Facts, Figures and utter ¬†Tosh….

As a society we are bombarded, daily, with facts and figures most of which are utter tosh.

It is the ‘red wine is good for you, red wine is bad for you, butter is bad ,butter is good ‘ syndrome. No matter what the source, politicians, financial analysts, industry experts , your next neighbour, they give you their  facts and you have to figure out whether is a fact.

Trying to steer clear of politicians , I did smile at Boris Johnsons recent condemnation of bankers as bastards ( he didn’t actually use that word, so that’s my bit of tosh)because they were only interested in lining their own pockets and pro EU, when only 12 months ago he said they should be embraced because of the enormous benefits they brought to our economy. He also said it was the EU ‘s fault that kids under eight, weren’t allowed to blow up balloons. This,also,  comes under the category of tosh. 

Science is surely the font of facts. Scientists only deal in facts.

Science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be….Albert Einstein 

Well sorry Albert, that’s all very well, but when we get a ground breaking announcement from somewhere like the multi billion dollar CERN establishment in Switzerland (that none of us understand ) screaming that a ‘ spot in a dot ‘ redefines everything we knew about everything else, only reinforces that yesterday’s fact is today’s fiction.

I have to admit to being one of those people who won’t credit the Great British Public with being over intelligent . In 2015 , whilst in a fancy dress shop during Book week, I overhead a parent asking a harassed retailer if Dickens wrote his books before or after the 2nd world war. It is then, to their credit, when asked which way they will vote in the EU referendum, a large number say they don’t know because they need facts. Well tell me, Mr & Mrs Wise Soothsayers where are they going to get their facts from.

So for , perhaps, one of the most important decisions in many a decade, the adult population will not be getting the facts they are seeking. They will be getting some facts , mainly from the ‘stay’ campaign , because there are to some degree facts, as we know what the status quo is. They will be getting figures from both camps, as there  will be will be guesstimates if we come out. Ultimately, they will be getting a load of tosh from both sides as nobody can possibly even guess to the long term  consequences of either result.

There are a few ‘hard facts’ , our age, our height, our name, where you live, but beyond that they get a bit softer. Even knowing your weight is dubious. It varies during the day , what you  are wearing , the accuracy of your scales. As for your kids, partners, parentage, it would take a lot more space than this blog to discuss . The point is in a world of unknowns, it makes decision making for governments, businesses, organisations and individuals extremely difficult.

About thirty years ago , a business could probably fairly accurate in forecasting what it would say expect to sell during a particular season. Today, that forecast has become, even within the most sophisticated of systems, more of a lottery. I find the irony in this , is that thirty years ago there was a lot less information available. As a consequence thought processes were not disturbed by the intervention of information. Now with so much information, and the immediacy of information, processes and actions are impacted up to the very last minute. A simple example might be … Thirty years ago , you see the traffic forecast for the Easter weekend is terrible, so you don’t go to see Aunt Florrie….today, the weekend news  says that weekend traffic is going to be bad , but your smart phone tells you the journey to Aunt Florrie looks clear, so you go….. However, today you may doubt whether your Aunt Florrie is your real aunt….. ? 

My concern is that it is the little guys ie the people that make up society, the small businesses that make up an important part of our economy, that pay the highest price for not figuring out the facts. Governments, expert analysts (including pollsters!) , top economists, religious leaders, researchers, often get it wrong , indeed can profit from their errors. In June, the Great British Public will have to analyse a load of tosh from both sides. The only fact that will be figured out is Yes or No. Nobody knows the consequences. There are no facts. Apart from one fact, there will be a lot of tosh.

Morrisons supermarkets paddle down the Amazon…..

The nearest river to Morrisons (supermarkets) is the river Aire. However, they have chosen to paddle down the Amazon. Or at least peddle their produce through the Amazon portal. 

At the same time certain UK analysts in the retail have stated that there will be a loss of nearly 1 million jobs in the retail sector over the next 10 years. Citing the main reason being the continuing  development and growth of the Internet.

Well,you would have to have lived deep in some remote Himalayan valley for the last 10 years , not to have realised that there is has been a dramatic change in people’s shopping habits. However , you only to have look at some of the new and innovative ideas that have come about recently to know that the future of retailing is not quite the open book, they think it is . 20 years after experts announced the nail in the coffin for book retailers as Amazon came onto the scene, Amazon USA have come up with the brilliant new idea of opening up Book shops ! 

So 20 years after scaring off American book shops, with their new fangled internet thingy for selling books, they are now scaring the book stores again, but this time with ‘shops’.

eBay are using portals such as Argos, Amazon have teamed up with a major grocery retailer, and have opened shops themselves, and John Lewis have one of the more successful  operations for a retailer in the UK. Which leads me to think that this shop idea is not such a bad thing.

Don’t get the wrong idea and think I am suggesting that all is well with the shop concept. Far from it . However, online operators are not without their problems. Costs and squeezed margins are an increasingly common problem. Ocado, one of the UK’s leading online operators , set up purely for the purpose as an online grocery fulfilment organisation, struggles to make money. Moreover, once a major partner of Waitrose, lost business through John Lewis (parent company) doing their own thing. Then became a partner to Morrisons, now potentially losing business to Amazon. Online operators throughout the party and dress up market, are constantly bemoaning shrinking margins.

But for a group of researchers to turn round and say that there will be a loss of nearly a million jobs in retail is to misunderstand retailing entrepreneurs and the quirky habits of shoppers. The reality is that any serious or accurate forecasting over any reasonable length of time is virtually impossible. This has been illustrated admirably by our very own Bank of England, and most other illustrious financial institutions around the world. Today, There are far too many imponderables , in addition to rapid and unseen changes in technology . It is disingenuous, patronising and downright stupid for anyone to make such a sweeping statement when there is no scientific rationale. In 1994, the beginning of the era of mobile phones for the masses, Vodafone forecasted the entire UK market for mobile phones was 600,000 handsets. By 2015 60% of UK adults owned a smartphone.

As with the Internet, shops will continue to evolve and develop. To survive and be successful they will have to change. To think they won’t, is naive. The level of employment within the retail will undoubtedly change. The retailer’s USP is knowledge and service. The professional retailers understand this, and both these features need boots on the ground. Retail employees have as much to fear from Landlords and business rates than they do online shopping.