Haldanes not ruling out purchase of “great” Netto Birtley store
When Asda’s sale of 39 surplus Netto stores was announced a couple of weeks ago, I noted that Birtley – a small town close to here, within the Borough of Gateshead – was home to one of the eight remaining Netto stores that Asda is still required to divest by the OFT.
As I explained then, the closure of the town’s nearby Somerfield store following its purchase by Morrisons in 2009 – and Morrisons’ failure to then reopen it – has left its 11,000 strong population unusually reliant on a single discount supermarket. What happens to Birtley’s Netto is therefore of considerable importance to the people who still use the Durham Road area for their local shopping.
Given that independent grocer Haldanes has bought more than half of the divested Netto stores to date, I took the opportunity, while meeting the firm’s bosses, to quiz Chief Operating Officer Richard Collins on whether Haldanes had any interest in the Birtley store.
He confirmed that Haldanes had visited the shop, and that he considered it to be a “great store” with good parking. Pressed further, he said that Haldanes had no specific plans to acquire additional stores from the OFT’s divestment list, but refused to rule out making a future bid for the Birtley store.
Birtley Netto’s problem is that many of the potential purchasers would seem to be ruled out due to the proximity of their existing shops. Clearly Asda isn’t in the picture, given that it has to divest the store in the first place, while Morrisons – which still owns (and is trying to dispose of) the vacant Somerfield site opposite – is unlikely to be interested.
Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s has a superstore three miles away at Team Valley, and Tesco and Iceland (and Morrisons) have shops at Chester-le-Street, the same distance away in the opposite direction. This only really leaves other discounters – Lidl, Aldi or Haldanes’ new UGO venture – in the frame. However, with a larger supermarket development still possible on the Somerfield site in the future, a hard discounter is, in any case, more likely to be able to compete with whatever new store might open on that site.
Given the positive feedback from Haldanes, it seems that if the shoppers of Birtley fancy their Netto becoming a UGO, then it’s in their hands to do something about it.
Haldanes’ bosses are reading this blog, so feel free to share your thoughts below, or drop Haldanes a line directly. Who knows, perhaps Soult’s Retail View can harness local people power to help attract an expanding retailer to Gateshead?