Exclusive pictures: a first look inside the new Tesco Extra at Gateshead’s Trinity Square

F&F at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

F&F at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

It might not open for another three days (at 8am on Thursday 23 May), but last Friday I was delighted to be the first blogger or journalist to officially get a tour of Gateshead’s new Tesco Extra, centrepiece of the town’s £150m Trinity Square development.

Embargoed until this morning, I can now share my photographs and insights from that visit – and it’s worth the wait! The store is not only huge, but also incorporates some of Tesco’s very latest thinking regarding store interiors and customer experience. The store was clearly still a work in progress at the time of my visit, but was complete enough to get a real sense of what it will be like to shop in.

Home & Living aisle, Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Home & Living aisle, Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

With Tesco scaling back its plans for massive Extra stores, the 103,000sq ft Gateshead shop – which has been developed, along with the rest of Trinity Square, by Tesco’s regeneration arm, Spenhill – is in all probability one of the last supermarket projects of this size that we’ll see in the UK.

It’s not surprising, really: online shopping and the growth of ‘click and collect’ is reducing the amount of space that supermarkets need to devote to non-food lines, such as entertainment and electricals; real growth in food sales is increasingly hard to come by in the present challenging economic climate; and the big supermarkets’ estates are now so extensive that new developments risk cannabilising their own existing stores anyway.

Click & Collect area at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Click & Collect area at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

So, all the better that Gateshead’s plans were developed and progressed when they were, as such a scheme might not have got off the ground in today’s changed landscape.

What of the store, then? Well, many shoppers are likely to enter it via the 750-space undercroft car park, accessed via Lambton Street. Though Tesco Extra signage is prominent here, the car park effectively serves the entire Trinity Square scheme.

Tesco Extra signage at entrance to Trinity Square car park (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Tesco Extra signage at entrance to Trinity Square car park (17 May 2013)

All on one level, the car park is literally as big as it could possibly be, stretching into all the corners of the development site and giving a real sense of the scheme’s scale. This sense of openness, together with the unusually high ceiling and white surfaces throughout, ensures that the car park feels bright and safe. The car park also affords rear access to the new Trinity Square health centre, with its own dedicated parking area.

Car park at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Car park at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Parking will be free of charge to Tesco shoppers with a £5 qualifying spend, but there will be mechanisms in place to ensure that the maximum stay is three hours, and that the spaces are not taken by local workers (or, from September next year, students) rather than shoppers. As you would expect, trollies will be able to be collected and returned here.

Car park at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Car park at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

From the car park, shoppers enter into an atrium with lifts, stairs and travelators leading up to the store level. At Gateshead Council’s insistence, the atrium is defined as a ‘public’ space rather than a Tesco space, so will be clear of any Tesco point of sale. From the store level, shoppers can either enter the Tesco store or step out into the development’s central public space – Trinity Square – which Costa and the new Vue cinema (when it opens) face onto.

Travelators viewed from Tesco Extra, Gateshead, with Trinity Square and Costa behind (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Travelators viewed from Tesco Extra, Gateshead, with Trinity Square and Costa behind (17 May 2013)

Atrium and travelators viewed from Tesco Extra, Gateshead, with Trinity Square and Costa behind (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Atrium and travelators viewed from Tesco Extra, Gateshead, with Trinity Square and Costa behind (17 May 2013)

Once in the store, shoppers will notice several things. First, its sheer size: at 103,000 sq ft over a single level, the shop is more than three times bigger than the old 30,000 sq ft superstore that it replaced, and is comparable to the long-established Kingston Park store in Newcastle (Kingston Park is bigger on paper, but its c.130,000 sq ft includes the café mezzanine and the row of separate retail units behind the tills).

Central aisle at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Central aisle at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Second, where the old Gateshead Tesco had a strange layout and felt generally cramped, I was struck by the spaciousness of the new store – aisles are wide, and the space is light and bright, partly thanks to the bank of windows facing the square. There is plenty of natural light – and comfy seating – in the instore café too (a facility not offered in the old store), which is run by an external operator and affords great views over the High Street.

