Revolution…Anytime soon?

At a recent event, with contemporaries discussing our time together at School in the early seventies, we came to the conclusion, that we were a Bolshy lot. Bolshy is a derivative of Bolshevik. Yet, we clearly were not revolutionaries. We were, however, from an era that was starting to question the status quo. Whether, it was politics, education, authority, sex, music, art and anything else that derived from the Establishment.

Following that event, Julia and I watched a programme about the revolution in Art (in the UK) that supposedly took place in the early nineties. The likes of Damien Hirst were getting fed up with the way art was sold only through a few traditional galleries, devised a way to revolutionise the selling and marketing of modern art. But all they did was develop a different way to market.

The Internet has revolutionised our daily lives.

The telephone revolutionised the way we communicated.

The Motor car revolutionised the way we travel.

The Container revolutionised the transport of goods.

In reality none of these were revolutions. They made dramatic changes, but they no more revolutionised these aspects of life any more than the wheel, the spinning jenny, the typewriter, and printing press. They were major evolutions rather than revolutions. Revolution is by definition the ‘up ending of a system‘ . What happened in France in the 19th century, Russia and China were real and proper revolutions. They up ended a system and society.

There have been no revolutions in Retail. Massive changes but no revolution. People sitting beside the road to flog some stuff, little stalls at the side of the road, markets, shops, big shops, stores, multiples, supermarkets, and eventually Online. Retailing, has, is and will continue to evolve.

There are those who would suggest that many western democracies are facing revolutions in a political sense . There are few of recent years that have not been tainted by populism. The events that occurred in front of the Whitehouse, or the Yellow Jackets in France, 5 star movement in Italy are indications that all is not well at the top and it may well be that in the future, we will look back and say they were the roots . In the U.K. and other European, populism may have ignited a desire for change but alone they are unlikely to make for revolution. Even in Russia there may be significant changes, but a revolution is not on the cards (yet). As for Iran, it would be doing a great disservice to those vast numbers of women seeking change to consider any outsiders view as to what is happening.

This is a revolution against politics by the non-political

Like the blue-collar Brexit voters in the United Kingdom, the Yellow Jackets believe they have been betrayed by decades of neglect and exploitation by mainstream politicians obsessed with metropolitan areas. On the other hand, immigration and Euroskepticism are, surprisingly, dogs that do not bark loudly among the Yellow Jackets.

Like the 5Star Movement in Italy, they started as an internet rebellion against representative democracy. But the 5Stars’ base is heavily urban, young and ex-left.

Like the Tea Party and Donald Trump’s MAGA base in the United States, the Yellow Jackets are strongest in fly-over — or drive-through-quickly — country between big cities. But they are unmoved by the cultural issues (God, gays and guns) that excite rural conservative Americans. They hate taxes but also demand generous state intervention.

In sum, this is a revolution against politics by the non-political. Four in 10 Yellow Jackets, according to polls, voted for the far right in last year’s presidential election. Two in 10 voted far left. Many of the others have not voted for years, except to spoil their ballots.

Politico -John Litchfield 2018

Despite very recent machinations within the UK political system, it does not come close to a revolution. There could be seismic changes but there will not be a revolution. How does any of this relate to those who just want to get on and earn a decent living? We are faced with huge developments and challenges. We have to work out the best way through and where necessary evolve and not revolve our businesses to maximise their potential. That is all we ask of our politicians throughout the World’s Democracies ….

Evolution not Revolution

Power to the People ….But from Where, When and How ?

It nevers rains but it pours

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) and Alexander Pope (1688-1744) collaborated on an essay entitled ‘It Cannot Rain But It Pours.’ 

It doesn’t actually do that anymore, rain that is …(he says as he looks through the window and sees it chucking it down). When the Black Eye Peas wrote the song (2009) ‘Power to the People’ they did not envisage the scenario we are all facing today. Well, that is also a little inaccurate, in so far as huge swathes of populations throughout Europe feel disenfranchised politically. This is about the whole issue of energy. There goes another small error, I could not possibly talk about the Whole issue, just what effects our businesses, and the ecosystems surrounding them. Even that’s a squeeze in a thousand words.

Within the last week a number of European states have announced packages to support their populations. The UK has announced a price freeze for two years (6 months so far for businesses). All of this is ok but what has got unnoticed is the issue of whether there is enough energy to keep the lights and heating on all winter. Again, in the UK it has gone very quiet as we have a couple of other Power changes, a New PM and New King. Which has mean that the real issues of power and energy have been replaced by headlines over titular Power.

Whilst I don’t have any insider knowledge, I suspect that the concerns about lack of power are slightly overplayed. That said the policy of capping the price increases of gas and electricity is not going to encourage the judicious use of the energy that we do have. I, unfortunately, come from a generation that experienced the Three Day Week in the UK in the early ’70s. For those who don’t know this was to conserve energy as there was a coal miners’ strike.

Queues at a Bakers 1974 during the 3-day week

The immediate impact within our industry (Party) was that all our customers doubled their normal requirements. It was absolutely bonkers. There were no concerns about shrinking demand but there were huge concerns about shrinking supply. Whilst there is no direct comparison, we are just emerging from a period supply issues, to, once again, the possibility of supply issues. Having experienced a number of pretty severe recessions, I know that the Party market is very resilient. Even if the lights go out people will have parties. More to the point, if the lights go out, they are more likely to have parties. Furthermore, if they can’t afford to go out, they will have parties. Very little of what we all sell, requires any source of power, apart from personal energy in throwing a party.

