A woman’s place ….?

In last Thursday’s The Times newspaper there was a supplement concerning  the best companies for gender equality in the workplace.

Now I am a bloke, so I am not always that quick in working things out but for those who know me well, will know that I approach this subject with a lot of bias. I was brought up in a household that was predominantly female. For most of my working life , I worked in an environment comprised primarily of females, finally I have a wife and daughter. Some might say I am brainwashed, some may say I am soft in the head.

Well, all that maybe true but my argument is constructed on empirical evidence. Maybe that’s a bit strong , but it is based on my evidence. Within the party industry there is a large percentage of decision makers who are female. Buyers, managers, owners, creative , sellers, our market would have a very different perspective if it were not so.In my experience, they are more positive, they work harder, they tend to be more creative and they understand the market better than their male counterparts. Whether it is ‘Feminine intuition ‘, the ability to ‘multi task’ , their decision process involves a wider perspective and do not get bogged down with unnecessary detail or too focused on a particular aspect.

Yes, there are stroppy, rude , bad tempered, inefficient and lazy females, but they are as likely to be outnumbered by male equivalents. Over the years I have had that oft repeated experience of the young female buyer within major retail chains. They are no good and they cannot make decisions. In most cases this is not because they are female, it is mainly through the retailer’s attitude, poor training , not giving responsibility all of which would apply if these positions were given to men.  

Certainly, within the party industry, women are more likely to be in touch with what their customer wants. It is probably fair to say that the retailer consumer in our market is likely to be a woman, for a whole bunch of reasons , none of which are especially relevant here. The important factor is that females are often more aware of what is happening around them and react more quickly to change.

Our industry can probably hold its head high, when it comes to gender equality. At retail level , both bricks and mortar and online, many of our leading retailers, were created by women, led by women and more often than not staffed by  virtually entirely by women. Indeed, we could probably hold a beacon of light to other industries when it comes to sexual equality at th retail end. From the supply end there are many good examples however,mother level of equality has not reached the levels of the retailer.

Each gender has their own particular strengths and weaknesses. It should not be about whether one is worth more than the other, it is about enhancing and coordinating those combined strengths to maximum effect. We are different and that should be recognised. But it seems absolutely bonkers to me that the equality argument or discussion even exists. In itself it is negative and only takes time away from ensuring the best comes from both sexes.

When it comes to large organisations, the best that any European country can do is Norway, where 39% of main board directors are female. The U.K. lags way behind with approximately 23%.  

So having offended a chunk (albeit I suspect a minority)of my own customer base ( males) , I make no apology. The sooner we all get on and accept it , the sooner we can get on with making, creating , selling, supplying , helping, healing and generally improving our society and not spending so much time trying to prove that one half of society is not as equal as another. By arguing that woman are every bit as good as men, is not saying they are better, which means men are every bit as good as women. 

There is one fact , of which I am very confident. I have had first hand experience of how immense female mental strength and resilience can be. If as, a species, we ignore this powerful resource, then we do so at our peril. Sexual equality is a no brainer. For those that don’t get it, it’s a ‘win win’for all.

The Ginger Pig….

A story about  a red skinned piglet being bullied at some dubious private swine school maybe engaging but not what I want to write about this time , least of all because I don’t know of any.

The Ginger Pig , is about developing retail. As to what it is, I will come to later but much has been said in the financial press recently about the static , and in some cases, deteriorating, performance of our better known high street retailers such as Marks & Spencer’s and Next. Not all the blame lies with the Internet and tough economic conditions. As, has ever been the case, it is down to poor retailing, or rather retailers not looking far enough into the future and being blinkered by their own historical success. Accepting it is very difficult for huge retailers to change overnight, the crime is more likely to be ‘not evolving’ and letting outsiders creep up on, nibbling little bits off the plate, and then the little bits get bigger, until you have lost a slice.

Retailing has always evolved.  M&S were revolutionary when they first appeared on the High Street and evolved to achieve the successes they are known for. Next were the new kids on the block , introducing a new style of clothes retailing along with their own Catalogue. Today, there are a variety of clothing retailers that have taken market share from both, there are the obvious such as Primark, and the less obvious such as Zara and Uniglo. The latter offer different product, competitive pricing but perhaps more importantly quicker and more frequent range changes.

I know nothing about operating a retail store (‘you got that right’ says the wise retail reader) but I have a life time of being a consumer. I can identify two good reasons for going into a retail store(yes, I am male and I do go into shops), one is that I need something and the other is because I would like something. I class M&S in the former category and a ‘Uniglo’ type store in the latter. If I were a retailer I think I would like a bit of both but in a market like ours , nobody needs anything , the reality is that it is a ‘would like ‘ purchase. Moreover, the ‘would like’ purchase needs to be nurtured , and the customer to be enticed into the store. My issue here is that if they go into the store , see what they would like and make a purchase, all well and good . But if , on a revisit they see nothing new , they are not looked after, they will probably never go back in until they need something as they will assume there is nothing new and exciting. Consequently they may not then revisit until they need something.

So back to the Ginger Pig. This is a small chain of independent butchers. They identified a market and a consumer and constructed their business model around this consumer. They are slightly different in so far as they actually started by rearing their own pigs and then opened the shops. But ultimately, their basic product is what every other butcher and supermarket sells ‘meat’. But they have tailored this product in way that makes it different and they constantly create new product to ensure the consumer returns for their ‘would likes’ as opposed to their ‘needs’.

It is not for me to teach ‘granny how to suck eggs’ (never really understood that, why should she want to?). I am passionate about UK party retailers and believe there is a healthy future. Many of the good retailers create an exciting and inspiring environment, but there are those who are very reluctant about trying new product, and a different way of displaying the product. They just  end up trying to sell what everyone else is selling ,especially online.  I just think that this route only leads to the consumer going into this store type when they have to, rather than going because they expect to be enticed and nurtured.

Without exception, all suppliers will be, occasionally, asked ‘ what is happening out there?’ Because we are all in the same industry the answer may not be very helpful. We all need to step out of our comfort zone. As a starter suggestion, if friends or family start talking about ‘this great new shop’ (prerefably not a party or costume shop), try and find the time to go and have a look . It’s not necessarily important, what they sell but they way do it. See if there is ‘Ginger Pig’ near you.