Tamworth’s ex-Netto Morrisons is small but (almost) perfectly formed
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As I explained when the news was announced back in January, Tamworth’s Netto is one of 16 initially divested by Asda to Morrisons, with another two – in Salford and Dunstable – added since. The Haldane Retail Group has acquired 20 sites, which it has now converted to its UGO fascia, while Iceland and the Co-op have each bought three. This means that of the 47 Netto sites that overlapped with existing Asda stores, only three remain to be sold in order for Asda to meet its obligations to the OFT.
Tamworth’s new Morrisons was built as a Kwik Save in the 1990s, briefly became a Somerfield, reverted back to a Kwik Save fascia, stood empty for a year, and then reopened as Netto less than three years ago. From the outside, the store is little changed from its previous incarnations, though the ‘Tasty Bread’ caption and imagery next to the entrance gives a flavour of what has changed inside. Meanwhile, prominent signs, banners and billboards ensure that the store is highly visible to passing motorists.
As you enter the shop, an instore bakery occupies the space immediately on the right. The location was presumably dictated by the building’s layout and compact size, but it did mean that there was some congestion as shoppers entering the store with trollies tried to get past customers browsing the bread and cakes. At the bottom of the store, there are also small but attractively presented meat and fish counters. So, not the full ‘Market Street’ offer, clearly, but a significant step up from what Netto used to offer in the same space.
Indeed, the major impression of this Morrisons store is just how much bigger it feels than when it was trading as Netto. It’s perhaps only half or two-thirds of the size of a typical converted Safeway, yet it’s clear that this is a shop where people can do – and are doing – a full weekly shop. The store was doing a decent business when I visited on a Friday lunchtime, with plenty of cars in the car park as well as shoppers arriving and departing on foot.
It’s the first time for a couple of decades – when Sainsbury’s left Ankerside to move out of town – that the Tamworth Co-op supermarket in Church Street has had any significant town centre competition, and it will be interesting to see where Morrisons steals its trade from: the in-town Co-op, Farmfoods or Iceland; the out-of-town Asda or Sainsbury’s; or the much larger, purpose-built Morrisons a couple of miles away in Wilnecote.
Paying for my goods at the till, I was pleased to see that the staff were all smiling, happy and talkative – always an encouraging sign. Indeed, I ended up having some banter with the guy at my till when he started to question whether I was old enough to buy the bottle of wine that was in my basket. This 37-year-old was quite content for the checkout guy to guess that I was 23 – young enough for me to feel flattered, but old enough to actually be allowed to buy the wine.
Overall then, my impressions of this compact Morrisons store were good. It was clean and well stocked, and shows that Morrisons can work effectively in a smaller than usual format. On the other hand, by not having all the instore features – most notably a full ‘Market Street’ – that normally make a Morrisons so distinctive, I couldn’t help feeling that the store lacked just a little of the usual Morrisons ‘personality’. As Morrisons rolls out more smaller stores – as well as its new M Local convenience format – perhaps it can do a bit more to make sure that these Morrisons really feel like a Morrisons.