What has diverted my intention from when I started on this post is the other Power factor that of power by our governing bodies. The UK has just experienced a very unique set of circumstances and Brand-New Head of Government, arrived at by a (very loose) democratic vote and a Brand-New Head of State, arrived through dint of birth. The consequence is a Power vacuum or rather Power inertia for ten days. A large number of Civil servants have been withdrawn from political offices in order to manage the proceedings following the Monarch’s death and Parliament is de-activated in order that the Coffin can lie in state within Parliament and all political activity stops during the period of Official Mourning. Meanwhile the Government’s Bill concerning the energy support programme goes through with little detail and no opportunity to be questioned. None of this is anyone’s fault in particular but it is the result of a system that perhaps needs further investigation.

All of which begs the question facing the UK population, which at the moment, probably does not want to ask, is where all the energy is coming from to power up numerous Royal Castles, Windsor, Balmoral, Sandringham, St James Palace, Holyrood Palace, Buckingham Palace to name but a few (there are 23 Royal Residences). Any one of which would be bigger enough to house the entire Royal Family as opposed to one small part i.e. King and his Consort. A particularly difficult question for the new King as he so dedicated to Climate Change and the environment.

Balmoral
Windsor

Despite the eye-watering costs, the Queen’s residences have already begun looking for greener alternatives including energy-efficient LED lighting and using hydroelectric power from the River Thames. The research has been released by price comparison website Uswitch.com, with its calculations based on the assumption that the properties in question are running on domestic tariffs. Buckingham Palace, with its 775 rooms, 77,000 square metres of floor space and swimming pool is estimated to be the most expensive royal residence in the UK, costing £1.1million a year to power. Express March 2021 -obviously remove The Queen and replace with the King. And, of course these will be at 2021 prices.

What is the difference between Power and Energy

When work is done on an object, energy is transferred. The rate at which this energy is transferred is called power. So the more powerful a device is, the more energy it will transfer each second.

This all jolly interesting but to all of us wondering where our energy comes from this coming winter, not especially relevant. At this point in time nobody seems to want/able to tell us. In the UK the Powers to be haven’t got the time as they are too involved in ensuring that another level of Power, that perhaps we had all much underestimated has the energy to remain in power. The latter maybe titular on the surface, but the events of the last week suggest that perhaps it runs deeper and is more complex than we had imagined.

So, because of Government, proposals, we have an idea of what it will cost, we know that the energy will come from some sort of Power Station, but we don’t know if there will be enough. But what we don’t know is where the real Stations of Power are and at what Cost they come…

Research Studies …..What and Why?

Certain UK newspapers, have the propensity to publish a piece of Research nearly every day. I would love to be a fly on the wall when some of these research bodies or individuals pitch their research to their sponsors.

Teenagers who spend more time playing computer games spend less time doing their homework, writes Martha Roberts. The research, led by Hope Cummings of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, studied the time use of almost 1,500 teens for a year, concluding that boys who play computer games read less while gaming girls do less homework.

Martha Roberts -The Guardian

In their study entitled People’s clothing behaviour according to external weather and indoor environment, researchers in both Denmark and Italy discovered that when it’s a bit nippy, people will dress accordingly.

Apparently, the outside temperature at 6am plays a significant role in whether a person pulls on a woolly jumper or a sundress. They also found that if a person feels either too hot or too cold throughout the day, they will make what the scientists term clothing adjustment to combat this. Apparently, your gender doesn’t determine whether or not you’ll dress for the weather.

Only this week The Times published an article concerning some research carried out in Lisbon, to determine whether Children’s Lung health was better in a rural environment than in Urban areas. Well Cor blimey o’riley , as our well revered Bard once said (no, I know he didn’t or rather it is worth a research project to be sure), knock me down with a sparrow’s feather, if I had been given a fat cheque and a 10 minutes worth of thinking I might have produced a very similar report, with a lot less pages therefore taking up less time for the sponsor .

Research is an essential tool in all aspects of lives, medical, science, health, sport, business, education and the list goes on . It is an absolute necessity. There is, however lots of tosh written in the name of research. The word itself 9research) hints that these contents are very serious and should not be questioned.

Bad Research

There is perhaps few medical research papers that have done more damage to public perception and understanding of any vaccine, in modern times .

Science is at once the most questioning and . . . sceptical of activities and also the most trusting,” said Arnold Relman, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, in 1989. “It is intensely sceptical about the possibility of error, but totally trusting about the possibility of fraud.” Never has this been truer than of the 1998 Lancet paper that implied a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and a “new syndrome” of autism and bowel disease.

BMJ 2011 referencing the Andrew Wakefield paper connecting the MMR vaccine with Autism and bowel disease.

And unfortunately it does not stop there .The very latest comes from the Sunday Times August 2022

Just over a month ago , the academic journal Science published a bombshell investigation that detonated the at the heart of the multi billion dollar race to develop a breakthrough treatment for Alzheimer’s and dementia. The report’s central claim was that a foundational research paper ( 2006) might, in fact, be an ‘elaborate mirage’ in which the lead researcher doctored lab images to prove a newly discovered group of proteins caused cognitive impairment.

Sunday Times 21 August 2022

In the UK there is much ‘Research’ carried out by Think Tanks . These so called Tanks often have an inbuilt bias as they are funded by individuals or organisations seeking a particular outcome but their titles are often very misleading . Two listed as recognised UK Think Tanks, were blocked by my PC virus software. That’s not to say they are all bad, but most will have an angle, politically they will generally have a label , either left leaning or right leaning .

