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Local legend living in fear

Natalie Lightfoot

Londis Solo Convenience owner Natalie Lightfoot speaks out on the lasting effects of retail crime.


There was an undeniable buzz about Baillieston last month as people celebrated the second annual Main Street Pavement Festival, organised by Londis Solo Convenience owner Natalie Lightfoot. Locals tucked into barbecued sausages, whilst little ones’ faces twinkled with freshly applied glitter tattoos.

Originally from Bedford, Natalie has been running the 650sq ft store since 2007, where her passion for both retailing and her community has breathed life into the working-class suburb of Glasgow. Her close ties with numerous suppliers mean the store is famous for its ability to source all the latest new products, and there were freebies aplenty at the festival, as well as an impressive array of raffle prizes. Funds from raffle tickets sold at the 2023 Festival were combined with money raised from a Londis team bungee jump, which took place the following month, resulting in thousands of pounds donated to Beatson Cancer Charity, British Heart Foundation and Versus Arthritis charities, and this year all funds raised from the raffle are going to Beatson.

Naturally, the charities involved in these fundraisers are immensely grateful to the store, but arguably the biggest beneficiaries of community events such as this are the town’s residents who come together and bond over the shared experience.

The festival is one of the highlights in a calendar of events supported by the store. Last Halloween, Natalie even donned a moustache as she dressed up as Captain Hook, while husband Martin wore a fetching pair of green shorts as Peter Pan. The front of the store was turned into a Neverland pirate ship, thanks to Martin’s handiwork with some old crates, and kids were treated to hundreds of toffee apples and packs of sweets.

But as we all know, life is far from a fairytale and the shop has supported locals during more challenging times too. Natalie partnered with a local pub and coffee shop to create care packages for the elderly during the pandemic, as well as setting up a delivery service via Snappy Shopper.

Meanwhile, her latest project saw her distributing sanitary products to local groups Sandyhills Larder, FARE and Community of Helping Hands, in addition to leaving boxes of these items in local cafe toilets with a QR code encouraging users to ‘pay it forward’ and make a donation to fund more sanitary products.

Knowing how driven Natalie is to help others and seeing how the store has become a beacon of hope in the community, it is hard to understand how anyone could wish to damage the business or harm its staff. But devastatingly, crime is very much a regular occurrence for Natalie and her team.

As all convenience retailers are only too aware, crime numbers have risen dramatically in recent times, with the latest Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) report highlighting that the cost of retail crime reached an eye-watering £62.9m in 2023/24 – an amount which the trade association claims is crippling the sector. What’s more, nine out of every 10 stores report that violence against staff occurs at least once a week, while over half experience daily incidents of abuse when refusing a sale or asking for proof of age.

What is perhaps harder still to understand is that businesses like Natalie’s are not being supported when facing this onslaught of abuse and violence.

“Self-employed people are forgotten about with mental health,” she says. “We’re not well protected.”

In fact, Natalie herself suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, brought on by two break-ins at the store eight years ago, which took place just 20 days apart. “It’s not just a case of how much money we lost,” says Natalie. “If it was just a certain figure then it would be a financial worry, but it’s not just about quantifying it in material terms, this has had a much bigger effect.”

She claims that the incidents have left her with lasting anxiety, haunted by the fear of finding intruders in the store. “I would struggle now to open the shop on my own,” she concedes. “I walked in and the back of the shop had been completely torn apart, I was worried someone might still be in the store.”

In addition to the ongoing fear of attack, there was the devastation of having to build back the business she had dedicated her life to for almost a decade and the humiliation and frustration of having to ask her nearest and dearest for help because the insurance wouldn’t cover the damage. “There was the anger of how unfair it was,” she explains. “I had to go to all my friends and family asking for support.”

Reviewing CCTV, she was horrified at the ease at which the criminals gained access to the building and the brazenness of their behaviour. “The shutter was like a rolled can of tuna,” she says. “I have video of them picking the spirits, a mobile phone burner on the side – trying to top up an electric key,” she states, clearly still visibly enraged at the sickening thought of what happened.

And it isn’t just Natalie who has been impacted by crime in the workplace, her team have also suffered at the hands of criminals. “We get violent, abusive physical behaviour,” she says. “It has a knock-on effect on your self-confidence. We don’t leave it in the office.”

One of her staff was attacked after work by two girls she had previously asked to leave the store because they were pestering customers for money. “She got charged upon at the bus stop on the way home,” says Natalie. Thankfully, they didn’t manage to injure her because a man nearby rushed to her defence, but mentally, the poor woman was in turmoil. “That night, she rang me and said she can’t work in the evenings, she said ‘I can’t do this anymore’,” recalls Natalie.

The girls are well-known troublemakers in the local area and are even alleged to have attacked a pregnant woman with a screwdriver, and yet zero action has been taken as a result of their attack on Natalie’s staff member. “We reported it to the police and we’ve not heard anything,” she says. “They came to the store, took her details and then nothing happened.”

Sadly, this is an all too familiar experience for retailers across Scotland, and indeed the UK. “We get forgotten about,” says Natalie. “In this field, being self-employed, there’s no support. The view is that we chose this job, and that violence and abuse is just part of it.”

Natalie discussed retail crime with SNP candidate David Linden in the run up to the General Election

Angered by her experiences and those of her staff and peers, Natalie was prepared to share her trauma with Members of the Scottish Parliament at the SGF’s Cross-Party Group for Independent Convenience Stores, last month. The meeting was set to give Holyrood a genuine insight into the damage caused to the convenience sector by retail crime. After months of preparing for the meeting – inducing nerves not only at the thought of public speaking, but due to the mental anguish of having to revisit such incredibly stressful situations – Natalie found out whilst on the train journey to attend the meeting that it had been cancelled. Regardless of the reasons why, it’s hard to shift the feeling that independent retailers are being overlooked, yet again.

But being the inspirational retail leader she is, Natalie knows that staying quiet isn’t an option. “This affects our own lives beyond just our livelihood,” says Natalie. “As independent business owners, we get painted as fat cats. MSPs have lost touch with real life, sometimes you need to shock them back to reality.”

In the run-up to the general election, Natalie met with Glasgow East SNP candidate David Linden to discuss the need for greater support on retail crime and abuse against shopworkers.

She is hopeful that she will get the chance to raise these crucial issues at the next Cross-Party meeting on Tuesday 17 September.

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This publication contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under the age of 18 years old.

This website contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under 18 years of age.

This website contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under 18 years of age.

This publication contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under the age of 18 years old.