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The High Street



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20 OCT 2009
Greengrocer's shop
Address: 46, Shirley High St
Years on the street: 32
Number of staff: Eight
Co-owner: Phil Rolf, 42
Company service: 16 years

At the greengrocers, it's been a difficult year. "Challenging", says owner Phil Rolf. He says people are changing the way they're shopping, moving away from the traditional high street to supermarket shops.

But he says the weak pound and poor crops last year contributed to high prices.

"This year we had a good summer and early signs are crops are looking good so prices are quite low, but rent and rates have gone up. And it's all the other little taxes the government manages to sneak in, like extra money to get rid of your rubbish."

He has to pay for landfill waste and for a cardboard collection. He says the KFC next door is closing after about 25 years because it just can't keep pace with all the changes in regulations and bureaucracy.

The new 99p Stores has also squeezed his non-fruit and veg business. They can afford to sell lines like biscuits and crisps cheaper than he can.

"People might think things are better now because shops are taking on more staff for Christmas…after Christmas it will be a different story.

"Personally I don't think it will ever be the same as before. I don't think we will have a recovery.

26 JAN 2009

"The cost of imports is having an effect. I've got three choices: I don't buy imports; I buy them and don't put any mark-up on them; I buy them, put a mark-up on them, and don't sell them."

21 NOV 2008

Phil Rolf, 42, has worked at Jim Rolf's greengrocers for 28 years. He is still feeling optimistic about his business, with October's takings up on the same month last year, although costs are higher too.

But one new threat is that shoppers are deserting the High Street to do their Christmas shopping in Southampton city centre.

"To be honest this isn't the best time of year for us. Saturday is our biggest day and if you lose 10-20% of that, it's quite hard," he says.

There are fears deflation may be the next problem to strike the British economy, but Mr Rolf says he doesn't think lowering prices is a good move for businessmen.

Phil Rolf, greengrocer
Job losses have hit everyone, says Mr Rolf

"They're saying firms will cut prices to try and get more business but that's the wrong way of thinking. If you're making half the profit you have to sell twice as much to break even, which involves more labour costs."

Everyone knows someone who has been made redundant now, he says, with job losses at Southampton port and at Maritime Transport, and the Ford Transit factory about to close for a month in December.

6 OCT 2008

Phil Rolf worked first for his father Jim and then for himself.

"The last two years have probably been the best we've ever had, but that's because we're really making a real effort, we're not just doing what we've always done. I've made us more efficient. I've just switched energy deals and we've doubled our product range so we can cater for a bigger audience.

"I have had to put up my prices because everything costs more for me to buy. Eggs, for example, have probably gone up about 25%. And we import fruit and veg so we're affected by the weak pound."

"I've had to look at everything we do to see where we can save, otherwise I think we would be struggling. The annoying thing is there are still things you can't control like the price of diesel. So you're doing everything you can, but you're still standing still."

He is actually optimistic about the impact of a recession.

"I think what this time will do is weed out the rubbish. The good businesses will survive and get stronger and the rubbish will disappear. I think the economy needs that."



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