“Life is unfair,” John Fitzgerald Kennedy famously said while he was president of the USA (and a year before he was shot dead, thus proving how right he was).
I was reminded of this when I spoke to Londis retailer Lakhu Keshwara, who has traded successfully for 27 years in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. He was happy with his business his customers happy with the service. Happy all round.
Then along comes Tesco. Well, not quite. Along comes One Stop (so Tesco in all but name) with Lakhu’s Londis firmly in its sights.
He says he saw no planning application in the local paper. What he did see was the shop two doors down that used to be a chemist, then a motorcycle spares place, then a 90p shop, morph into a Tesco One Stop. The irony is that he could have bought the place had he known it was on the market.
The One Stop is more or less the same size and sells more or less the same stuff: licensed goods, lottery, ATM, newspapers, general groceries.
“There is not sufficient trade here for two shops. Why did they come here?” he asks. “Just to wipe me out?”
It’s a good point. Since the place opened five weeks ago, Lakhu’s turnover has gone down by 40%. “It’s new so people are having a look.”
His Londis area manager reckons it will even out at a 20-30% loss (probably because Lakhu has a good rapport with his customers).
“I wrote to them just before they opened and told them there is not room for two.”
He also wrote to his MP, who said it was down to the local council. The council has not replied to his letters.
Now he will have to lose two members of staff doing 12 hours a week each.
He concludes: “I am going to fight back with every ounce. We are watching each other every step of the way. The elderly are sticking by me left, right and centre.”