In retailers' quests to add that je ne sais quoi extra to their business, they sometimes ask me for the more obscure suppliers of products and services. This time it was singing donkeys and those old-fashioned sweetie jars.
Mike Rawlings, who runs News Plus at Cudworth, near Barnsley, in South Yorkshire, had been getting novelty goods from the London Box Company. He is at pains to explain that he didn't personally think the singing donkeys were the last word in tasteful goods, "but they flew off the shelves," he marvels.
His only crib about the company, which works on a sale or return basis, is that it seems unable to invoice him with a VAT breakdown (companies are no longer obliged to do this) despite several requests.
Do any readers know of other companies out there supplying novelty goods for special occasions such as the World Cup, Halloween or Christmas? Do let us know.
The sweetie jars request which came Lynn Thurston at Gemco News in Braintree, Essex, took me on a trawl through various divisions of the bigger confectionery companies such as Trebor Bassett, and I was shunted from Sheffield to Pontefract and back.
Then I remembered our very own Leah Gale, in charge of classified sales on Convenience Store and ace at winkling out such suppliers.
Indeed, five minutes after I spoke to her I was cruising the website of Sela Confectionery ( - a West Bromwich company that has been making traditional sweeties for over a century, which includes the world-famous Sela-Cough lozenge. Sela will supply up to 100 of those big round jars to shops. Call 0845 130 4553 if you want some.
It got me reminiscing about those old shops with their barley sugar and gobstoppers and lemon sherbets...
I think Lynn may be onto something. And far classier than singing donkeys.