My motivation for this post was my participation in some research from a UK university concerning pets and their owners emotional wellbeing. Having completed the first questionnaire, I felt a little dissatisfied that some of the questions did not enable me to give an accurate answer. I emailed the lead researcher who quickly responded saying a number of participants had made the same point. They pointed out that the format was a Internationally accepted Scale but that they agreed it needed adjusting. Secondly , I pointed that there was no edit facility and I know I had made an incorrect answer on a least one question but clicked too quickly and could not go back to change it . Again they agreed and would insert a back button on future questionnaires . All very positive apart from the matter that at very least a small number of participants would have given incorrect answers. I am sure that some Professor Figure Person would say there is some complex formula to account for this . But is it relevant and was it used?

Yes they are relevant -but its anyone’s guess if the correlate 😁

Good Research

Cancer research, Alzheimer’s, Malaria, most everything medical, but unfortunately the Andrew Wakefield case and many others create doubt within society and this doubt creates other dangers of their own. As amply illustrated with Vaccinations during Covid and the increase in measle cases due to parents concerns over various vaccinations.

Within our own market places we rely on research . All businesses rely on research, even if they don’t conduct their own. Research develops products, assists in market entry, is a core part of any marketing plan, offers possibilities, highlights problems or opportunities. Or at least it should . Yet many businesses don’t and often there is good reason. Detailed research can be very costly and good detailed research maybe unavailable. That is to say there is not the expertise in a particular market place to enable such research.

Examples of successful products that exist without the benefit of initial research programs….

Pacemaker

Pacemakers used to be huge – the size of televisions. Then Wilson Greatbach made a mistake that revolutionized medicine. When building a heart rhythm recording device, he pulled out the wrong sized resistor and plugged it into the circuit. When it was installed he realized it sounded like a human heartbeat. With some work, he miniaturized the device to two cubic inches. The result was an implantable pacemaker, which has since saved thousands of lives. Forbes magazine.

Dyson Vacuums

Currently, Dyson is one of the top-selling vacuums of all time. However, founder James Dyson’s road to the top was lined with failure. He tested 5,271 prototypes before finally found a vacuum that worked – but even then, he couldn’t find an American or European company to license and manufacture his product. As a result, in 1993, he created his own manufacturing operation. Just two years later, Dyson vacuums were a worldwide sensation, demonstrating that it pays to never give up. Forbes Magazine

There are, of course, many examples of companies ignoring their research because they don’t like the answers . Kodak instituted research into the early development of digital photography. The results were that it was very popular and would capture a large chunk of the photography market. They chose to ignore this and continued making and developing film cameras and film . The result being the market turned their backs on Kodak .

Much commercial research can be impacted by conscious or unconscious bias. That is to say that the sponsor recruits a market research agency to conduct research on a certain subject. The ‘however’ is that there can be an inbuilt real truth filter . That is to say the project is given strict parameters such that they can impact the results they want as opposed to the results they need.

Coke’s prominence in the soft drink industry is well established, and its iconic marketing campaigns have contributed to its loyal following. But even Coke isn’t immune to making a marketing misstep. When sales began to fall off in the 1970s and the first part of the 1980s, the company thought taste was the cause of the decline. To fix the situation, they introduced New Coke, a beverage sweeter than both the original version of Coke and Pepsi.

Taste tests indicated that success was on the horizon. Market research indicated that more people preferred the taste of New Coke to original Coke and Pepsi. But the product’s introduction had many flaws. Market researchers did not factor in the emotional impact Coke, with its specific design, has on people. They also did not explain to taste test subjects that they would eventually have to choose between drinking original Coke and New Coke.

Disaster occurred when the company withdrew original Coke from shelves to sell only New Coke. Rather than boosting sales, this move proved a huge flop. Consumers missed their familiar beverage and were put off by a differently designed Coke announcing “NEW.”

Traqline

Fundamentally the research asked the wrong questions and Coke had instructed to discover the taste of the new product and not the other factors that surrounded the Brand. Put simply its like asking a research company to check out if the consumer liked your Green Widget. The result comes back saying they love the Green. Product fails as no one asked if any body still uses a Widget . A number of years ago I was involved in some market research , Fortunately I was not financing it nor commissioning it. The project was carried out by a top agency and executed primarily ( but not solely) by Focus Groups. The results were extremely encouraging and were made into a very professional presentation (pre-Power Point) to all major buyers . The product failed. There were two key problems . One was a technical product problem. But more importantly there was never any mention of price in the research . There was something like a 90% positive buy response by the focus groups. When it came to market the finished price was nearly treble any similar products (that did not have this innovation). The price was just not sustainable within the market place. It did not factor in the research and I was told it would not matter . It did. The product flopped dismally.

Worldwide spends on various types of research -in Billions of Dollars

Statista World wide spend on Market research -Billions of Dollars

In Billions of Dollars-Congressional Research Service (CRS)

These figures sort of speak for themselves . Sort of answering What & Why . But not necessarily How. And how much is wasted .

The biggest challenge in big data today is asking the right questions of data. There are so many questions to ask that you don’t have the time to ask them all, so it doesn’t even make sense to think about where to start

Gurjeet Singh : co-founder of Ayasdi, a Silicon Valley startup named 2014′s Most Innovative Company in the Big Data category by Fast Company.

Of course, we cannot ignore research of any type but neither can we always take it at face value. If there are any elements of doubt in your own conclusions….

...Do your own Research !

Where have all these New Accounts come from ?

This post is somewhat different , as I would really appreciate some feedback.

It is not why have I been so extraordinarily successful in lining up a huge number of new customers. It is about WHY AND WHO ARE THEY ?

It is not without exaggeration that since about March of 2022 there has been a flow of requests to open a new account. Some weeks it has been quite literally one a day . Some out there would say what are you moaning about ?

