The word on the street
Published:  29 January, 2008

The old hand: Dave Banks, Fairview Off

Licence,

Gillingham

"We've been here for 17 years and the past year has been our worst

ever. We're down by about 20 per cent.

"Having the poor summer has not helped, and Christmas is dead now - for us it's just like a busy weekend. We've got a big Sava centre and Tesco near us, and the offers they have are too ridiculous for words. Tesco was offering a litre of Baileys for £8 - and I charge £12.50 for a bottle.

"We don't do any offers. We've tried all that and it just doesn't work. Our main strength is selection: we've got a huge

range of wine for a small shop and a good selection of lagers and bottled ales,

as well as eight chillers. It's a good area, and quite affluent.

"I think it's going to get worse. If someone asked if it was worth getting involved in the independent off-trade now I would say definitely not.

"I think you've got to be a convenience store as well, which is going to cut down people's choice in the end. Consumers are going to be limited to whatever Tesco and Sainsbury's sell, and what the convenience stores can fit in."

The new kid on the block: Rachel Foster,

Moonshine, North Walsham, Norfolk

"It's our first year of trading. The forecast is dubious: with the economy the way it is, everybody is struggling. We're certainly not getting rich

- customers don't have so much disposable income anymore. Our main issue is we've got a bloody great Sainsbury's behind us and some of the deals they are doing we can't begin to compete with, so we don't bother any more.

"I don't think we ever thought it was going to be easy. I've been in retail for the past 10 years, and my partner

had worked in logistics for 13 years, and we had an opportunity to buy an old Unwins in the middle of

town.

"We specialise in local

and international beers as well, but we're not a wine merchant. We try not to do what the supermarkets do, but we don't offer top-end wines. We're a mix and match of everything, which is really what this town needs. It's not an affluent town and people don't have large amounts of money.

"You're certainly not going to get rich by being an average off-licence, which is why we're doing international beers that you can't buy in supermarkets and speciality whiskies

- that kind of thing.

"If you're an average off-licence only selling things you can easily buy in supermarkets, you would be dead in the water.

"Some of our neighbours, the greengrocer and sweet shop, are really struggling to compete with supermarkets. We're all on dodgy ground."




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