== Headline news angers retailer ==

"Retailer sees red as ’red top’ sends his shoppers to supers." You must admit, the foregoing is worthy of any tabloid front cover ’splash’ as they call their screaming headlines. Yet, that is exactly what happened to thousands of independent retailers and probably most forecourt operators as the Saturday and Sunday Mirror devoted well over half its front cover and a whole page inside to promote a free light bulb offer to readers shopping at certain retail outlets.

To add insult to injury, Nailesh Gokani, who runs Empire Garage in North London’s Enfield, received all the promotional literature from his wholesaler Smith’s at Borehamwood just before the end of January. The promo material advised him to contact customer services if he had not received the light bulb stock by a certain date. He rang the number only to be told that he wasn’t eligible and that only certain stores were.

He cancelled his weekend news order - that didn’t work because they sent it anyway, more of which later. When the newspapers arrived he was totally ticked off to see that the huge splash and the full page inside story made it clear that the offer was available only through (you guessed it) the major supermarket groups and symbol chains. Sainsbury, Tesco, Asda, Co-op, WH Smith, Martin’s, Spar, Londis et al, all got front-cover mentions.

The ’great giveaway’ featured in some 15,000 ’participating’ retailers - not that Nailesh had a choice of whether to participate - and no doubt it was well received. In fact Nailesh said if he had only known a bit sooner he would have taken advantage of a promotion he had spotted through Tesco where low-energy light bulbs were selling either for 99p each or ’five for 40p’. Huh? Yes, that was the promotion. "I could have bought a couple of hundred and run my own promotion," says Nailesh. "That way customers wouldn’t think I was keeping the Mirror-offer light bulbs for myself."

He says with hindsight that he is pleased that his wholesaler ignored his order cancellation. "A guy who runs a CTN nearby warned me not to send the issues back because the next day I would only get a bare minimum order; it’s how they work."

Well, retailers seldom cite news wholesalers as customer-friendly but publisher Mirror Group is no better in this case. It doesn’t print its papers all in one hit. It could have changed the front cover printing plates part way through the print run and run a different front cover story and not ticked off so many retailers who were excluded from the promotion. Difficult as far as logistics are concerned, but not ruddy rocket science.

== Oops, we’re out of tune ==

In the last issue I recounted the sort of amusing tale sent to me by a Forecourt Trader reader about car mechanic Len Attwood who had previously featured in Richard Littlejohn’s column in the Daily Mail. Len had fended off the Performing Rights Society who had supposedly raided his workshop because he wasn’t displaying a sticker to prove he had a PRS licence yet was playing music that the public could hear because said public didn’t always turn their car radio off when they drove into the workshop.

I’m pleased to report that this column is well read, at least by Barney Hooper, head of PR at PRS for Music.

He writes: "Richard Littlejohn was not 100% accurate in his column which is causing us a few problems! We’ve spoken with Len and informed him he doesn’t need to tell his customers to turn their radios off when they drive in - this would be draconian and we’re not that kind or organisation I assure you. Where Len and other garages would need a licence is if they’re using music within the business - for example if they have music on in the workshop or to entertain the staff etc. A licence would be from £44 per year for a business with fewer than five employees, so less than £1 a week.

"Our job as a not-for-profit organisation is to collect these licences (in effect royalties for music use) and pay the song writers and composers whenever their music is used. We have 60,000 members in the UK and over 90% of them earn less than £5,000 a year and depend on these royalty payments to keep creating the music we all know and love."

== Hankering for a new product? ==

Not much room left but just a nod and a wink that there might, hopefully, be a new range of Yankee products available to forecourt operators soon.

The brand is Hank’s (premium root beers from Philadelphia, the home of root beer, and vitamin-infused bevies). You can have a gander at the manufacturer’s website [http://www.hanksbeverages.com] for more info.

The agent in the UK, Every Goodness, is slogging round all the wholesalers as this is being written, convinced that petrol stations would be ideal stockists.

The mood overall is strange at the moment: on the one hand keep everything homegrown, on the other, new products are known to be the lifeblood of the industry. I shall follow their progress with interest, and remember, you really did read it here first.