When Kamrul Hasan was looking to expand his business and add another shop to his first store in Bethnal Green, he chose Old Kent Road.
“I looked everywhere but I found the Old Kent Road was best for me” says Kamrul.
Pound Plus & DIY is one of those handy stores that every high street needs. It’s a cornucopia of DIY, tools, household goods and everyday bits and pieces. It even does key cutting.
Kamrul chose Old Kent Road because it’s one of London’s most important routes.
“Being based on a very busy road, with a big, multi-cultural community is good for business” he explains. “It’s opposite the mosque too. They have a lot of worshippers, particularly on Fridays. I use it myself and I get a lot of customers from there.”
The shop, which dates from the 70s, has been home to a variety of retailers over the years. It stands alone, on the corner with Rowcross Street, but now finds itself on the edge of one of Old Kent Road’s largest building schemes – the redevelopment of Southernwood Retail Park. And, if the Bakerloo line extension goes ahead, it will be just a few yards from a major new tube station too.
The massive changes around the shop will undoubtedly impact Kamrul’s business and, although several years away, he’s looking forward to what redevelopment will bring.
“My lease runs for another ten years and so I’ll start to see the changes. Some of my customers are already excited about what’s happening. They’ve told me business will pick up with the opening of the underground at Tesco’s.”
“Here, in this building, we’re a bit cut-off from the other local shops. Currently, transport links are very poor and that has a big effect. It means customers can’t easily travel from one place to another. But if you had the tube station – all the local shops would become more accessible. The Bakerloo line will really elevate this area. I’m happy to put-up with disruption to get the extension.”
Kamrul, who is married with five children, opened his first shop not long after coming to Britain from Sylhet, Bangladesh in 1995. He believes that what’s happening in Old Kent Road will mainly benefit the next generation. He says: “The new generation is not like the last, they prefer shopping online. They like collection-only but, still, I think my shop could be a good collection point”
Kamrul is also optimistic about the new hotel planned for Southernwood. He says: “It will be a great thing for Old Kent Road. It’s close to Tower Bridge – so good for tourists – and it will bring a lot of people to the area. It’s a good idea and I’m very happy about it.”
When it comes to the local retail offer, Kamrul would like to see a better balance between big name supermarkets and smaller, independent operators. “There are too many supermarkets” he says. “It’s all one type of business: Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, and Iceland. People would like to see another focus. There could be one or two supermarkets but I’d like to see more places to eat out; more proper restaurants and possibly a cinema. These things are important.”
Ultimately, he says: “I’m proud to be here on the Old Kent Road, especially at a time when all this development is happening.”