A BUSINESS owner whose plans to open his premises in Penarth were scuppered by the pandemic has spoken about the challenges he has faced, and his hopes coming out of lockdown.

Pretesh Kerai, owner of Acorn Sports Podiatry, had planned to open his new premises on Stanwell Road in March, when the UK went into lockdown.

“It was tough and very frustrating,” he said, “but we understood it was necessary and just bad luck really.”

The business, established 30 years ago, also offers services in Barry, Cardiff and Bridgend, and has had a premises in Washington Pharmacy in Penarth for seven years, before deciding to take on their own place at what was Bojangles.

“The business has grown well in the last few years and we’d built up enough to consider opening our own premises, and decided Penarth was the right place to offer a podiatry service on people’s doorsteps.”

While Mr Kerai says the business is committed to becoming the best foot health experts in Wales, they have come up against significant challenges since leasing the new premises.

“We have found it difficult because there seems to be a lack of confidence in customers to come to the high street at the moment,” he said. “Of course health is the most important thing.

“Over the last couple of weeks it seems that things have started to pick up a little, which is encouraging because we are relying on the support of our community.

“We need people coming and supporting us because at the moment the revenue for many businesses will not be covering the overheads.

“We have spent a lot of money on PPE, Perspex screens, cleaning equipment, and the amount of patients we are allowed will not cover those costs.”

Mr Kerai now sees one patient every 40 minutes to make sure everything is cleaned and there is little chance of contamination.

“It is frustrating that we cannot work to full capacity at the moment and implementing this process is costing us a lot of money, but we are doing everything we can to make sure that when we can relax the rules a little, we are ready to do that in a safe way.”

Mr Kerai says he is grateful for the small business grant and rates relief that has helped the business get through lockdown.

“It’s so important, because small to medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the high street in this country.”

Asked whether he regrets opening the new branch, Mr Kerai added: “We don't regret opening as we are providing a health care service and so we believe in investing in our business for the long term as we know there is long term need for our services in the area.

“We have many patients who we have been looking after for several years and we will continue in the future but we just have to adapt to these challenging circumstances.”