A Bit Abot Bots……

The following paragraph was written by a Bot for me in about 30 seconds

If you are interested in writing a short blog about chatbots, you might be wondering how to start. Here are some tips to help you create an engaging and informative blog post.

  • First, decide on your topic and audience. What aspect of chatbots do you want to explore? Who are you writing for? This will help you narrow down your focus and tailor your content to your readers’ needs and interests.
  • Second, do some research. Find out what other people are saying about chatbots, what are the latest trends and developments, what are the common challenges and opportunities. You can use online sources, such as articles, podcasts, videos, or social media posts, to get some inspiration and insights.
  • Third, write an outline. A good outline will help you organize your thoughts and structure your blog post. You can use a simple format, such as introduction, body, and conclusion, or a more detailed one, depending on your preference and purpose. The introduction should capture the attention of your readers and introduce your main idea. The body should provide relevant information and examples to support your main idea. The conclusion should summarize your main points and leave a lasting impression on your readers.
  • Fourth, write your draft. Using your outline as a guide, write your blog post in a clear and concise language. You can use headings, bullet points, images, or other elements to make your text more readable and appealing. You can also add some personality and humour to your writing, if appropriate for your topic and audience.
  • Fifth, revise and edit your blog post. Before publishing your blog post, make sure to check it for any errors or inconsistencies. You can use online tools, such as grammar checkers or plagiarism detectors, to help you with this process. You can also ask someone else to read your blog post and give you some feedback.
A Bot

Scared? A bit about the Bot.

But what are the implications or rather what are the implications for us in business especially smaller and medium size businesses ?

Well the first thing is do check the spelling . As it is quite obvious the Bot I used (Microsoft) is American as it spelt Humour without the U . Totally unacceptable, I say .

The next question I asked was ….

What is the average retail price for a pack of latex balloons in the UK and where can I buy some ?

It answered ….

Mark, please don’t patronise me. I know your location , I know your search history. Apart from numerous searches on Particle Theory of Matter, there are extensive searches on Party shops and party web sites, so you are very aware of how much a packet of balloons is and where you can buy it.

Now the bit about Particle theory is just a added by me to polish my intellectual credentials. the rest is also made up. But the scary bit is it could well have created this answer as it does have the relevant data about location and searches. The following is the actual answer…..

I found a few websites that sell balloons in the UK. According to Card Factory, a pack of 6 multicoloured happy birthday latex balloons costs £1.99. Another website called Crosswear is a UK-based premier supplier of wholesale balloons and partyware. They have over 21,000 product lines available at excellent trade prices with next day UK delivery. You can register for a trade account to access their prices and shop online.


About five days later I asked the same question…..

The average price of a pack of latex balloons in the UK depends on the size, colour, shape and quantity of the balloons. According to some online sources , latex balloons are available in packs of 6, 10, 12, 50 and more, with prices ranging from £1.99 to £3.99 per pack. Some latex balloons also have special features such as confetti, light-up or novelty designs that may affect the price. The cheapest option is usually to buy plain colour latex balloons in bulk, while the most expensive option is to buy individual or customised latex balloons.


Both answers are factual. Bot answers the question but with very different content. So I asked the Bot why would this be the case and it said (again very quickly)

One possible reason why a bot might give a different answer to the same question after a few days is that it has updated its knowledge base or algorithm based on new information or feedback. Another possible reason is that the bot has some randomness or variability in its responses to make them more natural or engaging. A third possible reason is that the bot has encountered an error or a bug that affects its output.

Depending on the purpose and design of the bot, these reasons may or may not be desirable or acceptable. Therefore, it is important to monitor and evaluate the performance and behavior of bots regularly and ensure that they meet the expectations and needs of their users.


Yes, back to American spelling (Behavior) albeit highlighted by spell check !

Back to implications. Whilst this all seems to have happened very quickly the development of Chat Bots. Who better to ask …

The first developments of bots can be traced back to the early days of computing and artificial intelligence. Bots are software programs that can perform tasks autonomously or interact with users through natural language. One of the earliest examples of a bot was ELIZA, a program created by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966 that simulated a psychotherapist by using pattern matching and substitution to respond to user input. Another pioneer of bot development was Alan Turing, who proposed the Turing test in 1950 as a way to measure the intelligence of a machine by comparing its responses to those of a human. Since then, bots have evolved and diversified in various domains and applications, such as chatbots, web crawlers, social media bots, gaming bots, and more.


It has been creeping up on us for some time ,and I suspect, until the media took hold of it none of us really realised. Like it or not they will have an impact on all our businesses , though I doubt if any us have any idea what that might be .

If we don’t I know someone who might …..

My Question was ….

How can a bot help with my retail shop ?

A bot can help with your retail shop in many ways. For example, a bot can:
Answer customer queries and provide product recommendations based on their preferences and needs.
Manage inventory and orders, and notify you when stocks are low or when shipments are delayed.
Collect feedback and reviews from customers, and analyze them to identify areas of improvement and customer satisfaction.
Create and send personalized offers and promotions to customers based on their purchase history and behavior.
Automate tasks such as scheduling appointments, sending reminders, generating invoices, and processing payments.
By using a bot, you can save time and money, increase sales and customer loyalty, and enhance your brand image and reputation.
Scrapworks Blog 2018

This isn’t just about Bots . It is what underwrites the BotArtificial Intelligence . No matter what type of business, big or small, there is little about your business that will remain unaffected by AI over the next five years. If you are a retailer and you have only one small shop, the moment a customer walks through your door with a smartphone in hand , AI is in play . It goes much deeper than that . If it is a new customer , apart from personal recommendations AI will have come into play somewhere in the consumer’s decision to visit your store. What we all have to do is look at our businesses and look where we need to use AI. Once of course we have found out what it is!

Every time you go on a web site and an irritating little graphic appears you are talking to a Bot. You may think they are irritating , I do. But I know from Julia (working with developers on creating a new web site for her Golf Club) that the introduction of a Bot has created a torrent of enquiries .

