It is not unusual these days to hear retailers - particularly those in symbol groups - refer to 'in-store theatre'. Many recognise that an ambience which tackles all the sensory perceptions will add to the shopping experience and to the store's bottom line. A happy shopper will buy more, goes the reasoning.

Thus there is clever lighting, spotlighting special offers; there are nice smells from the bakery section; there are tastings and, to round it off, there is background music and local news and sometimes screens showing off the best bits.

Costcutter retailer Derek Ritchie, who runs two stores at Ellon and at Mintlaw in Aberdeenshire, has had Costcutter's pioneering In-Tune radio since day one. "Even just to have music for the sanity of the staff makes it worthwhile," says Derek, "and it cheers up the customers too."

The broadcast, emanating from speakers installed in the ceiling around the stores, is a mix of music, news on the hour, supplier ads and special offers. "The music is very wide-ranging," says Derek. "Most of it is chart stuff with the old favourites and it can be themed - for example, on St Patrick's day it was Irish music all day long."

The cost is "a token amount, a small weekly media fee," says Derek. On top of this he has to pay his own licence fees to Performing Right Society (PRS) and Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) (see panel, right).

Bespoke approach
Immedia Broadcasting, which bills itself as the UK's leading provider of live, tailored radio and video for retail, was set up 10 years ago by former Radio 1 DJ Bruno Brookes as Storm Digital Broadcasting. It now counts a number of global brands among its customers including HSBC, Ikea, Spar, and Arcadia Group.

"There's a big audience," says Brookes, "and we provide each client with an estate-wide communication tool for staff and customers. Everything we do is pretty much bespoke, to suit their corporate culture. It's all about content and what has to get better is the quality and nature of that content. For me, there has not been enough emphasis on this in the industry."

He adds: "Visuals are not a replacement for radio, they're an addition."

Nisa-Today's group symbol director John Heagney agrees that you can't just replace music with visuals. "Through our epos system we are making available screen media to show in-store ads, but the screens will remain 'dumb'. The technology is not right yet to marry the two - the screens are not big enough for the speakers you would need. Speakers need to be in the right position with the right balance around the store and with steady audio levels."

More info
PRS for Music

Tel: 08000 684 828, or go to

For retailers the cost of a PRS licence for music played to customers in a shop starts from £73.60 (per annum)

Phonographic Performance Ltd

Tel 020 7534 1000, or go to

You can apply for and obtain a licence online.
Nisa-Today's launched Nisa FM in 2002 with Mood Media (previously DMX and the biggest provider in Europe). "We have been with it ever since," says Heagney.

Nearly 600 stores have signed up so far to one of two packages. Heagney says: "In smaller stores it's middle of the road, Radio 2-ish. In very large stores this is too fast so we do 'day parting'. Until 9am we play 'Star tracks' and then slightly slower music till 5pm, when we drop back to Star tracks.

"It's all done by satellite transmission and we will only beam in those ads suitable for the store. So if a store doesn't have, say, the multibuy, it won't be advertised."

The system costs a flat fee of £125 a year and is heavily subsidised.

Let us count the ways
About 1,300 Spar stores (half the estate) play Spar Live radio in-store and about 200 Tates stores owned by Spar wholesaler AF Blakemore, plus a number of independents supplied by Blakemore, have TV screens. Conrad Davies, a Spar retailer in Pwllheli, North Wales, has had seven media screens in his 3,000sq ft store for two years. Does he think they make a difference to sales?

"We monitored it in the early days and there was a slight increase in sales," says Conrad. "I'm sure it appeals to youngsters. It gives a modern feel and the screens change - I've got three different set-ups on at the moment: six-pack of Fosters for £5.50; Robinsons drinks at £1 each; and a bogof on Spar Cheddar."

At his other nearby BP site with a 700sq ft forecourt shop there is just one screen, playing Sky News above the hot food counter, on low volume.

"It seems to calm people down; stops them a bit. On forecourts, people are always in a hurry. They come in, look at the screen and slow down and then buy a coffee."

The individual approach
Terry Caton has a dozen screens all told in his three Londis stores in Chesterfield.

"We pipe in a local radio station and we jacklead it through to the PC and then the sound comes out on the screens," he says. "They all have built-in speakers. It was a simple thing to put together. The installation was done by a professional local company. I think it's important to create an atmosphere, otherwise a store can seem flat and dull."

In effect, what Terry presents is like a slide show, a Powerpoint presentation, based on Londis' three-week promotions and seasonal activity. He works closely with his retail sales manager Matt Elliott, who puts in some 12 hours every three weeks getting the Londis deals together for Terry to use on-screen. The screens have also featured the Londis ads that have appeared in the national press and are used to highlight regulations such as age-restricted sales and special events taking place in the future.

"The average cost per store," says Matt, "is about £2,000, which includes a set-up from scratch with four screens and back office. It is spreading in popularity, region by region."

Play it safe
The cost of both a Performing Right Society (PRS) and Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) licence depends on the size of your store and on the nature of usage of the music and type of location where it is broadcast.

You also need a separate licence for a TV set if you play it in your business (even if your home is in the same building).

Both bodies license music; however, they are not the same. Whenever a sound recording is played in public, there are two separate licence fees that are payable:

l A copyright in the musical and lyrical composition.

l A separate copyright in the actual sound recording.

l One payment goes to PPL, which distributes it to record companies and performers.

l The other payment goes to PRS, which distributes it to composers and publishers.

Top 10
Jac's hit list of songs for c-stores

1 Dancing bean
2 The Winalot  takes it all
3 I'm in the mood for Dove
4 Blue suede chews
5 Peas release me
6 Lady in bread
7 I did it pie way
8 Quorn free
9 Cheese the one
10 Londis calling