Tesco Ignites Violence in the UK


The recent opening of a Tesco store in the British city of Bristol became a scene of violence and mayhem as protesters threw bricks and bottles and set fires. Why? Quite simply, because Tesco supermarkets are replacing local shops.

“Do people love Tesco? That’s open to question. But the level of mayhem and destruction doesn’t necessarily create empathy,” commented Graham Hales, CEO of the British unit of Interbrand, to Bloomberg Businessweek‘s Carol Matlack. 

Tesco is a UK staple, much like Walmart in the US, and as the world’s third largest retailer (behind Walmart and France’s Carrefour), it accounts for a whopping two-thirds of the UK’s $92.4 billion in annual sales.

Just as Walmart has to fight off local protests with some of its higher-profile openings (witness its continuing battle in New York), few outside the UK may realize that Tesco has its critics in British Isles — and aisles.[more]

For fifteen months the Bristol community of Stokes Croft lobbied and demonstrated to stop the opening of a Tesco Express convenience store. Accusations against Tesco and Asda, Britain’s No. 2 grocery chain and owned by Wal-Mart, of unfair treatment of workers and exacting price concessions from local growers have fueled the protests.

“Supermarkets have supplanted local shops to take 90% of British food spending,” writes Matlack.

The protests in Stokes Croft are continuing, and “more than 30 people have been arrested after another night and day of violence centred on a new Tesco store” according to The Guardian.

Consumerism knows no borders and the realities of big box brand expansion versus local shop-ownership, already well-advanced in the US, have led to disruption in Bristol for Tesco and the community they’re trying to serve.