Finally – after nearly 15 years after the original local plan dictated there could only be a new and expanded supermarket in the town centre, Nairn has finally got its Sainsburys – and on the eastern outskirts of the town at that.
And in the town centre, the buildings around the Co-op remain as derelict and unavailable as ever, as the Highland Council staff pontificate about having to earn their wages in considering the problem properly, while the Co-op finally considers that it may have to move to action as a campaign to boycott the store builds momentum.
Inevitably, the week belongs to Sainsburys, who have become the town’s new best friend – at long last we have a supermarket that can cover most shopping needs, saving long driving treks to Forres or Inverness each week.
It also brings supermarket petrol prices to the town, and the company has already begun pushing on its community program.
So, was it all worth it?
Well, I’m sure there are many families and individuals who can remain in Nairn for the bulk of their shopping needs now. Plus people from other nearby towns coming in to shop for reasons of variety.
Our regular trip was to Morrissons in Inverness, a round trip of towards 40 miles. To Sainsburys it’s only 1.4 miles. That means nearly 2000 miles a year in petrol saved.
True, Sainsburys has never been famed for being cheap, but fuel prices continue to rise regardless.
And what about the store itself?
Well, it’s certainly a good size, offering a strong and varied range of clothing, household items, electrical goods, as well as food.
The freezer section is surprisingly small and quite limited on vegetarian options (don’t they realise Findhorn is nearby?) so we’ll still be ordering periodically from Tesco, but otherwise it should suffice for most needs.
The impact on Nairn’s high street – that remains a different question entirely.
While many high streets have been decimated in the UK, and blame has been firmly squared at out of town retail developments, Sainsburys does not have much overlap with the majority of outlets on the high street in the first place.
Additionally, demand for premises on the high street remains extremely high and vacant space is quickly snapped up, and the expectation is that it will continue to do so: the availability of commercial property is in extremely short supply and rents remain comparatively low for what is available.
I also noticed a few people commenting on how they really wished the Sainsburys store had a cafe – well, they’ll just have to nip into the town centre for that, now.
In the meantime, as someone close to me said, “It’s just a supermarket!”
That may be so, but for Nairn it represents something of an achievement against obfuscation, procrastination, and a blinkered view from Inverness that Nairn should not have any services of its own.
Somehow Sainsburys represents something a new independence for the town, and certainly it should bring a whole new meaning to the phrase “convenience store” for many people.