Alphabet  Soup…

Only twenty six letters and they create nearly 200,000 words in the English language alone. From that number many millions of books have been written, all using the same words, the same letters , but in different combinations.

This discussion came about this weekend when seeing another tranche of recipes in the weekend papers . Julia said there are only so many ways you can dress up an omelette. This is , of course true, until tomorrow when another Chef comes with another idea. It might be rubbish but then so are many of those millions of books. That’s not really the point.

Anthony Armstrong Jones (Lord Snowdon) of royalty and picture taking fame once said he would take five hundred photographs to get one good one. So we can assume that several thousand rubbish books need to be written before you find one worth reading. That’s not really the point either.

It is mankind’s ability to be creative that sets us apart. Retail analysts have for years questioned the ability for consumer markets to continue to grow as there is nothing else for the developed market consumer to buy. Well there is currently data to support that argument. However, in 2007 Apple launched the IPhone. It was well received but it was also described as something we don’t need. We still don’t need it but up to July 2016 one billion had been sold .

That’s what makes retailing of any product or service exciting, nobody has any real idea of what the next big thing will be. In spite of any prevailing economic conditions, the IPhone was launched just prior to the financial crash of 2008, something will catch the consumers imagination . More importantly there are huge organisations investing millions of dosh to find that illusive but desirable concept that we, in turn, will part with our hard cash even if we don’t need it. Furthermore, we will queue up in the early hours of the morning to make sure we have before anyone else. What is really curious with technology, is that we are likely to pay more and get an inferior product if we queue to become early adopters. Even with Ryannair, if you buy early you pay less and get an opportunity for a ‘marginally’ better seat.

That is one of society’s dichotomies. It can be extraordinary at creating for the future , but is very poor at learning from the past. ‘Social media’ did not exist twenty years ago. It was not even a vague idea twenty five years ago. However, knowing if you stick your head above the parapet , there is a very good chance you will get an arrow in the eye, has been around for over two thousand years. If you get my drift .

This is a long way from the alphabet. I suppose what I am really driving at is no matter what is around the corner , economically or socially, there will always be opportunities as there is such a huge combination of possibilities. On a micro level, that is our own sphere of influence, it needs a level of creativity (and a bit of luck) to discover your own personal metaphorical ‘IPhone ‘ . Just remember, whatever it is, derives from only twenty six letters and only ten digits (0-9).

We can no longer rely on just knowing what sold well yesterday.

Populism…I think not ….

Both the UK and International media have droned on about the current string of ‘Populism ‘ first started with Brexit and then Trump. I believe this is utter tosh. Well at least the Brexit bit.

The rationale of Trump’s success, as seemingly bonkers as it is, was probably underwritten by Populism. But aligning it with Brexit misses the point, if not a whole load of points.

Let’s be clear how Populism is defined . And it is a clear definition.

the principles and doctrines of any political party asserting that it represents the rank and file of the people.

This is the simplest and most common definition used by a number of dictionaries and reference sources. Ironically, it first came to light in 19 century in the States, with the Peoples Party of the USA

Well that sorts Trump out but for the most part has little to do with Brexit.

I need to declare my position, albeit I have previously posted my opinions some time ago. I voted to remain and I still believe in the EU, despite it being corrupt, undemocratic, and unaccountable, which maybe says a lot more about me! However, we have a democratic vote , which I accept and should get on with making the best of it, 

The UK has been wobbly and unconvinced about the whole ‘European thing ‘ since the day we joined. It is not even marmite ( for the hordes of international readers ‘ love it or hate it ‘). Even the most ardent remainers have had many doubts and questions, concluding with ‘there is no better alternative ‘ or something similar.

Leave , or Brexiteers, had and have many motives, ranging from immigration, sovereignty, distrust of the EU, fed up with some of its, sometimes odd, regulations ,financial inadequacy and complete lack of clarity. Within these motivations there is, of course, a feeling of disassociation from our own politicians. However, this was not the driving factor illustrated by recent ‘by elections’ where the supposed ‘populist ‘ party fared badly and is in complete disarray. If Brexit heralded a populist revival they would be wallowing in success and they are not. The overriding reason for the referendum result  was that the British public wanted to leave the EU.

I would hazard a guess that currently many mainstream European politicians are lumping the Brexit vote in with Trump and perhaps Beppo Grillo in Italy , to try and demean the UK decision as somewhat naive and oddball. If the EU politicians continue to ignore that many EU citizens disagree with many of its processes , but have never been given the opportunity to express themselves then they will only encourage the growth of truly ‘populist ‘ organisations . Then the problem arises with the Populist vacuum being invariably filled by groups who have other spurious agendas which are masked under Populism and you end up with more Trumps.

There appears to be an intentional confusion created with Populism and Nationalism . 10 years ago Le Front National in France and The Party of Freedom in the Netherlands were never described as Populist. They were classified as extreme right wing nationalists. The word Populism has helped masked their,perhaps, more extreme intentions. Pure Populism can be clothed in political clothing from either end of the scale from extreme left to extreme right and anything in between.

That all said , with an ex chancellor of the exchequer having 3 jobs plus that of an MP , with an annual income exceeding that of most people’s life time earnings, and an opposition leader who has no idea why his party’s support is plummeting, the political disconnect in the U.K. will grow. In which case there is an increasing likelihood of a real Populist reaction.

So I suppose that blows my theory out of the water. Well, not really as it has nothing to do with Brexit. 

Chain links….

Much was made in the media of a recent story about Waterstones book shops masquerading under the guise of a local independent.

They have gone into places like Southwold ‘Knightsbridge on the East coast’ painted the shop in the local ‘pastels’ and given it a name such as ‘Southwold Bookshop’ .  Now you are browsing in the warm, friendly and cosy apparently local book shop. Yet it is not.

Well, I say, in the event of most small towns not having a bookshop anymore,

 ‘So what?’

They are not imposing an anonymous national retail chain blandness on the High street. They are restoring a much missed retail outlet. But more importantly they are helping to restore part of the retail community that many of our towns so desperately need.

I am not suggesting that it is ok for Tesco’s to open up loads of ‘Ye Olde Grannies Pantries’ in the hope of conning the locals into their dens of ‘retail’ iniquity . But a bookshop is a very different proposition. Despite the explosion of e-books, the sales of printed books in 2016 rose for the first time in four years. Nevertheless, much of the purchases would have been online. If, for no other reason, there are very few bookshops left. Consequently, new bookshops have to be welcomed no matter how they are clothed.

Perhaps, there is even more significance to this development. Books were one of the first  commodities   to be targeted by online operators . Consequently, book stores were the first to suffer the consequences. This may be an indicator, no matter how small, that the market has discovered it cannot rely entirely online. There are other indicators but I think this has another significance.

Much has been discussed by retailing ‘experts’ about the dying High street, especially in small towns in the U.K. Online sales, rent, rates, and general costs to operate all figure strongly. What has only just been realised is the importance of high street retailing to a local community and by this I don’t mean places to shop. Shops are places where local people meet each other and ‘socialise ‘ in an everyday superficial level. In many situations, especially with the elderly, and those who live alone, it is the only time they get to talk to people on a day to day basis even if it is only to the person on the till. Furthermore   I suggest there is a greater chance a small child who is taken into a bookshop is likely to ask their parents to buy them a book than seeing one on a screen. That can’t be  a bad thing. 

If bookshops, in particular a chain, think there is a commercial need to return to the High Street, then they should applauded not mocked. This is not the first time I have said this but perhaps this a sign of things to come . Entrepreneurs considering ‘shops’ as an entry to market. 

However, there is proviso. If this to happen, people do have to buy something when they are in the shop !