Charlton Sainsbury’s: First look inside the brand new store

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

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.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

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.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

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.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2014
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015
Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

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.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 24 June 2015

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.

Charlton M&S, 24 June 2015

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.

Huge Charlton Sainsbury’s sign refused permission, huge Charlton Sainsbury’s sign appears anyway

Charlton Sainsbury's, 16 June 2015

A week to go until the new Charlton Sainsbury’s opens (9am on Wednesday 24 June, with M&S due to follow three weeks later), but there had been a set-back for the supermarket – Greenwich Council refused plans to stick a giant four-metre high illuminated logo on the store roof, along with a smaller sign by Bugsby’s Way and a totem facing Woolwich Road.

Council refusal letter

Except that this week… a giant four-metre high sign has appeared on the store roof, along with a smaller sign by Bugsby’s Way and a totem facing Woolwich Road.

Charlton Sainsbury's, 16 June 2014

Looks a bit like something’s dribbling out of the lettering…

No, we don’t know what’s happening either. Nor are we quite sure why the next door M&S also features a whacking great big sign (our best guess is it may not have needed permission as it’s partly below roof level). But we are trying to find out.

Greenwich Council's refusal

Of course, there are bigger issues with a whacking great big supermarket in a residential area – traffic, wasted space, and the building’s very existence when we desperately need new homes. But if the small things (such as a sign) can’t be fixed, what hope is there for the big things?

Thanks to Pete M for the tip-off.

4.20pm update: A very quick response from Greenwich Council, which says it has opened investigations into both the Sainsbury’s and M&S signage.

18 June update: Greenwich Council’s confirmed the M&S sign does have planning permission, given last December.

Sign of the times? New Sainsbury’s could be topped by giant logo

Sainsburys plan
Final work is taking place at Charlton’s new Sainsbury’s/ M&S complex, which will come to life in six weeks – the ‘old’ Greenwich Sainsbury’s set to close on Tuesday 23 June with its Charlton replacement opening its doors the following the day.

Charlton Sainsbury's

Some bits of work still need to be done, though – such as signage. If you’re expecting the new store to have subtle signs, think again – a giant four-metre high Sainsbury’s logo is due to be plonked on the roof of the store, according an application sent to Greenwich planners.

Sainsbury's recruitment ad

It’s a far cry from the more subtle sign that sits below the roof level of the Greenwich store – an image of which is still being used on recruitment ads for the new outlet.

If you’ve any strong views on the signs, be sure to let Greenwich planners know – head to the council’s planning website and search for reference 15/0835/A – comments need to be in by 26 May, which is leaving the timescales rather tight…