Big stores forced us out of business

Aldcilffe Stores on Aldcliffe Place, Lancaster, which closed on Saturday.
Aldcilffe Stores on Aldcliffe Place, Lancaster, which closed on Saturday.

Crippling competition from city centre supermarkets has forced the owners of a longstanding Lancaster business to shut up shop.

Keith and Helen Clokey shut Aldcliffe Stores last week blaming the Tesco Express in King Street and Sainsburys Local in Penny Street for a 25 - 30 per cent drop in trade.

Lancaster residents and some councillors expressed grave concerns about the affect that Tesco, which opened in 2011, and Sainsburys, which opened in 2012, would have on independent businesses when they were given planning consent.

Mr Clokey said his business, in Aldcliffe Road, had now become unfeasible, and the couple closed the shop for the last time after eight years on Saturday.

He said: “It was our first venture in this kind of business and I put everything I had into it.

“The shop has been a centre of the community for a long time, longer than people can remember, and our staff are gutted.

“We were fine before Tesco arrived, but it started to become difficult, and then even harder when Sainsburys moved in.

“The supermarkets are a global brand, they’re bigger, and they offer very competetive pricing because of their buying power, and they put deals on that I just can’t compete with.

“It’s sad, this is what is happening up and down the country. It’s been a constant battle.”

One city centre trader that seems to have bucked this trend however is Single Step Wholefoods in Penny Street.

The shop is run as a co-op, owned equally by six individual members, who pay themselves a wage and then put any other profits into keeping prices low.

Jim Turner, one of the members said: “I can totally understand what has happened (with Aldcliffe Stores).

“We were worried about it when they moved up here, but we’re not actually doing too bad.

“In fact sales have gone up.

“I think we’re growing a reputation for quality, and actually our veg and other items are cheaper.

“The supermarkets are trying to muscle in on the local market, but for us, we have a very loyal clientelle.”

Mr Clokey however, who trades away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, said he was now having to sell his shop, but added that it could still be a business opportunity for someone else.

“I had over 10 local suppliers that will also be affected by this and obviously the supermarkets don’t sell local products”, he added.

“A lot of our loyal customers have been very disappointed, but we’ve had no choice.

“We just want to say a big thank you to all our staff and customers who have supported us over the years.”