Retailer Anna Patel, owner of Star News in Nottingham, has been forced to sell her shop after losing thousands of pounds over 20 years as a result of illicit tobacco.
Following continued failed responses from trading standards and the police, Patel has decided “enough is enough”.
“The worst part is it’s just so openly done,” she said. “We used to see vans delivering the illegal goods outside the suspected shops. I was selling four times more tobacco in the 1980s. I used to need to go to the cash and carry several times during the week, now I only need to go once, which says a lot.”
In an effort to tackle the crime going on outside her doorstep, Patel decided to take matters into her own hands. “We went undercover a few years ago,” she said. “We approached the delivery drivers and told them we knew what they were doing, and they suggested we met at a local hotel.
“We didn’t realise it was a dangerous thing to be getting involved in,” she added. “I was nervous, but brought another shopkeeper with me.
“We told the police everything, but they said they couldn’t do anything because they couldn’t trace the van. I lost all faith.”
Today, the shops in question have shut, but the problem persists. “I know it’s still going on,” she said. “I have people coming in and asking whether I sell cigarettes for a fiver. I tell them to get lost.”
The illicit trade continues to take custom away from Patel’s store. “I’m fed up with it,” she said. “Every day I serve fewer and fewer customers, because they are going elsewhere for cheaper, illegal products. I have no choice but to sell up.
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