Down to you

Convenience Store's editor, David Rees, is on holiday this week, so it's over to me, Deputy Dave, for this issue's comment.

The chief is back on Monday, unlike our MPs who are off now until October, and at least he's left a tidy desk, which is more than we can say for them. In their scramble for the beach they left the Health Bill unresolved, and that gives all of you who oppose the tobacco display ban an unexpected chance to get their attention while they're back in their constituencies over the summer.

Here's what you do: invite your MP to visit your store and see the pressures you face. By all means explain how expensive and disruptive the display ban would be to your business, but just as important show them the rigorous procedures you have in place to ensure cigarettes are never sold to children.

That's your Challenge 25 policy, pos signage, till prompts, CCTV and epos records, your refusals book and your staff training handbook.

Londis retailer Steve Denham explains in this issue that he believes government will continue to target the retail sector as long as stores continue to fail test purchases. His plan to eradicate sales of age-restricted products to children involves a universally adopted extension of the No ID No Sale scheme to include staff training and certification.

Ultimately, however, the buck stops at your door. It's up to each store owner or manager to ensure that they have the procedures in place to make sure their staff never sell age-restricted products to children.

Get that right, show your MP, and we're well on the way to demonstrating that responsible retailers are part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Small steps to stop theft

We probably should not be surprised that these harsh economic times bring with them a rise in retail crime, but what's most shocking about the revelation of a 10% rise in incidents of shoplifting in the past year is that criminals appear to have no fear of reprisals.

Prevention and detection are all very well, but an effective deterrent is needed, too. That's why Jack Straw's strengthened guidance on the use of fixed penalties is a small step in the right direction.

Let's hope it's a signal that government is beginning to appreciate just how damaging shop crime is to small businesses, and that it's the first step of many.