Some local blogs do the opening of new pop-up boutique vintage street food cat cafes. In Charlton, we get to do whacking great supermarkets.
16 years ago, Jamie Oliver opened the “eco” Sainsbury’s at east Greenwich. That store closed without ceremony last night, and the supermarket giant has reopened a mile down the road, in a less impressive building.
Today’s opening didn’t have anyone off the telly there, but it did have new local MP Matt Pennycook and Greenwich Council’s regeneration cabinet member Danny Thorpe on hand for the inevitable photocall for weekly council rag Greenwich Time.
Maybe Danny Thorpe brought up the matter of the store flouting planning rules over its giant signs? Who knows. Doubt you’ll read any of that in Greenwich Time.
With a brief apology for keeping us all waiting, the store opened to the public at the stroke of nine o’clock.
So what’s it like inside? Well, there’s a greater emphasis on homeware, electricals and clothing. And it’s a bit weird walking through a perfectly-stocked supermarket where nobody’s bought anything yet.
In short, it looks like any other supermarket. What did you expect?
But it’ll be a rude shock for those used to the curved lines and natural daylight of the Greenwich store – likely to be flattened and replaced with an Ikea, although the Swedish furniture giant doesn’t have detailed planning permission yet.
So, how will the new store do? It’ll certainly lose some custom in the short term – Transport for London has refused developer funds to help extend bus route 202 from Blackheath to the new store, and many Greenwich Millennium Village residents may decide it’s a schlep too far.
With the trends towards home delivery and smaller stores, it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out. A wider range of goods may encourage customers to stay longer. It’s worth noting this new store is not a 24-hour branch. And with the newish Sainsbury’s Local on Charlton Church Lane thriving, the chain is clearly hedging its bets.
How the new store fits in with its surroundings is an issue. I’m not sure it stands up to past promises made to local groups. Rat-running and traffic is likely to be a problem. Access isn’t particularly cycle-friendly. And the new pedestrian crossing – which appears to be in the wrong place – has been already been hit by a driver.
But the next part of the story comes in a couple of weeks – for M&S is opening on 9 July. It’s likely this retail complex will be both a benefit and a burden – just how much of each, we’ll see in the weeks and months to come.