Inflation Coming…but Stock isn’t !

The Bank of England recently highlighted the danger of inflation having dismissed it a few weeks before. However, nothing has been so blindingly obvious as the sight of inflation on the horizon. These are the bank of England’s words in April of this year

Inflation is below our 2% target, but we expect it to rise to around the target this year

Below is the US inflation in May

The annual inflation rate for the United States is 5.0% for the 12 months ended May 2021 after rising 4.2% previously, according to U.S. Labor Department data published June 10. The next inflation update is scheduled for release on July 13 at 8:30 a.m. ET. It will offer the rate of inflation over the 12 months ended June 2021.

Now we are , of course not the US, but to believe that inflation in the UK will be only 2% is , I believe, either very naïve or very stupid. I hope I am wrong.

Driven by rising prices for food and for second-hand cars, the headline annual CPI rate of inflation rose to 2.5 per cent in June. City economists had forecast a 2 per cent rise. Month-on-month inflation rose 0.5 per cent, down from 0.6 per cent in May but ahead of City forecasts for a 0.2 per cent rise.

Richard Fletcher – The Times July 14th
  • Huge rise in factory gate prices (Far East Especially)

China’s factory-gate prices rose at the fastest pace in more than three years in April, fuelled by rapidly climbing costs for metals, oil and other materials.

The producer price index rose 6.8% in April from a year earlier, accelerating from March’s 4.4% increase, the National Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday. The reading was the highest since October 2017, when the PPI climbed 6.9%, and beat the 6.5% increase expected by economists polled by The Wall Street Journal.

Prices in the production sector continue to march upward amid rising international commodity prices, the bureau said.

On a monthly basis, China’s PPI expanded 0.9% in April from March, while the price of the means of production increased 9.1%, according to the bureau. The monthly decline was mainly driven by falling prices in the oil and non-ferrous metals industries. -Marketwatch.com

  • Massive increase in shipping Costs
Source Freightos
  • Increasing demand

Nearly all commodity prices rose in 2021Q1,
continuing the marked rebound since mid-2020
(figure 1.A). Almost all commodity prices now
exceed their pre-pandemic levels, and those of
some commodities, notably metals, are well above
their previous levels—copper prices were nearly 50
percent higher in March 2021 relative to the end
of 2019. The recovery has been driven by the
improving global economic outlook, aided by
significant monetary and fiscal stimulus in
advanced economies, and steady, although
uneven, vaccination rates. –World Bank

  • Increasing Wage rates

Additionally, pay growth is being affected by the base effect where the latest month is now compared with April 2020 when earnings were first affected by the coronavirus pandemic; April 2021 saw a growth rate of 8.4% for total pay and 7.3% for regular pay which feeds into the strong 5.6% average growth rate for February to April 2021.

ONS June 2021
  • Shortage of labour

Sounding the alarm over the risks to economic recovery from acute labour shortages, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and the accountancy firm KPMG said the number of available workers plunged in June at the fastest rate since 1997.

Recruitment firms are reporting hiring challenges across several sectors of the economy, led by shortfalls in areas such as transport and logistics, hospitality, manufacturing and construction. …….In a sign of the growing pressure on companies, surveys from the British Chambers of Commerce published on Thursday showed 70% that had tried to hire staff in the three months to June had struggled to do so.. The Guardian July 2021

Lest we not forget , vast quantities of Government ????????

Now this is not the first time but it is for very different reasons a rather strange paradox as we have rising prices but the stuff we want, there is nothing to buy. A bit of an exaggeration, perhaps, but there is a shortage of product both unfinished and finished . In the UK in the early seventies , when inflation was rampant there were shortages but they were due to industrial action, such as the Coal Miners strike and the Middle East Oil crisis. Today’s shortages are due to disrupted supply chains primarily due to Covid, turn around in demand and shipping .

From Micro Chipmakers, Car Manufacturers, Construction through Food and us humble party suppliers, there is not enough product within the supply chain. Many have temporarily reduced their ranges to concentrate on core product. So are prices going up on product that does not exist. Not quite. However, it provides a temporarily dilemma. Retailers with healthy cashflows don’t mind a bit of inflation. I can go back to inflation nearing 20%. Traders without borrowings loved it . It meant more cash and consequently the same margin on a bigger take. The same applies to 4/5% inflation but if you are losing turnover in not be able to get core product, you don’t benefit much from a price increase.

The Consumer looses out on all counts. In the short term they can’t get exactly what they want , and when they can they have to pay more for it. However, something else comes into play with Consumer Purchasing psychology . Whilst I do no think there have been any studies yet, but there is circumstantial evidence to show that when a consumer cant get the brand they want, they buy an alternative and maybe don’t switch back.

Many do not expect to see much improvement in the supply chain until well into 2022. The problem being exacerbated by the inability to build any stock as all product is going into supplying current orders. That said as covid continues its destructive path , it does all it can to maintaining disruption in manufacturing and supply.

So what to do ? If you are trading you need stock and if you put off buying because of price increases, you are

  1. Missing revenue because you don’t the product (or service) to sell.
  2. Waiting means the possibility of further price increasesand maybe even further delays , leading to your customers going elsewhere.

There are times when stock is King. This is one of them.

Pig Shit, Bullshit ….It’s the way Forward .

Farmers are building Hydro electric plants to power cryptocurrency mines

My Wife

Were the words I woke up to recently . To which I responded ….

What bullshit have you been listening to ?