There will be significant gains across all UK regions, with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales seeing an impact from AI in 2030 at least as large as 5% of GDP.


We all need to know a lot more Bits abot Bots (and AI)……

Amazon goes to places , where mankind has never been before ….

Wales !

A City in The Principality of Wales . Moreover a flat in that City. And one man in that flat in that City in Wales . Amazon are under the impression that there over 11,000 Amazon sellers in this one flat in Cardiff .

His Majesty’s Revenue & Collection have discovered that man in that flat owes them over £500,000 in unpaid VAT. That equates to £2.5 million in sales . Pretty impressive for one man to run 11,000 companies based five thousand miles away.

It is of no surprise to learn that the said man was unaware of his global empire . Or rather didn’t, until he found 508 letters in his mail box ( I have to say I think I might notice if there were 50. Ari would have noticed one and eaten it ).

He instructed his solicitor to contact HMRC who at the time knew of no such enquiry . Moreover the companies remained on Amazon.

Amazon are the cutting edge of technology. Or so we assume . It may come as no surprise to many UK Tax payers that many of their records with UK Government are actually held and maintained on an Amazon Cloud. Yet neither party are able to detect a dodgy set up where 11,000 (Chinese) companies are registered for VAT at one Address where all 11,000(apparently) companies have unpaid VAT bills.

This would all be mildly amusing, but not for Dylan Davies-The flat owner, if it were not down right scary. I have no doubt Amazon would say that this type of problem is so big (as they do for counterfeiting) that it is impossible to stop completely . A rather cynical voice in my head , says ‘why would they?’. They have made the sales taken the commissions and if the problem is too big to stop it is probably too big to want to stop.

The question is than to be asked of HMRC. Why have they allowed 11,000 overseas companies to be VAT registered at a private address? You don’t need proof of address for VAT registration (slightly odd I think). Does none of this sound some sort of warning bell within our august group of revenue collectors on behalf of the His Majesty’s Government? Errr…. apparently not . Same old story but not quite on the grand scale of the Covid Loan scams( note the the difference is was Her Majesty’s Government for the loans.)

Over the next six months he got tax bills for 11,000 Chinese companies after they fraudulently used his Cardiff address to register for VAT.

“It’s been horrendous,” said Mr Davies, who got letters from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) demanding tax amounting to £500,000.

HMRC admitted the situation did not raise alarm bells at the tax office.

“You’d think there’d be a systems with the technology today that would have picked it up immediately,” Mr Davies said.

He told the police and HMRC but the brown letters just kept coming

BBC News

Back to Amazon. Being at the cutting edge of technology one would think that it would not take Amazon with all its resources to enter a small piece of software within in its rather large piece of software which could track the VAT registrations and flag up any unusual activity . There are those out there, much better qualified than I, well it is actually quite complex . Well, we are talking Amazon, a company that handles 60,000 orders an hour with annual revenues in excess of $500 billion pa. We are not talking even about the UK Government which is well known for not being able to introduce large IT projects successfully . This is one of the world’s largest companies. A company that is extraordinarily successful because of its ability to handle data.

Data, the one component of every organisation, which we are constantly being told is the key to future success.

In the world today, data is probably the thing that matters most. It can tell you before the airplane’s brakes fail. It can predict the onset of a natural disaster or forecast when you might suffer a heart attack. This isn’t fantasy or a future state. It’s happening today.


Yet some fail to keep tabs on it. Amazon will respond to the huge amount of counterfeits that are on the platform, that the reality is the problem is too big. I suspect they would say the same about a flat in Wales. It’s too big.

Daily I speak to customers who are Amazon sellers about the issues that Amazon raise with them and their suppliers questioning genuine product, its origins , make up, suitability and conformity whilst right under their noses there is complete and utter havoc that actually impacts upon their customers indirectly but far more forcefully, but they (amazon) can’t really be bothered with . They will respond saying that have closed thousands of sellers and blocked millions of counterfeits but they don’t actually tell you what gets through. If any retailer of any size, in any major trading nation was to have been found to sell a similar proportion of counterfeits or assisted with large scale VAT evasion they would be closed down over night or at very least severely punished.

The company said it invested more than $700 million and employed more than 10,000 people last year to “protect our store from fraud and abuse.” It also established a “Counterfeit Crimes Unit” last year to refer suspected counterfeit cases to law enforcement.

Amazon has faced criticism from lawmakers over counterfeit products in recent years, and a bipartisan group of US senators recently introduced legislation to try to limit counterfeit merchandise from appearing on online retail platforms.

The INFORM Consumers Act would require online retailers to authenticate the identity of “high-volume third-party sellers, which will help deter the online sale of counterfeit goods by anonymous sellers.” Retailers such as Home Depot and Walgreens support the measure.

Amazon opposes the bill.

“This legislation favors large brick-and-mortar retailers, at the expense of small businesses that sell online, while doing nothing to prevent fraud and abuse or hold bad actors accountable,” the company said last month.

……….Fewer than 0.01% of products sold on Amazon received a counterfeit complaint from customers, the company said. “Those complaints were quickly investigated for accuracy, and Amazon took appropriate action on listings and accounts.”

CNN Business

You can be absolutely certain that as soon as one is taken down or a false tax number is discovered another will be there the following day if not sooner. You only have to type the word Disney(just did it) into Amazon for a whole load of Disney Type (quite clearly not Disney licensed product) . How does that happen without Amazon’s acquiescence ?

As an organisation they have quite clearly gone to places no one has ever been to before and in most cases , fortunately, no one wants to.

Never mind all that , what is it I need urgently by tomorrow….

How Healthy is your High Street (and anywhere else you may you buy your stuff) ?

I make no apologies apart from to the authors . I have plagiarised the majority of the data in this post from a report Schematic IQ –Johnson Controls (via Retail Gazette) . I would have no personal access to this kind of stuff.