Instore cafe at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Instore cafe at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, is the appealing look and feel of the store. I’ve been honest before in criticising what I’ve described as Tesco’s “cold and soulless” stores, but the Gateshead shop has taken on board many of the ideas first seen in last year’s Hertford store trial.

Fruit and veg display at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Fruit and veg display at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

In parts of the store, for example, lower units have been used to preserve sight lines, while the extensive use of wooden-style features introduced in Hertford – both for cladding and display – is repeated throughout.

Wooden-style display for fresh bread at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Wooden-style display for fresh bread at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Wooden-style fruit display at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Wooden-style fruit display at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Softer signage at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Softer signage at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Similarly, the friendlier tone of voice seen at Hertford is reflected here too, particularly along the extensive bank of counters, with food imagery that wouldn’t look out of place in Waitrose, and faux-blackboard signage that successfully conveys a less corporate feel.

Fresh counters at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Fresh counters at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Friendlier messaging at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Friendlier messaging at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Occasionally, however, there’s still room for a little more attention to detail. For example, the attractive effect of using wooden boxes and blackboard-style signage to show off the freshly baked rolls is let down slightly by the standard – and rather garish – yellow shelf-edge labels. Though there’s obviously a need to signpost offers and deals, perhaps a more subtle solution could be found that’s more in keeping with these new-style softer fixtures?

Fresh bread display at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Fresh bread display at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Just as wood is a prominent theme in the fresh food sections of the store, there’s plenty of it in the beers, wines and spirits section, too. Complemented by a rich purple backdrop, the overall effect is to convey a quality feel, and to create an alcohol section that really stands out from the rest of the store.

Beers, wines and spirits at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Beers, wines and spirits at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Beers, wines and spirits at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Beers, wines and spirits at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Just as there is much to admire about the store’s grocery areas, there is also plenty worth seeing in non-food. As I noted before, changing shopping habits mean that the space devoted to ranges such as electricals and entertainment is noticably less than would have been the case in a Tesco Extra five or ten years ago; by the same token, however, the Click & Collect counter is much more prominent.

Electricals at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Electricals at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Click & Collect area at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Click & Collect area at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Even now, though, the store offers a better range of electrical and entertainment products than can be obtained anywhere else in Gateshead town centre – other than, perhaps, at the established Argos store – and there’s also a dedicated ‘Phone Shop’ area nearby, a concept that I believe has only been introduced in a few stores to date.

The Phone Shop at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

The Phone Shop at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

In fashion, too, the new Gateshead Tesco Extra impresses. Where Tesco’s clothing brand, F&F, was shoved into a small corner of the old store, it’s centrestage now, occupying a dedicated space of around 10,000 sq ft in the middle of the store, next to the tills (pictured at the top of this blog).

F&F at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

F&F at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Prominent F&F signage, and the use of distinctive flooring and fittings, ensure that not only does the F&F section feel like a shop within a shop, but that’s it very visible from all over the store, too – thanks to those improved sightlines that I mentioned before.

F&F at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

F&F at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

F&F at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

F&F at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Within F&F, however, it’s easy to forget that you’re in the middle of a supermarket, thanks to the department store-style look and feel, complete with fitting rooms and a dedicated checkout.

F&F fitting room at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

F&F fitting room at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

These features should encourage Trinity Square visitors to check out F&F even if they don’t need to do a full Tesco shop, and the use of dedicated F&F-branded bags will ensure that customers can exit the store without getting collared by security!

F&F checkout at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

F&F checkout at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Just beyond F&F, the department store feel extends to the cosmetics, too, where the quality of display is much higher than you might normally expect to find in a supermarket. In effect, it reflects the fact that Gateshead Tesco Extra is, to all intents and purposes, a department store in the very heart of the town centre – albeit one with a very extensive food hall.

