Is it one of those creeping signs of the credit crunch that no one is offering free fascias anymore? There used to be a time when the likes of Coca-Cola, Carling, Heineken and local newspaper groups would provide outside signage as part of their advertising budget.

One can understand that cigarette companies would no longer be allowed such advertising and the authorities would no doubt frown on booze brands being paraded on the local parade (indeed, Coors Brewers says it hasn't supplied Carling fascias for years). One is also aware that regional newspapers are in bother.

My investigations into free fascias/canopies came about following a call from Sue Robinson, who runs Greenway Stores in Budleigh Salterton in East Devon. Her very small 100-year-old store lost its PO last year. Sue is therefore about to start a refit and is looking for one of those erstwhile free fascias to help out.

"We've spent every penny," she told me. "Just to re-cover the canopy will cost £1,500 without signage."

Her local news group at first said yes, but now has no budget. The Coca-Cola rep said 'Not a chance, we have to sign for the pens we use nowadays'.

I sent some emails. The most useful response came from Coors, which recommended Bestway or Booker. However, Sue said she had spoken to Booker, but didn't fancy having to take the 500 designated must-stock items to qualify for a Premier fascia. And she cherishes her independence.

Coors also reminded me of the FWD Blueprint's free guidance on store layout and a makeover service, including new signage. The IMA agency which co-ordinates this on behalf of FWD has now contacted Sue.

Meanwhile, has anyone managed to get a free fascia from anywhere lately?