Bootleg tobacco and alcohol cost UK corner shops more than £20,000 each last year, putting many in jeopardy, research has revealed.
Corner shops face the axe
Over the last five years, tobacco and alcohol brought in by booze cruise Britons and smuggling rings has cost independent retailers nearly £250,000 each in lost sales.
Retailers claim that their sales have fallen further since the government last year relaxed limits on the amounts of tobacco and alcohol Britons could bring back to the UK.
The research, by trade magazine Independent Retail News, has prompted the government to promise to act to ease shopkeepers' plight.
Interviews with more than 500 independent UK retailers revealed that the sector lost a further £930m last year to bootleggers, with local stores losing an average of £20,696.
Our local stores cannot continue to haemorrhage cash on this scale out of their businesses and continue to stay open
Richard Siddle, editor, Independent Retail News
The worst affected area was the Midlands, where average losses averaged £37,885, with Welsh stores losing £31,139, and London shops £25,675.
The interviews also revealed that counterfeit cigarettes were still a serious problem, with 15% of retailers admitting that they had been offered illegal tobacco products in the last year.
"Local stores cannot continue to haemorrhage cash on this scale out of their businesses and continue to stay open," Richard Siddle, editor of Independent Retail News, said.
In particular, Mr Siddle identified the government's decision to increase by up to four times the amount of cigarettes and alcohol people can bring into the UK as giving a "green light to bootleggers to literally go and fill their boots".
In response, Customs Minister John Healey MP has promised action, but the research will come as a blow to the government at a time when it claims to be bringing smuggling under control.