One of the region's oldest agencies is set to launch a major campaign to publicise a scheme to create 600 franchises at Thresher group offlicences across the UK.

Worcestershire-based Severn Communications - which started in 1947 - says the deal will be worth "a high six figure sum".

The campaign, to be run at local and national level, will encourage local people to run each store and build competitiveness against major grocers.

Greg Lowe, franchise development manager for Thresher, said bosses at the 600 stores - Thresher and The Local outlets - were told of the plan earlier this year and were being offered the chance to take on the franchises.

Around 400 had shown an interest - roughly 23 of those in the Midlands.

Those people who do not want to take up a franchise would get the chance of relocation.

While there was a possibility of some redundancies, for those who did not want to move, he did not see them as being "wholesale".

Mr Lowe said: "The programme will take a couple of years to work through and certainly there will be enough opportunities to provide positions for everybody over a period of time."

Droitwich Spa PR agency Severn describe the award of the campaign as a major coup.

Graham Remes, managing director, said: "This is a huge account gain for us. Our work will include national press advertising, local outdoor media and an on-going PR programme to help raise the profile of the franchise opportunity."

He put the value of the deal at "a high six figure sum over it's full course."

The company was founded in 1947 by the father of current owner Martin Griffiths, he said.

Mr Remes said it had broadened over recent years from an advertising agency to embrace new media, design and public relations.

Severn had a turn-over of around £2.67 million last year which was up ten per cent on the previous period.

A spokesman for Thresher said: "We appointed Severn because of their track record of running campaigns of this nature coupled with the ideas that they have presented to us.

"This is a major initiative and will form a large part of our franchising plans."

Under the scheme, people will be offered the chance to buy into and run a Thresher group store, becoming their own boss and tailoring range, price and promotional offers to local needs.

The franchise move comes after a trial showed the stores had proved effective in meeting local needs. Thresher said it may extend the franchise scheme.

The group includes the operations Threshers, The Local, Wine Rack and Haddows in Scotland, owning around 2000 shops and employing over 12,000 people.

Severn Communications' success comes after a year in which it secured the account of the insurance broker Footman James, and also took on additional marketing work for housebuilder George Wimpey.

The businesses portfolio also includes work for Worcestershire County Council, CrownGate Shopping centre in the city and Severn Valley Railway.