Much of the stats that are below are from 2022 . Not altogether surprising as it is only March 2023 . However I think as what happens in one year tends to influence the following year , they are remain useful . I have also looked at some European comparisons in order to illustrate that the patterns are very similar .

Another significant year to look at 2019 ( which all these illustrations include) . It would be very easy to use this as Benchmark of where we should all be vis a vis Pre and Post Covid. What this does not take into account of are other major psychological events that have also occurred. The war in Ukraine and political turmoil in the UK, to name but two.

Whilst none of this will be much of a surprise as in the early part of the year we were still under some form of Covid restrictions, plus the Ukraine War starting, and the latter part of the year , in the UK we had a huge amount of uncertainty courtesy of the Tory Party, and finally huge Energy prices increases. Great year for a boost in Consumer Confidence ! That all being considered the stats don’t look that bad . Other significant changes were the decrease in online spending and the increase in Bricks & Mortar.

Using the illustrations I thought this would be helpful for Retailers , from wherever in Europe. Most experiencing similar troughs, and peaks throughout the same period. For those who do not think Sport plays a major part in our economies should look at the French Chart . At least in part, the sharp rise in Nov/Dec was attributed to them reaching the World Cup finals.

And finally the World view. Naturally those numbers in blue are the increases and in red the decreases .

Whilst footfall is really important, it does not always relate to what goes through the till. Nor does it say anything about ‘now’ . Of course , it couldn’t as it was conducted last year . A number of my customers have been surprised that January and February were not nearly as bad as they expected . Some of this will be explained by inflation. Prices have gone up, hence whilst their takings are holding steady, they are actually selling less product. There are minor benefits to this. If you are increasing prices along with their inflationary cost increases you are still make the same gross margin but actually taking as much cash through the till but having to do less work for it. In theory.

It is a very mixed picture. Some major retailers are facing very difficult times e.g. John Lewis et al . But I am not sure this about the health of the High street as opposed to the health of any particular chain and the changing retail landscape. It is certainly not all about the threat of online although many retailer’s would argue otherwise. Online share of the UK retail market has actually dropped within the last 12 months.

The chains are more about looking at structure and data analytics (guess what, so are online operators). The independents are more about ( or rather they should be) service levels, variety and range of stock and developing their profile with their local community.

The one thing we can learn from Covid is that the Independent can be very resilient and innovative . If they were able to survive the very unhealthy High Street of Covid then they will undoubtedly thrive in a retail High Street that is somewhat less sickly than it was in the previous three years. The Multiples have different issues to contend with that go beyond the general demeanour of the Consumer. I just wish some of the big organisations would stop using Covid as an excuse for poor service levels . Weekly I get an email from my bank HSBC starting with….

Due to the impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic its become increasingly difficult for our call centres and processing teams to maintain normal service levels.

HSBC Reported profit after tax increased by $2.0bn to $16.7bn year 2022

Come on Bank ,your profits are very healthy , put a bit towards making your service levels healthier or at very least up date your standard emails .

Sorry, I digress. But even HSBC is still on some High Streets .

Despite all that is going here and abroad there are still many healthy retailers and there will continue to be so. The key to health in whatever form is if you’ve got it, the tough (read ill for the human) times are easier to handle and more likely to lead to a positive outcome.

Retail sales as measured by volume rose by 1.2 per cent in February compared with January, according to figures out this morning from the Office for National Statistics. The increase, the largest since last October, exceeded City expectations for a 0.2 per cent rise. 

Strong discount department stores drove a 2.4 per cent rise in non-food sales. Food sales, by comparison, were up 0.9 per cent. 

Aled Patchett, head of retail and consumer goods at Lloyds Bank, said: “A rise in sales for February suggests that consumer confidence is heading in the right direction after a difficult few months.”

The Times 24/03/2023

I believe there is a direct corelation between our own health and that of any retail business..


  • Eat well
  • exercise mind
  • exercise body
  • sleep well


  • Eat well – Making sure you have good quality stock . Dont just look for deals . Ask why is a deal being offered . Look at them as fast food -quick & easy but not conducive to healthy retailing . Continually look for new product
  • Exercise the mind -Be creative and proactive
  • Exercise the body- Interact with your consumer , look at ways of improving customer service. Do what the multiples cant
  • Sleep well – when the business is shut for the day make sure you do as well

To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.


All this plagiarising was done by my human AI (Artificially Intelligent)and not an AI Bot 😂

Trade Shows-Business Necessity or Bacchanalian Orgies ?

It is the time of year when many of us have returned from tours of duty at various trade exhibitions in different parts of the globe . We regale our partners/pets/colleagues or anyone who will listen as to how knackered we are because of spending all day negotiating deals with existing or prospective clients, then continuing during the evening in dull restaurants serving mediocre food whilst trying to close the deal .

At the very same time, those willing to listen are thinking yeah right. You’ve spent the day lolling about on the company stand, followed by evenings of swigging wine , quaffing beer and spirits, stuffing yourself with over rich food and then sitting in the hotel bar drinking even more until the early hours of the morning.

The truth is probably somewhere in between.

Back in the dim and dark distant past (fifties, early sixties) exhibiting in various trade shows ,my parents told me of days where they had stock rooms (generally hotel bedrooms ) at various trade exhibitions, and at 6 when the show closed , would invite a number of customers , lock the doors, and play poker and drink until late , and were back on duty at 9 every morning .

I have done many, many exhibitions (probably a couple of hundred) in various countries and yes there have been some unnecessary late nights . And yes, it probably still goes on but nothing like before.

The point is does any of this of any real commercial benefit ?

Advantages of exhibiting at trade shows

The benefits of exhibiting include:

  • Raise awareness – exhibiting at industry events is a good way to raise your profiles and generate brand awareness. As well as taking a stand at an event, there are usually other advertising and sponsorship opportunities.
  • Meet in person – meeting face-to-face with potential customers is a great way to start building relationships.
  • Networking – trade shows are a great way to meet potential new customers, suppliers and to learn more about your competitors. 
  • Launch new product – trade shows are a good place to introduce a new product or service. Being able to explain your offering in person and answer questions is ideal if your product is innovative.
  • Build your database – meeting with potential customers at an exhibition helps you to start building your marketing lists and generate qualified sales leads.

