AN INDEPENDENT toy shop owner says he won’t tolerate shoplifters after he told how a couple filled their coats and bag with stock before making a run for it.

A man and woman came in to Argosy Toys, at London Road, in Westcliff on Sunday, and stole a number of pricey items, including a £50 Meccano set, before setting the security alarms off as they left.

Paul Wohl, owner of Argosy Toys, confronted the couple who appeared to be in their early 30s.

They then became aggressive.

He said: “When they set the alarm off as they tried to leave, I confronted them and they immediately got aggressive saying ‘leave us alone, we haven’t got anything’. The woman then tried to open her bag to show me that she hadn’t taken anything but it was full of meat from Aldi. I wasn’t going to let it go.

“The guy then pulled out a £50 Meccano set from his coat and handed it back to me.”

Mr Wohl went to put the toy set back on the shelf when he discovered another item was missing, which prompted him to check the store’s CCTV footage.

He added: “I watched the footage and saw them fill their coats and bag with stuff. If they had just given me the stuff back I wouldn’t have taken it any further but you can’t just walk into an independent business and expect us not to fight back.

“It’s a huge loss to us when this sort of thing happens. It’s my stock and my debt that’s buying that stock.

“I haven’t got stacks of money to roll around in. They’ve stolen that from me.”

Mr Wohl went onto explain the struggle independent retailers endure to try and stay afloat up against toy giants such as the likes of Smyths or Hamleys.

He added: “Independent stores haven’t got long anymore. Maybe five years. Amazon is ruining everything, and the online market. Every hit you get it’s another ‘Shall we carry on?’ ‘Is it worth it?’”

Mr Wohl says he has been inundated with messages from supermarkets in the area who say they have been victim to shoplifting from the couple.

Anyone with information should call police on 101.