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18 April, 2008

Supermarkets will always win

Minimum pricing is indeed on the off-trade agenda, as your front page story of April 4 suggests. But even if a mechanism is found to ban below-cost selling, what exactly is such a measure going to achieve?

Supermarkets can use all sorts of clever accounting to justify their discounts, and will still be able to get away with rock-bottom prices that the specialists would find out of their reach. How exactly would anyone be able to prove what they pay for their stock once all the promotional payments and wheeler-dealing have been taken into account?

But the ban on discounts would presumably also cover the short-dated or hard-to-sell stock that independents traditionally sell off at giveaway prices. What are we supposed to do with these drinks - pour them down the drain? How

does that help either the profitability of the sector or the environment?

Finally, a small rant about the Chancellor's supposed justification for the outrageous 14p tax increase on wine. He argues that wine is the cheapest it's been for a decade and the duty increase restores the balance. Well, the supermarkets may be charging £3.99 but the independent sector is selling wine, responsibly, for considerably more than that.

And guess who will be hit hardest by the duty increase? Not the supermarkets, that's for sure.

Peter Jason

Solihull

Customers out in the cold ...

Due to Threshers' new open-door policy, whereby the shop door must remain open at all times during trading hours, several customers have raised issues concerning the effect this will have on the environment due to heaters blasting away at full pelt to prevent staff from freezing on the spot . It also makes a mockery of the degradable carrier bags .

A large number of regular customers have told staff they wish to shop in a warm and comfortable environment and have insisted on closing the door, despite being asked to leave it open.

The low temperatures and draughty conditions have made customers reluctant to browse - indeed most are eager to return to their warm homes.

Can it be that the people who make these rules and enforce them by using mystery shoppers actually believe they will benefit? Or is it yet another example of a big business with little or no regard for its customers, workforce or the environment?

A long-standing Thresher employee

... and staff feeling the pinch

Guess the company! I work in a shop part-time for minimum wage. The work is physically hard as the merchandise is heavy. It is often filthy from the open delivery lorries and, just for fun, you also often get covered in leaking liquid because the new delivery firm doesn't care in what state the delivery gets to the shop.

The new delivery firm is unreliable so we have to deal daily with customers who wish to order from ourselves, but to whom we can give no guarantee of receipt of the items.

As the company drastically limits the hours of work it will pay for, you are frequently in sole charge of the shop and the possibility of dealing single-handedly with any trouble. One has to complete written courses and training on internal procedures and we are also expected to constantly clean the shop.

In return for performing the above, the company has rewarded us with extra holiday pay in response to government legislation, but to pay for this has cancelled the enhanced pay staff used to receive for bank holiday work - staff could thus end up with less .

They expect staff to work for minimum wage on bank holidays (not going to happen) and have thus cynically sidestepped government action (apparently not illegal, but it should be).

The most recent initiative is that we must work all day with the shop door open (so freezing cold at the moment and boiling hot in the summer,) and with extra dirt flying in off the main road to clean up, with no music allowed . We are not even permitted to fill up the shelves to relieve the boredom. By contrast, the poor evening staff will have to work like idiots to fill up the shelves that the day staff have not been allowed to touch.

I could go on but you guessed it ages ago didn't you? Of course, it's Threshers.

Is it just me, or does this company just not have a clue?

Name and address supplied

Time for action then, Mr C

I fully agree, Chris [Carson], with the comments in your letter and the call to action (OLN, April 4), as it's definitely time to dismantle the ludicrous BMA attacks and the anti-alcohol lobbyists.

Quite how we do this is a good reason for a very open forum, so the WSTA's work is perhaps better understood across the trade and we can work towards some kind of unified approach.

Given the details of David Cox's note, however, I do believe this further endorses the need for a change in direction in how we lobby the government and the need for a far more visual consumer campaign.

No one was questioning the hours being put in - merely the effectiveness of the campaign to date given the size of the duty increase.

Steve Barton

Director

Brand Phoenix




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