AS our photo shows, there was hardly a parking space to be had as Sainsbury's opened its doors at Eastern Green last Wednesday.
By mid-morning the place was full – while in Penzance, stores such as the Market Jew Street Co-op and Thorne's greengrocers in Causewayhead experienced a very quiet day's trading.
Steve Moine, store manager at Sainsbury's, said he was delighted with the initial performance of the store and with the feedback he was receiving from its new customers.
"People seem to really like the product range, the wider aisles and the cheaper petrol prices," he said. "The store café in particular has been phenomenally popular; the view over to St Michael's Mount has already established it as Sainsbury's most popular store café in the country.
"I'm really pleased with how my colleagues are settling in. We've 280 working here in full- and part-time roles; most live under five miles from the store and it's nice to see many walking to work."
There has been considerable controversy about whether a third large supermarket on the eastern approach to Penzance was necessary and Dick Cliffe, chairman of the town's chamber of commerce, admitted it would take time for the impact of the store to be assessed.
"It's clear only a small minority of Penzance retailers are competing against the supermarkets, most having found competitive niches which avoided direct competition," he said.
"The issue for Penzance is declining retail footfall and declining performance when compared to other retail centres in west Cornwall.
"The chamber's fear of Penzance being eventually eclipsed by developments at Hayle has proved well founded with the recent announcement of a 100,000-plus-square-foot retail development by Cranford at Hayle which will include Debenhams and other well-known brands.
"In this context fighting off Sainsbury's would, if it had been successful, have been a pyrrhic victory."
However, West Cornwall shoppers were benefiting from the increased competition, he said, with the price of petrol, for example, having been slashed by 5p at Tesco and Morrisons to match the price being offered at Sainsbury's.
"The £30 million investment in Penzance represents a vote of confidence in Penzance's future as a retail centre," said Mr Cliffe. "The investment appears to have stimulated interest in Penzance from other stores, as Edinburgh Woollen Mills has been advertising for staff to open a store in Penzance and Furniture World has opened in the old Barn Club premises. There have also been enquiries from The Range."
See letters, page 30, and Old Mike, page 33.