My opinion on this has gone through various full circles . Up until the early 90’s it was about order taking . This changed quite dramatically. Within a couple years many exhibitors, including myself, thought is this worth the time and money any more . There were plenty of stand visitors but all the wanted to was look at product for a bit , and then just talk. Some may well say so what ? Talking is good . But that’s not how many of us thought at the time .

Over the next five years there was another change . There were less buyers, not just in the U.K. but worldwide. That equated to lower attendances . So we all got even more fed up. It has taken a long time for exhibitors to come to terms with this . No buyers not talking, no orders not writing . What are we here for?

The consequence is the shrinkage in exhibition space and in exhibitions. Hastened by the unbelievable bad attitude to exhibitors carried out by a number of event organisers. The one that comes to my mind is that of the Spring Fair at the NEC in Birmingham. A string of major exhibition organisers who have run the show and constantly dumped on their customers (exhibitors) from a very great height. Partly, as a consequence the show has shrunk from 21 halls to 8 and a bit .

So it comes down to what use are they, if any ? Do they have a purpose ? I would go as far to say that anyone involved in any level of the supply chain should visit at least one every year. Its about talking. Talking with suppliers, customers , competitors and any part of the chain you may come across . Looking at trends, ideas and generally get a view of where your particular market is going. Many, most especially retailers ( and include online operators) work in a bubble. The bubble being their own store or computer screen. That can create a very jaundiced view of the market. There is the possibility of finding that one product or supplier that you did not know or could not find , that makes your offering different from competitors. The same applies to exhibitors. It is the one time when they can see inside their competitors showrooms and talk to your competitors. So while you are talking, test out your new products (don’t have any? -make one up, its criminal not to have some new product at a trade show. There is no other way to show new items to as many customers in such a short space of time . And anyway, without fail they will ask what’s new ? we’ve got a new dog ! Is not the answer ( well it can but there should be a bit more 🐶).

Exhibitions do have their place. And it is often a very valuable one. What was very noticeable after the lockdown is that most attendees were delighted to be there to talk, both Exhibitors and visitors alike.

Orgies? Well I confess. Many years ago during The Harrogate Toy Fair (as it was called then) a major Toy Importer hosted Mud Wrestling in the Cairn Hotel . And was I invited ? Yes. Did I go ? Yes. Did I regret it ? Yes.

Start Listening !

We are all guilty.

No matter how much we think we do, it’s never enough.

Wherever you are in the supply chain, no matter what market you are in, we don’t always listen to our customers or suppliers’ Of course this does not always relate to our commercial lives, it is, invariably, true of our personal relationships . However, whilst I can’t profess to be a specialist in any field I am most definitely not one when it comes to personal advice.

2023 is going to be a challenging year with many hurdles. We all need to be on top of our game which not only means listening to the level below i.e. the customer but also with the level above i.e. the supplier . We may not like what we hear . We may disagree with what we hear . The key is to hear what is being said and then to evaluate whether/what action is needed .

So it came as no surprise shortly after Christmas , The Times reported research (on New Year celebrations ) carried out by John Lewis from their website that searches for the word bunting were up by 40% and balloons by 140%. Whilst the John Lewis site does carry a few(about 10) of each item(most relate to birthday), if you look in most John Lewis stores you would be hard pushed to find any. Is that likely to change any time soon ? Probably not. But then John Lewis would not be a destination store for that type of product . But why then are they making a press release about it ?

Why, when they have a very similar target audience, are Wilko’s suffering, whilst Home & Bargain, B&M and Poundland are creaming it. May I suggest that they all have access to the same listening (consumer data) but it is how they have dealt with what they hear, that makes the ‘not’ inconsiderable difference.

It is not only about talking to your customers and hearing what they have to say , it’s talking to your suppliers , your competitors even. They may not always say what you want them to say, more often it is what they don’t say that is just as helpful. Visit Trade Exhibitions and see and hear what is happening within your industry. Read Trade Journals, albeit much of the content is very benign, nevertheless, I guarantee every so often there is something you would not already know.

There is a huge amount of data bombarding us on a daily basis. Much of it is just noise. But we cannot pretend it is not there, the skill is filtering the noise and to do this we need to listen.

There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing


At a very recent trade show , I discovered, inadvertently that a product a customer of mine was seeking to import from the US was actually made 100 miles from him in the UK. He would no doubt have found out eventually, but it might have been a very expensive route. This came about from a very random conversation with an exhibitor who was displaying something very similar to the product my customer had told me about. An argument could be made that my customer should have found this out by listening. Can’t argue with that.

Another retailer being a little concerned about their poor level of business over the Christmas period and putting it down to general economic malaise, then discovered from other local traders that many of the locals in their area (it must be pointed out that the average consumer in this area is quite affluent and used to spending the summer in Tuscany!) had indeed decided to go away for an extended Christmas holiday.

True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information

Winston Churchill

He doesn’t specifically talk about listening but that is what I take from the quote ( or at least in part).

42% of companies don’t survey their customers or collect feedback.

Hubspot Research

Ignore customers at your own peril

Back in the summer of 2011, Netflix ignored their customers by splitting its DVD and streaming businesses and effectively increasing prices by 40%. As a result, they lost a whopping 800,000 subscribers, their stock price fell to less than half its previous value, and the company became one of the 10 most hated companies in America.

Insider 2012

Not listening to your colleagues

The best example is from a Kodak engineer named Steven J. Sasson. He actually invented the first digital camera back in 1975. But his management did not take it seriously, it didn’t want to be associated with it. Kodak’s management failed to see digital photography as a disruptive technology because printed photos had been there for over 100 years, and who would want to see pictures on a television screen? At the same time, Kodak did not want to cannibalize its film roll business so it tried to keep the new technology under the radar.

