Record store plays fruit and veg

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A leading music retailer is mounting a one-man crusade against supermarkets whose aggressive move into compact discs and video tapes he calls a "smash- and-grab raid" on the market.

Andy Lown, head of Tower Records, plans to give superstores such as Asda and Tesco a taste of their own medicine and next week will start offering cut-price fruit and vegetables at the company's flagship store at Piccadilly Circus, London.

Apples, bananas and oranges will be sold at knock-down prices for a limited period. They will compete for shelf space with Tower Records eclectic range which includes chart singles, Blues and Garage music as well as sections on "Fetish" books and "Body Art".

Mr Lown, who sports shoulder-length blond hair and leather jackets, said he recognised that he was risking retaliation from the superstores but said it was worth it. "We're not exactly going to put Asda out of business, are we? And chart music is not a major part of our sales. But I feel someone should make stand." He said he knew as much about fruit and veg as the supermarkets did about music: "It's a question of knowing your Bananarama from your Meatloaf."

In a stinging attack on the supermarkets, Mr Lown said their cut-price campaigns might benefit consumers in the short-term but warned that in the long run they would limit choice and stifle the creative development of new artists. "They take an aggressive view on price but they have no feeling whatsoever about the music. For them, it's just a way of selling more eggs and bacon. It's all about market share."

Retailers such as Tower Records worked with record labels to promote new bands and artists while the supermarkets were only interested in cutting the price of CDs from established acts, he said. "It's like a smash-and- grab raid on everything we've created. The market for new bands could dry up. They [the supermarkets] have already moved into newspapers, magazines and post offices. What's next?"

Mr Lown expressed particular concern about Asda's VAT-busters campaign two weeks ago where the stores sold all videos, CDs and other music ranges at VAT-free prices. The price of Simply Red's greatest hits CD was cut from pounds 11.99 to pounds 10.19.

The supermarket defended its prices. "Asda is committed to giving the best possible value across the range and the VAT-free promotion is an example of that," it said.