TEN times more people are employed in supermarkets than by the police in Gloucester.
More than 3,000 people are employed by seven supermarket firms, compared with 4,304 hospital workers and 435 at the city council and 263 by the police.
Retail is the fastest growing employment sector in the city and the foundation of Gloucester’s economic recovery.
In the past six months Kingsway has seen a new Asda and the Railway Triangle has become home to a 46,500sqft Morrisons – with a drive-thru Costa to follow shortly. Tesco has recently unveiled new stores in Churchdown and Tuffley.
Work on Gloucester’s 36th supermarket is under way on a derelict site in Barnwood – another Morrisons.
The northern supermarket chain employs 560 people at its two stores in the city with Asda offering up 483 jobs.
Sainsbury’s employs 750 people in Gloucester but Tesco is the largest supermarket employer with 1,000 staff.
But is that level of growth strangling the life out of smaller businesses struggling to maintain a foothold on the survival ladder?
On the one hand, the retail giants are providing vital jobs to help keep communities alive.
But Janice Tutty has already been forced out of one community by a supermarket and has seen trade drop at her current Churchdown store Mini Fruit and Flower Market.
She said: “I was in Brookfield Road for 30 years but had to move after the Tesco in Brockworth opened and I lost a lot of business. Since Tesco opened in Churchdown I have had to reduce my staff.
“We used to have three on in the day but now have just one person at times as it is so quiet.”
Supermarkets argue they give back through community projects and regenerating derelict sites.
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: “Retail is one of the largest and fastest growing employment sectors in the UK and Sainsbury’s is playing its part in this by creating thousands of jobs across the country, with more than 750 people employed in Gloucester alone. Our apprenticeship scheme provides vocational training, including nationally recognised qualifications.”
Meanwhile, around 70 people in Gloucester are currently employed in coffee shops, including 55 at Costa, and McDonald’s employs 350 people in its four city restaurants. A recent report showed Gloucester has 126 fast food outlets and that 28 per cent of its population is obese.
Mark Owen, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses for Gloucestershire and the South West, said: “These retail figures are quite frightening and highlight the fact that manufacturing needs more support to help the economy grow.
“Whereas 7,200 retail workers in Gloucester highlights how important the sector is to the city and how many jobs and livelihood totally rely on it, we should all be doing our bit by supporting our local shops in their hour of need.
“The rise of internet shopping, supermarkets, coffee shops and McDonald’s has all had an effect on the smaller retail economy.
“We have recently had a flood of new businesses in Gloucester and we are at saturation point in the supermarket sector.
“It has now got to the stage where the larger companies are all competing against each other and not smaller businesses.
“We could have another five new Tescos in Gloucester and it wouldn’t make any difference to smaller businesses which have already been hit by the arrival of several new stores in recent months.
“It is too late to restrict any more supermarkets from opening up in Gloucester. It would be like putting out sandbags once homes have already flooded.
“Small businesses have been hit hard and the damage has already been done.”
Shopper Ruth Warne, who lives near to the recently opened Churchdown Tesco: “I used to shop at the Sainsbury’s in Barnwood but the new Tesco is a lot more convenient.
"The old garden centre site had been empty for some time and is now being used so that has been positive.”
Gordon Goodman, who campaigned against the supermarket, said: “The number of people Tesco is employing is great and it offers parking, convenience and regeneration. What I’m against is the monopoly in villages. It’s having a big impact on smaller shops older people rely on.”
In Gloucester, there are 14 Tescos, four Sainsbury’s, two Asdas, two Morrisons, an Aldi, two Lidls and 10 Co-ops.
-7,200 people work in Gloucester’s retail sector, 11.4 per cent of its employees.
-Gloucester has 11,800 health workers.
-Manufacturing caters for 7.2 per cent of employees with 4,500 jobs.
-63,100 people are in work in the city, 22.8 per cent of Gloucestershire’s employees.
An all-party Parliamentary group predicted in 2006 that in the UK of 2015 many small convenience or grocery stores would be gone, few independent newsagents and petrol forecourts would survive, with pharmacies and post offices facing a “moderate chance of survival”.
Residents in Abbeymead have hit back against Morrisons plans to demolish community pub The Ridge & Furrow and replace it with a petrol station.
A survey commissioned by Gloucester MP Richard Graham to get feedback on the plan was sent to 6,475 households – 35 per cent responded with 1,575 calling for the pub to be saved. Just 592 people were happy to see a new petrol station.
Mr Graham said: “Morrisons and Gloucester can do better.”