At 6am on Monday, I spent an hour playing shopkeepers with my two-year-old daughter. It’s her favourite game and involves a trolley of plastic groceries, money, receipts and a till with a card reader and tannoy (“Daddy to checkout”).
I spent my early working life in retail too, and today Britain’s 279,000 shops employ 2.8 million people. Virtually all of the dozens of MPs and business speakers I’ve seen address independent retailers used Napoleon’s “nation of shopkeepers” quote in recognition of this.
So it was shocking to hear district judge Peter Hollingworth’s response to a request to bring harassment victim Deepa Patel to court at short notice. “It won’t be a problem,” he said. “She won’t be working anywhere important. She’ll only be working in a shop or an off licence.”
He resigned for his stereotyping, racist views, but there are other points that need raising.
As London newsagent Kamal Thaker states on the letters page, many independent business owners can’t drop everything and leave the shop because often there is no-one to cover for them. Shutting the shop would have serious consequences for customers and their livelihood. If Ms Patel was an employee in a shop, who would cover or is it down to the owner?
Many independent business owners can’t drop everything and leave the shop because often there is no-one to cover for them
Finally is his view that running a shop is a trivial job. He should meet some of the enterprising retailers we write about in RN every week, always looking for new business ideas. They possess the type of business knowledge, passed down through generations, that is rarely found in business classrooms.
According to reports, Judge Hollingsworth earns £120,000 a year and lives in a million pound house. He might be surprised to know that plenty of shopkeepers also manage to live comfortable lifestyles.