Fats and figures……

No it’s not a spelling mistake but sounds more interesting than facts and figures, which is really the subject of this short post.

Fact:It has just been reported that Amazon accounts for virtually 40% of all online sales within the USA.This is quite an extraordinary figure, and whilst I don’t know  how this stacks up in the UK, it is surely an indicator of what is likely to happen over here.

Fact & Figures:Figures announced in the UK during the last week show record retail sales in November. Part of this increase has been attributed to Black Friday. What it does not show, whether it is accurate or not, is the cost ie the profitability of this increase(or lack of). Neither does it show whether it has taken sales from another period especially December. This will only be shown when the December figures are in. We are pretty good in the UK in creating Sales events, when  we do not actually need them ; ie when consumers are already in the mood to spend. It invariably leads to loss of margin.

Fortunately, the latter is one aspect of retailing that I suspect has little impact on our market place. About five years ago Halloween margins were threatened when the big discounters decided they wanted a slice of it. Yet Party retailers, neatly side stepped this by not trying to compete and sold products and ranges the discounters couldn’t. It is difficult to imagine when a sale can ever be beneficial in our market place apart from clearing old stock. The biggest threat to margins, within our sector, still remains online vs bricks and mortar.

Fat Fact Figure: I have just read an article that says the government is funding trials in the new year, for driverless deliveries. Does this mean the end of the fat figure driving white vans?

So down to the title. The only relevant ‘Fat’ figure, is the one who should be dropping down your chimney , or equivalent residential entry point with a whole load of goodies, within the next few days.

Here’s to a very Happy Christmas and loads of money being spent on New Year’s Eve parties.

Expect the unexpected….

Naff, trite and cliched, but I have to admit it is one those little tenets that I try to always  have in the back of my mind. If you adhere to it rigidly, it can save you a lot of problems and worries.

The difficulties lie in the words,themselves . You don’t know what to expect and life has the habit of throwing curved balls when you least expect them. There have been many times in my working and in my personal  life when a little curved ball has coming flying at me and smacked me bang between the eyes.

A great working example was the millennium. I, as did others, spent the eighteen months prior to the event going around the whole of our industry  saying what a massive event it would be. Most believed us, but it never happened or rather a damp squib occurred  instead. So what is the consequence? For my part , if ,now,asked  ‘…..next year there is that huge celebration of the centenary of emus being kept in captivity (weak joke, but certainly unexpected ) ….do you think it will mean we will sell loads of emu costumes….My answer would be ‘…..it might be, but then it might not….but  it is important you know about it….’ Not very helpful or practical, especially in an industry where you are often asked for your opinion on such matters. The other consequences were far more dramatic, a huge unsaleable stock carry over and an entire industry loss of confidence in any future event for  the best part of a generation.

I expected it to happen and did not even consider it not happening, despite Julia constantly expressing her doubts.

On a personal day to day level, it is a little easier. Not trying to act as a ninja, I do try and be aware of my surroundings, people, places and atmosphere, whether it is in the car , public transport, restaurant or even with a customer. How does this work in practice ? If in  a customer’s retail store, I try and make sure I see them make tea, in case they try and poison me ( another weak joke, but again unexpected!) . No, I try and make myself aware if they have customers in the store and that I am not hindering them. Furthermore, I am ,also, aware of the unexpected visit of a competitor, who may over hear this cracking deal I am offering (totally unexpected)

However, what I do or don’t do is really of no interest to anyone else, they are just there for illustration. Where I think it can come into play and have a negative effect on the business is where the unexpected occurs and the response is like a dazed rabbit in headlights. I was recently in a party store (not a customer, nor will they be) and they were asked if they had particular type of costume. The answer was ‘….sorry we don’t stock that design..no demand for it…’ Instead of reacting to the unexpected and offering an alternative or to see if it can be sourced. This a slight oversimplification of a longer story but the consequence was the same, a lost customer who in all probability won’t ever come back.

The alternative scenario, but equally bonkers, is going into a shoe shop asking if they have a particular shoe in your size , only to be told they don’t have your size but they do have the same design three sizes smaller. Ok, not really , expecting the unexpected, but a personal gripe of mine and Julia’s , and the first time I could publicly express it !

Is there any conclusion ? I strongly believe that if you keep those three words in the forefront of planning all aspects of one’s life, the ups and downs would be marginally easier to handle. By definition you don’t know what the ‘unexpected ‘ will be . But if you get the time to sit down and run some sort of ‘risk analysis ‘ ,both positive and negative, on your organisation. The negative maybe something like the ‘unexpected ‘ loss of power for an extended period (recent floods in Cumbria ) . The positive could be a potential customer looking for a large number of an ‘unexpected ‘items that you don’t normally stock . Then stick these thoughts in a box in your head, and try and dig them them out when the ‘unexpected ‘ turns up.

Why I am bleating on about this? On a personal level, very recent negative  ‘unexpected ‘experience, was just made that little bit easier by subconscious mental preparation. Apologies , for sounding like a smug , smarty pants, as that implication is far from the truth. I just felt thinking about it may be of help to someone or some organisation.