Costa - it's not all sunny in Southend....

19:32 Leila Gunn 2 Comments

Today was the grand unveiling of the Costa coffee shop in Thorpe Bay... sort of. There was no grand opening, no publicity hype.... which was strange considering only two days ago the sign outside wasn't even up! Anyway, of course, as a Thorpe Bay local, I had to check it out.

My brothers and I journeyed to the Broadway at 4:00pm, leaving the dog at home because we expected it to be packed, but there was hardly anyone in there! This surprised me, considering the hot air which has surrounded it's opening, particularly from people my age. Perhaps, like me, the rest of Thorpe Bay was in the dark about the opening, as I only heard about it on the off-chance that a friend had been walking through the Broadway and popped in for a drink. I suppose it was a pretty unusual time of day to go for coffee too...

The opening of Costa in Thorpe Bay Broadway has been a controversial topic over the past year, with a divide between the locals for and against its opening. Surprisingly there doesn't seem to be as much local media coverage as I had expected to find about this, so I'm going to summarise a few of the arguments in bullet points;


- Some have described it as a 'kick in the teeth' for local coffee shop Ciao, expecting people to choose Costa for their afternoon cuppa now instead.
- There are already two Costa coffees' in Southend High Street, and one in Leigh-on-Sea broadway - why is there a need for another?
- The broadway should support local brands, not commercial giants like Costa, Tesco and Ladbrokes.


- Providing 8-10 jobs in the broadway, supposedly recruiting local people.
- Putting Thorpe Bay broadway on the map - Costa is a well-known brand and popular chain of coffee shops, therefore attracting more people to shop and drink in Thorpe Bay. It's time the Broadway became more commercial to attract more visitors.
- More people in the area should mean more people spending money in other local business outlets, creating a positive multiplier effect.

I can understand why some people may be apprehensive about the opening of a large commercial franchise in the Broadway, seeing it as a slippery slope away from supporting local businesses. However, after visiting Thorpe Bay Costa today on opening day myself, I would (perhaps prematurely) argue that there's nothing too threatening to worry about at the moment.

There were still people sitting outside Ciao drinking their teas and coffees in the sunshine, and Costa was not nearly as busy as I would have thought. I have also found my past experiences in Ciao and Costa to be very different. From my experience in other Costa's, they're very busy to say the least! You don't tend to chat to the Baristas serving you, as the turn around of drinks and food in the high-pressure environment is so fast. In contrast, my experience in Ciao has always been very different, not as busy, and therefore a more relaxed environment where staff chat to locals, which can only be a positive factor in ensuring a returning customer right?

Therefore, I'm not convinced that the opening of Costa is a bad thing. At the end of the day, people are going to visit the coffee shop that serves the nicest drinks, is the best value for money and has the best customer service - it's as simple as that. I think those who have always gone to Ciao will continue to do so, as I hope a good reputation and a friendly environment is enough to maintain its popularity with locals. I believe this matters far more in a smaller-scale environment such as Thorpe Bay, as oppose to the commercial environment of the High Street, where I can see that the opening a coffee shop like Costa in competition with a local one could be quite detrimental for the latter.

The fact is, it will be a shame if Ciao begins to struggle, however I don't think people should start throwing their toys out of the pram about Costa's opening yet. I do think there is the potential for both to succeed in Thorpe Bay Broadway, mainly because of the difference in the way they operate.  I may be wrong, as when Thorpe Bay locals catch wind of Costa's opening, I'm sure it will attract more attention, however I really don't think anybody needs to jump ship yet.

But, as I said in my last post, watch this space!


  1. How exciting! I understand both sides, more jobs but bad for local businesses...

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