Captain Vigilante


. The New Year opens with news of more recognition and endorsement by a major player in our market for the FWD Take Home Blueprint – launched in 1994 and described as still going from strength to strength by FWD chairman Francis Ball.

The economic meltdown is converting the Blueprint into a unique gloom-lifter. Where else would you find a free retail makeover carrying a copper-bottomed guarantee of substantial increases in sales?

The scheme gave birth to PLOD – if you don’t understand the acronym ask someone who does – which is boosting spirits sales in independents and thus attracting more footfall and therefore more total shop sales.

== challenge ==

. So to help suicidal readers depressed by doom-laden prophecies, here’s the first mood-lightening challenge of 2009.

There’s a bottle of decent Burgundy from Vigilante’s home stock for the first to submit a note identifying a better business booster than the Blueprint which, like the NHS, is free at the point of delivery and available to everybody.

== DEAF ==

. Lobbyists cry foul very loudly in response to the Government’s proposed ban on cigarette gantry displays.

But Government and regulators demonstrated forcefully in 2008 just how deaf they are to independent sector concerns.

Retailers tell me shoppers support the ban, such is the public’s aversion to youngsters smoking.

But school bike sheds, street corners and home are the breeding grounds for tobacco initiation. Vigilante asked a teenager what made her first want to smoke. She wanted to be like mum, she said.

What’s that got to do with shop displays?

== FEAR ==

. The masters of our world – the big five now including the Co-op – are shaking in their shoes. A shadow even darker than the credit crunch hangs over their heads.

The New Year will bring the toughened-up Grocery Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) with its shark’s teeth and fire-filled nostrils.

This is the killer code which will neuter the giant corporates and ensure honest transparency for every deal(sorry, agreement) in every UK multiple buying office.

There will be lots of paperwork too, recording in detail the sales. Sweeteners are out. Goodbye to Wimbledon. Formula One abroad?

And pigs might fly.


. Earl Howe, once an FWD pupil, told the House of Lords that the evidence for the cigarette display ban was speculative at best. He is on target, just like the first Admiral Earl Howe (1726-1799) when he whacked the French in the Channel.

He got a good briefing on our trade when he was a top guest at an annual dinner of FWD at the Savoy, deputising for a high-profile Minister rumoured to be conspiring against the Prime Minister – or was it to support the incumbent?

No change there then.


. When the Vigilantes decided to buy a new 15-inch TV for the kitchen, the inexpensive set at Tesco was rejected on loyalty grounds.

We decided to support our old friends from distant Booker days, Sir Stuart Rose and Steven Sharp, in their grim and darkest hour of need.

A 60-mile round trip to a big M S (we could have walked to a Tesco) was undertaken, but when the taped-up box was brought home the remote and instructions were found to be missing.

Many whingeing phone calls eventually produced an unusual result. The famous M S replacement mechanism proved unworkable. Customer service disappeared.

Only the personal commitment of one young employee, who eventually in her own time delivered a new pristine boxed TV, preserved Marks’ reputation. There’s a moral here somewhere, Steven.


. Shoppers save money by walking to shop locally, saving petrol costs, and buying to meet daily needs so avoiding waste … and so on. It’s a new MSYS marketing platform for local shops.

When Allan Leighton, former Mars and Pedigree salesman who mixed with ordinary hard-working folk (wholesalers) prior to his rise to head Royal Mail, ordered postmen to walk at 4mph on their rounds, the MSYS PR folk were galvanised.

They jumped at, no sorry, walked quickly to grasp the opportunity to link postmen/ walking/ MSYS/ small shops and so on.

But the Royal Mail walked away from the idea when it was pointed out that 4mph was a fair lick.

And so Allan was rescued from another television appearance with an independent retailer who would proudly wear the famous yellow ‘Local And Proud Of It’ T-shirt.


. Should hard-pressed independents charge for plastic shopping bags on eco grounds? And if so how much should they ask?

Julian Taylor-Green, Hampshire Londis retailer, charges 1p per bag.

At Christmas he was able to donate pound;100, raised by this charge, to Holme Primary School.

Every independent should follow suit – this type of gesture and others like it will bring to their business something called goodwill. It will help to beat the crunch.


. Our friendly efficient local independent bookshop, staffed by knowledgeable folk, has closed, unable to compete with price-slashing mammoths Waterstones and Amazon. It’s a scandal.

And then we hear from owners HMV that Waterstones itself was under-performing with poor sales. Will Waterstones close and move its books business into our nearby HMV store?

A case of the drowning giant taking the small fry down with it?

Question to OFT: do you want this kind of thing to happen in grocery?


. The media says spirits and cigarettes smuggled into the UK increased in 2008, with a loss in duty revenue of pound;5.5bn.

FWD, which began to highlight this shocking issue in the 1990s with DFAG (Duty Fraud Action Group), has more recently succeeded in forcing the Government to step up its action on this front.

Figures on smuggled beer were not available but the National Audit Office says UK border checks are too lax. Only 1% of incoming goods are checked.

Vigilante is included in this statistic after his luggage underwent a thorough but unproductive rummage in the green lane at Gatwick on his last return from Andalucia.

Happy New Year.

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