Retail giant Next has banned reporters on a weekly newspaper from speaking to staff at a newly-opened branch on its patch.
The Wiltshire Gazette & Herald says it spent a week attempting to interview employees at the fashion and homeware store which has just opened a branch in Chippenham.
However all interview requests were turned down, with Next initially claiming staff were too busy to comment about the opening before deciding it was against company policy.
It told the Newsquest-owned title that it would only allow quotes written and sanctioned by its public relations department in Leicester to appear in the newspaper.
Gazette editor Gary Lawrence told HTFP he was completely baffled as to why Next should be so secretive about its opening.
“We have been allowed unfettered access to top secret military bases at Corsham and Lyneham with no problem at all. Why not a clothes shop?,” he said.
“Why doesn’t the company trust its staff to tell us how excited they are about the store opening? I really don’t understand it.
“All we wanted to do was to be able to tell our readers about the new store and talk to people that work there. Next would only supply us with some bland PR and our readers deserve more than that.”
Staff were deemed not ‘too busy’ to pose for a picture outside the new shop, although the company also said it wanted to vet the pictures before the Gazette published them.
Next public relations officer Matt King told the paper: “Our policy is not to allow staff to talk to the press. It is not that we don’t trust them, it is just our policy. We can send a quote.”
When asked whether the company cared that people in Chippenham were interested in the store opening or that 60 jobs had been created, he added: “We just have a policy. In any case the staff are too busy.”
The paper did manage to use one comment from excited store worker Becci Plowman who managed to get around the store’s ban by tweeting: “Cannot wait to go to work tomorrow, starting to set up the new @nextofficial store in Chippenham!”