I am not.

But I am deeply suspicious .

Why ?

There are so many and there a number of common features within most of them …

  • Most have only been a registered company from anything between 2 weeks and 12 months
  • They clearly have know idea what we are selling
  • Some of the language construction within the request is not everyday English ( example below) . Despite the sole director being British(but not always) (UK Gov web site)
  • They only have one director
  • The company registered office is often a residential address
  • Many have their personal residential addresses in a different continent (Directors)
  • There is a ‘generic’ style web site populated with few products
  • There are other issues but best not listed

We have found your amazing products during our product research and we are very much willing to start selling on your brand listings on Amazon as well as on our Website. We will surely use our resources for advertising your brand on Amazon. Kindly let us know are you allowing new registrations right now? We are ready to start. To follow business Ethics and Morals is always our first priority.

An extract from a recent enquiry -trading since Nov 2021

Strangely over the last couple of weeks , the rate of this type of enquiry has dropped . If I was being very sceptical, I would suggest that there is a connection and that my refusals had somehow passed a message down the chain. That said I got another new one two days ago.

So if anyone out there has had similar experiences or have some suggestions as to why this might be happening, would appreciate your thoughts .

Some have suggested it is an outcome of Covid (another one). People having time to sit and think it’s worth a try with an online business. I don’t buy that. I do buy something that is called aggregation which involves large purchases of stock and sold on market places under generic listings . This channel is suspected of using ‘shell companies’ to sell on the market places .

So anybody out there who has experienced anything similar, let me know . Anybody out there has some idea or suggestions as to why this is happening, let me know . Or just as importantly, is there anyone out there ?

Fairies or Pharaohs …. Where are there any ‘Truths’ ?

Fairies do not exist . Or so we are told . Pharaohs do. Or so we are told .

In a world where everyone is questioning everything, or rather everyone has their own version of what is true and everything thing else is fake news. As a consequence few really question what they are told Is true or not . Who knows what is really true?

An inherent consequence of too much consideration of the reality of the truth is that you are sucked into a giant vortex culminating in the creation or membership of a cult . Politics being quite clearly part of this vortex. Whilst the current U.K. Government has proved an extraordinary channel for non truths, let us not fall into the trap in thinking that all political party (present or past)do not use smoke & mirrors as a tool within their armouries . It is just the current Party in power is so blatant and blindingly obvious in its execution.

The following two headlines come from august web journals.

Tesco UK sales fall amid changing customer behaviour and surging inflation

Georgia Wright 17th June 2022 Retail Gazette

The supermarket chain Tesco has reported that like-for-like sales across the group rose 2 per cent in the first three months of its financial year

Richard Fletcher 17th June 2022 The Times Online Business Editor

Both are true.

The first excluded their Booker wholesale business and the second included it.

There are many different kinds of truth:

  • historical truth – truth based on evidence from documents or archaeology
  • artistic truth – something, which people read, see or hear, which appears true through how things are or how people behave
  • moral truth – people ‘know’ what is right or wrong without evidence to prove it
  • scientific truth – established by experiments that can be repeated and always produce the same result
  • absolute and relative truth – people may believe that some things are always true while others things may vary according to situation or circumstance
  • religious truth – people follow a religion and so discover the ‘truth’ which comes from God or a sacred text (bbc.com)

Which is all jolly interesting but not especially useful on a day to day basis. We all have decisions to make all day within our own businesses and often faced the dichotomy , as to whether answers given to questions are correct or truthful.

What is true ? October 31st is Halloween. December 25th is Christmas Day. Paris is the capital of France . Night follows day (or is it the other way around?). There are undoubtedly a bunch of immutable truths but that is not where the problem lies. Having discussed perception in a previous blog , I don’t feel it necessary to go over old ground. But there are often occasions where what is apparent truth to one, is completely opposite to another.

Absolute Truth – Inflexible Reality. “Absolute truth” is defined as inflexible reality: fixed, invariable, unalterable facts. For example, it is a fixed, invariable, unalterable fact that there are absolutely no square circles and there are absolutely no round squares.

http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/absolute-truth.htm

My fictional illustration on how we encounter the complications of the ‘truth’ everyday in our businesses

Good Morning my good new supplier Regional Sales and marketing Executive Representative and channel manager.Tell what is your best selling item? That is always a good way to start a new supplier

Good morning my absolutely delightful new customer . How wonderful to meet you and your absolutely delightful store. That is course a very easy question to answer . Our Top selling item is product no 3210678. We sold nearly 2 million last year .

Wonderful ! I will have 50,000 to start with

Perfect , no problem (and a load more sycophantic clichés). Will have them delivered soonest . Thank you very much my absolutely delightful new customer

The Truth here is that the supplier did sell 2 million last year . The absolute truth is that all of those 2 million went to one event that occurred only last year and that was held a 1000 miles away and not one single piece was purchased by any other of that Good new Suppliers customer base. Hence the absolute Truth was something quite different . A somewhat simplistic extreme case , I admit. I would like to think illustrates the point. We are surrounded in every aspect of life with Fake news, Half truths , complete and utter rubbish ( so well documented in recent UK politics) but somewhere in all this we have to determine , on occasion what the truth means to us . We have to ask :

  • Are our suppliers telling us the truth ?
  • Are our customers telling us the truth ?
  • If the answer is an acceptable Qualified Truth (not absolute), is it workable?

Being bombarded daily by facts that are being constantly questioned (as they should be) , it becomes very tough to make considered judgments when you have to question and investigate all your own ‘considers‘ within that judgment call.

