sharcon Ltd went into administration.

The Supervalu store - which originally opened as Wellworth's in 1963 - had been owned and run by Frank McPolin (50) and employed nearly 80 full- and part-time staff.

The building also houses a separately-run discount store and also the town's main Post Office.

Independent retail body NIIRTA blamed the decision to allow Tesco to open a £38 million 65,000 sq ft out-of-town superstore at Bridgewater Park in 2014 - combined with a 30 per cent increase in the store's rates bill - for the fall of Supervalu.

"We warned planners at the time that it would be a catastrophic mistake to allow Tesco - which already had a thriving supermarket in the town - to open in Bridgewater Park, but they wouldn't listen," NIIRTA chief executive Glyn Roberts said.

“With the huge out-of-town Tesco store drawing away trade and a staggering 30 per cent increase in the store's rates bill, it has been increasingly difficult for the business to be competitive."

He insisted that those who supported the out-of-town Tesco hypermarket "now have serious questions to answer”.

Michael Donaghy, president of Banbridge Chamber of Commerce, said: “Our thoughts are with the staff at this challenging time, but this situation could have been avoided if local politicians and Planning Service had listened to our concerns.

“Despite this difficulty, Banbridge is determined to move forward and provide the very best service to shoppers and visitors. Our town has a bright future.”

When Tesco opened in 2014 retail analysts claimed the chain had over-stretched itself in the area, with the new Banbridge supermarket operating just two miles from its existing Castlewellan Road store, and alongside relatively new superstores in Lisburn, Craigavon and Newry, as well as smaller Tesco outlets in Portadown, Lisburn and Lurgan.

All eight of those shops - with a combined trading space of more than half a million square feet - are within a 25-mile radius.

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