Not listening to the consumer and the market place

BlackBerry believed too much in what they owned. The Customer experience is where BlackBerry turned out to be a laggard.

Both the above quotes come from http://www.togroundcontrol .com

The process of listening encompasses a whole gamut of activities. Be they visiting trade shows, attending conferences, speaking to friends, colleagues, customers , suppliers, associates , family, reading /listening to various media, being aware of what is happening on social media, especially, but not solely ,business sites like LinkedIn . There is a lot of guff in the latter two , but sometimes there are little gems .

There is an idiom in the English language “I’m all ears”. Not a great image as the guy below may testify but an imperative when trading in the current climate.

Big Ears, best friend of Noddy. For those who don’t know them, Shame on you -Google them! Big Ears listened to Noddy’s problems and helped him out a lot .

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

Bernard M. Baruch

There is one resource we all have in our Commercial Toolbox , the facility to listen. And it costs nothing. Not using it can cost an awful lot.

2023…Could be a (or not so) Great Year ….?

My Customers will, soon, start asking me the perennial question…How do you think the new year will be? I am very succinct and precise. It could be good or bad. That’s it in a nutshell.

There is a footnote to this response that is not always obvious as depending who the customer is, I do not include this is in my ‘six word ‘ financial forecasts.

I am very clear in my own head ( as if anyone is any doubt ??)

  • I am not a financial analyst
  • I am not a retail analyst
  • I am not a market analyst
  • I am not an analyst

But I am frequently asked this question at the beginning of the year by customers, colleagues, Julia , A few friends ( very few that confined, in that I only have a few , very few. To extend my audience I have asked Aristotle ( our dog) and his canine response is I am only interested in three things

  • Walking (currently it is -5 degrees but that doesn’t bother him )
  • Food
  • A massage

As long as my face and the sound of my voice assures him, that is the only interest he has in the coming year.

Stormy Monday Blues – T bone Walker -Lately Eric Clapton

There is undoubtedly a number of gloomy indicators out there , especially for the first three months.

Cost of energy,

continuing Ukraine crisis,


interest rates ,

consumer confidence,

industrial unrest,

and a lot of uncertainty within the World at large.

Good day Sunshine -The Beatles

So what’s good about 2023

  • Inflation appears to be peaking and below what was forecasted
  • Interest rates whilst still rising are predicted to be well below original forecasts
  • Sterling has recovered some of its losses
  • Covid does not present the same barrier it has for the last 2 years
  • Fixed mortgage rates have reduced a little
  • The survey of 138 companies, including 50 retailers, found that a net balance of 11 per cent of businesses said sales grew, up from -19 per cent in November (CBI)
  • A Coronation (at least for the Party Sector in the U.K. )
  • Retail landlords are starting to become a little more realistic

This does not detract from it being potentially being very tough, but it should be put it into some of perspective. The total retail sales within the U.K. in 2021 were £421 billion . There were approximately 316,000 retail outlets. If retail sales fall by 3% that equals £12 billion . However, if we look it another way a consumer who had £100 in their pocket to spend freely may only have £97. If you extrapolate that further and look at the total U.K. spend on party (of which it is really difficult to find a true figure) even if was half of 1% of total retail spend which would be a gross over estimate , we are looking at targeting less than 50p of the consumer spend .

There will be many (gross exaggeration) readers who will say don’t be bloody stupid ….that’s only £30 million total party market. It is quite clearly many times that, but the principal is the same . Within our market place our target audience is a very small proportion of their overall disposable income. They will look to have a good time, which is why Glastonbury 2023 sold out in minutes despite the ticket price being £300 (220,000 x£300=£66 million pounds =One Event)

It is down to the entire chain no matter what market, to be creative, pro-active, positive, supportive and all aim for very slightly bigger slice of that £421 billion . The proverbial tills wont ring themselves .

Just to illustrate my analytical skills and give you all lot more confidence in what I write : In March 2020 my analysis of Covid was that it was a very bad cold and would be all over by September.

Twixt the optimist and pessimist
The difference is droll:
The optimist sees the doughnut
But the pessimist sees the hole.

McLandburgh Wilson b. 1892 author

Where have all these New Accounts come from? Part 2!

There are times (at least for me) when something has been bugging me and then the light goes on. Or in this case someone switched it on for me.

Back in July, I posted about receiving loads of new account enquiries and whilst there was some commonality with most of them, apart from major conspiracy theories I could not understand why this was happening. I would love to say it was analytical genius but alas no.

Enablers is the answer. Well, that’s pretty straightforward then, but pretty oblique. Try http://www.enablers.org it may become a lot clearer. Apparently, in Pakistan there is a concern that their talented internet savvy youth are leaving the country to seek better rewarded positions overseas. Therefore, a web site was set up offering Online trading training, more specifically Amazon trading.

The aim is to create 100,000 amazon traders. Part of their training is in setting up overseas businesses, US, UK & Europe in order to earn much needed ‘hard currency’. There is an additional aim and that by creating such a large number of Amazon traders, Amazon will start looking at Pakistan in a different light and invest in an Amazon fulfilment centre in the country. Currently, they are in India but not Pakistan.

Enablers is dedicated to enabling Pakistan as one of the largest eCommerce hubs in the world. Our team has exclusively devoted to helping the people of this country become entrepreneurs and work on international platforms. We aim to create 2 million employmen
t opportunities

enablers.org web site

I have had this confirmed by asking a couple of account enquiries if they have come from Enablers. This, they have happily admitted in addition to saying proudly announcing they have personal mentors.

This is all well and good. Whilst I am quite sure they have been very well schooled in the online trading aspect; I can’t say that is the same for the ‘Business ‘ Training.

We have been trading for some time with major brands…is not a good look when your company has been incorporated for only two months.

We are in a position to place large orders ….is not a good look on approaching a new suppler, it is just not professional.