Only this week a customer asked me for my opinion, in terms of the economic outlook . They were not asking for a truth but an opinion. Yet have given what I thought was a considered answer , I had to question myself as to whether the truths (in this case past historical events) were in effect absolute or if not whether they had any material effect on my answer .

If we go back to the year 2000 , we were essentially told that diesel cars were not harmful to the environment. Consequently decisions were made because of a half truth and perhaps lack of examination by those making those decisions . Ownership then went from 2 million diesel cars to 7 million. The following examples are two very different lies. One contained a grain of truth , the other contained no grains.

Diesel

Mr Brown brought in a sliding scale for car tax or vehicle excise duty (VED), to make it cheaper for cars with lower emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas which contributes to global warming. This resulted in lower VED rates generally for diesel cars, which tend to be more fuel efficient. But they emitted greater quantities of other pollutants harmful to health, nitrogen oxides and particulates.

BBC Martin Rosenbaum 2017

Ponzi

Charles Ponzi, an Italian immigrant, made a fortune off of lying to people. In fact, he was so good at deception that the government named a type of fraud after him—the Ponzi scheme. In 1920, Ponzi tricked thousands of New England residents into investing in a postage stamp speculation scheme. He promised investors that he could provide a whopping 50 percent return in just 90 days. Each time a new investor gave him money, he’d use those funds to pay off earlier investors, creating the illusion that they were profiting from a legitimate business. At the height of his huge scam, he raked in $250,000 a day, about $3 million in today’s money. But his days of scheming and scamming caught up to him in August of 1920, when he was charged with 86 counts of mail fraud.

Ashley Lewis -Readers Digest June 2022

So it’s a bit like fairies and Pharaohs. We like to believe in Fairies, if we think we can make a fast buck (even though no one has ever seen one.)We believe in Pharaohs because historians tell us they existed, even though it was 2000 years ago and no one living has ever seen one.

“History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there.”

George Santayana : 19th Century Philosopher & Novelist

Make of that what you will.

How Was it for you ,Your Maj ?

Twenty years ago, I was a Royalist. Twenty years of discussions with Julia, I ceased to be a Royalist . However, I have a lot of respect for the Queen. Not the Institution (Monarchy) but the person.

I don’t believe any of us are subjects of anyone else

I don’t believe anyone should curtsey, kneel or bow to anyone (Unless they are Japanese, or our Dog Ari who I have to kneel to give him a cuddle)

I don’t believe anyone has the right to rule over anyone, no matter how lightly, by dint of birth

So that’s my much vaunted Knighthood gone the drain, for all those years of supplying loads of party items to many parties that had something to do with Royalty.

None of which is the point of this post. The question here is how strong is the effect of a Jubilee and other similar pageants or events .

What will the Jubilee weekend mean for the economy?

The claim of £1 billion being spent could also refer to the amount the public is predicted to spend directly over the period, rather than how much the celebrations will cost the taxpayer.Estimates we’ve seen for this vary wildly. For example, the Mirror quoted a retail analyst who estimated the Jubilee could mean a sales boost of between £1 billion and £2 billion at pubs, shops and other venues on food and beverages, depending on the weather. Meanwhile the Centre for Retail Research has estimated that new retail spending relating to the Jubilee will amount to around £408m between April and June (www.fullfact.org)

The satirical magazine Private Eye , has a section called Desperate Marketing, where it gives examples of Product/ service Suppliers making extremely tenuous links with various events. The following three images were taken from the Times Newspaper over the Jubilee Weekend.

One of this company’s Product USP’s is that you don’t need a fridge as you can store them in your Pantry !
Wild Alaskan Salmon, canned for over 70 Years !
All Italian Recipes !

But what are the realistic pluses and minuses of such an event .

Moneysupermarket.Com estimated that everyone spent £83 per person on the Jubilee. I don’t doubt it . Or rather, I do question where that number came from. Understanding that it is hardly scientific , I, personally, know very few people that actually spent anything. That said me being a miserable git, it may come as no surprise. But where do these numbers come from . If someone bought a couple of bottles of wine on the jubilee weekend , is that included, no matter what the reason for the purchase.

Cynicism aside, there will, of course have been an uptick in retail sales on drink, food , and party decs, and probably hospitality but much of that would be confined to London (hospitality that is) but beyond that my limited imagination does not stretch. I expect many restaurants over the weekend were quieter than usual. Julia and I happened to be in two town centres and one major shopping centre during the four days and they were eerily quiet. This week I was in Glasgow and to my surprise they were saying that the Jubilee had been very good for them (retailers selling party ware).

There is that unquantifiable feel good factor , that sometimes comes into play , but considering the industrial outlook (railways et al) and energy costs I can’t see that lasting long.

Then there is the other questionable statistic ,the loss to the economy of an extra Public Holiday .

In 2012, a study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) think tank estimated that each bank holiday costs the British economy £2.3bn through lost productivity.

The number of people visiting shops in the Jubilee week increased over 17% on the average for May. The BRC reported that for the rest of May, there was evidence of rising inflation deterring the public from spending. Footfall for the Bank Holiday Thursday (2 June) was 45.5% higher than the May 2022 average.

Helen Dickinson, BRC’s chief executive, commented: “It was great to see so many people out celebrating and shopping at their favourite local destinations – a welcome boost for retail businesses reliant on store performance, particularly on the high street.-partyworldwide.net

I really struggle with this. Again, Julia and I were in a local independent women’s fashion retailer on that Saturday . He is always busy on a normal Saturday , but he said ‘Today there is nobody about’. There will have been many out and about but I really don’t see that many of them were shopping.

As unscientific as they maybe, you must have conclusions ……..

