There was a day when grocery folk would head for the hills in August, fearful of being caught up in a silly season frenzy. For this is the month when the media traditionally targets the food business, rushing to fill columns and airtime using techniques which suggest the facts should never be allowed to get in the way of a good story. But not this year. For, as the high street punch ups get even bloodier, the hungry hacks only need sit back, smile, swig another glass of private label Chardonnay, and wait for whacky tales to fall into their laptops. No longer must they dream up lurid tales of mystery and imagination. The high street protaganists are doing it for them. Tesco came up with a stonker when it hijacked two pages in The Sun for its pounds and ounces wheeze. Asda cheekily hit back with one of the most over hyped PR campaigns ever for what should have been a routine opening for its newly Americanised yet still "essentially Asda" unit at Bristol. A Safeway hit squad gummed up the checkouts at a Glasgow Asda, while Tesco and Somerfield are in a public squabble over a hot air balloon. At this point, sensitive readers might be forgiven for assuming that Messrs Leahy, Leighton, Davis and Co have gone mad. But, since Wal-Mart hit these shores, store wars have rarely only been about price. They're also about winning shoppers' attention by outsmarting your rivals with PR capers straight from the Max Clifford School of Headline Grabbing. Surprising as it may seem to retailing purists, the chains' silly stunts departments are becoming as important as their category management groups. But this isn't just a silly season phenomenon. It's set to happen all year round. And until they're rumbled by the advertising departments of the gullible media, the multiples will laugh all the way to their banks. And why not, two free mentions in The Sun and a well timed spot on the Nine o'clock News are not to be sniffed at. Mind you, having said all that, what's the betting, before September dawns, a certain tabloid reveals that a Tesco trolley has been found abandoned on the moon? Clive Beddall, Editor {{OPINION }}