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Remember When: Store wars broke out over stamps; Reward scheme divided North East's retailers.

Byline: RAY MARSHALL

IT WAS 1962 and trading stamps had been slowly infiltrating the British market since 1958 - but the controversy over gift stamps was about to explode on the North East shopping scene.

Green Shield Stamps, based on a long-standing US idea, were launched in London in 1958.

By 1962 they were used in 11,000 shops around the country.

Green Shield, and other stamp companies, sold the gift (or trading) stamps to retail traders who, in turn, gave them to customers as a "dividend bonus" on goods purchased.

A Green Shield customer was given 6d (2 1/2 p) worth of stamps for every 2s6d (12 1/2 p) worth of goods bought. When they filled their stamp book - everyone loved to stick the stamps in the books - they traded the book back to the store for a gift in the stamp catalogue.

Green Shield, like other stamp companies, operated the scheme on the understanding that other rival retailers within an certain radius would not be allowed the use their stamps.

This meant the rise of rival stamp companies and a tough time for retailers who did not believe in the scheme.

To benefit from the scheme a shop had to increase its turnover by over 17% - but it was claimed that customers' love of the stamps meant turnover went up by at least 30% or even more.

By 1963 there was a lot of concern over the practice, even thought it was neither fraud nor misrepresentation.

People flocked to stores giving out stamps, even though the goods might be dearer than their rivals', because, they thought, they would be rewarded by something out of the catalogue - not realising they were still paying for that as well.

In 1963 the North East was chosen as the first battleground in the country for the clash between the Fine Fare Group and its trading stamps and other multiple traders.

Laws Stores announced: "We are utterly against trading stamps. We feel that some customers my be hoodwinked into these stamps by the lure of an illusion of something for nothing.

"We will fight back by keeping our prices as low as possible and giving efficient service."

An Evening Chronicle editorial said it was "vehemently opposed" to the introduction of trading stamps in this area and saw "no real or tangible benefit to the shopper".

Leading wholesalers started having secret meetings to form their anti-stamp plans. Kevin Rowntree, writing in the Sunday Sun on September 15, 1963, worked out that for every pounds 1 spent, a housewife received a discount of 6d (2 1/2 p). He said that one large firm offered an electric blanket for pounds 7 12s 9d wholesale. But a housewife would have to spend pounds 450 on her shopping to obtain that article through stamps.

The Journal announced on September 24, that 30 super-salesmen were operating on Tyneside in an attempt to "sell" the trading stamp system to shopkeepers.

Pricerite started using Green Shield Stamps in the October and announced it was delighted with the response of shoppers. The Newcastle Chamber of Trade hit back, with vice-president Mr Lonsdale saying: "It seems to me that stamp trading is a paper carrot which ultimately benefits no-one."

The war hotted up when the first trading stamp centre opened on New Bridge Street, Newcastle.

In reply, food chain chief Lord Sainsbury and Malcolm Cooper of Allied Suppliers were named joint chairmen of a distribution trade alliance representing 81% of multiple groups in Britain.

This opened a big new battle front by slashing bread prices in hundreds of North East shops in a bid to hit trading stamp sponsors. Tesco began giving out cheap tea and passing out Green Shield Stamps to customers as they entered the supermarket.

But then Cadbury's stepped into the war and cut of supplies of chocolate and drinking chocolate to the chain. It had demanded an undertaking that stamps would not be given away with its goods, but it was not forthcoming.

Parliament started to threatening to bring in two bills to control the stamps.

In November the front page of the Evening Chronicle announced that rival stores were fighting a leaflet battle on the streets of Newcastle.

Female pipers from Dagenham had been sent to the Tyneside battlefront by millionaire Garfield Weston, owner of Fine Fare and I and N stores, to publicise trading stamps. But as the pipers marched through the rain in Walker, Fine Fare store rival propaganda was being distributed by shop assistants appeared from the Welbeck Road branch of Moore's .

By the mid-1960s the stamp trading war started to die down. Green Shield was still doing well, especially at the petrol pumps, but their main attraction for the trader was that shoppers loved to stick them in their books - then rarely traded them in. Green Shield eventually evolved into Argos and trading stamps had all but disappeared by the 1980s.

Born on this day

1838: Georges Bizet. French composer, whose works include the opera Carmen.

1881: Pablo Picasso. Spanish artist, and pioneer in Cubism.

1944: John Anderson. Singer/songwriter with Yes

1944 Fred Housego. Broadcaster and former taxi driver, who won Mastermind.

1956: Matthais jabs. Musician with The Scorpions, whose hits include Wind Of change.

1957: Nancy Cartwright. American performer, famous for providing the voice of Bart Simpson in The Simpsons, amongst other characters.

1958: Phil Daniels. British actor, whose films include Quadrophenia.

1962: Nick Hancock. TV presenter and comedian.

1962: Chad Smith. Drummer with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, whose hits include Under The Bridge.

1964: Nick Thorp. Bassist with Curiosity Killed the Cat, whose hits include Down to Earth Misfit and Name and Number.

1968: Speech. Vocalist with Arrested Development, whose hits include Mr Wendell.

1981: Shaun Wright-Phillips. footballer with Manchester City and England. Shaun's adopted father is former England international footballer and now broadcaster, Ian Wright.

Died on this day

1400: Geoffrey Chaucer. English poet famous for The Canterbury Tales.

1647: Evangelista Torricelli. Italian physicist and inventor of the barometer.

1760: King George II. King of England.

1992: Roger Miller. Country singer and composer, whose hits include King of the Road 1993: Vincent Price. Horror film actor whose films include House of Usher.

1999: Payne Stewart. Golfer, famous for wearing plus-fours, who won the US Open in 1999: Died in a plane crash.

2002: Richard Harris. Actor, whose films included Gladiator, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, A Man Called Horse, Camelot and This Sporting Life.

2004: John Peel. Radio 1 and Radio 4 broadcaster credited with launching the areer of a generation of indie bands.

Chart toppers

1968: Those Were The Days, Mary 1973: Daydreamer/the Puppy Song, David Cassidy.

1978: Rat Trap, Boomtown Rats 1983: Karma Chameleon, Culture Club.

1988: One Moment In Time, Whitney 1993: I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That), Meat Loaf.

CAPTION(S):

POPULAR: Green Shield stamps were a phenomenon in the 1960s; VOICE OF BART: Nancy Cart
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 25, 2008
Words:1159
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