The Party Market

Great and much deserved fillip after the previous tough years . After the Diamond Jubilee, I suspect few expected there to be a Platinum one.

The UK Economy as a whole

Questionable but perhaps marginal uptick .

Morale

Short Upturn .

Her Maj

I believe from the genuine smiles on her face (especially as she was able to avoid the more tedious events, and the worst extremities of her family) She enjoyed it .

BBC

So When are We going to get our Gear…..? Or We need stock !

When we thought it was all over, it starts up again. For two years all market places had experienced major supply issues due to huge disruption within the supply chain. Some of us were starting to think that maybe the end was in sight.

project44 2021
Resilinc 2022
Raconteur 1/05/2022

But no….

Any one of these factors could prove sufficient to blow even the best-planned
supply chain off course. As China, the world’s factory, struggles with pandemic enforced port closures, supply chains that were already under stress are reaching breaking point. The world is redrawing its
economic activity to cut out Russia after its invasion of Ukraine – an action that is affecting supplies of grain and cooking oil, as well as the oil we use to power our factories and vehicles. Catastrophe is being piled on top of catastrophe.
“The expanded global nature and contracting diversity of supply chains have
together exacerbated this effect,” notes
Tim Morley, regional director at Information Services Group, a global research
and advisor
.

In response to the War in the Ukraine …..

“Supply chains have not had time to recover, and we now face a critical tipping point that could have both supply and cost ramifications rippling through industrial and consumer markets for years to come.” (Kate Tamblin is chief product officer at risk management specialist Achilles and author of the company’s supply chain resilience index).

And more ….

“We’ll continue to see disruptions unless countries and businesses get serious about
building resilience by holding more inventory and excess capacity as well as
restoring industrial capabilities that have been offshored,” Professor Johnson, Head of Operations management, Warwick Business School.

So many quotes and so little comment .There a number of factors not included; pent up demand, falling demand, changing demand and labour shortages. Reflecting the complexity of the issues we are all facing I struggle to add what has already been said by much better commentators than some geezer who waffles on about party products. But struggle I have and there is stuff I have to say.

But before that , here is another graphic ( I hesitate in using the word interesting ,as it is much overused but seldom relevant when it comes to Graphics) , which , to me, is quite illustrative (its a graphic, it should be ).

Quite simply that it suggests that despite that massive use of IT and data the biggest influence on decision making process is People.

McKinsey 2021

People are complex. Nothing new there. Yet, that complexity has been muddled or at very least changed by Covid . This impact is yet undefined and consequently unknown. But there has been a significant psychological change in us all . As in us all ordinary folk. Impacting both consumer and all those within the supply chain. Decisions will and are being made differently. There within in industry there is much uncertainty over everything from supply to demand that the decision making process becomes more hazardous because there is little historical data to work from.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but now, I often question a decision purely on the basis that I am very uncertain of the outcome. Where in the past I could have quantified the outcome because of previous similar decisions and their outcomes. Within industry many decisions are having to be made without really knowing the consequences outside their own market place, despite the fact that a bucket load of stuff is happening outside their market place which is affecting them in turn. I suspect product sourcing is undergoing its biggest change in the last fifty years.

Decision making has changed, we all know sort of why but few if any know ‘What To’. It still does not alter the fact that getting your Gear is not going to get any easier for some time to come. If you are UK based you can look forward to a possible National Rail strike this summer, which will throw another spanner in the works. Is there a connection with everything else ? Probably, for a couple of reasons….

  1. High inflation created by the Ukraine War, post covid disruption and energy issues, leading to pressure on wages .
  2. High Employment and shortage of labour
  3. All of the above puts the Unions in quite a strong bargaining position.

So nothing is going to change for some time. Or rather loads of things are going to change but we are not sure what. However, we can be pretty certain that the supply side is going to be very bumpy for sometime to come.

Finally, for those who are, oddly, not aware of any supply issues , just go into any major supermarket chain and take a peak at the empty spots on the shelves. And if any one chain has filled them then look at what they have filled them with (eg doubling up on product that usually would not warrant that space ).

And a bit more finally, if you are not experiencing stock issues, and are not expecting any, Well Done ! What’s your secret ?

My Scary Trip through the Amazon….

Alone, deep in the jungle, so small and insignificant, pitted against nature, still I sensed someone was watching me. Or watching over me. Someone could see me, someone was providing for me”

― Yossi Ghinsberg, Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Survival

Teetering at the entrance, I cannot deny I was apprehensive, perhaps a little frightened, yet nonetheless very excited . All my anxiety dissipated on my meeting my guide, who explained everything to me in a very calm and professional manner. As with many things in life the first few steps were tentative.

And I was in. There was no going back . Well there was, but not the way I came in . I would have to complete the entire trip.

I had entered my first Amazon Fresh Store.

Amazon Fresh, Chingford, North East London

Somehow, it was not what I had anticipated. Although I am not sure what I was expecting . A Convenience store is a Convenience Store, no matter how you dress it up. However, it is a smart (both technologically and appearance) looking store. There is a clean and fresh feel about it and I found the ranging particularly interesting. I think I expected very basic in terms of product but that was not the case. Yes it did have the basics but it also those little extras that make, well I think so, reason to go in more frequently . The bakery section had good looking product plus those slightly different offerings such as Pastel De Nata (yep, egg custards) . Prices looked probably better than most convenience stores.

I spent just over five minutes looking around. How did I know that ? It will be diagrammatically shown later. Bought some odds and ends , that I did not need, but wanted to see how it worked and then just left . So I will explain in a touch more detail. I picked up some items put them into a supplied paper bag and walked out . It was truly seamless and very simple and convenient.

