A Tesco town in all but name

By - Friday 13th December, 2013

Is Tesco the only thing that will bring people to Croydon? Andrew Dickinson takes us on an irreverent history of ‘Tesco Town’, Croydon

“Police, Camera, Action!” by Ian Paterson. Used under a Creative Commons licence.

I read in the national press recently that Tesco is suffering an identity crisis as it doesn’t know where it fits in in the hierarchy of the supermarket kingdom.

Asda, Aldi and Lidl have stolen many of its core customers because they are cheaper and it never has had the quality cachet of Waitrose, Marks and Spencers or even Sainsburys. The city isn’t happy.

Poor Tesco, they’re a bit like Croydon. Does it appeal to the Aldi or Lidl shopper or does it appeal to your Waitrose or Marks and Spencers demographic?

I think the answer lies fairly and squarely with the full page advert in the Evening Standard of Wednesday December 3rd which advertised the Saffron Square development and the only mention of Croydon was in the small print at the bottom where the address for the marketing suite was mentioned. The fact that the development has a Tesco in it is mentioned in the promotional wording but not the fact that Saffron Square is in Croydon – this doesn’t warrant a mention. Why the hell not? Do the marketeers know us better than we know ourselves?

This is disgraceful – the developers have the nerve to infer the historic reference to Croydon in saffron as in Crogdene, valley of crocus, from which saffron is extracted, but cannot bear to mention this ‘awful town’ in its full page London, southeast-centric Evening Standard. I hasten to add that in other media Croydon has been mentioned, but in this publication, which in my opinion is more targeted to the prospective buyers of the apartments, we don’t get a mention.

If that’s the kind of shallow leaseholder that we get, I doubt they are the type of resident that would add to the culture of Croydon, so to hell with them

Of course, a Tesco is a natural draw for anyone looking to move to a new area. How could I live there when there’s not a Tesco 24/7 nearby? Bugger the view, the history, the geography, the potential. Tesco seals the deal. If that’s the kind of shallow leaseholder that we get, I doubt they are the type of resident that would add to the culture of Croydon, so to hell with them.

Bear in mind, within the retail sprawl that Croydon has, one day there will no longer be a John Lewis At Home on the Purley Way, because guess which supermarket owns the land that John Lewis stands on?

Yep, Tesco. The company that is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The one that numerous archbishops chose to stay at because of the sandwich, crisps and drink deal. That was the first to have a railway or was the centre of international aviation, that gave us air traffic control. Yes, that Tesco which suffered the worst of what the Nazis and their V1 rockets could throw at any one place and still come through. That has never stood still but has always regenerated. Yes, that Tesco, which has enough tech companies for its own Silicon Roundabout and has a £1 billion town centre redevelopment on the table. Of course, none of that matters as long as there is a bloody Tesco in the development.

Why don’t we just change our name to the internationally recognised name that stands for all that is good in the world – Tesco Town?

Andrew Dickinson

Andrew Dickinson

I'm a long term resident of Croydon and I'm lucky to live and work in the borough. As a schoolboy my proudest moments were playing representative football for Croydon where I would fight tooth and nail to win for the borough and contribute towards its sporting reputation. For 18 years I worked up in London and became distanced from the town. Now I've re-engaged with the place over the last 20 years and feel frustrated in finding a way to vent my passion for Croydon (as I'm too old to play football) so I'm always on the lookout for any new initiatives to bring positivity to the place. I live on Bramley Hill with my lovely family and I have an allotment locally. I'm a keen amateur in gardening, environmentalism, permaculture, photography and website design. I'm an oyster mushroom farmer, run a social enterprise called Green Croydon, I'm part of the Croydon Fairtrade steering group, part of the Croydon ReUse Organisation, current chair of Croydon Transition Town and a community gardener; I'm on the borough Food Programme, Parks and Social Enterprise steering groups and a community apple presser. I currently work for the council as an officer creating and promoting community events in the beautiful Wandle Park. I put on the Croydon Environmental Fair each year and the Summer of Love theme and festival was something I dreamed up. I inspired the 'I would make Croydon better by' theme. There's also the Give and Take events in Surrey Street. I started the monthly Arts, Crafts and Vintage market in Exchange Square. Formerly I was a Turf Projects trustee, a Croydon Radio presenter and part of the Old Town business association.Between all this, I write the occasional article for the Citizen. I support local artists and local musicians by enabling the space for them to create I also support local independent journalism.

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  • Susan Oliver

    A very bold essay, Andrew.

    You hit the nail on the head. These big companies that are moving to Croydon – do they care about the town? Are they proud of the town? Or are they just using it as a place to make money?

    I fear that our local economy is being shaped so that it’s all about big wealth and the networking of major brands like Tesco. I worry how these new economic and social forces will affect the culture and spirit of Croydon.

    The Beatles said it best: Can’t buy me love. It also can’t buy civic pride, loyalty, an interest in local culture and history, a desire to contribute, etc. Intangibles that give a town a sense of meaning and community.

  • Jamie

    Big companies don’t care about any town, there’s no doubt they’re just using it to make money! If they cared about the town they wouldn’t saturate it with their “local” branches that charge extortionate prices.

  • lizsheppardjourno

    This is ‘do bears shit in the woods?’ stuff really, isn’t it? Of course they are coming to make money. That is what they do. Of course they don’t care about Croydon – every place is the same to them. That is their nature.

    The real questions are : given that what’s happening here now is not great (relative economic decline, the departure of major employers, youth unemployment and so on) how can we, the people of Croydon who do care about it, use the huge Hammerfield investment intelligently and work with the coming changes to improve all our lives?

    Croydon has a great culture and spirit. It also has a terrible reputation and more than our share of social and economic troubles. Becoming an economically successful and well-regarded place with a stylish Town Centre environment and the infrastructure and facilities to attract investment and big employers and jobs is an opportunity for positive change which we need to take.

    OF COURSE there are potential pitfalls. Not everyone will benefit. Many have concerns. But opportunities always carry risk. We need to look forward now.

    Besides, as I once explained in these pages, I have a soft spot for Tescos :-) http://thecroydoncitizen.com/politics-society/lets-hear-it-for-tesco-town-croydon/