Euro gets nation's knickers in a twist

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Indy Politics
Will Mrs Jones get used to paying for her knickers in euros? Forget convergence criteria or the ERM - that is the question Brussels needs to address, the man from Marks and Spencer believes.

Robert Colvill was too polite to mention knickers at yesterday's European Union round table on the practicalities of introducing the single currency. But, he warned European Commission planners, the project will stand or fall on how well they educate customers like his.

Chancellor Gordon Brown can sit on the sidelines repeating the mantra "wait and see", but Britain's retail bosses, convinced that the single currency is happening, and that Britain will have to join later if not sooner, they are already co-operating with Brussels on the nuts and bolts of 2002, when euro notes and coins are due to appear in cash registers across Europe.

For how many weeks would it be helpful to use two sets of price-stickers ? Will the euro interfere with the Christmas shopping rush or clash with the Jan- uary sales? And - the nightmare scenario - will a confused and fearful public cease to shop when E-day dawns?

As far as the big stores are concerned, this is where debate should be focused. "We can handle the mechanics of the transition. Much more substantial a problem is how to preserve consumers' trust. Many people will be extremely confused," said Mr Colvill.

At Selfridges they are already considering sashes with "euro" printed on them for a specially trained member of staff on each floor.