What was a little surprising is the demographic of those other consumers who were in store at the same time as me. I can only measure approximate age group and they were all 50+. It was a good quick shop experience. No queuing, no trying to find non existent bar codes at self checkouts and I suspect from the retailers point of view much reduced stock shrinkage from shop lifting. How so ? You may ask. The theory is when you pick something up and put it on your personal being, Amazon knows . It’s the eye in the sky, or rather cameras absolutely everywhere. So the moment you walk out with something no matter how well you think you may have hidden it , you will get charged for it.

The one thing I did not try was to buy alcohol (which they sold) , there must be some personal interaction, probably from the excellent Amazon Guide, from a legal age perspective.

Later that day my receipt (below ) came through. Note it shows how long I was in store .

So is it the future of Retail ? Yes, in part ,it is. It does not answer all the future problems of retail nor does it suit many product sectors ( and I am pretty sure it is flipping expensive to install and operate) but it is most certainly going to be part of the mix.

Yossi Ghinsberg is an Israeli adventure who got himself lost in the Bolivian Rain Forest . Repeating part of his quote from above I think is a very apt way to illustrate that the there is a very close relationship between the Amazon Rain Forest and the Amazon Fresh Store. So for those of us who are not fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit the Amazon Jungle can get a flavour of it by going into an Amazon Store….

……..still I sensed someone was watching me. Or watching over me. Someone could see me, someone was providing for me”

Whose the Party Pooper…?

Reader Warning !

For those who may be offended by the intrigues, complexities, dark arts, hidden secrets, and just sheer audacity that go to the extremities of the Party market , should , perhaps look away. Read no further . Hide behind the latest Stephen King, some Shakespeare or maybe Jean Paul Sartre. This may not be for you .

And for those whose first language is not English …Party Pooper is someone who ruins a happy occasion .

This is a return to the roots of the Blog Title thepartyblog.org .

The party market has always been dynamic. Or rather in the last 10-15 years it has. Prior to that it would be difficult to argue . Much has happened during the pandemic ,some of which was happening already but was rapidly accelerated by the events of the last two years.

To avoid confusing myself ,I shall divide the market into 2. Decoration, including Balloons and Dress Up.

Decoration

It might seem to be stating the blindingly obvious, but Covid was a game changer. Yes, of course it was , but not ,perhaps, in the way that most think. There were changes afoot in the way the UK consumer approached decorating for parties for a number of years but after the first few raw weeks of lock down in April 2020 ,this went into overdrive. Well summarised by an Observer(UK Sunday Newspaper) Journalist …

You might think Covid – no parties (except in Downing Street), no proms, no fun at all – would have popped the balloon bubble. Quite the contrary. As Kasiri says: “People were still pregnant, they were still having birthdays, baby showers… although they didn’t invite guests, they still wanted a backdrop so people could attend on Zoom or pop into the garden.” Elari pivoted to contactless deliveries of bike-sized backdrops, as a balloon arrangement became the consolation prize; a cheer-up for a cancelled celebration rather than the inflatable icing on the cake.

Emma Beddington -Observer 10th April 2022

I believe that, initially, this was very much a UK trend. It was not confined to Balloons as the consumer decided that if they could not go out for their celebration they would make very best of it at home and as it was very adult centric , the results were often quite stunning . Emma Beddington puts it quite succinctly….

Animal sculptures are Old Balloon, along with the traditional packet of primary-coloured ovals, effortfully inflated and tied by apprehensive parents, pre-party, and just sort of tossed on the floor, perhaps rubbing one against a jumper to perform the never-not-funny static hair trick on a nearby child or tying a couple to the door knocker with string. Also Old Balloon: a single, or small bunch of foil “birthday girl”, “18 today” or L-plate helium-filled ones, dragged round streets and into bars, bobbing chaotically in the wake of a group of lairy revellers, eventually abandoned in a club queue, floating up, up and away.

Today it is more about design , creativity and impact.

Now Party Decoration , at home or somewhere outside the home, has taken on a different meaning. This provides a challenge for Retailers, whether online or on Street. It is essential to keep a very close eye on trends . It is no longer enough to rely on your suppliers to tell what are their top best selling items as today’s best sellers are very unlikely to be tomorrow’s . Although it pains me to say this, but what the Kardashians do today , millions try tomorrow.

This has created an retail environment of opportunity. Not to say there will not be challenges . However, the days of filling your store with product, open the doors and let the punters pore in are over. Though in reality, it was never quite like that anyway but the consumer will expect more in terms of the retail experience. They will want to see new innovations , ideas, product and retail colleagues who can help them achieve the party atmosphere they want to create . It will no longer be sufficient to refresh your product ranges once a year (some retailers don’t even do that ) . Speak with your suppliers, talk with your customers, look at social media These are opportunities that the supermarket or discount chains cannot access and are very difficult for websites of any format difficult to gain any traction.

As a footnote , here is a fairly eyepopping figure from the Observer, although a source is not declared. Nevertheless it is fairly impressive…..

the global balloon market is big business: it was valued at $647.3m in 2020 and is predicted to grow at an average of 4.2% until 2026.

Dress Up

The costume and dress up market has been undergoing change for, probably, the last five or six years. It is widely considered that the market (throughout most of Europe ) in costumes has plateaued and possibly is in a slight decline. Throughout the pandemic it was virtually none existent . The opportunity to wear fancy dress simply did not exist . No hospitality, no parties, no travel, no sporting events, no festivals. All, of which are major dress up opportunities. But, Covid aside, there was a move away from buying what is basically an one off purchase . That is to say if you buy a Roman Gladiator costume, you only really wear it, if you are going to be a Roman Gladiator.

