A hard-working newsagent whose store was looted and torched has been left scared and sickened after thugs who stole scratchcards went to his other store to collect their ‘winnings’.
Devastated Ismal Patel, a father of six, learned this week that the cost of repairing the damage to City Centre Newsagents in Pendleton Way, Salford, would cost in the region of £80,000-£90,000 but his insurance only covers him up to £25,000.
The grim news has left Patel fearing he may never reopen. “I don’t know how I can get back on my feet,” he told The Grocer.
His shop was targeted by 100 youths who ripped open the shutters and made off with £24,000 of cigarettes and £1,800 of scratchcards. Fridges were smashed, the CCTV system ripped out and the magazine section set alight damaging the store and all the stock upstairs.
Patel, who owns a second store in the same precinct that was left unscathed, also revealed that, sickeningly, looters tried to claim back ‘winnings’.
A middle-aged woman tried to collect £50 from a scratchcard stolen from his burnt-out shop, and many others tried to claim winnings of as little as £2.
Fortunately, Patel had logged the serial numbers of the scratchcards manually and alerted Camelot to the theft when he found the empty dispenser smashed and abandoned outside his shop.
“She tried to cash in £50 and said she’d won the prize,” the newsagent said. “We said, ‘You have to ring Camelot’. She was argumentative and said she had bought it from the other shop. I said, ‘That shop is closed now’.”
A Camelot spokeswoman said retailers should contact them as soon as they were aware that scratchcards had been stolen. “There are serial numbers that tell us the batch. The retailer scans the barcode and will get a message that says contact Camelot to claim a prize. When we research the claim, it comes up on our system as reported stolen.”
A shocked Patel is still struggling to digest events. “Mostly orderly people come to my shop and we are friendly with them. When I came back at 7am the next day and everything had been taken I was completely broken.
“It’s left me frightened. We were closed [when it took place], but as my son said, what about next time if we are trading? Now this has happened everything is on your mind. Are you safe? You are constantly looking out.
“It’s affected my family. Every day when I wake up it’s stressful. It’s bad. I might not re-open.”
Patel, who uses Batley’s and Booker, has been offered support from the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, of which he is a member.
NFRN retail development manager Chris Vickers, who helped Patel with the clean-up, said: “It has been completely trashed internally and the unit he showed me was an acrid-smelling, burnt-out, filthy, puddled mess. He will need a great deal of support to rebuild this business.”