Me

Julia, if not sleeping well listens to various stuff through a mini radio during the night , therefore random and often somewhat bizarre facts are not unusual upon awakening . Yet in this case, it was neither random but it was slightly bizarre. It was a Farming Programme . Me thinks I need to investigate this further and ask our own little philosopher .

Ari, is Julia talking Bullshit or Pig Shit ?

Aristotle Speaks

So, Julia was correct.

Farmers with renewable energy sources like anaerobic digestion can earn 10 times more running crypto mining machines than selling energy to providers

By Rupert Steiner June 2021 http://www.marketwatch.com

U.K.-based Josh Riddett, who started Easy Crypto Hunter in 2017 in Manchester, has carved a niche selling farmers equipment powered by renewable energy such as anaerobic digestion, which turns animal dung into energy.

……Farmers with renewable energy sources like solar, hydro, wind or anaerobic digestion can sell their power back to energy companies for around 4-7 pence per kilowatt-hour — but they can earn up to 10 times that running a crypto mining machine instead.

As Above
Josh Riddett with Cow
A new biofuel installation designed to power cryptocurrency mining. (Credits: Easy Crypto Hunter / SWNS)

I, really, don’t know where to go with this . My image of a farmer, wearing brown trousers, piece of corn grass hanging out the side of their mouth, collarless shirt, red cheeks and hands the size of footballs, has been blown out the water . Has it been replaced by thick glasses, a pizza stained T shirt, pale complexion, blood shot eyes and cans of Dr Pepper(most tech nerds are based in North America- yes I know not all) on the table ? I think not. There will be many farmers out there who would rightly claim they make little enough out of farming fields. What’s there to loose ?

A lot. Life is not quite as simple as I don’t make much on that so I will do that instead. Farming for food production is an essential .Crypto currency is not. Moreover, Cryptocurrency is a huge gamble . It is a bet, sometimes a scam, no more (yet). I have no doubt Cryptocurrencies are here to stay in some form or other but it will not replace Farming. Besides, if farmers stopped rearing Pigs , where is all the shit going to come from to keep the Crypto Mines Working.

That said, it got Julia and I to thinking. We approached Aristotle with a view to using his poo for a something similar but maybe on a slightly smaller scale. He said Dont be bloody stupid, you are barking up the wrong tree. You have missed the boat. Dogecoin was developed in 2013……..Seriously Dogecoin is a trading platform for Cryptocurrency.

 Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer, Software engineers & the Developers of Dogecoin

Will Farmers continue to move from agriculture to mining cryptocurrencies ? Will Tech Nerds become Pig Farmers ?

No. But as the old cliched phrase ‘Where there is muck, there is brass’ resonates once again, there is no doubt that there will be rapid changes in farming practices as there will be in the way money is transacted . Farming essential, money essential , renewables now essential, it only needs a small leap in imagination….. Ask Aristotle.

Much Ado about a ‘elluva Bloody Lot…..

I am not . I , truly am not . I am not envious of wealth or rather enormous wealth. I would like a bit , it goes without saying, but I am intrigued by enormous wealth. The easiest way for me to indulge in that intrigue is by looking at The Times Newspaper Annual Rich List.

I can easily swat aside those who say ‘of course you would want to fabulously wealthy’. I really couldn’t handle all the crap that goes with it. When you reach a point that you don’t know how many properties you own, or how many cars sit in your underground garages and making sure that every second of your day is covered by sufficient security and whether your family is safe, what is the point ? Perhaps that is part of the problem . Money no longer has a value, it is purely all about numbers and they are driven by that thought of continually upping the numbers . I digress, but only a bit.

Within the Rich list there is a whole bunch of guys and gals ( mainly guys) with heaps of money . During the Pandemic (2020) their combined wealth grew by 22%. I suppose it is not entirely surprising as this bunch of happy bunnies will own and control a greater many resources and when things are tough and resources or access to them becomes tough so their value increases exponentially.

Whilst there are the obvious players such Abramovich, Blavatnik, Dyson , The Hinduja family, there is a group of players who I class as the much ado about nothing, or rather their fortune is built on nothing tangible. I will return to this after taking a pokey at the retailers that still remain in the list . There being a good number, both in terms of bricks and mortar and online.

Bricks & Mortar

Stephen Rubin- £6+billion . family owned Pentland Group amongst the Group are brands such as Kickers, Speedo, Berghaus and a big junk of JD Sports.

Weston Family -£11+billion ,Primark and Selfridges to name but two

Tom Morris £4+billion -Home & Bargain Discount Stores

Mike Ashley £1.9+ -billion Sports Direct

Bernard Lewis £1.9 Billion-River Island

Will Adderley £1.78 billion -Dunelm

Jonas & Mathias Kamprad £1.74 billion -Ikea- Admittedly inherited but they are London based

Chris Dawson -£2+billion -The Range

The Arora Bros £2.5 billion -B&M Stores

Internet (retailers)

Mahmud Kamani £1.4+ billion -Boohoo

Tim Steiner £625 million – Ocado

Alex Chesterman £750 million – Cazoo

I haven’t included those whose operations no longer exist such the worlds favourite retailer Mr Green and Arcadia. But it is surprising, in terms of retail , in the UK, the wealthiest are those with bricks and mortar…… for the moment.

The two wealthiest in the world are both retailers- One primarily stores(but not exclusively) – the other needs no explanation.

No 1 The Walton Family (yes the family that were constantly on our TV’s several years ago -err no actually the owners of Walmart ) £166 Billion.

