Captain Vigilante

JOKE. Have you ever heard anything quite so hilarious? Vigilante has learned that the new “tough” supplier-friendly Groceries Supply Code of Practice now being drawn up by our fearless regulator backroom boys will not draw back from the issue of delisting.

Yes, the code will say that if a giant superstore tells a supplier that it’s time for his products to disappear from the shelves, the reason has to be put down in writing.

Well, that should turn the giants into wobbling jellies, should it not? Or will they simply re-position the offending supplier’s product to the bottom shelf, or put up the price and wait until sales inevitably fall, and then put the reason “declining sales” down in writing with the utmost confidence?

The gag-writers at CC/OFT need to get out more, don’t you think? Or consult Vigilante.

CRIME. What we have all believed for many years has now been confirmed – violent crime is increasing. Police records have been under-recording the figures for a decade.

The big scandal is that crimes against small shops are not receiving adequate focus. Campaigns calling for action are not working. What’s going on?

Grannie Ann Withers, a 55-year-old no less, used a broom to help scare off two good-for-nothing hoodies armed with claw hammers who were attacking her boss, retailer Guijinder Hayer.

Ann, voted the National Federation of Retail Newsagents’ Employee Of The Year, wants real action. She’s right.

HOOLIGANS. Debates about crime against retailers are getting nowhere. MPs don’t seem interested. So it’s down to retailers – perhaps individuals.

Vigilante has recent and good experience of a local community action group – set up by local Lib Dem councillors – insisting on police action against hooligans.

The NFRN-inspired Sustainable Communities Act gives councils the power to set up local community panels. One of the objectives of the Act is to promote local economies – wholesalers might help retailers with guidance on this process.

Independent retailers could lead demands for local citizen panels, leading to more (subsidised) in-store CCTV, better ‘help-me’ alarm systems, more police on the streets, more crime-aware eye-witness shoppers – a better practical package for small shops is what’s needed. Not more debate.

CUPPA. You will remember (how could you forget?) that the My Shop Is Your Shop (MSYS) campaign initiated its National Cuppa Day event with a free cup of Tetley’s and a free McVitie’s biscuit in local shops during National Independents’ Week.

It created a platform for retailers to offer their customers a chance to relax with a cuppa and have a chat.

Then Tesco pinched the idea but put it on a commercial basis as a stunt to sell more tea. Now Skoda has nicked the concept too inviting you to pop into your local showroom for a chat over cup of tea and a Jammie Dodger! Plagiarism and parrotry know no bounds.

Who’s next – and can MSYS please expect a royalty payment soon?

PARAPET. Can a supplier – or more to the point the suppliers’ trade association – show a head over this and put a name to the shadowy anonymous complaints about Tesco’s bullying strategy?

The answer is no. And we all know the reason – the supplier could get one of those telephone calls that brings on nervous breakdowns, unemployment, departing wife or, worse, a repossessed home …and all that.

But until The Sunday Telegraph begins to name the sources of the increasing number of stories of Tesco screwing lower prices out of terrified manufacturers, we will not believe them.

GIVEAWAY. But there’s a clue. This publication carries more of these stories than any other, Sunday or daily. Therefore verbose sales directors who wish to remain beyond suspicion as the anonymous but persistent complainers should not disclose they are loyal Sunday Torygraph readers.

To throw the Tesco CIA off the scent it would be wise if they switched promptly and publicly to the News Of The World.

CO-OP. The Big Four has died. Long live The Big Five. Consequently the Competition Commission review, which recently gave the thumbs down to the convenience lobby’s plea for fair trading, is already out of date,

During its prolonged inquiry the CC was told about the dangers to consumers presented by the Big Four.

But the Co-op has now acquired giant status by buying most of Somerfield and we have the Big Five.

But the CC and the convenience lobby are being outmanoeuvred by the giants’ PR campaign based on slashing prices to please the PM and nbsp; “help crunch-hit families”.

FUNDAMENTAL. If only the wholesale/ independent sector listened more carefully to its most successful operators.

Harinder Khela runs six shops in South Yorkshire. He won the recent Bestway Retailer of the Year award – and donated his pound;10,000 winner’s cheque to a children’s charity in Malawi.

Asked to give his basic advice on building a successful retail operation, he replied: “If it doesn’t sell then don’t stock it.”

Keep it simple, eh?

WALK SHOP. The MSYS Walk Shop initiative alerted the sector to the carbon reduction and cash benefits for consumers ditching the car and walking to buy groceries locally. It has a new ally from a surprising part of the market.

She is no less a figure than Lucy Neville-Rolfe, director of corporate and legal affairs at the Big T. Lucy said sales data revealed that customers were using their cars less and shopping more frequently and locally at Tesco Express.

MSYS said this in May. Lucy (and IGD) came round to the view in September. Better late than never.

WORDS. The pen is mightier than the sword, a maxim on which hacks have come to rely. And words are becoming big news in the industry.

Former Spar chief Morton Middleditch is now a novelist, and enterprising Kishor Patel, owner of four Nisa Local stores in the Luton area, has taken on the role of publisher/ editor of his own newsletter. The A5 publication goes to 12,000 homes informing customers of Kishor’s business developments and community involvement.

But bosses of a flirtatious disposition may become a little anxious about a new grocery trend in the romance market where Proudfoot, Scarborough, checkout lady Jeannie Coppen’s novel “True Love” (published by Hallmark) is out now.

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