He’s on a roll

Tony Barlow of Local Service Stations has been in touch to tell me how ticked off he is with Saxon Paper. "You may remember when they sent me till rolls that hadn’t been ordered and my subsequent successful court action against them," he says. "But even after court action they still phone me so the problem never goes away."

He says he knows he is not the only one who has been bothered by suppliers sending unwanted till rolls and then bombarding them with threatening letters for payment.

"This onslaught can be very worrying for a small business. I expect that many have rolled over and paid just to make the problem go away," he suggests.

Then he asks: "Can we, through your magazine column, ask all who have had contact with Saxon and other till roll suppliers who trade by such dubious means, to explore just what the size of the problem is and how we can expunge these people from the industry? I would be willing to act as a collector of information and ask that people send me their experiences so we can demonstrate to the authorities how many people are affected and force them to take action."

Tony can be reached on tony@localfuels.com

Fuel feedback

Daniel Schraibman, who is senior communications adviser on policy, government and public affairs for Chevron Limited, has pointed out some inaccuracies in my last column on the introduction of biofuels (it wasn’t easy to write, but no excuse).

He writes: "Chevron will switch the first Chevron-owned terminal in the UK (Kingsbury) to ethanol ithis month. No Chevron terminal in the UK has switched to ethanol as yet. Terminals that have switched in the UK to date are third party terminals which Chevron takes supply from."

He has also sent me the agenda (the RTFO obligation on biofuels).  "In order for suppliers of fossil fuel in the UK to meet this obligation, they needed to start supplying ethanol in 2009. As the percentage mix in the UK is approximately 50/50 for petrol and diesel, 5% biodiesel could meet the 2008/2009 obligation but in order to meet 3.25% obligation for 2009/2010 it is necessary for fuel suppliers to blend ethanol.

"In August the spec for diesel BS EN590 was changed to allow 7% biodiesel but this change in specification was introduced after some terminals had either switched to ethanol or had their plans in place to switch to ethanol."

For those who like lists, the requirements are: 2.5% by 2008/2009; 3.25% by  2009/2010; 3.5% by  2010/2011; 4% by 2011/2012; 4.5% by 2012/2013 and 5% by 2013/2014.

A shiny new retailer

Another ’new’ retailer has been in touch to get some guidance on would-be suppliers. Many, I’m sure, would like to be facing the challenges ahead for Robert May, especially if they had space for a 3,000sq ft store on a site selling well over 3m litres a year.

He is hoping to attract the attention of one of the big companies on the fuel side and I should think he would also be of interest to any of the symbol groups. It’s always a good idea to contact more than one. It’s useful to have an area rep walking around your store, saying things like, "We’ve got a similar-sized store in Coventry doing £500 a week in car accessories alone fresh produce inside the front door better positioning for the news and mags and over there you could put in a bake-off". You get the picture. Some of these reps have a lot of experience and have seen an awful lot of stores. But obviously not all things work in all stores and not all reps are clever clogs.

I also suggested that he contact Mark Bradshaw of Garage Watch Value because it costs nothing to join and the group can get you better deals.

Loan arrangers

Asif Mahmood in Dunfermline had a complaint about the Small Firms Loan Guarantee (SFLG). "I’ve heard that if I go for a £20,000 loan it will be well above the base rate at 7%." Too painful to think about. However, on investigating, I learned that the SFLG has recently been suspended.

The type of lending previously provided by the scheme to businesses that lack collateral and/or a track record will now be available under a new scheme. Under the Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) the government will guarantee lending of anything from £1,000 up to £1m to viable businesses.

It will provide a guarantee to the lender covering 75% of the loan amount for which the borrower pays a 2% premium on the outstanding balance of the loan payable to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.

Before you ask, the scheme is available through 27 lenders. Go to the Business Link website for more information.

You’re worth it

Do you do much to promote your business? So what are you plans for 2010? Ads in the (fast-disappearing) local papers? Cheap deals? I rather liked the one about a gas station in the States which put up a sign reading: "Special offer buy three tires for the price of four and get another one free!"

Well, that’s my Christmas offer to you. And I wish you much merriment and prosperity.