The UK’s brutal trading environment is stifling expansion and preventing The People’s Supermarket (TPS) from replicating the success of its Holborn store in other parts of the country, founder Kate Bull has revealed.
The reluctance by both banks and landlords to work with small businesses forced plans for a second TPS site in Hackney to be shelved last year, she told Convenience Store.
“We’d found the perfect site but we simply couldn’t negotiate on the rent and the banks were making it exceptionally difficult to get funding for the fit out so in the end we had to walk away from it which was a huge shame as the site is now just sitting there empty,” she said.
“We later found a second site in an old snooker hall just down the road which would have been perfect and in this case the landlord was very supportive, however, before we could sign on the dotted line Tesco came in and offered cash and we lost it.
“It’s a real sign of the times. The banks won’t lend, the landlords are holding out for Tesco, and independents and social enterprises like us can’t break the cycle.”
Business at TPS’ store in Holborn was buoyant, she added, with sales of fresh meats soaring due to the horsemeat scandal.
“Our policy has always been to concentrate on quality, fresh goods from trusted suppliers and, without sounding smug, we’ve been proved right. Sales of our fresh Devon meats have grown three-fold in the past month.”
Fresh fruit and vegetables, which are all sourced from within Europe, are also growing steadily and now account for more than 25% of the store’s takings, she said.
Bull also praised TPS’ relationship with AF Blakemore, and its Heart Distribution scheme, which had been particularly beneficial in helping TPS to manage and extend its local produce range.
“It allows us to stock a vast amount of locally produced goods without the challenges that can be associated with working with lots of different local suppliers,” she added.
“It fits our brief perfectly and allows us to stock a large amount of local products without any of the challenges that can be associated with working with lots of different local suppliers as orders, delivery and invoices are all consolidated,” she said. “There would be a huge opportunity for the local food and convenience sector if more schemes such as this were set up and more regional hubs for local produce developed.”