No 2 Jeff Bezos, soon to be Rocket man, the founder of Amazon £128 billion.

Here’s an illustration of how not bad 2020 was for some…..

The last column on the right illustrates how they ‘suffered’ (Times Rich List- My words ‘suffered’ – not theirs).

But all that, is not what irks me . I have no issue with wealth creation, I have a problem with The Much Ado’s

There are, of course the Peskie Ruskies or more accurately , as they are not all Russian, former Soviets. The Abramoviches, Usmanov, German Khan(actually Ukrainian), Michael Fridman and a whole bunch more whose original assets were obtained by dubious means . It is the wealth that is created by legal but by not creating anything but confidence or analysed and calculated hope . By that I mean people believing that an idea is going to work even though the idea is not even an actuality . For example Denis Sverdlov whose British Manufacturing company of electric vehicles is worth £8.1 billion and not a vehicle has yet been made. This, in itself, is no bad thing if indeed the vehicle is made and successful . But Elon Musk who has been making vehicles for some time, has become one of the worlds richest men without yet making a profit ( I know he made a load of dosh via PayPal, but not through Tesla apart from its share price). Alex Chesterman, Cazoo fame (online car selling platform) , a loss making operation to date was valued at £5 billion on the New York Stock Exchange. It has yet to sell 20,000 cars.

Then there is the readily available lines of credit . Readily ,often for those who don’t need it, but sparse for those that do. There are the Issa brothers, for example, who raised £6.8 Billion , and contributed £780 million to buy Asda. I don’t want to start on cryptocurrency. A concept understood by few, creates nothing tangible, yet (in the case of Bitcoin) has increased in value by over 400% even with having fallen back from its peak. The latest wealth creator being digital art . where has that come from or rather where has the value come from?

it all leads to whole bunch of guys that actually don’t contribute a lot in terms of products, services, or indeed anything useful yet in doing their Much about doing nothing, are worth a ‘elluva lot. At very least Charles Ponzi and Bernard Madoff grafted at being thieving bastards.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly….

Bad – I don’t do . Well at least I try not to , that said I do like Breaking bad (probably one of the best TV progs). I do Bad Hair days. I do like some sweets . Bad is the German and Dutch for Bath, and I do like a bath.

Ugly– I don’t do. Or rather I do, when I shave or brush my teeth, but the mirror tells me that’s enough Ugly for anyone. And I do like Potato Chips and Fries.

Good – Now I am not sure I do much good, and I don’t much like Brown Rice and Dark Rye but Good is not about me. It is about Retail, and in particular ‘Party Retailers’.

I, we (depending on who is reading this and in which country) are very fortunate to have some very good retailers. There are , of course, there are those that fall into the ‘Bad’ category but they will not be around for much longer. Certainly among my customer base they are ‘Good’. It is not that they are just Good Retailers, they are Good people. This, to some, may seem like gushing, corny drivel. But I feel that you have to be a Good person because without that you can’t be a Good Party Retailer.

If you are Butcher, serving an excellent range of tasty meat you can be a miserable git and still survive. There is one local to us , always busy.

If you are a clothes shop and you have a terrific range of on trend product great prices, your business will tolerate ‘They are really snooty in that shop, but they have some great stuff ‘ remarks and still make money. Been in quite a few.

If you are a Bookshop, as long as you have a great range and you are very knowledgeable, you can sit in a corner and hide (our experience of a lot of book shops).

A Party Shop is different. You have to engage , inform and in many cases empathize. I believe it is very difficult to truly emphasize, without being a ‘Good’ Person. Let me be quite clear , before you walk into your local Party Retailer and expect to find A Relationship Counsellor, you might, but don’t expect it. What I think you will find or rather if you have a Good Party Retailer is someone who will understand your needs, ask the right questions, and how to fulfill them. Now, hold back, I can hear the odd brain going into overdrive lead by one of two thoughts

For crissake, this is a bloody party retailer you’re talking about !

or

For crissake, I have been paying a fortune trying to find out about my needs and and all I had to do was go to my local party shop. There isn’t one, where do I find one ?

What the Good Party Retailer does is listen to what you want, ask you the right questions and then shows you how that can be achieved . They, also understand the emotion that can go with special events , be it weddings, first birthdays, 90th Birthdays, Anniversaries, Graduations , Welcome Home, or any of the myriad of reasons you are having a party. In most case it will involve having fun , but that fun must reflect the occasion. When they get it right that experience heightens and intensifies the emotional sentiments attached to the event.

I believe that emotion remains in the subconscious of the consumer. Before I hear the shout of Cobblers (English colloquial for Rubbish), the emotional impact of these special events, because of the rational for their being associated with close family or close friends , is very powerful. There is a very strong likelihood that they will return and they will recommend. You don’t and never will get this service from online operators (AI or no AI) nor multiple retailers.

Where did I get this blinding flash of enlightenment ? As lockdown eased , and I was able to go (albeit masked up ) and start visiting retail clients, I kept thinking what a Good (without being over the top I ,probably thought Nice but hate using that word as it doesn’t do the job properly ) person(s) that was . Then, I thought and they are bloody good party retailers.

Perhaps I should have another go at Brown Rice and Rye Bread…..but life is so very short .

Shortages…..what do you mean? We are not in the middle of a bloody war !

National archives (Note: Fires not Fries)

Toilet rolls …No. Sanitisers ….No. Pasta….No. Chips….Yes.

