Costa Coffee has come under fire recently from independent businesses in Burnham-On-Sea, Somerset, who have expressed concern over a potential new outlet opening in the area.

Independent traders have voiced their views over proposals to open a new Costa outlet on the high street this autumn.

Juliet Farnese, co-owner of the Mr Beans café and coffee shop, based on the high street in Burnham-On-Sea, told British Baker: “Without any question the proposed Costa outlet is bound to threaten all of the businesses located here, especially as there are quite a few cafés.

“On the whole I like the competition, because it’s healthy and there is more for customers to choose between. But there is a dislike of these big retail giants, Costa being one. Some people love Costa, but with plans to open shops across the country, there’s going to be one on every corner.”

Farnese, who co-runs the café outlet, serving hot and cold beverages, sandwiches, cakes and light meals, added that a Costa representative had previously approached her in a bid to take over her business’ premises: “They told us they were going to open anyway, but they asked about my shop. However, we never heard from them again.”

Kim Brown, co-owner of Café Aroma, said the new Costa outlet will open opposite her business should the Council approve the firm’s plans. She said: “There are far too many coffee shops and cafés here in Burnham-On-Sea as it is. But we feel like Costa are the big boys, so what can we say to them. It’s good to bring high street names to the town, I agree with that, but as far as Costa goes, there are too many cafés and coffee shops already and it will saturate the market even more.”

Serving a similar selection of products to Costa, including coffee, paninis and salads, Brown added that, with the potential new Costa opening, her business’ trading will be affected as a direct result: “Every shop that opens has the potential to take a percentage of your trade. We like to think we have our regulars, and we are nowhere near the price of Costa, despite serving proper fresh coffee. So we like to think people would be loyal to us, especially as we have been here for around 17 years.

“We’re hoping the customers that continue to come to us will stick with us, but who knows? We’re going to have to take it as it comes.”

Taking action

A series of campaigns have been formed by local traders and residents in recent months throughout the rest of the UK, opposing the Whitbread-owned coffee business’ plans to open new retail outlets. 

An anti-Costa group called NoToCosta in Totnes, Devon, arranged a march at the start of the month to South Hams Development Management Control Committee’s headquarters, where a meeting took place to decide on the planning application submitted by the coffee company.

The group looked to oppose the opening of the coffee shop chain outlet on Fore Street, located in the town centre, with more than 5,700 local residents signing a petition against the move. However, the Council decided to approve Costa’s plans.

Since the approved plans, members of the local community met this Tuesday (14 August) at Totnes Methodist Church Hall to discuss further action to prevent the Costa coffee shop from opening.

In the town of Southwold in Suffolk, more than 500 objections were lodged earlier this month against plans for the firm to operate a new Costa site on its high street. Waveney District Council is believed to still be in deliberation about the company’s decision to re-submit its application for a “change of use”.

A Costa Coffee company spokesperson told British Baker: "Costa Coffee prides itself in using numerous suppliers, large and small, across the UK to produce the products it sells within its stores. For example, we work with a family-run bakery to produce our cakes, with dedicated dairy farmers for our milk and use British meat in our savoury lines. At a time when many businesses are closing, we are one of the success stories of British business, creating jobs right across the UK.

"We would like to reassure those that are opposed of forthcoming openings in Totnes, Southwold and Burnham-on-Sea that Costa won’t be a threat to the independent coffee shops that are already there, but will aim to complement the local offering and support the local community."

Costa reached third position in British Baker’s BB75 list of the top 75 high street bakery firms this year, based on the number of outlets, with a store count of 1,352 – 177 additional sites on 2011. The firm said it plans to open 350 net new stores for the full year, as well as 1,000 Costa Express self-serve units in total, which are found at locations such as petrol forecourts, supermarkets and newsagents.