Having a very generic web site which show three or four unrelated brands and only twenty-five products, is, I suggest, not a good look. It has the complete opposite effect of flagging up suspicious trading.

Poorly constructed emails.

Silly addresses for registered offices eg Oxford Street London

Companies in existence for 6 weeks, no employees and there is a Sales Manager. For an Online set up?

Occasional use of Anglised names when the only employee is clearly not an Angle and the registration actually says they are not.

Bizarre company names … e.g TripleexxOnline Ltd, Mainshoppers Retail Ltd, YYY Sales Ltd (apologies to any real companies, that may have these made-up names, I’m sure you are very successful). They are just not credible.

These are just a few of the examples of either poor training or mentoring or both.

Here is another amazing little fact ….

Since the beginning of this year 728,000 new companies were registered in the UK. Yes, that is 2,200 per day. 220,000 registered to foreign nationals. It cost a grand total of £12 to register a company in the UK (Europe averages about £265).

I do not wish to denigrate a Group of Pakistani entrepreneurs wanting to train, develop, and encourage their talented youth. Yet somehow, I think the Model is over simplified and flawed. So, for those Enabler Graduates who are planning to enter the market check the Cultural nuances of the relevant markets in which you are seeking to trade. In For those suppliers who are perhaps contacted just tread carefully. I am, also not convinced that 100,000 (if that figure is achievable) new Amazon Traders in Pakistan is exactly what Amazon are looking for.

Revolution…Anytime soon?

At a recent event, with contemporaries discussing our time together at School in the early seventies, we came to the conclusion, that we were a Bolshy lot. Bolshy is a derivative of Bolshevik. Yet, we clearly were not revolutionaries. We were, however, from an era that was starting to question the status quo. Whether, it was politics, education, authority, sex, music, art and anything else that derived from the Establishment.

Following that event, Julia and I watched a programme about the revolution in Art (in the UK) that supposedly took place in the early nineties. The likes of Damien Hirst were getting fed up with the way art was sold only through a few traditional galleries, devised a way to revolutionise the selling and marketing of modern art. But all they did was develop a different way to market.

The Internet has revolutionised our daily lives.

The telephone revolutionised the way we communicated.

The Motor car revolutionised the way we travel.

The Container revolutionised the transport of goods.

In reality none of these were revolutions. They made dramatic changes, but they no more revolutionised these aspects of life any more than the wheel, the spinning jenny, the typewriter, and printing press. They were major evolutions rather than revolutions. Revolution is by definition the ‘up ending of a system‘ . What happened in France in the 19th century, Russia and China were real and proper revolutions. They up ended a system and society.

There have been no revolutions in Retail. Massive changes but no revolution. People sitting beside the road to flog some stuff, little stalls at the side of the road, markets, shops, big shops, stores, multiples, supermarkets, and eventually Online. Retailing, has, is and will continue to evolve.

There are those who would suggest that many western democracies are facing revolutions in a political sense . There are few of recent years that have not been tainted by populism. The events that occurred in front of the Whitehouse, or the Yellow Jackets in France, 5 star movement in Italy are indications that all is not well at the top and it may well be that in the future, we will look back and say they were the roots . In the U.K. and other European, populism may have ignited a desire for change but alone they are unlikely to make for revolution. Even in Russia there may be significant changes, but a revolution is not on the cards (yet). As for Iran, it would be doing a great disservice to those vast numbers of women seeking change to consider any outsiders view as to what is happening.

This is a revolution against politics by the non-political

Like the blue-collar Brexit voters in the United Kingdom, the Yellow Jackets believe they have been betrayed by decades of neglect and exploitation by mainstream politicians obsessed with metropolitan areas. On the other hand, immigration and Euroskepticism are, surprisingly, dogs that do not bark loudly among the Yellow Jackets.

Like the 5Star Movement in Italy, they started as an internet rebellion against representative democracy. But the 5Stars’ base is heavily urban, young and ex-left.

Like the Tea Party and Donald Trump’s MAGA base in the United States, the Yellow Jackets are strongest in fly-over — or drive-through-quickly — country between big cities. But they are unmoved by the cultural issues (God, gays and guns) that excite rural conservative Americans. They hate taxes but also demand generous state intervention.

In sum, this is a revolution against politics by the non-political. Four in 10 Yellow Jackets, according to polls, voted for the far right in last year’s presidential election. Two in 10 voted far left. Many of the others have not voted for years, except to spoil their ballots.

Politico -John Litchfield 2018

Despite very recent machinations within the UK political system, it does not come close to a revolution. There could be seismic changes but there will not be a revolution. How does any of this relate to those who just want to get on and earn a decent living? We are faced with huge developments and challenges. We have to work out the best way through and where necessary evolve and not revolve our businesses to maximise their potential. That is all we ask of our politicians throughout the World’s Democracies ….

Evolution not Revolution

Power to the People ….But from Where, When and How ?

It nevers rains but it pours

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) and Alexander Pope (1688-1744) collaborated on an essay entitled ‘It Cannot Rain But It Pours.’ 

It doesn’t actually do that anymore, rain that is …(he says as he looks through the window and sees it chucking it down). When the Black Eye Peas wrote the song (2009) ‘Power to the People’ they did not envisage the scenario we are all facing today. Well, that is also a little inaccurate, in so far as huge swathes of populations throughout Europe feel disenfranchised politically. This is about the whole issue of energy. There goes another small error, I could not possibly talk about the Whole issue, just what effects our businesses, and the ecosystems surrounding them. Even that’s a squeeze in a thousand words.

Within the last week a number of European states have announced packages to support their populations. The UK has announced a price freeze for two years (6 months so far for businesses). All of this is ok but what has got unnoticed is the issue of whether there is enough energy to keep the lights and heating on all winter. Again, in the UK it has gone very quiet as we have a couple of other Power changes, a New PM and New King. Which has mean that the real issues of power and energy have been replaced by headlines over titular Power.