Now before you start calling your local chippy and Pre-Ordering your month’s requirements or buying a new freezer to keep a years worth of frozen chips, it is not the tasty sort we are talking about.

Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Volkswagen, Tesla to name but a few are cutting back on production because there is a shortage of semi conductor chips that are used in modern day vehicles. This has come about because during the pandemic there was a huge drop in demand from the automotive industry so chip makers switched to chips for laptops, electronic gadgets, and mobile devices etc as the demand spiralled .

Yet this is just the tip of a veritable iceberg. Just go into your local supermarkets, and look carefully at the shelves, you will start to see a lot of stuff missing . Construction materials , medicines, bikes, and many food products are just a growing list of products that are going to be hard to get over the next six months .

The construction materials shortage has impacted self builders, renovators and DIYers, and further problems are expected

Jack Woodfield Homebuilding & Renovating

There is currently a global shortage of raw material shortages, stemming from global demand and other external factors (including the slowdown and in some instances, factory closures, outside the UK), which continues to constrain production of certain products, such as insulation, paints and adhesives, as well as packaging for products.

Jack Woodfield Homebuilding & Renovating

Samsung warns chip crisis could lead to shortage in TVs and home gadgets

Samsung’s chip division saw profits drop after it had to close vital US factories in February James Cook ,Telegraph April 2021

A combination of covid, major supply chain disruption , demand changes , cost and organisational issues within world shipping have created that oft used phrase a perfect storm.

What may come as a little bit of a surprise to some (but not perhaps those within our own industry ) is that you may not be able to not be able to pop into your local Party store , or your favourite party web site and buy the latex balloon of your dream. The worlds latex balloon manufactures are being faced with exactly the same problems as that of rest of worlds supply chain.

  • Extraordinary demand (throughout Covid)
  • Shortages of raw materials
  • Manufacturing limitations due to covid restrictions
  • Shipping disruptions

The following is an an extract from a statement put out by the Balloon Council of America (Organisation representing major Latex Balloon Manufacturers in the Americas.)

Industry Update: Growth and Supply Chain Impact
It has been over a year since the pandemic began impacting our lives and business. As leaders in the balloon
community, it is important that we address the disruptions in the supply chain that the industry continues to
experience.
Although we are shipping large quantities of balloons, we have seen a marked increase in demand and the reality
is COVID-19 continues to impact all segments of our industry. Some of the challenges that we faced early on
continue to cause disruptions and impact the overall business.
• COVID-19 has continued to impact employees. Safety is essential. In many companies, new work rules,
social distancing, and physical barriers have been necessary to ensure a safe work environment and these
changes usually mean a reduction of efficiency and output. We have also faced challenges in finding and
retaining employees during these challenging times.
• Balloons are an element of a global supply chain, and many suppliers, both here in the U.S. and overseas
that we don’t control, have been similarly hit, impacting their ability to deliver raw materials or services.
This has been an ongoing issue in the past year.
• The whole supply chain, including freight companies, continues to struggle to operate efficiently and has
not been as predictable pre-COVID-19.
We know this is frustrating for balloon buyers at all levels. Manufacturers, related products suppliers, and
distributors are doing everything in our power to ramp up volume and responsiveness. TBC members are trying
hard to control the things we can, such as increasing production capacity, asking our employees to work overtime
and recruiting additional workers.
It will take more time for the supply chain to reset but we are tirelessly working to achieve our goal to return to
pre-COVID-19 service levels as quickly as we are able.
The global vaccination effort currently underway offers a beacon of hope that a return to normality is a possibility
in the not-so-distant future. That said, every day we are hearing stories about new variants that may or may not
respond to the existing vaccines. Few expected the pandemic would be this severe for this long, and none of us can
really project when its impact to industry will be over.
Balloons have brought joy to many people throughout the pandemic. As an industry, we are committed to doing
everything possible to get business back to pre-COVID-19 service levels. We are all working to make that day come
soon, and our teams won’t be satisfied until we achieve that.
Thank you on behalf of all the manufacturers and distributors who are TBC members for your patience and
understanding during these challenging times.

I make no apologies about the length of this specific extract as hopefully it will be of interest to the odd reader who is involved within the party industry and it would be remiss of me if I did not highlight these problems, particular as this product has put food on the plates in our household for many years.

Moreover, these issues are the very same (or similar) facing the entire supply chain in many product areas.

Most consumers wont even notice , or rather they may have difficulty in getting their brand , but there will be an alternative. Yet higher up the supply chain, the pain will be greater. Because of the way the supply chain operates in most markets, it is just not that straightforward in finding another supplier.

What does of course happen when supply dips , and demand remains constant or increases then so do prices.

Yet we are not at war. Well maybe we are in a sense, of all trying to fight a virus, which is complex enough but then putting into the mix the complexities of world trade, there is a inevitably about the impact of the supply of goods and services. Despite this ‘inevitability’ , none of us actually know what is going to happen from day to day . So if you cant get exactly what you want today, but you want exactly what you want, hang on a bit and you will probably get it. If you don’t want to wait buy something else.

High Street Dying? ….or maybe it’s just started to Live ?

Dying …..The High Street

Living……People

We, apparently don’t want shops anymore but we want more places to live.

It has been muted that because of the demise of the High Street, planning laws will be altered to enable developers to turn shops into living according accommodation. Shock and Horror.

There are those who say this would be the final straw.

