Any of this sound familiar? Steve Edwards has written me a heartfelt email about 'the sector'. He writes from Seaview News: "We have been in Cleethorpes for some 60 yes, 60 years in the retail sector, first as a family butcher's and then with the decline of that trade into a news agency, and when that declined into an off licence and convenience store. So we have had to change with the times, but now I think the toughest fight of our lives is on. Everyone is attacking us from every direction, in every way."

He has made a list: scams, banks, suppliers, councils, criminals and employees. "I admit there are times when I wonder is this worth it?"

The business has had everything thrown at it, from floods, burglaries, demanding and disreputable suppliers, thefts, employees being assaulted and, most recently, a member of staff who stole £30,000 from them over a three-year period.

This grand theft involved the Lottery. "A simple check that we overlooked enabled her to do this, but fortunately we had a very good audit trail in place," says Steve. But he, his wife and their daughter had to check some 530 shifts and thousands of transactions and had to take Camelot to the Crown Court in order to get the information to do this.

It took two years of hard work and the lady went to prison for three months, of which she served six weeks.

The only bright side was the support from the police and main supplier Blakemore's, and AXA insurance, whom Steve says he would recommend to anyone.

And he adds that they only stay in business "because we love it...thank goodness".

Steve first contacted me because it looks as though the business is now being taken to the cleaners by a London-based ratings 'consultancy'. I've put Steve on to Ken Batty, my trusted ratings expert in Preston, who thinks he can get him off the hook.

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