Whilst I don’t have any insider knowledge, I suspect that the concerns about lack of power are slightly overplayed. That said the policy of capping the price increases of gas and electricity is not going to encourage the judicious use of the energy that we do have. I, unfortunately, come from a generation that experienced the Three Day Week in the UK in the early ’70s. For those who don’t know this was to conserve energy as there was a coal miners’ strike.

Queues at a Bakers 1974 during the 3-day week

The immediate impact within our industry (Party) was that all our customers doubled their normal requirements. It was absolutely bonkers. There were no concerns about shrinking demand but there were huge concerns about shrinking supply. Whilst there is no direct comparison, we are just emerging from a period supply issues, to, once again, the possibility of supply issues. Having experienced a number of pretty severe recessions, I know that the Party market is very resilient. Even if the lights go out people will have parties. More to the point, if the lights go out, they are more likely to have parties. Furthermore, if they can’t afford to go out, they will have parties. Very little of what we all sell, requires any source of power, apart from personal energy in throwing a party.

What has diverted my intention from when I started on this post is the other Power factor that of power by our governing bodies. The UK has just experienced a very unique set of circumstances and Brand-New Head of Government, arrived at by a (very loose) democratic vote and a Brand-New Head of State, arrived through dint of birth. The consequence is a Power vacuum or rather Power inertia for ten days. A large number of Civil servants have been withdrawn from political offices in order to manage the proceedings following the Monarch’s death and Parliament is de-activated in order that the Coffin can lie in state within Parliament and all political activity stops during the period of Official Mourning. Meanwhile the Government’s Bill concerning the energy support programme goes through with little detail and no opportunity to be questioned. None of this is anyone’s fault in particular but it is the result of a system that perhaps needs further investigation.

All of which begs the question facing the UK population, which at the moment, probably does not want to ask, is where all the energy is coming from to power up numerous Royal Castles, Windsor, Balmoral, Sandringham, St James Palace, Holyrood Palace, Buckingham Palace to name but a few (there are 23 Royal Residences). Any one of which would be bigger enough to house the entire Royal Family as opposed to one small part i.e. King and his Consort. A particularly difficult question for the new King as he so dedicated to Climate Change and the environment.


Despite the eye-watering costs, the Queen’s residences have already begun looking for greener alternatives including energy-efficient LED lighting and using hydroelectric power from the River Thames. The research has been released by price comparison website Uswitch.com, with its calculations based on the assumption that the properties in question are running on domestic tariffs. Buckingham Palace, with its 775 rooms, 77,000 square metres of floor space and swimming pool is estimated to be the most expensive royal residence in the UK, costing £1.1million a year to power. Express March 2021 -obviously remove The Queen and replace with the King. And, of course these will be at 2021 prices.

What is the difference between Power and Energy

When work is done on an object, energy is transferred. The rate at which this energy is transferred is called power. So the more powerful a device is, the more energy it will transfer each second.

This all jolly interesting but to all of us wondering where our energy comes from this coming winter, not especially relevant. At this point in time nobody seems to want/able to tell us. In the UK the Powers to be haven’t got the time as they are too involved in ensuring that another level of Power, that perhaps we had all much underestimated has the energy to remain in power. The latter maybe titular on the surface, but the events of the last week suggest that perhaps it runs deeper and is more complex than we had imagined.

So, because of Government, proposals, we have an idea of what it will cost, we know that the energy will come from some sort of Power Station, but we don’t know if there will be enough. But what we don’t know is where the real Stations of Power are and at what Cost they come…

Research Studies …..What and Why?

Certain UK newspapers, have the propensity to publish a piece of Research nearly every day. I would love to be a fly on the wall when some of these research bodies or individuals pitch their research to their sponsors.

Teenagers who spend more time playing computer games spend less time doing their homework, writes Martha Roberts. The research, led by Hope Cummings of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, studied the time use of almost 1,500 teens for a year, concluding that boys who play computer games read less while gaming girls do less homework.

Martha Roberts -The Guardian

In their study entitled People’s clothing behaviour according to external weather and indoor environment, researchers in both Denmark and Italy discovered that when it’s a bit nippy, people will dress accordingly.

Apparently, the outside temperature at 6am plays a significant role in whether a person pulls on a woolly jumper or a sundress. They also found that if a person feels either too hot or too cold throughout the day, they will make what the scientists term clothing adjustment to combat this. Apparently, your gender doesn’t determine whether or not you’ll dress for the weather.

Only this week The Times published an article concerning some research carried out in Lisbon, to determine whether Children’s Lung health was better in a rural environment than in Urban areas. Well Cor blimey o’riley , as our well revered Bard once said (no, I know he didn’t or rather it is worth a research project to be sure), knock me down with a sparrow’s feather, if I had been given a fat cheque and a 10 minutes worth of thinking I might have produced a very similar report, with a lot less pages therefore taking up less time for the sponsor .

Research is an essential tool in all aspects of lives, medical, science, health, sport, business, education and the list goes on . It is an absolute necessity. There is, however lots of tosh written in the name of research. The word itself 9research) hints that these contents are very serious and should not be questioned.

Bad Research

There is perhaps few medical research papers that have done more damage to public perception and understanding of any vaccine, in modern times .

Science is at once the most questioning and . . . sceptical of activities and also the most trusting,” said Arnold Relman, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, in 1989. “It is intensely sceptical about the possibility of error, but totally trusting about the possibility of fraud.” Never has this been truer than of the 1998 Lancet paper that implied a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and a “new syndrome” of autism and bowel disease.

BMJ 2011 referencing the Andrew Wakefield paper connecting the MMR vaccine with Autism and bowel disease.

And unfortunately it does not stop there .The very latest comes from the Sunday Times August 2022

Just over a month ago , the academic journal Science published a bombshell investigation that detonated the at the heart of the multi billion dollar race to develop a breakthrough treatment for Alzheimer’s and dementia. The report’s central claim was that a foundational research paper ( 2006) might, in fact, be an ‘elaborate mirage’ in which the lead researcher doctored lab images to prove a newly discovered group of proteins caused cognitive impairment.

