Retailers deny tobacco industry backing

Media commentators are questioning the motives and backing of a new lobby group for the country's small retailers -- suggesting it is backed by big tobacco companies and their PR companies.

But the group says it is entirely funded from its members and rejects any suggestion it is backed by tobacco cash.

The Association of Community Retailers (ACR) announced itself last week -- saying it aimed to promote the interests of small retailers. It followed that up with criticism of the Government's sudden hike in tobacco prices last week.

Media blogger Keith Ng questioned why ACR shared the same postal address as Omeka Public Relations, whose managing director is Glenn Inwood.

Another of Mr Inwood's companies, Spin It Wide, distributes press releases from Imperial Tobacco, as well as Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research, among others.

Another media blogger, Rory MacKinnon, questioned how ACR's list of 170 member retailers, who subscribe $50 each for an annual income of around $8500, could afford two part time coordinators.

But founding member Richard Green, who runs a tobacconist business in Palmerston North, told NZPA ACR grew out of the former Stay Displays coalition of retailers, a coalition that formed to fight a proposed ban on displaying tobacco products for sale.

ACR wanted to expand from that single issue, and would speak for retailers on a wider range of subjects affecting retailers, such as security, sale of alcohol and confectionary.

ACR was set up with the help of Mr Inwood, who he had worked on the Stay Displays campaign.

Mr Green said the sole funding so far came from its members. It had employed two part time coordinators but it had yet to figure out how they would be funded, as it was still early days.

"I would love to get funding from the tobacco industry," he said.

And Mr Inwood firmly maintained ACR received no funding from tobacco companies or himself but purely from members' subscriptions.

"It's running off the smell of an oily rag."

He had known Mr Green for a few years through the Stay Displays campaign and the two had discussed how ACR could operate. His company Omeka shared office space with ACR's two workers.

The organisation was on a membership drive and if they attracted half of the country's 7000 independent retailers, there would be enough funding to run the organisation, he said.




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