Stink of fish and chips , smells of curry, and stale Chinese food, the aromatic drift of the kebab shop and dry cleaners fumes are a number of the attractions for decades, of living on the High Street (perhaps not High Street Kensington, for those who know about such things).

Living on the High Street is not a new concept , albeit it has never been something that has really been thought about in a considered manner. People go into shops and people live on High Streets and the very same people will, on occasion, go into the shops those very same shops.

What I have noticed in my area during during the last 12 months, new retailers who had just started before the first lockdown or have planned opening for the very first time post lockdown. We are not talking national multiples, we are talking local independents, that is to say people who know the area , what the local consumer wants and where possible sourcing local product, and have built a model during a retail crisis including sophisticated web sites. Within our industry I saw this happen during the financial crisis and it is happening, in a different way again.

There is a whole bunch of stuff that good local independents and good local consumers living next door to each other are a perfect mix. On an environmental level alone, it makes good sense that people shop where they live (or indeed live where they shop!)

Almost three in five British consumers have made more use of local stores in their area to help them through the Coronavirus lockdown, according to research from business consultancy Deloitte Digital.

The study from late May 2020, also found that almost the same proportion said they will be more likely to spend at shops offering locally-produced goods once the lockdown has fully lifted, compared to before the pandemic hit.

So we’re likely to see a change in shopping habits, with customers more likely to shop local. (Deloitte Digital)

Modern retailing in the UK (as we would sort of recognise it today) probably started way back in late 18th century (Debenhams was founded in 1778). It has , naturally, gone through enormous changes since then but probably none more so that during the last 12 months. Much of that involves online purchasing but not a little by the new independent retail entrepreneur having a better understanding of the consumer and seeing the opportunities that still exist. Perhaps ‘Still’ is the wrong word as many of the opportunities are completely new and did not exist 12 months ago. Maybe they did exist but they weren’t aware of them. By ‘They’ I mean both entrepreneur and consumer.

Our time in lockdown has changed our fundamental approach to life. Our attention has shifted towards supporting the local community, our families and the impact we can have on the world around us. Today, we are much more concerned with why we buy and whom we buy from than how quickly we can get what we’ve purchased.

Who we buy from and what that brand stands for are more important than ever before. Our experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated our need and desire to feel good about our purchasing decisions. With few retail experiences open, events to attend, or activities to participate in, people are finding fulfilment in associating themselves with brands that do good. The trend towards brands communicating their virtuous behaviour to engage and build trust and loyalty with customers will have a tremendous impact in the future.

This goes beyond consumers’ baseline expectations of a brand’s approach to sustainability, inclusion and staff, to now include how brands support the social causes that they believe in. As brands move towards becoming the commercial and cultural pillars that society looks to for guidance, they are being asked by the public to wield their influence to have a positive impact beyond the products and services they sell.

The year ahead will undoubtedly see brands exploring how the physical store environment can be used to better engage customers in the causes that matter to their brand most. Showing kindness and empathy to your staff, community and customers will outpace customer experience, convenience and price as the key drivers of brand differentiation.

Retail Focus April 2021

I can only see, if planned properly, the High St, having a greater proportion of people actually living on it, will be a more vibrant a much healthier place to live, physically as well as mentally. However, and it is a very big However, I can see this happening in the more affluent of High Streets. Once again the more socially deprived areas will not be so fortunate. Lucy’s Piquant Pale Ale Brewery, Doug’s Derby Dim Sum, or Sally’s Porcini Sourdough bakery will not be seeking their fortunes in these areas. Paddy Power, Denny’s Discount store, and the odd charity shop will prevail. These High Streets are the ones were the future is bleak. I am not sure there is an answer, for many of the locals even, or particularly, online will not be an option unless cheap workable broadband and then much cheaper technology making it accessible to all socio economic groups. None of which is on the immediate horizon. That said if the retailers are not going there surely it is better to make those empty premises into affordable living accommodation.

Courtesy of the BBC- Not a Good place to live
This looks very liveable but hardly a deprived city centre

Reality bites. Without change and reinvigoration and innovation the High Street is very much in danger of dying and part of that reinvigoration will be more people living there, for a whole bunch of reasons already stated. This, I believe, is specially true where the new breed of retailer are unlikely to venture and that are the poorest areas. With, potentially better housing conditions and more people, there will always be retailers who can develop suitable business models. But let it be done thoughtfully so the Living can stop every High Street from dying.

If the last 12 months has taught us nothing else, it is the impact socially and emotionally in not having a functioning High Street. If it (High St) shows a willingness to survive then we should do all we can to encourage its longevity.

Your cash ain’t nothin’ but trash….

You don’t have to look it up , it was the Steve Millar Band 1973 . I think there was an earlier recording, but that’s the one I know .

Take a long hard look as it might not be around for long . Cash that is. Another effect of Covid as an even quicker transition to a cashless society . It has become a bit like washing your hands and wearing a mask ….

Don’t touch the filthy lucre! (For those of you who may not know it is a pejorative word for money)

Or rather the U.K. government discouraged those traders , or rather those allowed to trade , from using cash as it may transmit the virus. Many, not all, adhered to that advice. I do get very suspicious when a retailer still says cash only. The days of it being a complicated processing getting a card machine are long gone. There a bucket loads of services which you can sign up for in ten minutes, have a card reader in a couple of days and be operational immediately at very competitive rates, which are equally as good, and in many cases better than a bank’s charge.

Even some street sellers like the Big Issue or buskers have the facility for contactless payments.