Cosmetics at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Cosmetics at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Cosmetics at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Cosmetics at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Cosmetics at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Cosmetics at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Finally, as well as The Phone Shop, the store features several other useful services that complement its food and non-food offer: a pharmacy counter, a Tesco-operated optician’s, and a Timpson concession.

Pharmacy at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Pharmacy at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Optician's at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Optician’s at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

Timpson at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Timpson at Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

So there we have it – Gateshead’s new Tesco Extra. It’s certainly immeasurably better than the store that it replaced, in terms of range, services and store environment, and even when it’s packed with customers it’s easy to imagine it being a pleasant store to shop in – something that could never be said of the old store or, for that matter, a lot of other Tescos.

Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Tesco Extra, Gateshead (17 May 2013)

And yes, while wooden cladding, lovely imagery and softer signage might sound like gimmicks, they really do add a sense of warmth that has traditionally been missing from the Tesco shopping experience.

Talking to the enthusiastic staff instore on Friday, and via Twitter as well, it’s clear that they are delighted with the new shop – and I suspect that the shoppers of Gateshead will be, too.

Many thanks to Tesco for inviting me into the store, and for taking the time to give me a detailed tour.

My retail consultancy business, CannyInsights.com, provides bespoke place- and sector-specific market intelligence, including detailed coverage of the North East. It also works with retailers nationwide to improve their stores, customer communications and market knowledge. For more information, visit www.cannyinsights.com, drop me an email, or give me a call on (0191) 461 0361.

14 Responses to “Exclusive pictures: a first look inside the new Tesco Extra at Gateshead’s Trinity Square”

  1. Giulia said:

    May 20, 13 at 18:05

    Mr Soult, thank you for this detailed and informative piece on the new Trinity Square. I have been following your blog with interest ever since the car park debacle and as a Gateshead resident I am greatly relieved that we are nearing the end of this long running saga and can reclaim our town centre. Finally maybe bypass Gateshead in favour of the Metrocentre or Newcastle town centre will choose to shop here.
    What worries me is that there will be a shiny new development at one end of the High Street while the other is still in a very dilapidated state. Do you know of any plans for the High Street towards Matalan? Or for that matter for the ugly brown building attached to the Interchange that houses Wilkinson?

  2. Angela Knox said:

    May 20, 13 at 19:10

    Guilia, Gateshead MBCs plans for the other half of Gateshead can be seen at their website. Plans include housing and social areas.

  3. Thomas said:

    May 24, 13 at 17:23

    The new Tesco Extra in Corby (opened 24th Jan) is very similar to this store, however this store is a spitting image of the last-week refurbished Tesco Bedford, Goldington Road, and it almost looks luxurious to shop in a Tesco!

  4. Michael said:

    May 30, 13 at 08:42

    Great insight into the new store. I hope you intend to cover the new Consett Tesco Extra which if due to open this autumn as well.

  5. Graham Soult said:

    May 30, 13 at 09:03

    We’ll see! :) It’s partly a function of where I get invited to, as well as trying to cover a range of retailers and places over time. I’ve written very little about Consett, however, so it’s due some airtime.

  6. alan said:

    Jun 01, 13 at 12:31

    i think its a joke how tesco staff cannot use the car park. its 4.50 everywhere else and the max stay is 2 and a half hours not say customers are sayin the parking is to confuseing and they would rather go to asda because the parking is free the aricle above is misleading because the parking is not free at all its about 80 p an hour with a max stay of 3 and a half hours unless you go to tesco and spend more than 5 pounds then its free

  7. Graham Soult said:

    Jun 01, 13 at 12:52

    Look, I wrote this piece before the car park was open and all the details were clear! I don’t think what I wrote is misleading, but the whole setup has turned out to be so complicated it would more or less need a whole blog to itself to explain it.

