Sheringham Budgens set to close as competition stiffens

A long-standing food shop at Sheringham looks set to close in the face of growing competition in the town which has been at the centre of a long-running storewars saga.

A deal to sell Budgens to a new non grocery retailer is on the table, the franchise owner has confirmed.

And Jinx Hundal, who has run the shop since May 2006, said the move was prompted by the opening of Sainsbury's Local in the old Woolworth store just down the High Street, and the imminent arrival of Tesco after winning its marathon planning battle.

The shop which employs 17 full and part time staff has been there for about 20 years, and was a major player in the early chapters of the town's storewars saga.

Budgens was the first store to win planning permission for a larger supermarket in the town, as it sought to expand its modest-sized shop.

Its scheme on part of the main town car park was granted on appeal in 2003 after a six year battle, including concerns from traders and opposition from rivals Tesco who were seeking other sites on the edge of town.

But the bid was thwarted because of North Norfolk District Council's refusal to sell the land. That later turned out to be due to a clause of a contract between the authority and Tesco that stopped council land being used for rival store schemes. The discovery caused a major controversy and inveseigation which criticised senior officials, but saw Budgens plans becalmed.

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Sainsbury opened in town in 2009 and 'had an impact' on Budgens said Mr Hundal, who added that the decision to sell was caused by a combination of the Sainsbury and Tesco competition.

Staff were told that a deal could be finalised in the next couple of weeks, and efforts were being made to relocate them at other Budgens sites, said Mr Hundal who also runs other Budgens stores at Cromer, Brundall and Prince of Wales Road, Norwich. He added that he was 'personally losing a lot' from the sale.

If the deal fell through the store would be put on the open market, he said, and operate until a buyer was found, adding: 'I am personally losing a lot.'

Chamber of trade secretary Andy Bullen did not think it was a warning sign ahead of Tesco's arrival, but was down to competition in a 'very competitive' food sector.

'We are disappointed to lose any retailer but it is not a sign of things to come,' he added.