Captain Vigilante

BRAVEHEART. You couldn’t make it up. It’s reported that the Scottish Executive is planning to relax planning rules to allow more giant superstores to open.

The giants must be rubbing their hands – and how will this play with the Competition Commission which is sitting in London reviewing the grocery market as we speak?

Inverness, where Tesco already has more than half the market, looks like getting a new Asda. And 30 or more giant outlets are in the pipeline elsewhere for our friends over the border.

The English experience has obviously by-passed the Edinburgh bureaucrats.

CIDER. You couldn’t make it up. You must have noticed just how many drinkers are now enjoying cider – a classic product revival if there ever was one.

But Gordon Brown could scupper it. Producers fear his dour and heavy hand will apply an increase in excise duty.

Duty on cider is now 14.5p a pint. It’s 30.1p on beer. If you are not involved in the cider market you might think this is not as it should be, but cider is special to wholesalers.

Our sector applied mouth to mouth to maintain life in the cider market when it fell victim to new products and careless discounting. Increases in excise duty now will be unhelpful.

SPAR. Whoever inspired Spar to invest in the sponsorship of athletics all those years ago deserves a knighthood – or the European equivalent.

The group’s internationally known logo decorates the chests of medal winners and other competitors, achieving millions of “opportunities to see” by shoppers watching TV.

Kelly Sotherton and Dwain Chambers were in the news at the European Championships at Gothenburg and TV and press coverage was very generous.

The Spar logo on their vests achieved millions of consumer hits – just what the independent sector needs if it rubs off on the shopper as “local”.

RELIGION. You couldn’t make it up. When the Tesco PR machine can link into God we should all begin to worry.

Methodist preacher Malcolm Pettitt could not find a pair of chinos in Tesco to fit his 46 inch waist, so he complained.

Quick as a flash, Sir Terry responded personally. Three weeks later Malcolm received a pack of goodies from Tesco including suits, tops, shirts, ties and jeans.

The trousers were not quite right and were sent back for alterations. Now the designs will be added to Tesco’s new range.

But that’s not all. Malcolm will use the parable for a sermon from his Chichester pulpit. Rivetting, eh?

REASONS. You couldn’t make it up. Have you seen the Morrison share price rising from the ashes of the Safeway takeover?

Members of the wholesaler share punters club – an unofficial but active movement – are noting that the share price has increased by 38% since last October (and Vigilante has hinted at this in previous columns). Did you see more reasons to buy when the shares were struggling?

Forget the City aspect for a moment – but does this not demonstrate that ownership of a giant retailer in the UK, even when the company has suffered a massive shambolic setback, is a licence to print money?

PRUDENT. What does this say about one of the nation’s well-loved brands?

John Caudwell pocketed pound;1.4bn when he sold Phones4U. But the Brummie, who was raised in Stoke, retains his frugal Midlands spending habits.

He is reported to wear M S suits, fly economy, and, wait for it, buy Happy Shopper groceries.

Why is the latter of such media interest? What’s wrong with a billionaire who buys Happy Shopper?

Is this all to do with media people who eat at the Ivy, wear Armani, carry Mulberry bags and so on.

Good old John, we say, keep on demonstrating that you know value when you see it.

CHALLENGE. House prices in Milton Keynes have fallen by 2% in the past year, it is reliably reported.

Will this be a challenge for the highly skilled buyers at the Landmark HQ who decide to move house to an area where prices have increased?

On whom would you put your money, a smooth estate agent marking down a property in MK, using the official statistics, versus one of the group buyers marking it up using his well-honed negotiating skills?

MSYS. The My Shop Is Your Shop campaign was launched in 2004. It successfully focused on the value of the independent c-store and newsagent in the local community.

That was 2004. Since then Tesco has launched its community strategy and now we have the Co-op doing the same.

It’s a bandwagon. The Co-op wants shoppers to invest their “divi” in community projects.

This may all be coincidence. But the FWD PR Action Group (PRAG), which drives MSYS, will remain flattered but content that its interpretation of community is unique and cannot be copied.

DIFFERENTIAL. MSYS research illustrates the unique link between the sole trader and family business – the core customer base of every wholesaler – and the neighbourhood.

It’s the independent c-store and newsagent who knows his customers by name and who has helped at least one of them out of some form of problem over the course of a year.

The elderly and the vulnerable often choose to enter a local store for social contact – research says that sometimes a chat in a shop is the only contact with another human being for some people in 24 hours.

The independent retailers’ children will go to the same school as the children of his customers, play in the same soccer team and so on and so forth.

This is the MSYS definition of community which cannot be copied in human terms by multiple corporates.

These will have greater financial resource but will not have the same kind of connection with the community.

This is what MSYS is slowly but surely developing and promoting as a benefit to society – and a footfall motivator.

NANNY. Finally, another piece you couldn’t make up. And it’s to do with Nanny.

Trading standards are complaining that some tobacco signs at the till are infringing the law which restricts in-store advertising.

Listen to this. The law allows displays half the size of an A4 piece of paper at the till. But enforcers say clever design is being employed to break this rule.

For goodness sake, who are these sad folk. But there’s more.

It looks as though under 18s will be soon be prevented from buying cigarettes.

Meanwhile, the tobacco smuggler thrives…

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