One of the benefits of trading in London’s Drury Lane is that, aside from the artsy-prancey-dancey types you get as customers, you also get a sufficiency of office workers to justify still offering a photocopier service. But will that ring true for another five years?
This was foremost on Pratap Mehta’s mind when he rang from Drury News. He was one of those put-upon Lanwall retailers. When Lanwall went under, his maintenance was taken over by Churchills. This company was then absorbed into Apogee Corporation (a pretty big affair if its website is anything to go on largest in Europe and so on). CF Asset (part of Bank of Scotland) is providing the finance (as it did for many Lanwall clients in the past).
So far, so complicated. Gets more so. Apogee has told the retailer that he can carry on with the old contract, but it will now charge for callouts and supplies (Churchills didn’t charge for maintenance). Or he can sign a new contract for twice its length: five years.
Churchills used to give him 1,000 free B&W photocopy sheets and 500 colour per month. If he did more than that, he paid 10p per B&W and 50p for every colour. Except he never did more than that. (The store doesn’t do much colour, and overall does about 600 copies a month).
The extended old contract would now charge 10p per B&W and 50p per colour sheet. In other words, £60 a month.
Going for the new contract the cost will be 5p per copy with maintenance thrown in (even though it has just been thrown out from the previous contract).
Okay, I’ve just had a little lie down and now feel up to having a go… The original question was, can contracts move the goal posts like this? Good question, but I don’t know the answer. And despite being often asked questions on contracts, I never know the answer.
I’ve written this before, but no harm in repeating: lawyers write contracts, on behalf of clients and, obviously, in their favour. To understand them, you need your own solicitor. Not me. But I can point you to good places to get this specialist advice. (I sent Pratap to Citizens Advice and Lawyers for Your Business - both free.)
And, since you might be wondering, no, Convenience Store unfortunately doesn’t have its own team of lawyers (I often get asked this) to whom we can refer.
The reality is, the C-Store team is a pretty small, tight-knit group made up of a handful of journalists with wide-ish smatterings of knowledge, another handful of smooth and clever ones who persuade would-be advertisers to buy ‘space’ so we can send you a free magazine, and then a few arty-smarty ones who do the design and make it all look good.
Right, commercial break over, back to the problem.
All I can say, finally, is that five years is a very long time. Since more and more people have their own photocopy bit of kit at home, the opportunities in-store for this service are shrinking.