For Arts sake!

Or Farts. Quite simply, it illustrates my entire knowledge of the art world, the sum total is equal to a small amount of escaped wind, very little, nix, nada, rien …whereas Julia does. Does know some stuff that is. Over the last couple of weeks we have visited a number of galleries from the Tate Modern through to a small local gallery. Apart from embellishing my little knowledge we discussed pricing. Why so? Because Julia sells some of her stuff and we discussed how to price her Art. Well I thought I knew a little about pricing but when it comes to Art pricing , I don’t even know à farts worth.

Well so I thought . But it was not the Art bit that disembowelled my pricing knowledge. It was discovering what I thought was a little knowledge was once again barely a farts worth.

So what fountain , did all this accumulated lack of knowledge, gush from. Well it started back in the last century (l liked writing that …last century…), when the U.K. was economically under the inflation cosh pushing 20%. I confidently predicted that price points such as 99p and £1.99 would rapidly disappear. They did not . At about the same time we were offered a distribution possibility of a major range of foil balloons. Great item, but when the retail price goes over £1, I think it will have an impact on the market…. well I got that right at least , the impact that is . I predicted they would tank . I got that wrong.

There was a glimmer of hope, when during the late nineties, Asda (I think there were the first) got rid of obvious price points such as 99p. They introduced very odd numbers like 87p , £1.29, and £1.47p. There you go, price points are not relevant anymore… I said to my loyal, yet disbelieving customer base. All that this move actually did was to increase the pressure on price points as Asda started to sell items that were 99p at 87p instead. Most independents and smaller chains could not compete with that and were under even more pressure to at least maintaining 99p and not go above it. Wrong again.

The rest of my time has been consumed with responding to customers queries as what is the suggested retail price. For goodness sake , you know what the cost is , you know what your costs are , what margin do you want to earn? Actually I never said that but I did and do still think it sometimes. Not always as things are a bit different now. But I will come back to that.

So back to the here and now. I was very recently in a meeting with a customer who is a confectionary wholesaler. He told me that about ten years ago, many of the major brands, such as Nestlé, introduced pre-priced product. At first there was much anguish amongst the independents but apparently that’s all they sell now (nearly all). I sort of understand why, but not completely.

I have regular discussions with customers about retail pricing and one thing is quite clear and that is nothing is clear . Price points still have a relevance, but I still don’t understand . If you think something should sell for £1.45, will you sell any less at £1.49. It’s a big question as that 4p is pure net profit. Some will say it takes too much time to drill down into every product. But I would ask can you afford not to.

The advent of online shopping has hit the margins of many a retailer. Price points are irrelevant as it is all about the price itself. However, in an industry such as ours there opportunities available to look at increasing margins on low value items with which online traders struggle to sell as they are not cost effective. But that is for another day.

Back to Julia and our art pricing discussion. After much focused , detailed and professional deliberation on my contributions, Julia shrugged and responded…

Yeah, ok , why don’t you go back to the kitchen and pluck the salmon or descale the rabbit, or whatever it is you do in there ..

I had suggested that perhaps if she priced a piece at £9999 instead of £10k it might just close the sale …..

Wrong again..for F….sake

The Last Straw….or is it ?

I dunno I can’t drink me coktales wiv one of dem paper straws … they go soggy…

I’m not an expert. No that’s not true I am. I use a straw nearly every day. Julia and I make fresh fruit smoothies most days and we now use a paper straw. I can’t see the problem as I bet our straws hang around in our smoothies much longer that most people take to drink their ‘Coktales’.

I am not a climate change denier nor am I climate change apologist. There is a problem out there and it needs to be resolved . But part of that problem is ‘people’.

I am not one to lecture on what you should or shouldn’t do. I shan’t be given up my car soon, nor shall I stop flying . I won’t become a vegan and I will wear leather shoes on occasion.

On the one hand climate activists are not going achieve their aims of hair shirt today or we are all doomed before the next Olympics. As that is not a message the public will really listen to or more importantly act upon. Nor is it any good suggesting the ‘capitalist system’ is also to blame as it’s all about profit. As that is not a good sell or is especially true. Actually, it is true to a degree. The profit bit is right but the market ie the general public created a serious and consistent demand for ‘eco’ products then the capitalist would supply it. But in general the public don’t ! Ergo the opening sentence.

If I sink back in the annals of time or rather my memory, I am taken back to a period, probably fifteen to twenty years ago . The Stationery Industry created range after range of eco friendly stationery products. But they did not sell. “But why?”. Because they were slightly more expensive. What you may ask is not eco friendly about writing pads ? They did not come from sustainable wood sources.

I believe that one of the problems the consumer has, and I very much count myself as one of them, is that of confusion. Being on the old side of age groups, I do have the benefit of little (yes, that is not a typo of ‘a little’ which would confer a completely different meaning) knowledge. I can remember the first use of nuclear power. It was hailed as the saviour of future power sources. Then it was not, today it is by some, seen as part of the solution. Diesel was bad, then good and now it is bad again. In some quarters even solar power has its critics. I have just been told that in Australia solar power is taxable

We rely on science to inform. But science is an ever changing beast. Butter is good, butter is bad and butter is good again. A glass of red wine a day is good for you, then it is bad for you, then good for you. Statins are good, bad, good. Coffee is bad,good, bad. You get the idea . For crying out loud, asbestos was once used as insulation . It is not as long ago as you think, some builders were still using it up until 2000. Blue and brown asbestos was not banned until 1985 and white in 1999. A recent report suggested that if you wished to eat meat then you should eat beef or lamb, rather than pigs. Cows and sheep eat grass, pigs eat soya and grain. Grass is good, soya and grain are bad. Yet cows give out the most methane. I can’t be the only one who is confused.

We have to given achievable goals. If they are not, most will give up. Moreover, it has to go beyond these shores. If Western Europe becomes an eco paradise and the rest of the world continues to castes a metaphorical smog over us , then it will have all been for nothing.

Back to straws. There are alternatives to paper, such as stainless steel and bamboo. Both of which I think have hygiene issues. That is to say if reused in bars, hotels, restaurants etc and are not properly cleaned (more water being used and probably hot , more problems ) they are a hygiene hazard. But more to the point (nice lead in) they are potential weapons . Doorman may well pat you down for a knife only to let you get your hands on loads of sharp pointy things once inside, and stick them into your fellow clubbers until your hearts content. The Red Top headlines will scream

Sharp pointy straw mania grips our major cities…..

So perhaps paper is the last straw. And I thought I would stop there, but straw is too tempting. Politicians of all shapes and sizes are clutching at straws , whichever ever way you look. Be it Climate , Brexit, NHS, Social Care, policing and that’s just the U.K. Actually straws are the only area they have been decisive bout (plastic ones that is). Yet they nearly screwed that up by adding product that was to be straw despite being the complete opposite . Members of our industry will be very aware of what I speak. Idioms come thick and fast…straws and camels, straw houses, clutching at straws, drawing at the short straw….. None of them good.