|Sainsburys Penzance (CGI image)|
The Penzance Sainsburys superstore opened on Wednesday 13 November having been erected in little over 6 months. The £30+ million investment in Penzance represents a vote of confidence by Sainsburys in Penzance's future as a retail centre. The new store is the second largest in Cornwall after Truro. The investment appears to have stimulated interest in Penzance from other stores as Edinburgh Wollen Mills has been advertising for staff to open a store in Penzance and Furniture World has opened up in the old Barn Club premises, adjacent to Tesco's. There have been enquiries from the The Range regarding premises in Long Rock.
As with all large out-of-town stores there was a debate about the impact of the new store upon the Town Centre. However, it quickly became clear that only a small minority of Penzance retailers were competing against the supermarkets, most having found competitive niches which avoided direct competition. The issue for Penzance was declining retail footfall and declining performance when compared to other retail centres in West Cornwall. The conclusion within the Chamber Committee at the time was that if there was going to be a very large superstore serving West Cornwall it should be in Penzance, the areas traditional retail centre/market town and not Hayle or anywhere else. The Chamber's fear of Penzance being eventually eclipsed by developments at Hayle proved well founded with the recent announcement of a 100,000+ sq ft retail development by Cranbrook at Hayle which will include Debenhams and other well known brands. In this context fighting off Sainsburys from Penzance would, if it had been successful, been a phyrric victory.
It will take time for the impact of the new store on Penzance to be come clear. The contraction of traditional town centre retail activity is still unfolding with Arcadia Group planning to close lots of stores in secondary retail centres as leases expire. Amongst all of the uncertainty about the impact of the retail behemoth there is certainty that one group in the local community have benefited - and that group comprises shoppers.