This has all come to the fore because of the first till less, cash less, Amazon store (now two)in the UK

HENRY NICHOLLS/Reuters

Will all stores be like this in the future ? Most likely. Will that be the end of the friendly banter with a miserable(bit unkind) cashier ? Most likely. Do we still push kids up chimneys ? No. Does a bloke walk in front of your car with a flag ? No. Does a geezer at the end of the shop with a large quill calculate how much you owe? No. Things change.

Will, however, it accelerate the end of cash. Yes. You can see the advantages.

Retailer..

  • no tills
  • few mistakes
  • fewer staff
  • no cashing up
  • no cash to go to bank
  • no change given
  • far quicker through put
  • no banking up cash, and increasing problem with disappearing High Street bank branches
  • more in store consumer behaviour data

Consumer

  • no tills
  • fewer mistakes
  • in the case of Amazon, you wont even need a debit/credit card
  • quicker shop
  • no queues
  • no standing standing behind the daft sod who is trying to find the exact £27.71 in cash

Of course there are loads of disadvantages but they are not going to stop the cashless trend. Yet, I believe the end of cash is a long way off . There are too many reasons to keep cash, apart from the fact that there is still a minority of the UK population that do not have a bank account (approximately one million) and the same applies to those without internet access . However, the issue of internet access is very relevant as it is needed for face to face cashless transactions. Even in areas where there are good signals, any interruptions would disable any cashless transaction.

Will you miss….

can you lend us a fiver, mate ?

spare us any change, chief ?

wot can you knock orf for cash ?

penny for your thoughts ? (probably stretching it a bit anyway ,a penny not even going to buy the thoughts of the biggest moron )

any discount for cash ?

sorry cash only …

empty yer till or i’ll do ye !

cash is king!

money for old rope

Probably not .

But we what would miss is an alternative . If there is no cash and alternative methods fail how do you transact? Cash provides a means of social interaction. For some it maybe their only social interaction .

Bank of England

The arguments put forward to support DeLaRue’s (UK bank note printers)case are compelling however, I disagree. You can sum up the reasons why I disagree with one word, convergence. I’ll explain more in a moment, but first let’s revisit the arguments to support the continued hegemony of cash:

  • First off, it’s about practicality — over a third of the world’s population don’t have a bank account — in the UK, seven per cent of the adult population don’t have a bank account.
  • Secondly, it provides anonymity, so cash supports privacy.
  • Thirdly, cash makes it easier to keep tabs on how much you are spending.
  • It’s psychological — people trust cash.
  • Cash doesn’t require technology — if there is no internet connection you can still use cash.
  • Cash protects against fraud.
  • It’s the cheapest, quickest and most convenient form of payment.
  • Its popularity shows no sign of waning — 85 per cent of consumer transactions worldwide are conducted using cash.

share.com from whence the above comes from, disagree.

Given that list, it feels like an open and shut case — cash is king, queen, prime minister and president.

I am not so sure though. Re-consider the above list. The real reason why people prefer cash is because it’s what we are used to. Technology has a response to just about all the above arguments.

  • In Africa mobile phone credits or airtime have become accepted as a form of payment — there are alternatives to cash even among people who don’t have a bank account.
  • There are technological solutions to the anonymity argument — bitcoin is just one example.
  • Banks such as Monzo provide a service where it is much easier to keep a tab on spending — every time you use your card you get a notification. I am not sure whether you can set yourself a daily budget — like withdrawing £100 from the ATM and saying this is my budget for today — but I see no reason why this can’t be done.
  • Cash can be stolen; I think there are safeguards that can be employed to afford greater protections to digital money from fraud.

That leaves the psychological argument, the convenience argument and the fact cash is still popular.

I will respond to those arguments in reverse order.

Sure, globally cash is still popular but look towards countries that often lead the way in term of new ideas. Take Sweden, the country that made it compulsory to wear seat belts in cars, or which banned smoking in public places, when such regulation felt inconceivable in the UK. In Sweden, only one percent of all payments in 2016 were conducted using cash. 

Or consider convenience — plastic is only a short-term alternative to cash. More people are using their smartphones but that is also a short-term alternative to cash. Soon we will carry electronic wallets which are either a part of our smartwatch or perhaps like a kind of tattoo — our skin becomes our wallet. What can be more convenient than that?

Convergence, where different technologies come together, will change the psychology of digital money. Electronic wallets we wear on our wrist or embedded into our skin, 5G providing ubiquitous internet connectivity, improved reliability of internet connectivity, and Monzo style presentation enabling us to easily keep an accurate record of our spending, will combine, creating a powerful user experience.

Companies that provide these technologies— Apple for example with smart payment hardware, banks that adopt a Monzo style interface, companies that provide digital alternatives to cash; they will be the winners.

And as these technologies develop and converge, the psychological rationale for cash will disappear like money down a drain.

Michael Baxter

Economics Commentator

Michael is an economics, investment and technology writer, known for his entertaining style. He has previously been a full-time investor, founder of a technology company which was floated on the NASDAQ, and a director of a PR company specialising in IT.

I disagree. Society is somewhat more complex than that. Yes digital alternatives will be the future but that does not equate to the end of cash. There are obvious doomsday scenarios, such as extended power outages either local or national which would deem all cashless transactions redundant for an underdetermined time, data leaks, IT failures and the list goes on. I suggest that society as a whole will have more to say about the timing of the cash funeral . Cashless society favours those that have rather than the have nots . The have nots often have a way of sticking up 2 fingers when they have their backs to the wall.