Sunday Times 21 August 2022

In the UK there is much ‘Research’ carried out by Think Tanks . These so called Tanks often have an inbuilt bias as they are funded by individuals or organisations seeking a particular outcome but their titles are often very misleading . Two listed as recognised UK Think Tanks, were blocked by my PC virus software. That’s not to say they are all bad, but most will have an angle, politically they will generally have a label , either left leaning or right leaning .

My motivation for this post was my participation in some research from a UK university concerning pets and their owners emotional wellbeing. Having completed the first questionnaire, I felt a little dissatisfied that some of the questions did not enable me to give an accurate answer. I emailed the lead researcher who quickly responded saying a number of participants had made the same point. They pointed out that the format was a Internationally accepted Scale but that they agreed it needed adjusting. Secondly , I pointed that there was no edit facility and I know I had made an incorrect answer on a least one question but clicked too quickly and could not go back to change it . Again they agreed and would insert a back button on future questionnaires . All very positive apart from the matter that at very least a small number of participants would have given incorrect answers. I am sure that some Professor Figure Person would say there is some complex formula to account for this . But is it relevant and was it used?

Yes they are relevant -but its anyone’s guess if the correlate 😁

Good Research

Cancer research, Alzheimer’s, Malaria, most everything medical, but unfortunately the Andrew Wakefield case and many others create doubt within society and this doubt creates other dangers of their own. As amply illustrated with Vaccinations during Covid and the increase in measle cases due to parents concerns over various vaccinations.

Within our own market places we rely on research . All businesses rely on research, even if they don’t conduct their own. Research develops products, assists in market entry, is a core part of any marketing plan, offers possibilities, highlights problems or opportunities. Or at least it should . Yet many businesses don’t and often there is good reason. Detailed research can be very costly and good detailed research maybe unavailable. That is to say there is not the expertise in a particular market place to enable such research.

Examples of successful products that exist without the benefit of initial research programs….


Pacemakers used to be huge – the size of televisions. Then Wilson Greatbach made a mistake that revolutionized medicine. When building a heart rhythm recording device, he pulled out the wrong sized resistor and plugged it into the circuit. When it was installed he realized it sounded like a human heartbeat. With some work, he miniaturized the device to two cubic inches. The result was an implantable pacemaker, which has since saved thousands of lives. Forbes magazine.

Dyson Vacuums

Currently, Dyson is one of the top-selling vacuums of all time. However, founder James Dyson’s road to the top was lined with failure. He tested 5,271 prototypes before finally found a vacuum that worked – but even then, he couldn’t find an American or European company to license and manufacture his product. As a result, in 1993, he created his own manufacturing operation. Just two years later, Dyson vacuums were a worldwide sensation, demonstrating that it pays to never give up. Forbes Magazine

There are, of course, many examples of companies ignoring their research because they don’t like the answers . Kodak instituted research into the early development of digital photography. The results were that it was very popular and would capture a large chunk of the photography market. They chose to ignore this and continued making and developing film cameras and film . The result being the market turned their backs on Kodak .

Much commercial research can be impacted by conscious or unconscious bias. That is to say that the sponsor recruits a market research agency to conduct research on a certain subject. The ‘however’ is that there can be an inbuilt real truth filter . That is to say the project is given strict parameters such that they can impact the results they want as opposed to the results they need.

Coke’s prominence in the soft drink industry is well established, and its iconic marketing campaigns have contributed to its loyal following. But even Coke isn’t immune to making a marketing misstep. When sales began to fall off in the 1970s and the first part of the 1980s, the company thought taste was the cause of the decline. To fix the situation, they introduced New Coke, a beverage sweeter than both the original version of Coke and Pepsi.

Taste tests indicated that success was on the horizon. Market research indicated that more people preferred the taste of New Coke to original Coke and Pepsi. But the product’s introduction had many flaws. Market researchers did not factor in the emotional impact Coke, with its specific design, has on people. They also did not explain to taste test subjects that they would eventually have to choose between drinking original Coke and New Coke.

Disaster occurred when the company withdrew original Coke from shelves to sell only New Coke. Rather than boosting sales, this move proved a huge flop. Consumers missed their familiar beverage and were put off by a differently designed Coke announcing “NEW.”


Fundamentally the research asked the wrong questions and Coke had instructed to discover the taste of the new product and not the other factors that surrounded the Brand. Put simply its like asking a research company to check out if the consumer liked your Green Widget. The result comes back saying they love the Green. Product fails as no one asked if any body still uses a Widget . A number of years ago I was involved in some market research , Fortunately I was not financing it nor commissioning it. The project was carried out by a top agency and executed primarily ( but not solely) by Focus Groups. The results were extremely encouraging and were made into a very professional presentation (pre-Power Point) to all major buyers . The product failed. There were two key problems . One was a technical product problem. But more importantly there was never any mention of price in the research . There was something like a 90% positive buy response by the focus groups. When it came to market the finished price was nearly treble any similar products (that did not have this innovation). The price was just not sustainable within the market place. It did not factor in the research and I was told it would not matter . It did. The product flopped dismally.

Worldwide spends on various types of research -in Billions of Dollars

Statista World wide spend on Market research -Billions of Dollars

In Billions of Dollars-Congressional Research Service (CRS)

These figures sort of speak for themselves . Sort of answering What & Why . But not necessarily How. And how much is wasted .

The biggest challenge in big data today is asking the right questions of data. There are so many questions to ask that you don’t have the time to ask them all, so it doesn’t even make sense to think about where to start

Gurjeet Singh : co-founder of Ayasdi, a Silicon Valley startup named 2014′s Most Innovative Company in the Big Data category by Fast Company.

Of course, we cannot ignore research of any type but neither can we always take it at face value. If there are any elements of doubt in your own conclusions….

...Do your own Research !