Croydon South’s new Conservative MP has admitted that he threatened the local branch of the country’s biggest retailers with a shoppers’ strike if they did not support a business scheme he was backing.
Tory Chris Philp told Tesco in Purley that he would organise a boycott of their superstore if they voted to oppose proposals for a Business Improvement District.
A BID is a defined area within which businesses pay a levy towards projects within the district’s boundaries; there is a long-standing BID operating in central Croydon, where traders have additional street-cleaning services and extra policing. Most of the businesses on the high street in Purley were keen to have a BID of their own.
But the relationship between the small independent traders in Purley and Tesco has tended to be one of innate distrust ever since the mega-store, with its vast car parking space, opened on the other side of Purley Cross from the town’s high street, sucking trade away from the smaller shops.
And Tesco planned to vote against the Purley BID – which would have scuppered the scheme, since the ballot was determined by businesses’ rateable values.
Tesco probably had good cause not to need to support the BID: while it would be centred on businesses on the opposite side of the Purley Cross junction from its own store, Tesco would nonetheless end up paying more towards the scheme than any other trader.
So MP Philp called an emergency meeting with the store’s management. “It looked as if Tesco might not have been quite as enlightened as we had hoped and were threatening to vote against this proposition,” Philp told the local paper, describing the meeting as “a rather tense negotiation”, though this did not prevent him scoffing on some free grub provided by the retailer.
At the meeting, Philp told Tesco’s management that he would email his Croydon South constituents asking them to boycott the supermarket.
Despite some difficult trading conditions recently, Tesco remains the second biggest retailer in the world, based on revenues, and it dominates the British grocery retailing, where it enjoys more than one-quarter of market share. Tesco deny that Philp’s threat of a shopper strike persuaded them to vote in favour of the Purley BID, though as someone else once said, “every little helps”.
“The upshot was they eventually came around and agreed to support the BID,” Philp said. “This is a good way for Tesco to put something back into the community.
“The Purley BID will help transform Purley and give it the lift which it certainly needs.”
A Tesco spokesman was all sweetness and light, as the company grits its teeth and prepares to cough up the major proportion of the Purley BID’s funding: “We know our store is extremely important to Purley and local customers and look forward to continuing to make a major contribution to the town centre.”
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