THE AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION is to close its 142-outlet retail network after discovering that 80% of its business is conducted over the telephone. The loss-making shops not only sell maps, books and motoring paraphernalia but also car and travel insurance. However, according to an AA spokesman: 'The trend shows that people prefer picking up the phone to buy the products we offer.' The retail business will be phased-out over the next twelve months with the loss of around 850 jobs, and products and services will be offered via the AA’s four integrated call centres which between them employ 1,550 staff.