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The Situation Now

Sainsbury’s demand £1 million to leave White Hart Lane alone.


As you know, in June last year, a postal referendum was carried out by the Electoral Reform Society in the White Hart Lane area of Barnes.

It asked people a simple question : Do you want to see a Sainsbury’s store opened on the site of the Old Car Showroom at the top of White Hart Lane.

The respondents were carefully chosen to correspond with what Sainsburys themselves identified as their target market.

Out of 4,756 ballot papers returned, 4,062 voted NO. A majority of 85%.

On the strength of this, Sainsbury’s were forced to agree to a meeting in August to discuss the implications of this resounding NO vote..

The meeting was attended by three members of the WHAG, our local MP, Susan Kramer and Zach Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate for the area.

The meeting was notable for three statements from Justin King, CEO of Sainsburys.

1. “We never wanted to find ourselves in this situation in Barnes.”

2. “It’s all about the wallet.”

3. “If someone were to make a viable commercial offer for the lease, I would seriously consider it.”

Whilst nobody doubts the sincerity of the first two statements, recent events have cast huge doubts over the last.

All present at the meeting took that last statement to mean that if a company were to make an offer allowing Sainsbury’s to walk away with no financial loss , Mr.King would seriously consider accepting it.

Nothing Mr.King said afterwards has denied that interpretation.

In the ensuing months since the meeting, the WHAG and its friends have done their utmost to find a company willing to make an offer to Sainsburys which matches the description above.

After many false starts, this January we found a company who seemed able to do just that and whose presence we felt would be welcomed by the residents.

This company duly made an offer which would have allowed Sainsburys to walk away without any financial loss and with the thanks and goodwill of the neighbourhood.

Justin King’s response was stunning and revealing :

Instead of the £32 per square foot the property was valued at, he has put a “key money” value of £250 p.s.f, arguing that this is compensation for “loss of business opportunity”.

So instead of paying £128,000 pa for the lease, the cost would rocket to a ludicrous £1 million.

This response means that   :

1. The company concerned has had to back out, as indeed would any other company…except perhaps Tescos.

2. There is absolutely no point in looking around for any other possible contenders, as Mr.King, we now know, never had any intention of making it possible for them to make a “viable commercial offer.”


Since that meeting, the WHAG campaign has been deliberately low-key, in the belief that no Chief Executive of a long established and much-loved national company could possibly be anything other than open and honest.

Instead, we have spent our time looking for a business which could meet what we supposed were his terms.

This, clearly, has been time wasted.

More shamefully, it shows the contempt in which Justin  King holds the people whom he has said would be his prime market.

I’m sure he thinks that this latest bombshell will crumple all local resistance.

I ask you now to prove him wrong.

The WHAG’s campaign will now be fully re-started, with the aim of exposing Mr.King’s cynical attitude towards the neighbourhoods his company invades to the full scrutiny of the national media.

And asking you all to vociferously and publicly announce that if this store now opens, you will boycott it completely until it has to close on economic grounds.

And then we’ll see whether it is worth £1 million or not.

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This site was last updated 07/09/08