Jumpy People or Kangaroos? Any other ideas -Boland Kangaroo Onesies

During the pandemic there was a uptick in accessorization ie the use of wigs, beards, glasses, anything to enhance the atmosphere with the temporary trend of Zoom Parties. But again it just nudged on an existing trend whereby using accessories , the consumer found the ability to adapt product they bought for one occasion they could use for another . Moreover, it once again it encouraged creativity as a daft hat or wig could be used with your every day clothes or other items. Pre-Covid this was a trend very evident in recent Halloween themes. Wear a Pirates hat and beard at same time as wearing Devils Wings and fake blood . This will continue and develop. Initially online and High Street Party retailers did not like this as they were losing a single sale of £30-£40 plus and have to make several sales in accessories to make up the lost revenue. Then they started to realise, although more work was involved the margins were much better and there was less competition from the Supermarkets, and discounters as they are unable to offer the extensive accessory ranges you need to make this work.

So who are the Party Poopers? No, not the party loving UK Prime Minister. Covid, disrupted supply chains , Russian Invaders, fuel costs and inflation. Each and everyone is interlinked in some way or another. Covid is continuing as a major problem primarily due to the way the Chinese Government is handling the problem in China. The locking down of major conurbations fundamentally mean that many factories of all shapes and sizes and not operating. Compounded by the Chinese Government limiting energy supplies to certain manufacturing areas. Rampant world wide inflation will put a damper on consumer spending. So it is not a good look and these disruptions are here for some time . However, I am reasonably optimistic. The Party market often does well when there are major economic pressures. The Retail price points are such that whilst the consumer may think twice about having a lavish celebration in a third party environment they will spend on ensuring that celebration at home is made all that bit more special . Lockdowns highlighted this pattern and I believe it has created an awareness with the consumer that will persist and grow. But the retailers, of all types ( and suppliers) will have to work for it.

To conclude with a riposte to all Party Poopers …..

“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.”

A.A Milne -Winnie The Pooh

Sex Toys……The Next Product coming to a Supermarket near you ?

Yes.

Well according to that august title Retail Gazette, there are a number of product categories that the High Street Majors are considering. Sex Toys, Vaping and Plant Based products are three of them . Covid tests, meal kits and Pick and Mix are the others.

As far as Sex Toys are concerned it has already happened as Tesco is rolling out a range in 250 stores.

Vaping, I would have thought they were a bit behind the eight ball on this one. Yes, the market is still growing . Currently in the U.K. the market is estimated at about £3 billion. However, according to some retailers I have spoken with, the consumer tends to shop seeking advice. Perhaps trying different flavours it doesn’t appear to be natural for supermarkets where they would not get the service levels that provide optimum experience.

Plant Based products is the grouping that is a tad amusing. A massive part of what they sell already are plant based. Like what are bananas, potatoes, cabbages, sprouts, and the entire fruit and veg sections if they are not plant based . Sure, I know that there are plant based burgers , ice cream, cakes, and whole gamut of imitation type products. But the reality is that chunks of standard Supermarket offerings are Plant based. It is a marketing hype and I am not convinced it is terribly helpful especially to those who are very wary of what they would describe as fads without realising they are probably eating a load of plants already. There is also a large junk of the population who would see the Category Plant Based and put two and two together ( making it five during the current inflationary cycle looks a bit conservative) and assume that it would be too expensive . That said, the cynic on my shoulder would point that this category would be more expensive and more profitable.

Supermarkets are notoriously slow in their buying decisions, waiting for range reviews before even considering new products. I would have thought the search of new products should come first and then decide when to have range review. Buying Departments within the multiples should be renamed Sourcing . Actually one has started to use that Description. When it comes to a Multiple looking at products that are outside of their core range they tend to take the line of least resistance. I could not count the number of times, when approached or having approached a Multiple retailer their first test is to match your prices against their incumbent supplier. If you don’t match they wont look. Or rather the reality is that if you are not lower they wont look. Not sure this is the most efficient way of keeping pace with the market. But not likely to see much change anytime soon. ! It is just very frustrating.

Covid testing is a difficult one. One half of me says they are just jumping on a band wagon, the other half says if you need a test quickly and are unsure how to get one but know that Tesco ( or any supermarket) do them , it would make that process a lot easier and probably quicker. At least they would have some credibility as opposed to some strange and distant Medical Company that you know nothing about , or worse still the Government . Great situation that, Who do we trust most ? The Government or a Supermarket ? Answers on a postcard.

Strangely, none of these items appear in Shopify’s product trending list for 2022. What is even stranger is that items appear in the Shopify list that are products the Supermarkets are kicking out, Books and CDs.

Extract from Shopify 2022 Product Trends

What was No 1 ? Books and E-Books. Now Shopify was highlighting trends based on Online selling (hence E Books). However , nowhere in their top 21 did any of the Product areas as detailed at the beginning of this post, appear . I am not suggesting that Multiples should be looking at LP’s but when you look at the numbers especially for CD’s (albeit from a very low level ) that there must be more interesting and healthier options than Vaping.

For the Good Independent Retailer out there , I think this is good news. But you have to be good. For so many years (within the Party sector) I have walked into Party Retailers and they have said oh, I can’t sell that sort of product as the supermarkets have killed it. I just can’t compete. They could and can. Most of them have gone now . I suggest that many had not actually looked in their local supermarket as they were usually poorly ranged and certainly offered no level of service .

So for those looking at a range of sex toys -go for it. If Tesco are giving it a level of respectability and no level of service, you are onto a winner .