Leyland shopkeepers in their 70s "abused" for trying to ensure there is enough stock for everybody

David Brindle and his wife Margaret are seeing are stream of new faces coming through the doors their convenience store in Leyland.

Many of them have scoured their usual supermarkets and found them short of even the basic staples that in normal times are almost guaranteed to be in stock.

David and Margaret Brindle, pictured last year at their Costcutter store on School Lane

David and Margaret Brindle, pictured last year at their Costcutter store on School Lane

At the independently-run Costcutter store on School Lane, the Brindles are also battling to keep up with demand. David says that their use of local suppliers for essentials like eggs and milk is now paying dividends – but he warns that product availability is still threatened by the nation’s newfound instinct for a panicked purchase.

“We’re restricting some of the items people buy, so that there is enough for everybody – but we are getting abused for it sometimes.

“We had one customer bring six packs of toilet roll to the counter. She said two were for her, two for her daughter and two for where she works – but where does the place she works usually get its toilet paper?

“It’s the same with bread – a lot of people go out to work before the bread van comes, so if we let people take whatever they want during the day, there’d be none left for others later.

The Curious Cafe is closed for now (image: Google)

The Curious Cafe is closed for now (image: Google)

“We’re trying to fulfil the needs of the whole community, but we’re trying our very best to look after our regular customers – they’re our priority,” David explains.

Customers are being told to use their own initiative and common sense when it comes to the need for social distancing in the aisles – not just for their own benefit, but for the local shopkeepers on whom they are increasingly coming to rely.

At aged 73 and 70 respectively, David and Margaret should, according to government advice, be reducing social contact with others.

But David says that in spite of their hardworking staff and his son Stephen making regular trips to the cash and carry, there is “not a cat in hell’s chance” that the couple – whose family has operated the business for six decades – could stay at home and keep the shop trading.

“All I’d ask is that, in future, people remember where it was that they got what they needed – and remember that we’re here all the time.”

Half a mile across town and also tentatively looking to the future is Joanne Osborn, who took the tough decision at the start of the week to pull down the shutters – for now – on the eaterie that she has been running with her niece for nearly five years.

She says that once the government announced at the start of the week that people should be avoiding restaurants and pubs, she had little choice but to close The Curious Cafe on Chapel Brow.

“We don’t open on a Monday or Tuesday, so we had 24 hours to make a decision.

“We could have limped on until Mother’s Day, but on reflection, we just couldn’t do it. We have a lot of elderly people who visit us and the protection of all our customers and staff made the final decision for us.

“But it was really hard and very emotional when we put those posters up in the window saying we were closing,” adds Joanne, who has recently been diagnosed with a chest condition.

She says that the family will pull together during the difficult months ahead while the cafe remains closed, but – at this stage – believes that the government will “come through for small businesses”.

Earlier this week a support package was announced which will see firms of all sizes able to access government-backed loans and smaller companies eligible for grants of up £25,000. Various sectors will also be entitled to a year-long business rates holiday.

Meanwhile, Joanne says that she has been overwhelmed with “heart-warming messages” from the customers that she is currently unable to serve.

“Many of these people have become friends – we want to see them.

“But our intention is that we will back when this is all over – we certainly want to carry on.”