Storm in a Coke can: Independent bookshop takes on corporate giant
08:57 02 June 2014
It is a row that seems like a storm in a Coke can.
A senior Coca Cola manager visited an independent Norwich bookseller yesterday to apologise after the trader was asked by representatives from the soft drinks firm to take down an “anti corporate” sign he had put up.
Rory Hill, manager at the Book Hive, on London Street, had put up the sign after arriving to work to find several neighbouring stores were heavily adorned with branding for Coca Cola.
The posters, flags and banners had been offered to traders by the drinks company, which was holding a get-together of senior staff in Norwich, which included a walk through part of the city. Coca-Cola officials were keen to spruce up the area before then, with their branding.
Mr Hill had decided to put up a sign of his own in response to what he described as Coca-Cola’s “promotional circus”.
On an A-board outside his store, he posted a quote from Dr Steve Maraboli, an American motivational speaker, saying: “Many companies expect loyal customers without providing loyal service. This has been the visionary failure of countless corporations.”
He also posted a large “Buy Local” sign. After doing so, he said he was repeatedly asked by members of the Coca-Cola team - with some referring to Norwich as a “village” - to take the quote down and that at one point somebody actually took his sign off the A-board.
He added: “A Coca-Cola rep asked me to take the sign down and after that there were two more visits.”
Last night, a Coca-Cola spokesman said: “We are sorry if this visit has caused any disruption for other businesses - that was clearly not our intention. We have visited The Book Hive to apologise.”
The trader posted messages on Twitter to highlight his dealings with the company.
“It’s fine if other businesses want to get involved (in the Coca-Cola visit) but it’s also fine if we want to have our say,” he said.
He added: “Our whole thing about being an independent bookshop is that we are providing a service to loyal customers and we are being made a joke with this huge Coca-Cola branding everywhere.”
When the Coca-Cola executives visited the area later in the day, Dave McNulty, vice president of field sales at Coca-Cola Enterprises, told the Evening News he was unaware of what had happened at The Book Hive.
“If he has a sign up that is his business I think,” he said, and went into the Book Hive to discuss what had happened.
Afterwards Mr Hill said it was nice of the soft drinks boss to apologise but that some of the staff needed to be “reined in”.
Explaining the company’s trip to Norwich, Mr McNulty said: “We had a management meeting. We try and do one every month and we try to get out to different places. This is a beautiful city. It’s a fantastic place. We had not been here for three or four years.
“It’s a European leadership team meeting and we decided to have a look around.” He said they did similar trips to other parts of the country.
Meanwhile other businesses in the area were happy to display the Coca-Cola branding yesterday.
Stuart Saunders, from Shears Hair Design, next door to the Book Hive, said they were asked to put up a Coca-Cola flag in return for being given four bottles of the drink.
Darren Johnson, landlord of the Wildman pub, said the visiting had been “quite entertaining,” and that the pub had been given some extra Coca-Cola stock in return for displaying Coca-Cola flags.
Subway and Greggs were also among the businesses nearby to display Coca-Cola bunting.
Jeff Taylor, from Pandora’s Kitchen, said the cafe - decked in Coca-Cola decor - would be returning to its usual look today.
“It was for one day only,” he said.