Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s has made its way to the Highlands at last, and yesterday work started on a new £20million store and filling station at Nairn that promises 300 jobs.
And the company is currently still in talks to bring the brand to Inverness.
The 25,000sq ft development on land on the eastern outskirts of Nairn should welcome its first shoppers in August.
It is envisaged the supermarket – the first Sainsbury’s north of Aberdeen – will also create a further development of about the same size which will accommodate three retail outlets on the same site.
Sainsbury’s has also pledged £250,000 to the town centre for enhanced street lighting and bus service and a shop-front improvement scheme.
Plans are under way for a second north store in Elgin and a spokesman said the company was in talks to move into Inverness.
Yesterday, local councillors and business representatives welcomed Sainsbury’s when Highland Council convener and Nairn Councillor Sandy Park turned the first turf at the site on Forres Road, opposite Balmakeith Industrial Estate, to mark the official start of construction work. Nairn councillor Liz MacDonald said: “This is an exciting day for Nairn. We only have Co-op supermarkets and people get taxis to go to Tesco at Forres. Hopefully Co-op prices will come down as a result.”
But despite reassurances from Sainsbury’s that its new store will help to attract more shoppers to Nairn, traders are concerned businesses will suffer.
Ali Asher, sales director for historic Nairn bakers Ashers, which has 12 shops and 140 employees in the area, said it was “inevitable” the development would affect businesses on the High Street.
Mr Asher said: “What we argued for all along was the supermarket to be in the town centre.”
David Brownless, chairman of the Association of Nairn Businesses, said: “We just hope that the confidence Sainsbury’s has about the new site not affecting the centre is justified.”
Councillor Park said: “Businesses need to up their game and be part of the new Nairn. We have a lovely High Street with great traditional stops and they have to think positive.”