Cash is no longer King (or Queen). I would wager a cash bet it will as longer than any King or Queen.

What’s your next Gig ?

Glastonbury, Reading, Festival, Bruce Springsteen or are you working an Uber shift tonight?

Gig is slang for a live musical performance. It derives from the word Engagement by Jazz musicians in the 1920’s. It has now become common usage for individual self employed ie the Gig Economy. Perhaps not immediately obvious but every job is an engagement.

What I do find odd is why this has become such a contentious part of our economy . Self employment as been around as long as wandering warriors selling their services to highest bidder. Today’s warrior is more likely to carry a mop and ladder, drive a cab, shine your shoes (still exist), sell ice cream , paint your house , mow your lawn, offer advice, black cab drivers, consultants of all kinds, musicians, actors and a myriad of other tasks including the skills of a warrior and performing a hit for a local gang. It is estimated there is best part of a million involved in the Gig Economy in the UK. The simple definition is if you are sick, on holiday or just cant work for any other reason you don’t get paid . Well nothing new there !

Any of these could be self employed

For many it works and has going on for centuries if not longer . It enables those who want to work, to work when they want and for many to do a variety of jobs. I have spoken to Uber drivers (there are apparently over 40,000 in London alone, so surely it cant be all bad) who are studying medicine, doing a MBA , semi retired looking for some pocket money , just fancy doing a bit now and again, but fundamentally it allows them to do what they want to do when they want to.

For many it allows them to earn when they would struggle to get a full time job. And yes, there are many organisations that abuse their self employed colleagues but for a huge number it is a choice. 40,000 Uber drivers in London are not all there because they have to . It is estimated that there are between 100,000 and 150,000 window cleaners in the UK. 57% of Hairdressing in the UK is accounted for by freelancers. The vast majority of plumbers, electricians, and brickies are all freelancers.

Freelance work has significantly increased in specific industries: from 2018 to 2019, there was a whopping 31% increase in people looking to get into freelance work. That said, the top freelance positions included dog walkers (60% increase), beauticians (159%), hairdressers (51%), photographers (91%), and bakers (68%).

startupbonsai.com
Lindsay Liedke

This was pre-covid. Post Covid I suspect these figures could be a lot higher. The UK is the 2nd highest facilitator of freelancers. The US is the first. Whilst the EU does not figure in the top 10 ………

With more freelancers than ever making up the European workforce, the European Commission has made clear the European SME Definition should “acknowledge freelancers as a stand-alone category within the definition and legitimise the smallest of small businesses, those who – with a 45% increase since 2000 are the fastest growing segment of the EU labour market.”

startupbonsai.com

You don’t get sick pay. You don’t get holiday entitlement . You don’t get Employers pension contributions. You don’t ‘paid for ‘ training . You don’t get redundancy payments You have to budget. When you get the chance you do ‘have to put away for rainy days’ literally and metaphorically.

  • The most popular freelance careers in all of the UK include: business support (22%), design (20%), and writing and translation (17%)
  • The number one location to freelance is Manchester thanks to low property costs and plenty of WiFi hotspots (Brighton & Hove, Edinburgh, and Belfast are right behind in popularity)
  • Freelancers average 27 hours of work per week, which is far less than the whole of Europe
  • 61% of freelancers are happy with their career choice
  • Those in freelance hated commuting, the stress, and not being the boss at their traditional corporate jobs

Money Supermarket

You can get job satisfaction. You can reap good financial rewards . You can have a good work/life balance. You are your own Boss . You don’t get fired. You have flexibility. You have the ability to reap what you sow.

It is not for all and for some it is a necessity and not choice, but for many it is the ‘perfect job or jobs‘.

There those that slag off the Gig Economy. Its to easy to do and invariably those that do are often the biggest users i.e. journalists and broadcasters .

My beef is tarring all with the same brush ‘Gig’. Lets retake Gig so we can look forward to going to Gigs again. Lets call those that want to be freelancers, Freelancers. Lets call those those that are manipulated and poorly paid Sweeps, or the Sweep Economy after the child chimney sweeps of Victorian Britain, who worked in disgusting conditions and rarely got paid anything.

And when you next need the services of your local freelance plumber/electrician/window cleaner/courier/mini cab driver/ hairdresser and you don’t feel they are fairly rewarded for their efforts. Give ’em a big tip.

Desperately seeking….An Alliance !

Marriage is an alliance entered into by a man who can’t sleep with the window shut, and a woman who can’t sleep with the window open.

George Bernard Shaw

And yet……On its own means little, until the middle of the post where it is central to my thoughts , but somehow it looks better at the beginning. Humankind seems a bit indulgent, but begin with it I must …..

Humankind relies upon alliances. Whilst it may not exactly seem like it at the moment, every thread of human of human society relies upon some of alliance. Right back through human history, alliances have been sought to create a benefit, not always, to both parties. Many are sought only to collapse because the weaker of the alliance suddenly discovers that the alliance is not giving them any benefit whatsoever, so they seek other alternatives.

United Nations, European Union , European Free Trade Association , World Trade Organisation, World Health Organisation, FIFA -International Federation of Association Football, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, G7,G20, To name but a few of the more obvious. All created with the common intent of pooling resources and similar ideals to maximise their relevant aims . Well that’s generally the intention, there will be those who would question the effectiveness of some or all. Yet without any alliances there would be little or no impact within the relevant areas .

