STRUGGLING traders claim they are losing hundreds of pounds a week since Tesco opened its doors last month.

The megastore off Larkshall Road in Highams Park has been open since October 5, and independent businesses claim they are "wasting away" as their customers prefer to do their shopping at the supermarket down the road.

Businesses say they need shoppers to return to the retail outlets in The Avenue and Hale End Road, or people may lose their local high street for good.

Marilyn Loe, assistant manager at Poppies bakery in Hale End Road, said bread sales have dropped and their regular trade from scholchildren who come by for a lunchtime snack has all but disappeared.

The 28-year-old added: "Tesco's has had a huge impact. Everyone's moving to Tesco and we're suffering because of it. They have free parking and everything under one roof, so we just can't compete.

"We're losing hundreds a week but we have to hope it picks up or we will be reduced to nothing. Everyone is having the same problem, pretty much.

"We've been here for 10 years. It might not be much longer."

Tesco claimed its free car parking would enable customers to travel to nearby shops like those in The Avenue and Hale End Road, but Poppies neighbour and owner of Megs Newsagent, Pravin Patel, 57, said those who stock the same goods as Tesco are losing out.

"They sell similar items to us and so our trade is dropping," he said. "It's stealing our trade and there's little that we can do about it."

Another problem is the proposed controlled parking zone planned for Highams Park, which would mean businesses and homeowners would have to fork out for parking if passed by Waltham Forest Council, and which shops fear would reduce their clientele to people living within walking distance.

However, Ann Tran, 28, owner of American Nails in Hale End Road, said the supermarket has attracted new customers to her store.

"If anything we've gained more customers so it's a very good thing for us," she said. "The free parking gives them the time to get their nails done." Tesco has been approached for comment.

Click here to follow the Chingford Guardian on Twitter

Click here to follow the Waltham Forest Guardian on Twitter