Counter culture: The cost of living crisis, covid and crime through the eyes of estate shopkeepers

They helped keep their customers going during lockdown, fought off burglars, robbers and the big supermarkets and are now battling the cost living crisis. Our local shopkeepers are often the unsung heroes of our communities – and over the last two years we’ve relied on them more than ever.

Now they’re facing the twin challenge of soaring food and energy prices and are witnessing first-hand the impact that’s having on their customers. Here we get the view from behind the counter….

READ MORE: ‘I was born poor and it looks like I’m going to die poor’: The hard reality of the cost of living crisis on the estate with a motorway in the middle

Taranjit and Manprit Randhawa

Taranjit and Manprit Randhawa51 and 49, own Dill’s Convenience Store on Reddish Lane in Gorton

Taranjit said: “I was born in India but came to Manchester when I was three. I worked in my dad’s sock factory in Longsight for 16 years, then I did 15 years for Tesco as a manager in Burnage and Didsbury.

“I got fed up working for someone else. I thought if I’m working all those hours I want to be doing it for myself. We bought this place seven years ago.

“People said ‘don’t move to Gorton. But we like it here. We’ve never had any problems. People are friendly here. You get the odd idiot who thinks they are above it all, but mostly we get on with everyone .

“Prices are going up. Milk’s gone up from £1 to £1.15 recently. But customers aren’t complaining too much. I think they know it’s happening everywhere.

“But it’s shocking how much prices are rising. We’ve put all our fridges on timers, so they’re not on all night to try and reduce the electricity bills.

“We only buy milk that we know we’ll sell that day, so it’s not in the fridge overnight. You see customers coming in more regularly with the electricity cards, putting £10, £20 on because it’s not lasting as long.

“There’s a pensioner that lives across the road. He said to me he wears two jumpers, a jacket and his dressing gown when he’s in the house, just to save on electric.

“Being a shopkeeper is not an easy way to make a living, but it’s a good way. I’m here from 6am to 9pm six days a week. We are proud of what we have achieved. We came from zero to being self sufficient .

“Quite a lot of youngsters nowadays don’t want to make the sacrifices we’ve made. But you cannot have time and make a good living.

“But we show our values ​​to our children so they respect it. They know what we have been through. We say to them ‘We are doing this so you don’t have to’.”

Kevin Chapman

Kevin Chapman, 50, owns best-one convenience store on Moston Lane East in New Moston

“I’ve been in the trade 30 years. I’m originally from Audenshaw. I was a paper lad at 11, then started working behind the counter and when I was 18 I managed a shop for the guy who I was a paper lad for.

“When I was 24 I went back to the original shop in Audenshaw and bought it. In November 2020 I sold that shop after 25 years, but I was missing the trade so much I came back and bought this.

“It’s got harder over the years with the little Co-ops and Tesco Extras opening up everywhere. You have to change with the times and match your prices to what the likes of Tesco are doing.

“I’m only 50 but I’ve done a lot of years, but I still enjoy it. It’s meeting people. Everyone who comes through the door is a different.

“It’s having the banter with them. Some days I’m a Leeds fan, some days I’m a Newcastle fan – even though I’m a United fan really.

“You get your characters in every area, but it’s alright round here. People hear Moston and because over the years Moston has built up a bit of reputation, they think it’s a bit rough, but I’ve never had any problems.

“I thought covid was a load of b******** at first, but I caught it in January 2021. I lost three stone. I didn’t end up in hospital, but I probably should have.

“It took me six weeks before I could walk up the stairs without being out of breath. I used to walk the dog six to eight miles easy, now after two or three miles I’m gassed.

“I’ve been robbed a few times, had a gun pointed at me. When I was about 28-29 I got a bit of a kicking. I was opening up at 5.30am, and these guys came. I thought it was someone messing about, but one of them had a gun. I pushed him out of the way.

“Dot, an old lady who worked at the bakery next door, was outside waiting like she did every morning. She hit one of them with her handbag.

“They grabbed me and pushed me behind the counter. I had a busted nose by this point. I went to get my bat and tried to hit him and that’s when he tried to stab me. Luckily I had leather jacket on and it went through the side and didn’t get me. It was in the Evening News.

