From the business desk: could one of the big four eventually close?

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IS IT inconceivable that we may see one of the big four supermarkets fold in the near future?

It seems hard to believe but with food retailers scrapping plans for new stores and closing scores down, suddenly it does not seem like an outside possibility.

One thing that is for certain, though, is the supermarkets are a vital source of income to councils, as revealed in this week’s main news pages.

Together, supermarkets making the top 10 business rates payers in Worthing, Arun and Adur will fork out around 11.75 million this year – nearly 15 per cent of total income.

While much of this will never be seen locally, the chunk local authorities keep will still be a significant proportion of their income, with business rates making up around a fifth of total funds.

We know Aldi is actively looking for stores in the area and the budget stores are becoming increasingly popular with savvy shoppers.

Could its arrival see it stealing a significant share of the big four’s profits? And if it did, would the likes of Tesco consider expanding its cost cutting measures by closing local branches?

If it did, while Aldi would presumably contribute its own fair share in business rates, councils could be faced with losing vital funds.

And if the unthinkable did happen, with the loss of one of the big four, the effects locally and nationally could be catastrophic.

Local authorities are facing ever-dwindling budgets, so as business rates expert Paul Turner-Mitchell advised us this week, it is crucial they work with retail to ensure the superstores remain keen investors in our towns.

Despite all the doom, gloom and difficulties of the food retailers, I would be surprised to see any of them go completely in the short to medium-term.

But I would not be shocked to see closures closer to home.

In Worthing, Sainsbury’s recently gained planning permission to build a convenience store in Littlehampton Road, just a stone’s throw away from a Tesco Express.

With the scrapping of many planned supermarket openings, perhaps that new store’s opening hangs in the balance.

Residents may be pleased to see the back of some stores if they closed but on the financial front, the councils may be less impressed.