The commercial world is stuffed full of alliances, some formal, some informal. Many of them are formal for example Road Hauliers Association, our very own European Balloon and Party Council, Association of Plumbing and Heating engineers , and the list goes on to over 8000 in the U.K., are fundamentally groups of competitors. Yet they group together to discuss and resolve issues and problems that they all face on a day to basis .

Business or strategic alliances , mainly two organisations but not uniquely, are more straightforward in their aims but often not long term . A current example of a strategic alliance is Red Bull and GoPro (miniature action cameras). They are both completely different products but their target market is very similar. By working together they are constantly reinforcing the brands while not conflicting sales revenues

Commerce to one side, If you include the likes of sports and social clubs there estimated to be over 50,000 such groupings in the U.K. alone.

Historically, it could be argued that pre Roman Times , true alliances were never formed in that they were generally enforced . The Romans and the likes of Genghis Khan did not seek alliances . But they realised that they would be more successful if they worked with the conquered . The Saxon kings, whilst often in conflict with each other , forged ever changing alliances to stave off the onslaught of the Vikings . European kings and queens spent centuries forging and breaking alliances (usually via marriage) to improve their lot .

Genghis-The Alliance maker ?

And yet….here it comes, we appear to be in the midst of an era when societies are abandoning Alliances . In a time when you would think that you need them all the more , they are being shed like dead skin. First Brexit, then Trump (pushing Nato to arms length, threatening WTO, leaving the Paris Climate agreement, that all now being reversed ). Isolation appears to be the order of the day .

And yet… is it really ? Going back to history (of course you can only go back to history ) alliances have broken up and reinvented time and time again. I think Joseph S and his erstwhile mate Adolf H , must have had few words about their supposed alliance. There is nothing new here. The world, during the last twelve months, has been creating alliances, via research organisations, drug companies, scientists, medical teams to try and combat our current crisis. Well, at least most of the world, and I include the EU & China within most of the world.

Do we need them ? Yes we do. Just imagine a world without alliances . No alliances, no weddings, no divorce lawyers, so sad.

No man(or woman) is an island,

Entire of itself;

Every man is a piece of the continent, 

A part of the main.

John Donne

The parenthesis are, of course, added by me. Whilst Mr Donne would surely have added them if written today . In the 17th Century, were probably more use on an island and brought home for the 3 C’s : Culinary, Cleaning & Conjugals.

Daunt by name…Daunting by nature or just plain Mr Bookseller….

The tall, handsome man strode in to the room, there was a sudden hush…

“Who may you be ?”

“Daunt, James Daunt…”

What James Bond is to spies, James Daunt is to books. Or rather Bond eliminates nasty spies, but Daunt creates an atmosphere for Good Books to survive.

James Daunt, has been a subject of a previous post (https://thepartyblog.org/2019/01/20/undaunted-by-the-big-beast/). Therefore, in short, previously working as a banker for JP Morgan , he opened his first book shop in London in 2012. It grew to a chain of six, which he sold and then was head hunted by the struggling Waterstones,succeeding in turning it around against all odds. Then in 2019 he was asked to go to New York to be CEO of Barnes & Noble, the giant but failing US book retailer Barnes & Noble (now owned by Waterstones).

Now, of course what Agent Daunt does, like all good secret agents, is slaughter a shed load of jobs at Barnes & Noble’s head office. But it is the area in which he does the majority of his nasty work , that is of interest , and that is ‘buying’. Within Waterstones he acted in a similar way. He understands that central buying just does not sit well with the book buying public. Not that they (the book buying public) know anything about central buying. What they do know and like is what is on the shelves. That is the result of the buying returning to the local branches .

What Agent Daunt understands that those with their noses closest to the ground have a lot more idea as to what their customers want. The good people of Southampton have very different reading wants and needs to those in Leeds . That is not to say that the residents of one city are anymore well read than the other. It is just a reflection of regional tastes and interests . Or rather in the case of Barnes & Noble it is the difference between Chicago and Atlanta . The ‘buying’ noses of head office are a long way from the ground.

Once again we return to understanding and responding to your customer base and the wide variations that can exist even within small geographical areas. I keep returning to the ‘future of retailing’ it has to adapt to survive. Simply speaking it is about knowing what your customer wants and making sure you have it. The days are long gone, if they really existed, that one size, or even just the popular sizes fits all.

All major retailers have trend analysts, futurologists, sophisticated data forecasting, AI systems and in some cases experienced and seasoned buyers but that is not enough . They may not be able to have a James Daunt approach. That said if it is about survival and perhaps increased profitability then maybe they would . A best seller novel may bring the punters through the door, but I suspect the margins are very thin , especially with the Amazon behemoth breathing down your neck , and you can’t rely on them as a business model.

M did not rely upon just one agent . M has agents all over the place to generate as much information as possible. What is happening in Moscow is not what is happening in Milan. Bit like Southampton and Leeds. M, with that on the ground intelligence can act in a more targeted manner. So should retailers.

Now to a far more important matter. The image below is seemingly completely irrelevant. Not at all. This little guy is a very important new addition to our household. He will be adding his impartial and apolitical wisdom (hence Aristotle). Patronising comments about doggie talk,or it’s a dogs life… are dogist. They will not be tolerated! His contribution will not always be obvious but it will be incisive, intuitive and above all invaluable.

Aristotle (Ari)

Atque efficaciorem adeo intuitive