David Rees: Editor's comment

All posts from: February 2015

Time for a new plan

Posted by: David Rees Fri, 27 Feb 2015

Everyone is excited about local. There is a huge level of interest in the idea of independent businesses employing local people and providing a genuine point of difference in an increasingly clone-town nation. Yet when a multiple retailer arrives and says they want to open a store, it still seems that most council planning departments welcome them with open arms.

The most recent example is in Edinburgh, where Premier retailers Dennis and Linda Williams have fought a long and energetic campaign to make sure the council knows what locals actually want to do with the land – and that is more housing. Yet despite the support of MPs, MSPs and 400 local objections, Aldi have been given the go-ahead for a new store.

Of course, evaluating local preferences can be tricky – in some parts of the country there were protests when Tesco said they were moving in several years ago, only to be followed by a separate set of protests when the retailer said it was pulling out. And when all the market data points to the fact that shoppers are switching from big superstores to the German discounters, it is difficult to say that any town should be closed to new developments.

But in the case of Dennis and Linda’s campaign, it is clear the community and elected officials thought the land should be used for affordable housing.

David Cameron’s government was supposed to be about localism. But somebody needs to tell the planners, because the message isn’t getting through.


April is the cruellest month

Posted by: David Rees Thu, 12 Feb 2015

Things move quickly in retail, and it’ll be April before we know it. This has particular significance this year because the tobacco display ban will become a reality for every c-store on 6 April.

Finding a solution for this is an urgent priority for the trade. For one thing, the penalties for non-compliance are steep: a fine of up to £5,000 and even six months in jail. But it needs to be an urgent business priority, too, as it’s not just the visual presentation that needs to be prepared – your staff and customers need to be ready too.

We know already from large stores in the UK and other countries where the display ban is in place that the simple act of putting a cover over the existing gantry is enough to confuse and irritate some customers.

Many will not know that the law has changed, and will think you have made a personal choice to alienate them. Service times will be slower and staff will be under more pressure than usual. And you will no longer be able to see the gantry either, so gap checks need to be done more methodically and more regularly to make sure you stay in stock, as shoppers wont thank you for being made to queue up, only to be told their chosen brand is out of stock.

When it comes to the gantry itself, some are lucky enough to have a tobacco company solution, while others will have to install something of their own devising, and most of this will happen just in advance of the 6 April deadline. But for the world outside the gantry, the prep work needs to start straight away.

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