“I was back in work the next day at 5.30am, because it’s my livelihood and you can’t let them beat you, but it shook me up for a long time. Even now if it’s late at night and the door bangs I’ m a bit jumpy.

“One of the good things to come out of covid is most shops have got a lot less cash now because everyone uses cards. I’m only 50 per cent cash now. When I speak to people in the trade you don’t hear of many shops getting robbed over the last year or so.”

Rashid Hussain

Rashid Hussain, 31, has worked in Mike’s Newsagents on Fairfield Road in Droylsden for the last 10 years

“I know all the people round here. I’m always talking to them. They have a life, they tell me their stories, I tell them mine – it passes the time.

“We talk about prices going up, that’s what everyone’s talking about at the minute. A can of Coke’s gone from 50p to 80p, biscuits are going up, the newspapers. Every time the price goes up people are complaining.

“I was here every day during lockdown. It was crazy. We ran out of stock, we couldn’t replace things and the shop was really busy.

“I caught covid twice, I had to have 10 days off work both times. It wasn’t too bad. The second time I felt ill for a couple of days, but I’m still not 100 per cent now.

“Once two guys came in with a gun. The first time there was only one worker here. They took cigs and about £500. Then about a week later they came back.

“This time there were three people behind the counter. My uncle, who owns the shop, he challenged them. He chased them out. I was outside having a smoke. He shouted at me ‘Come on let’s get the b**** ***.

“I didn’t know what was going on. I ran after them then saw one of them trying to hide behind a car. He turned and showed me the gun. I didn’t know if it was real or not, so I stop chasing him.

“It was hard when it happened. It was just shock. If it happens again and there’s only one of them I might challenge them, but if there’s two or three I’ll just say ‘No trouble’ and step away.”

Raj Pushparajah

Raj Pushparajah, 33, part owns Bright Corner convenience store on Weaste Lane, Salford

“I used to to work here and now I own it. I live local, it’s a nice family area. The prices going up are affecting us. You see people have got less money to spend.

“When I go to the cash and carry everything is going up, cigarette prices are going up all the time. Some customers complain, so we are having to explain to them that it’s not us that’s putting the prices up, but most people know. They know all about it.

“Our energy bill is going up by 54 per cent. You have to pay these bills, but it’s coming out of the shop’s profit.

“Coronavirus was a lot of pressure. You couldn’t get stock anywhere, People were asking for things and we just couldn’t get it. It was hard.

“I got covid last year. I don’t know where I caught it, but it was probably in the shop. We’ve always been really careful. We put screens up straight away. I was OK with it, but it put a a lot of stress on my partner, having to work more hours to cover me.

“We have a lot of regulars who we know their names, they know my name. It’s really friendly. But sometimes we get the odd person coming in drunk. That’s the worst bit of the job.

“We had a break-in once about 1-2am. They took 75 per cent of the cigarettes. It was about £5-6,000 worth. It was a nightmare. The insurance would only cover about half.”

Prince Saran

Prince Saran, 25, works at the Paresh Newsagents on Broad Street in Pendleton, Salford

“I moved from Punjab in India to London about three years ago, then I came to Salford about a year ago because I have friends here. I like it a lot better than London. It’s quieter and calmer here and London’s expensive.

“I like to sit in Peel Park when the weather’s nice and read. It’s really nice there. I started work here about a year ago. I like it. It’s not a tough job.

“The best part of it is meeting people, different people all the time. It’s a university area, the university is a five minute walk away, so we get lots of students in here, people from all over the world, Nigerians, Romanians. It’s really interesting. They come in and talk with me and share their views.

“Prices are going up all the time. The milkshake Yazoo has just gone up from £1 to £1.15p. Sometimes people complain because it’s going up so much.

“Sometimes I show them the invoices so they can see it’s not us putting the prices up, or I say go on the website and check. I’m learning many things regarding business working here. I hope one day to have my own business. “

Read more: Mum’s Jamaican dumplings and vegan delights – why Ardwick’s ARMR Store is far more than just a cafe

Also read: The Park: The Greater Manchester ‘workers’ village’ that was ‘like an island’ – now only a couple of streets are left

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