Sainsbury’s threat fear for Welwyn Garden City pharmacy couple

AN INDEPENDENT pharmacy is under threat as supermarket bosses plan to use a legal loophole to open a rival dispensary in their new revamped store.

Despite assurances made to husband and wife team Uttam and Gita Amliwalla, who have run City Pharmacy in WGC for nearly 30 years, Sainsbury’s bosses have confirmed they plan to open an embedded pharmacy in their superstore.

With City Pharmacy on Church Road, just yards away from the new supermarket, the Amliwallas believe their business will collapse if this goes ahead.

Uttam Amilwalla said: “We asked them lots of times and they said they wouldn’t be having a pharmacy.

“Now we’re stunned. We’ve supported them and put up with the loss of trade while building work goes on.

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“This was a bombshell. It will kill our business.”

Sainsbury’s is using an exception meaning it can open the pharmacy, despite a thriving alternative being so close, as it plans to trade for more than 100 hours a week.

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MP Grant Shapps has thrown his weight behind the couple, praising the quality of service, diligence and dedication they have to their customers.

He said: “The direct competition of an in-house pharmacy would obviously be devastating to any local pharmacy.”

Mr Shapps has written to Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King to emphasise the devastating potential impact of this move and urge Sainsbury’s to withdraw its application.

Former Handside councillor Dr Dennis Lewis has also joined the fight, he said: “I’ve been an increasingly frequent customer of City Pharmacy over the years, and have seen at first hand how the quality of the service Gita and Uttam Amliwalla provide for our community. They’re committed to this, and after a full day’s work they voluntarily go around delivering medication to those who are too ill or frail to come to their shop themselves.”

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “We’ve submitted an application to Primary Care Trusts to provide pharmaceutical services from our new WGC store.

“Our commitment to provide these services in combination with our quality food offer is an integral part of our offer to local communities and we will continue our ongoing communication with City Pharmacy to ensure our offer is complementary to theirs to meet the increased demand for pharmacy services.

“The opening of the new store will also increase the number of visitors to the area to the benefit of neighbouring traders.”

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