Cut crime, not budgets

The new government's spending review is the great debate of the day, and with good reason. With £80bn to be cut from government spending across four years, it's not just those who work in the public sector who will feel it. One way or another, it will affect us all.

But while I think we all agree that something needs to be done to sort out the public finances, some cuts are clearly better than others. The Federation of Wholesale Distributors are rightly chuffed that although HMRC are having their budget reduced overall, resources to clamp down on duty avoidance will actually be increased.

This sounds like an example of a government spending money to make money, a principle that businesses have long understood but which governments rarely do.

It would be good if a similar balance can be found for other sorts of crime. In a kind of doublespeak exercise, the government has this year announced both that police officers will be more prominent in local communities, and that their budgets will be cut by 4% every year.

I hope that the former policy is more visible than the latter. Most retail crime is opportunistic in that people try it on because they think they can get away with it. A tangible police presence is a deterrent to crime occurring in the first place, and this will not only ease the pressure on police paperwork, investigation time and the courts, it will also give businesses a massive boost by seeing less of their hard-earned profits disappear through shrinkage. Let's save money to make money.

Cider rules

I wouldn't normally make a comment about a particular product here, but I wish to raise a glass in praise of cider.

In my 10 years on this magazine, every department of the average store has evolved, but few have turned negatives into positives as spectacularly as cider.

I remember going to a press briefing several years ago when Scottish & Newcastle had just acquired Bulmers, a company with great tradition but no obvious sense of purpose. S&N, now Heineken, was confident that cider could be elevated above its tramp-in-the-park image and appeal to more than its loyal but static consumer base.

Seven years on, they have been proved right. Not only has the image of cider changed, but it has consistently grown faster than beer in recent years.

It's not all down to one company, of course. Magners and a couple of hot summers have played a part. We're now seeing an increasing number of regional and imported brands, not to mention flavours and pack formats, and retailers throughout the land are allocating more space to cider brands than ever before. It's nice when a plan comes together.