== We’ve got it all covered except for the rent ==

Gill Marsh wrote wondering whether anyone else had been in touch regarding Primesight and what appeared to be a policy of reducing rent for its poster panel displays. Gill has three sites in Lincolnshire and had Primesight signs on all three forecourts alongside the pole signs. The planners made her take one of them down because the siting (in an area of outstanding natural beauty) had attracted complaints.

But the other two are goers and the deal was for £400 rental for one site and £500 for the other, plus £50 per annum towards the cost of the electricity for the signs.

"I had a letter to say Primesight was no longer self billing and you (the landlord) had to invoice them stating your VAT number," says Gill.

"When I checker further, payment for the last quarter of 2007 and first quarter of 2008 was halved. I have spoken with them and they now say they are not paying anything from the beginning of April to the end of September 2009. I’m still paying for the electricity so I would at least like that back."

The company has told her that it is written in the contract that if they can’t sell the ads, they don’t have to pay out but she says the signs are still frequently being updated with new ads.

I spoke with Terry Dyer, Primesight’s development director, and he says that the company is paying rents to landlords: "We do have 13,000 panels out there so there will be issues with some."

He added that some agreements did allow for reducing rents when times got tough and apparently the outdoor advertising industry in general is experiencing a downturn of around 40% at the moment.

The company has 1,200 panels covering 1,200 forecourts in its ’Drive Buy’ package with host sites including Esso, Shell, Total, BP and Jet. It can also provide a post-campaign epos service which helps to measure returns on investment (ie what is the uplift in sales if you increase stocks of the lines featured in the ads).

In addition Primesight has an outdoor convenience campaign package and an in-store package with panels located behind the counter for impactful point-of-sale messages.

It sounds like the company has everything covered, except Gill’s fee. Terry Dyer has promised to investigate.

== Never on a Sunday? ==

Since March I have been trying to get some guidance from the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) for Paul Delves, managing director of the Wales-based Harry Tuffins chain of forecourts which has a mix of little and large Nisa-Today’s c-stores on them. As reported before, Paul had read my story about West Country retailer Philip Tout who was told by his local authority that he was exempt from Sunday trading hours despite his new store being larger than 3,000 sq ft.

Philip had consulted trading standards over the size of the extended and refurbished store he was planning to build at his Langford site outside Bristol. He thought he might have to box off an area to avoid the Sunday trading restrictions. But North Somerset Trading Standards told him that, as he has a filling station with a shop alongside, he was exempt. Philip got it in writing and now happily trades 24 hours at Langford, Sundays included.

At the time I looked it up in the Sunday Trading Act and there it was - petrol filling stations - among the list of exempt large stores which includes farm shops, off licences, airport and railway shops and a number of others.

But Paul was told by his trading standards office in Montgomery, Powys, that he has to adhere to the six-hour rule on a Sunday because the sales through the store amounted to more than the value of the fuel he sells.

I have now finally got a reply from the TSI after five reminders (two phone calls, three emails) and the answer is, "don’t know".

The press officer wrote: "I’m afraid that this doesn’t seem to be something that we can help you with; it is not directly a trading standards issue, in that we don’t have a lead officer for this area. As you know trading standards are run per local authority - we are not as such a national over-arching trading standards - we represent trading standards professionals. It appears that in this case there is a difference in opinion in interpretation from one local authority to another. The body that works to bring consistency in regulation across the country is LACORS. It may be worth getting in touch with them and flagging this inconsistency up."

I can do this but I don’t think LACORS is going to be much help to Paul. At the moment he just keeps the petrol shop open after hours. "All our stores have different hours," he says, "but our head office site is a destination shop. On Sundays we shut the shop at 4pm and sell petrol until 6pm."

The group is looking at upgrading a 1,500 sq ft site to 5,000sq ft if planning permission goes through smoothly this month. "It almost seems a backward step," says Paul, "to not be able to open as long on Sundays. We’re going to talk to Shropshire now to see what their take is on this. And will they take the duty and VAT off to arrive at sales figures the way they did when we first applied for off licences for the stores?"

Good question. Anybody have any answers gained through their own bitter or happy experiences?