I have been to many trade conferences that have been as enjoyable as Costcutter's recent gathering in Barcelona, but none that have been as dramatic.

Colin Graves' spectacular on-stage resignation from the Nisa-Today's board followed an interesting but relatively routine announcement about a new technologically enabled loyalty card. Clearly, not all loyalty issues can be solved so easily.

Graves clearly feels let down by being undermined by an organisation that he believes, with some justification, he helped to build. Loyalty is important to him personally, but it is also a vital business commodity worth millions to any symbol group. The Costcutter issue is, as The Godfather would say, just business.

Nisa has a business to protect, but it is in a vulnerable position at the moment. If Costcutter was to walk away at the end of its 10-year contract, Nisa volumes will take a huge hit and cost prices to members will rise. Therefore, it has to recruit more members to its own symbol group, and Costcutter retailers are a logical place to start. But this creates discord within the organisation as a whole, making it less likely that Costcutter will extend its stay.

Nisa has a large and expensive warehouse to fill, whereas the York group has time on its side, and with Bibby as the main shareholder, plenty of options.

With Graves and the Nisa board apparently no longer talking, it has become a game of poker with the level of risk rising by the week. Graves' show-stopping performance has raised the stakes still further, and it seems to me that Costcutter is holding the best cards.

Terminal trouble
Complaints about in-store pay terminals continue to flood into the C-Store office and our Dear Jac helpline.

Many retailers believe that these units are already costing them money, so the decision to enable them to pay out on utility refunds has a grim kind of logic to it.

A pay terminal is, these days, an essential bit of convenience store kit and, to be fair, thousands of retailers don't complain about having them. But the issues surrounding staffing, queuing and bank charges cannot be countered by the measly margins on offer, and the footfall generated is not necessarily being converted into extra sales in these straitened times. And the biggest company is also now insisting on exclusivity and a five-year contract.

I've said it before and I do so again here. These numbers don't add up. Retailers are doing the work carrying out the transactions, so should be regarded as staff. And staff deserve to be paid properly.