It’s been pretty much a roller-coaster ride on the business rates front. The last-minute reprieve announced by the Chancellor Alistair Darling was welcome in one sense, except that payments have only been deferred, and then there are next year’s increases on top of those, with the remainder the following year...

But it’s rather disconcerting that such policies and decisions - that could have significant consequences for retailers, with the huge cost-burden to their businesses - seem to be made on the hoof, (and even dependent on what side someone got out of bed in the morning!). Retailers - and, it seems the world in general - are battling on all fronts to keep their operations strong enough to weather all storms. But how can you make any calculations when you don’t know when or where the next tax demand is going to come from and how much it’s going to be? It produces a constant sense of uneasiness - like swimming in shark-infested waters. You know it’s out there, it’s probably just a matter of time until it comes and gets you.

But you have to appreciate the sterling work of the various organisations, such as the Association of Convenience Stores, who have to spend many a long hour persuading the powers that be, (who seem to have numerous agendas other than the livelihoods of retailers) that what they’re doing is just plain ridiculous - in the nicest possible way! More power to their elbow.

Talking of associations, the Retail Motor Industry Federation has reaffirmed its full commitment to the growth and development of the Petrol Retailers’ Association. It is to strengthen its lobbying role, and bolster its benefits package. But will it be the association retailers want and need it to be? Time will tell. What is for certain is that Ray Holloway will no longer be a part of it. I would like to wish him well - he has been a major figure in the industry for so long it’s hard to imagine him no longer heading up the PRA. But somehow - and hopefully - I don’t think that’s the last we’ll see of him.

In the meantime, it’s time to look on the positive side of the business - in case you hadn’t noticed we launched the Forecourt Trader Awards 2009. Get your entries in!