'I haven't had a real day off since the pandemic'

Justiin Fenn of Londis St Peter's Road Great Yarmouth

Great Yarmouth convenience store owner Justin Fenn has shared the challenges of running a shop during the pandemic. - Credit: Liz Coates

Justin Fenn has been a familiar face at the Londis corner shop he now owns for 20 years.

In fact on any day of the week  he is likely to be there dealing with the parade of problems that come with the retail territory.

He says he is proud to have stayed open during the pandemic serving the community around St Peter's Road in Great Yarmouth.

Having been a lifeline during the first lockdown sales have noticeably dipped as people change their shopping habits, there are huge problems with supplies and obtaining staff - he is currently three down - and basically the buck stops with him.

If someone is off sick, holidays need covering, or there is an issue to be resolved he is the only one to step in - there is no-one else.

It all  means the 39-year-old from Bradwell has not had a real day off since the first lockdown, and he hasn't had a day off in the week for some 15 years.

Londis St Peter's Road

The Londis store in St Peter's Road is still busy but trade has dipped during the pandemic with a shortage of products and staff adding to the challenges for owner Justin Fenn. - Credit: Google Maps

"I am very grateful we have been able to stay open," he said.

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"I cannot just close and it is my responsibility to keep everyone fed, the staff need their wages.

Justin Fenn Londis Great Yarmouth

Staff shortages have seen Justin Fenn working all hours at his shop in Great Yarmouth during the pandemic as he tries to balance the needs of customers with being fair to those who work for him. - Credit: Liz Coates

"You can only ask so much of them. They are already overworked and go above and beyond. I could not run the store without them. They need time off and I do not have anyone else to fill the gap.

"The trouble is my shop is always open 7am to 10pm every day. It does not go away.

"I do not think I am anything special, lots of other people must be doing the same and I am not complaining. You get used to it.

"In the past year I have worked the most hours I have ever done. For me and my business it has just got horrendous. There is  not enough staff to go round.

"This place never goes away. It is like having 13 children and they all have needs and I am the only one they can come to."

He said he had had one weekday off in 15 years and never more than two days away.

He believes his story is common among shopkeepers, a double-whammy of Covid and Brexit conspiring against businesses leading to shortages across the board which all have a knock-on effect.