Fears over the negative impact of Sainsbury’s opening in Sudbury have not materialised, according to business figures.
The supermarket chain opened its Cornard Road store on November 8, prompting some traders to voice concerns it would pull shoppers away from the town centre.
John McMillan, president of Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, said feedback he had received suggested Sainsbury’s had not drawn as many people away from other shops as expected.
“It doesn’t seem to have had the effect that people were worried about or had as big an impact on the centre,” he said.
“The downside is it will pull a few people away – people who shop in Waitrose are close enough to use the shops in town and there was a concern that Sainsbury’s is a bit far away.”
However, Mr McMillan said Sainsbury’s was also pulling new people into Sudbury from outside the town.
“Even if five per cent of Sainsbury’s shoppers go into the town afterwards, that will be a big help,” he said.
“This is a great opportunity as anybody who comes in from more remote areas will find there is free parking and a good range of shops and will hopefully come back again.”
Miles Beasley, manager of Waitrose in Station Road, said: “We are performing well above expectations of where we thought we would be after eight weeks since Sainsbury’s opened,” he said.
Mr Beasley said the store had expected a 20 per cent downturn in trade which had not happened.
“Footfall and sales are down but nowhere near what we’d thought,” he said.
Planned staff reductions, through not replacing staff who were leaving, have been changed, with an additional 35 temporary staff taken on since September with some gaining permanent contracts.
“We’re delighted the overwhelming majority of customers have stayed with us,” he said.
Mr Beasley also questioned whether promises made in the planning process had been fulfilled.
“I haven’t seen any evidence to say Sudbury is booming since Sainsbury’s came to town,” he said. “Now it is built, it seems even less likely that people will park there and walk into town.
“Long-term, it wasn’t the right thing for the continued prosperity of the town centre.”
Tesco declined to comment on the issue, while an Aldi spokesman said the Girling Street store had “enjoyed its most successful Christmas trading period to date”.
Mark Manning, deputy store manager of Sainsbury’s, said: “The store has performed above expectations and received a fantastic response from the people of Sudbury since opening.
“I’m delighted the other retailers feel their businesses have not been impacted as expected, which goes to prove that we’ve brought new custom into Sudbury, which is fantastic.”
He cited the employment of nearly 200 staff, and shoppers using the car park and transport links as boosting Sudbury’s businesses and long-term viability.