== Sunday trading - forecourts are exempt ==

Paul Delves emailed to clarify something he thought he had read here: "I seem to recall you featured a retailer who had a store of over 3,000sq ft and was trading extended hours and Easter Sunday because he had a fuel station as part of the same building and therefore was excluded from the restricted hours of trading on a Sunday on stores of over 3,000sq ft?"

Paul is managing director of his family business, Harry Tuffin Ltd, based in Montgomery, Powys. They run seven sites altogether - three in Wales and four in England. Two of his sites have stores bigger than the 3,000sq ft cut-off point and he has always adhered to the six-hour Sunday trading rule for them. He would now like to start opening longer hours and would also like to extend a couple of his other sites.

Indeed I have covered the subject once before, two years ago when I reported that award-winning Budgens retailer Philip Tout 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 was 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 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.

Given the foregoing, we assumed it would be plain sailing for Paul to extend his hours.

Licensing specialist Chris Mitchener of Licensing Solutions (ring 01489 583932/07831 159450 if you need any assistance) got involved on the sidelines and said that everyone expects a filling station to be open beyond the Sunday six-hour rule, so trading standards should surely accept that the store attached to it, whatever its size, will trade the same hours as the petrol forecourt. And therefore Paul should be able to sell whatever he stocks in the shop during those extended hours including alcohol. He added that Paul could trade whatever hours were stated on his premises licence and would need to go back to the licensing authority to apply for a ’variation’.

However, his trading standards officers are umming and aahing. It’s a new one on them apparently.

So, while this is being debated, I’m hoping for readers’ feedback. Are there others out there with shops with an internal floor area of more than 3,000sq ft (280sq m) trading longer than six hours on Sundays? It would be nice to get a big precedent from other local authorities to assist Paul.

== Gantry gains ==

As many will know, the cigarette companies - up against all sorts of constraints these days - do make generous offers to retailers with not just free gantries but sweeteners too. Mike Andrews, who runs Maiden Newton Service Station was offered £250 plus personal enhancements by a Gallaher rep which he thought was pretty good until he went online to his Texaco chatroom forum. "One member says he got £1,700," writes Mike and later adds on a second email, "Another dealer on the forum stated he had received £2,500 for his gantry, so it would seem there is a deal to be had. Can any of your readers advise please?"

I spoke to Jeremy Blackburn, trade communications manager at Gallaher, who confirmed that there are indeed deals although he couldn’t specify. He said: "Each outlet is looked at on its individual merit. There are various criteria based on size of site, footfall and volume." He did think that those four-figure sums were very high.

Mike is obviously trying to negotiate upwards and would be very keen to hear of other readers’ experiences.

== What a performance! ==

I reported in this column in December that a retailer had been pestered by the Performing Rights Society to get licensed to play the radio in the workshop. Now someone has sent me Richard Littlejohn’s column from the Daily Mail who reported: "If the PRS gets its way, we’ll soon have to switch off our car radios when we drive into garages."

He adds that the royalty-collection service recently raided the workshop of mechanic Len Attwood because he wasn’t displaying one of their stickers to prove he had a licence to play music in public.

"Len told them he didn’t need one because he didn’t have a radio. Ah, but your customers have radios in their cars, he was informed, and they don’t always turn them off when they drive into the workshop. Unless he bought a licence, he could be fined £2,000. Either that, or put up a prominent notice ordering customers to switch off at the door." Breathtaking isn’t it?