As Salford Estates' girls go around the Precinct urging people to sign their petitions, people are getting on with their shopping, popping into the pound shops… browsing the market…sipping cups of coffee in one of the cafes.
No-one is pretending that this is the Trafford Centre. And everyone knows that Salford Shopping City is on its arse. It's nine years since Marks and Spencer and WH Smith bailed out of the Precinct, Curries shut down last year, Woolies went bust and even the discount shoe shop has disappeared.
But Salford Shopping City still has its moments – the second hand market is usually busy, there's always a queue at Greggs and no-one in Salford could survive the digital age without the cheap printer ink guy whose stall sits outside Argos. The Precinct is ace for cheap stuff. And it's still the nearest Salford gets to a town centre. It's a meeting place. A public space. But light years off from the original dream of being `Europe's best' precinct.
Salford Estates bought the centre for £40million last March and has promised to invest to bring back `high quality shops'. But the threat from Tesco, they say, "would have a catastrophic impact on local trade, threatening jobs and prosperity".
Salford Estates is backed up by the Salford branch of the National Market Traders Federation, whose chairman John Winder says "Salford needs investment and a new supermarket, but local people need to come first, not the Tesco shareholders. Their plans are far, far too big, they are isolated from the precinct and will unfairly compete with existing local traders. We've seen in Eccles what damage can be done and we deserve better."
His comments were definitely backed up by most of the people we spoke to. Barbara Walsh, who was signing the `Save Salford' petition told us "I agree with the concept of Tesco but I don't like the idea of the separation – I want the link. I think it's a good idea because we will get jobs with Tesco but I don't agree with two separate entities."
Meanwhile, Pauline Murray and her friend Dianne Jackson were making a rare visit to the Precinct, usually shopping in places like Manchester Fort…
"We used to come all the time, when Marks and Spencer's was here but I think when that went it killed a lot of it off" Pauline said "I do think that Tesco will kill it off completely. They need to put more into this to make more people come here. It would be great. Investing in this place would be a better option. You don't need another big Tesco, you don't need it. Not of that size."
Dianne agreed and also blamed the Precinct's downfall on the loss of Marks and Spencer… "Marks and Spencer, definitely and also once the market started dying down. What have you got on here now? New Look and Poundland? The real draw here was the market and that's almost gone.
At the outdoor market, one of the stallholders wasn't actually against the new Tesco superstore at all – "It can't get any worse" he said. His words were echoed by another stallholder in the indoor market who blamed high rents and a lack of investment in the place for ten years. He told us that things were so bad he hadn't drawn a wage since February, and that even if the new owners invested in a new indoor market "I won't be here to see it – it's too late."
Some members of the public who didn't want to be identified seem to agree, telling us "There's not much to save" and "The place can't get any worse". But virtually every stall holder we spoke to was adamant that the Tesco superstore, in its current form, would wipe out their business and destroy the Precinct completely.
"I've been on here nearly forty years which is a long time and if it kills my business what am I going to do after forty years?" said Dave Barratt of Barratt's Butchers "All we want is for Tesco to work with us and everyone will be happy but all they want to do is be over there on their own and cut us all off which will just kill the whole place.
"They're saying it will create jobs but how many jobs will you lose?" he argued "I feel sad really because everyone we work with are good people and it is still a thriving little market. You get the personal touch, you can get anything in here – fresh fish, meat, cheeses everything…but Tesco just want to be on their own. All we want is for people to support the local people."
Paul Newman, at Oscar's Fish and Poultry,would also not be opposed to Tesco if it became a proper part of the Precinct. And at Stranded jewellery stall near Specsavers, Kenneth Howe added… "If they shared the car park between Tesco and the Precinct and no-one had to pay for it I would imagine it would be alright. Everyone is saying that Tesco should be compromising but they're not are they? If the Tesco store goes ahead it's going to be dire in here – it will be like Eccles."
Rachel Roberts who works on the Stranded jewellery stall agreed: "I think Tesco will kill our store off because it will be doing make up and jewellery, so I'm opposed to it."
Kenneth is putting his hopes in Salford Estates… "They must have a plan if they've bought the Precinct because you're not going to invest in this are you. if you know it's going to go belly up."
No-one knows what Salford Estates' Plan B is – but Plan A is in full flow – all out war!!!
We asked Salford City Council Leader John Merry for a comment but he declined.
See Store Wars Part 1 here : The History of Salford Precinct
See Store Wars Part 2 here : The Battle Commences
Photos and interviews by Gareth Lyons
* What's all the fuss about? Why is there such a huge fight over the Precinct between Salford Estates and Tesco?
The answer lies in the UK Shopping Index which ranks 6,721 shopping venues in the country by catchment population. Walkden is ranked 4,226 biggest, Swinton and Eccles come in at 835. But Pendleton comes in at number 428, with more people in its catchment – 71,594 - than Swinton and Eccles put together.
The potential for Pendleton is huge, sitting as it does within shopping distance of Charlestown, Lower Kersal, Broughton, Langworthy, Seedley, Pendleton itself, the University and MediaCityUK.
And all those people's wallets are the prize in what could be a battle to the death…