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Supermarket sweeps up Rolling Stones

Only rock 'n' roll: Ron Wood, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts.

(Keystone Archive)

More than 40,000 customers of a Swiss supermarket chain are to see their loyalty rewarded not with cut-price carrots but a concert by the Rolling Stones.

Saturday's sell-out gig in Lausanne by the British rock band is being billed as the biggest ever staged in French-speaking Switzerland and a major coup for the country's leading retailer, Migros.

The chain, which has a very un-rock 'n' roll ban on alcohol and tobacco sales due to its founder's claim that they were a threat to the family, has booked Sir Mick Jagger, Ron Wood, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts to mark the tenth anniversary of its loyalty card scheme.

It is the first time the Stones have appeared in the French-speaking part of the country since an appearance in Montreux in 1964.

"Negotiations took a lot less time than we were expecting," said company spokeswoman Monika Weibel.

"We had to explain what Migros is about and that we wanted to thank members of our customer bonus scheme. We also spoke about our policy of supporting cultural activities and, ultimately, they must have realised that we're a nice bunch of people."

Brown sugar?

Customers collected stamps to enter a draw – which attracted the ire of the country's lottery commission – and the lucky ones picked up a pair of tickets for 6,000 bonus points, the equivalent of only SFr60 ($50).

Migros, which is known for taking its social responsibilities seriously, has stayed tight-lipped on the price of four Rolling Stones. But they are unlikely to have come cheap.

It cost around SFr10 million to bring the band to a military aerodrome near Zurich last summer, according to organisers of the event. Deutsche Bank is reported to have paid SFr6.5 million for the Stones to play in front of several hundred guests in Barcelona last month.

Certainly the size of the operation to bring the Stones to Lausanne's Pontaise stadium has been more akin to a bulk buy at a cash and carry than a quick dash to the local shop.

Major operation

Around 80 lorries, carrying 1,560 tonnes of material, have rolled into Lausanne for the latest stop on the Stones' megabucks A Bigger Bang tour.

The 62-metre-long stage, which stands 26 metres high, has taken hundreds of workers two weeks to set up.

"It is the biggest concert ever held in French-speaking Switzerland. In terms of the size of the stage and production, it's just gigantic," said co-organiser Vincent Sager.

Migros is also keeping quiet about the contents of the band's "rider" or special needs. For last year's concert near Zurich, a hangar was decked out with carpet, drapes and furniture. There was also a 50-metre warm-up track for Sir Mick and a snooker table for Ron and Keith.

With just days to go before the gig, tickets were readily available on online auctions eBay and Ricardo. On Friday eBay had seats for SFr320 and standing tickets for SFr160.

Migros said it would only send out tickets at the last minute to keep black market sales to a minimum.

swissinfo

In brief

Migros was founded in 1925. It is now Switzerland's largest retailer, with a turnover of nearly SFr21 billion and a staff of almost 80,000.

The Migros Group consists of ten regional cooperatives and the federation of Migros cooperatives. Industrial companies, service companies, foundations and other organisations are affiliated to the federation.

It does not sell alcohol or tobacco. Founder Gottlieb Duttweiler said they were a threat to the family.

A Bigger Bang

The tour, which got underway in the autumn of 2005, has been the most lucrative in rock history.

By the end of last year, it had grossed $437 million ($522 million). Additional dates in 2007 are expected to see this rise to $500 million.

The tour has already passed through Switzerland once, landing at an aerodrome near Zurich in August last year. It was the biggest concert ever held in Switzerland and was seen by 68,000 people.


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