Trafalgar Road, SE10

What can I say? It’s a Tesco’s – you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. This one follows much the same lines as every other store from here to Beijing, and they certainly pile those shelves high.

Trouble is, I’d say they got a bit on the greedy side, given the size available at Trafalagar Road, and put in one aisle too many. The shelves are stacked literally to the roof (I don’t fancy any short people’s chances at getting down some of those bottles of fizzy pop, )but there’s so little room between them that traffic jams and mild irritation are inevitable, even on a short trip.

There is, as I say, plenty in there, piles of pasta, pizza, ready-meals, cereals and cans (though a pleasingly paltry amount of fish – nothing to scare our lovely new fishmonger, also very little meat – if anyone’s thinking of starting a butchers…) but it really was a little too packed to the gills for me (sorry that pun wasn’t intended.)

Slightly annoyingly there isn’t a loose vegetable in sight. They’re all packaged up into neat plastic bags with bar codes on – presumably for ease at the checkout, but not very environmentally friendly – and I ended up having to buy far more than I needed or wanted. I will be shopping for veg elsewhere now that I’ve done my obligatory phantasmagorical shop.

The convenience foods are what a shop this size does best and there are a lot of sandwiches, filled rolls and crisps, which will presumably make the bulk of their sales – and profits – there’s a lot of cash to be had in sandwiches. The usual fillings.

The checkout is efficient. I tried out the self-service one, better than the one in Sainsburys which doesn’t seem to be able to scan a single thing without telling the world there’s an unexpected item in your bagging area. The Tesco one scanned everything perfectly – not a single mistake at any point.

The big question is not whether specialist shops like the Fishmonger or Theatre of Wine will be affected here. You’re either the kind of person who buys their wares or you aren’t – you’re not suddenly going to be swayed by a bottle of £ 2.99 plonk if Threshers hasn’t already got you. Ditto the small grocers with interesting vegetables displayed outside – their core market will stay too. The question is whether Iceland and the Co-Op will survive the competition.

The Co-Op , if you remember, had a bit of a spruce-up a couple of months ago in anticipation of the the new kid coming to live on the block. I can’t say I was wildly impressed with the results – it’s a bit brighter but the checkout system is lousy and Radio Co-Op is straight out of the bad bit of the 70s.

But Tescos has not upped the ante enough in my humble opinion to make it a straight knockout. The aisles are meanly-spaced and the place is so cluttered with bounty that it makes your head spin. just as you’re trying to reach for a tin on the top shelf someone in a hurry is trying to elbow past at the same time that a bloke stocking up for his corner shop aims a trolley at your ankles(what’s a shop this size doing with a trolley in the first place, I wonder?) The overall feel is too claustrophobic for me.

Sadly the Co-Op has the opposite problem – often badly (or not at all) re-stocked once shelves are empty and with a strange, scruffy, lost look about it, like that kid at school that no matter how neat and tidy he left his mum in the morning always looked like he’d been dragged through a hedge by the time he’d got to school. Both stores seem to be hankering after the fancy goods market, with fripperies such as whoopee cushions and cheap kiddie toys cluttering the place up, instead of just providing some really good food. And Iceland – well, Iceland always seems to have a “just about to close down” feel to it.

Tescos is ok, for a Tescos. Er, that’s it.

I’m sad to report, Supermarket Nirvana has not been reached in Trafalgar Road. Yet. We will have to see what the M&S at the BP garage turns up in the Clash of the Retail Titans to find out if they hit the mark any more squarely. In the meanwhile my fave place for groceries remains La Salumeria – enjoy it while you can…

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