OUTRAGED residents have launched a letter-writing campaign to Co-op bosses who they say are forcing the closure of a popular Stafford newsagents.
Mohammed Ali, aged 39, and his sister Yasmin Bi, 30, have run the Wildwood newsagents for six years in premises that have housed a newsagency since the Wildwood shops were built 40 years ago.
But they have now been given notice to quit by the summer by the Central Midlands Co-op because the supermarket wants the space to expand its own business.
However the Co-op does not run a paper delivery service, and Mr Ali says the move would leave more than 300 customers high and dry, including frail elderly people who depend on their paper delivery.
It means a financial disaster for the family, who invested £80,000 from the pension pot of Mr Ali’s father to buy the business.
“The notice to quit came out of the blue this spring,” Mr Ali said. “The Co-op haven’t made any offer to buy us out, and the short notice means we don’t have any time to find alternative premises.”
He said he had been seeking assurances about renewing the lease on his shop since 2011.
“I was told verbally that the lease would be renewed, and was shown a draft letter saying that they were happy to give me a lease for another 10 years,” Mr Ali said.
“When nothing happened I started phoning them last autumn, then finally the letter arrived saying they were no longer continuing the lease and giving us six months’ notice.
“It is so upsetting. We really feel we are part of this community.The Co-op claim to be community-minded and different from other supermarkets, but here they are forcing out a small, independent business.”
His sister Mrs Bi added that a bigger supermarket would be no substitute for the personal service of a local newsagents.
“We know a lot of our customers by their first names, and if someone we know comes in without their purse we’ll let them pay next time,” she said.
Resident Janet Palmer, of Greenfield Road, said: “The Co-op like to call themselves ‘the ethical retailer’ but their treatment of a successful local businessman and the needs of the local community does not support this claim. One would have thought that with their bad press nationally at the moment, the Co-op would support the local community.”
A spokeswoman from Central England Co-operative said:
“Central England Co-operative will be investing almost £1million into the store in the Wildwood Centre to provide a better customer experience. This investment will result in a wider product range and additional employment opportunities.
“As a result, Wildwood Newsagents will no longer be a part of this store.”