In a capitalist free market society, we have to accept, whether we like it or not, that businesses have the right to try to open branches or offices where they please.
Hand in hand with that goes the fact that if firms are unpopular, or in the wrong place, then they will not survive – that’s the consumer’s side of the deal.
Having said that, we must admit to a dose of regret in seeing that Costa Coffee has applied to open a branch in Emsworth.
There’s nothing wrong with the chain per se, and indeed the argument that it’s better to have an occupied building – the firm wants to move into the former Barclays Bank – than an empty one is a strong one.
But one of Emsworth’s distinguishing features is that it has a strong local feel to the shops, cafes and restaurants, and indeed prides itself on its culinary breadth. There are many – and from the petition that has been set up at time of writing this number includes almost 400 people – who argue that an international chain, with an off-the-shelf menu, will not add anything.
And we have a lot of sympathy with this line of thought. The News, a couple of years ago, launched the Shop Local campaign, which aimed to highlight the benefits of using smaller independent stores.
We weren’t ordering people to boycott supermarkets, but we wanted to point out the benefits – such as a more individual customer service, roots in the area and the fact that money is recycled into the local economy – that choosing independent shops can bring. Areas like Albert Road, Marmion Road and Castle Road in Southsea, Stoke Road in Gosport and West Street in Fareham all quite rightly play on the diversity of shops they support, and so much the better.
As we say, we hold no grudge against Costa. But we like to think that the chain may reassess its suitability for Emsworth to help preserve its attraction.
And, if there is such a widespread antipathy in the town to the new arrival, then the locals do have a weapon up their sleeve – they can always go somewhere else for a drink.