Popular Lower Earley newsagent to close in July – Asda accused of ‘bullying tactics’

12 staff will be relocated to other stores, but future of Post Office uncertain

ASDA has been accused of “bullying tactics” after a popular newsagent and Post Office announced it will close in July after 20 years.

The Martin’s shop in Chalfont Way in Lower Earley says the supermarket giant has doubled its monthly rent from £9,000 to £18,000.

It is hoped that the 12 staff – split between the Post Office and the newsagent – will be relocated to other stores.

But Liberal Democrat Councillor Clive Jones who represents Hawkedon Ward, said the closure means customers will have to travel to Wokingham or Reading for services such as passports.

He plans to ask Asda if it intends to take over Post Office services once Martin’s closes.

“I think Asda is using bullying tactics to close what is a vital and profitable business,” he said. “It is using muscle as part of the biggest retailer in the world to close Martin’s and I find that very distasteful.

“I spoke to the manager of the newsagent and he confirmed that the rent will double in July.

“It is a profitable business well used by the local community but doubling in rent means it will no longer be viable.

“Martin’s provides services such as currency exchange and passports which are not available at nearby Post Offices so that means a trek to Reading or Wokingham.”

Ramsey Mejri, who has been the manager at Martin’s for the past four years, said customers have been shocked to hear it will close in the summer.

“We deliver newspapers to over 180 people, mostly elderly. Customers have been saying how sad they are to hear we are closing and that they will miss us.

“We are hoping staff will be transferred but we will have to wait until nearer July before we know for certain.”

A number of readers contacted The Wokingham Paper after hearing about the closure. Local man Keith Starkey, 71, said people were worried other stores in the mall which rent from Asda could also be forced out by huge rent increases.

“I heard Boots is considering its future which would be a disaster. There is a pharmacy in Asda but its not as big or as good as Boots.

“My wife and I rely on Boots for regular medication as do many other people around here. What would we do if it closes?”

Another local who asked not to be named added: “It’s a shame Martin’s is closing. I get my papers from there and I like popping in for a chat. The staff are so friendly which is not something you always get from a big supermarket.

“Martin’s has been here for as long as I can remember. Its part of the community and I feel terrible for the staff in case they end up being made redundant.”

Cllr. Jones said he wanted a meeting with Asda “as soon as possible.”

“If Asda do take over the Post Office I want to know if that would be immediately or would there be a delay. I also want to ensure they put the Post Office at the entrance to the store, not at the back so customers end up spending money on other items.”

The Wokingham Paper contacted other business in the mall including Boots. All said they had no plans to close.

We have also contacted Asda for a statement.

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Phil Creighton

Editor of The Wokingham Paper, and has worked in local journalism for more than 20 years including the Wokingham Times, Bracknell Standard and Reading Evening Post. He's also written for computer magazines, The Baptist Times and, to his delight and probably not yours, interviewed several Doctor Whos.

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