  8. Jack said:

    Jun 04, 13 at 03:21

    Has this new tesco building been designed by the same people who designed the new sainsburys in Sunderland? They both seem so similar I am thinking it must be.

    This style of supermarket with the underground car park seems to be increasingly common (latest South Shields Asda, new Sainsburys Sunderland). Can’t be helped to maximize car park space, but it is irritating the slow pace of entering and leaving the store this design creates, especially when there are trolleys on the escalator.

  9. Michael said:

    Jun 05, 13 at 20:13

    A trip to Consett would definitley be worthwhile. When you are there you can play, ‘spot the ex woolworths’, visit the new 70,000 sq ft flagship morrisons store, the latest and possibly last new tesco extra and the rest of the new stores which are currently under construction (b&q, Starbucks etc)

    Off to visit the new full range 60,000 sq ft M&S At the Arnison Centre tomorrow. Hoping for some opening day freebies!

  10. Gabriella said:

    Jun 17, 13 at 18:37

    The Tesco Gateshead store looks like a carbon copy of the one that has opened in Woolwich South London with the layout of the store. This store is actually trading well locally.

  11. David said:

    Jun 28, 13 at 17:06

    This is a fabulous store – if you enjoy shopping in a soulless aircraft hangar.

    It’ll put lots of other local shops out of business, and doesn’t yet seem to have attracted many other takers to the adjacent retail outlets (why would they come when they know their products are also being sold in Tesco Extra?)

    As if that isn’t enough, there’s now a Tesco on Coatsworth Road too…

  12. Brian Griffin said:

    Jul 10, 13 at 16:16

    Have only been in the new Tesco around mid-day, much more modern, but is a distinct lack of customers. I hope they do a better trade in the evenings to pay for the ridiculous amount of security staff in Trinity Square. Even Jesus would feel like a criminal walking through there. Really not a very welcoming atmophere for anyone to have to be in. I walk around the complex rather than the shorter way straight through it just to get to Barclays on the other side to avoid this degrading experience.

  13. Graham Soult said:

    Jul 10, 13 at 16:32

    Hi Brian, I’ve been in the new Tesco four or five times so far – at different times of the day, in the week and at weekends – and it hasn’t been packed out any of those times. Not dead, but certainly not Asda Metrocentre-style busy, either. It will be interesting to see how things progress, but the opening of the cinema later this year and the arrival of the students in September next year should perk things up a bit. I understand that the Tesco store’s car park is less busy than expected, but that more customers are using public transport than envisaged – whether that’s because shoppers can’t be bothered to navigate the car park, don’t know where it is, or perhaps haven’t even worked out that there is one, tucked away underneath, is anyone’s guess.

  14. Sam said:

    Aug 28, 13 at 16:07

    My family has recently opened a new store in Gateshead and are very keen to see the Town Centre revived to it’s former busy family friendly feel, not only as it would help us but also for the many retailers who have felt cheated by Tescos. Since opening we have got to know many of the retailers who have managed to survive the deterioration of the town centre over a 10 year period and some who have closed since Tescos opened such as an independent Butcher, many feel Tescos and the Council have contributed to the deterioation either through neglect, disinterest or for their own financial interests. The people of Gateshead are passionate about their town centre but can do little to compete with such powers as Tesco particularly in today’s economic climate. The town centre is plagued with several issues mainly litter, lack of parking and anti-social behaviour, which could be tackled with a co-ordinated approach if the Council along with Tescos were able to share resources and work closely with the smaller independent traders and the Police. I have heard rumour that Tescos is not doing as well as expected and sadly this pleases some people however if they fail this would spell disaster for the town centre. If Tescos was to be more supportive of the smaller traders it could work to the benefit of all. Whatever my opinion I do hope that Gateshead Town Centre will find some of it’s old magic, and to all the residents in Gateshead, please support your Town Centre and independent Traders before they are lost forever.


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