Supermarket forces

Spital Hill
Spital Hill

LAST Saturday, Spital Hill seemed to be bracing itself.

The glass shed of the Tesco Extra store was being polished, the internal car park lay ready and contractors hosed down new traffic islands, pavements and entrance ramps.

Shops on Spital Hill: Raja Saddiq of SR Raja Continental Food and Hair Cosmetics

Shops on Spital Hill: Raja Saddiq of SR Raja Continental Food and Hair Cosmetics

Raja Saddiq was busy in his shop, as always on a Saturday.“The Tesco store will make a difference of course,” he said.

“It’s a very big place but I don’t sell too much English stuff, so if Tesco doesn’t sell too much continental stuff we will be OK. We specialise in African Caribbean products and Asian products.”

S R Raja has been on Spital Hill for over 30 years (from a time when Tesco sales were still under £1bn a year.) On Saturday a steady stream of customers was picking up drinks and sweets, bags of beans and spices, hair extensions and associated cosmetics.

Mr Raja was concerned about car parking and hoped the store car park would be more usable for visitors to other shops, many of whom have little or no parking at present. “It would have been better to have more open parking. I don’t think people will leave their cars down there in the Tesco car park and come over here.”

Shops on Spital Hill: Ali Saleh of the Ellesmere Food store

Shops on Spital Hill: Ali Saleh of the Ellesmere Food store

Some of his customers travel to Spital Hill after moving away and some are his third generation of customers. He has lived in Burngreave for many years and says although the reputation of the area has suffered in the past, he has never had any problems.

Saturday at SR Raja certainly seemed very busy but it remains to be seen what it will be like on a post-Tesco Saturday.

“I’m hopeful. The area may look better now and there are all different kinds of nations here. There was a time when nobody would come to Spital Hill and there was only one grocery shop but now there are 15 to 20 local grocers here. Of course it will affect us having a big shop like that but let’s hope.”

Just up the road, Eid Duallett from the Daad Dheere food shop was less optimistic. “Tesco sell everything, they sell cheap and they’re open for 24 hours. I think it will maybe close all the shops here, so I’m feeling very bad.”

Daad Dheere has offered a range of food on Ellesmere Green for six years. “It’s quiet here now but with Tesco it will be more quiet. These people round here are not big people, they are small people, so it’s a problem, it’s bad for the shops in the area and the community. I’m feeling bad about the future, if all people go to Tesco, I can’t say no, I can’t do anything. It’s too late now.”

Tesco says it is bringing lots of jobs to the area. There were 2,000 applications for 350 posts and it teamed up with Sheffield Job Centre Plus and Sheffield College to try to ensure as many jobs as possible went to local people. The council has also welcomed the jobs and the prospect of what it sees as the consolidation of the Spital Hill district shopping centre.

But one of the big areas of discussion on Saturday was few local Burngreave people appearing to have landed jobs.

“A lot of us in the area heard many promises that the store would bring local jobs and that there was a commitment to offering 50% of the vacancies to long-term unemployed in the local area,” said Douglas Johnson, a resident who also volunteers for the local newspaper, the Burngreave Messenger. “But it looks to me as if Tesco has changed its view of ‘local’ to mean Sheffield and surrounding area. There’s a lot of disappointed and angry people round here now.”

On Ellesmere Green, a group of residents gathered outside the Saleh Food Store as the shopkeeper carefully and painstakingly wrapped up a parcel of qat leaves for a customer.

“A lot of people round here are unemployed, so when Tesco started they’d been looking forward to getting employed,” said Hasan Mohamed. “So a lot of them applied but their applications got knocked down, so we feel sad about that.”

There was concern about what kinds of products the new store will sell. Although Tesco staff are unlikely to hand-wrap qat for customers, there are rumours the store will sell halal meat, for example.

“It will affect people, there’s no doubt about that,” said Mr Hussein. “If they sell food from the Middle East etc it will affect us. They may say they will not sell it now but then later on they may sell it. They say it will bring more people to the area but they will go to Tesco only and nobody else. It’s not going to help whatsoever. It will definitely mean shops will close.”

In the Ellesmere Food store, loyal customers chatted to storekeeper Ali Saleh. “A few of my friends applied for jobs but they don’t seem to want to get people from Burngreave, although I thought they were supposed to,” said Ali Saleh.

“The Tesco might bring more people into the area, you never know, nobody knows the future. We work very hard here but I don’t think Tesco are bothered about this area. They’ve made it look nice and everything but it’s what is inside that counts, not what’s outside. Are they doing it for the good of the area or for the money only?

“We’ll deal with it when it happens,” he said with a smile. “Fingers crossed.”

lMorrisons expansion plan: page 11.