It is the time of year when many of us have returned from tours of duty at various trade exhibitions in different parts of the globe . We regale our partners/pets/colleagues or anyone who will listen as to how knackered we are because of spending all day negotiating deals with existing or prospective clients, then continuing during the evening in dull restaurants serving mediocre food whilst trying to close the deal .
At the very same time, those willing to listen are thinking yeah right. You’ve spent the day lolling about on the company stand, followed by evenings of swigging wine , quaffing beer and spirits, stuffing yourself with over rich food and then sitting in the hotel bar drinking even more until the early hours of the morning.
The truth is probably somewhere in between.
Back in the dim and dark distant past (fifties, early sixties) exhibiting in various trade shows ,my parents told me of days where they had stock rooms (generally hotel bedrooms ) at various trade exhibitions, and at 6 when the show closed , would invite a number of customers , lock the doors, and play poker and drink until late , and were back on duty at 9 every morning .
I have done many, many exhibitions (probably a couple of hundred) in various countries and yes there have been some unnecessary late nights . And yes, it probably still goes on but nothing like before.
The point is does any of this of any real commercial benefit ?
Advantages of exhibiting at trade shows
The benefits of exhibiting include:
Raise awareness – exhibiting at industry events is a good way to raise your profiles and generate brand awareness. As well as taking a stand at an event, there are usually other advertising and sponsorship opportunities.
Meet in person – meeting face-to-face with potential customers is a great way to start building relationships.
Networking – trade shows are a great way to meet potential new customers, suppliers and to learn more about your competitors.
Launch new product – trade shows are a good place to introduce a new product or service. Being able to explain your offering in person and answer questions is ideal if your product is innovative.
Build your database – meeting with potential customers at an exhibition helps you to start building your marketing lists and generate qualified sales leads.
My opinion on this has gone through various full circles . Up until the early 90’s it was about order taking . This changed quite dramatically. Within a couple years many exhibitors, including myself, thought is this worth the time and money any more . There were plenty of stand visitors but all the wanted to was look at product for a bit , and then just talk. Some may well say so what ?Talking is good . But that’s not how many of us thought at the time .
Over the next five years there was another change . There were less buyers, not just in the U.K. but worldwide. That equated to lower attendances . So we all got even more fed up. It has taken a long time for exhibitors to come to terms with this . No buyers not talking, no orders not writing . What are we here for?
The consequence is the shrinkage in exhibition space and in exhibitions. Hastened by the unbelievable bad attitude to exhibitors carried out by a number of event organisers. The one that comes to my mind is that of the Spring Fair at the NEC in Birmingham. A string of major exhibition organisers who have run the show and constantly dumped on their customers (exhibitors) from a very great height. Partly, as a consequence the show has shrunk from 21 halls to 8 and a bit .
So it comes down to what use are they, if any ? Do they have a purpose ? I would go as far to say that anyone involved in any level of the supply chain should visit at least one every year. Its about talking. Talking with suppliers, customers , competitors and any part of the chain you may come across . Looking at trends, ideas and generally get a view of where your particular market is going. Many, most especially retailers ( and include online operators) work in a bubble. The bubble being their own store or computer screen. That can create a very jaundiced view of the market. There is the possibility of finding that one product or supplier that you did not know or could not find , that makes your offering different from competitors. The same applies to exhibitors. It is the one time when they can see inside their competitors showrooms and talk to your competitors. So while you are talking, test out your new products (don’t have any? -make one up, its criminal not to have some new product at a trade show. There is no other way to show new items to as many customers in such a short space of time . And anyway, without fail they will ask what’s new ?we’ve got a new dog ! Is not the answer ( well it can but there should be a bit more 🐶).
Exhibitions do have their place. And it is often a very valuable one. What was very noticeable after the lockdown is that most attendees were delighted to be there to talk, both Exhibitors and visitors alike.
Orgies? Well I confess. Many years ago during The Harrogate Toy Fair (as it was called then) a major Toy Importer hosted Mud Wrestling in the Cairn Hotel . And was I invited ? Yes. Did I go ? Yes. Did I regret it ? Yes.
No matter how much we think we do, it’s never enough.
Wherever you are in the supply chain, no matter what market you are in, we don’t always listen to our customers or suppliers’ Of course this does not always relate to our commercial lives, it is, invariably, true of our personal relationships . However, whilst I can’t profess to be a specialist in any field I am most definitely not one when it comes to personal advice.
2023 is going to be a challenging year with many hurdles. We all need to be on top of our game which not only means listening to the level below i.e. the customer but also with the level above i.e. the supplier . We may not like what we hear . We may disagree with what we hear . The key is to hear what is being said and then to evaluate whether/what action is needed .
So it came as no surprise shortly after Christmas , The Times reported research (on New Year celebrations ) carried out by John Lewis from their website that searches for the word bunting were up by 40% and balloons by 140%. Whilst the John Lewis site does carry a few(about 10) of each item(most relate to birthday), if you look in most John Lewis stores you would be hard pushed to find any. Is that likely to change any time soon ? Probably not. But then John Lewis would not be a destination store for that type of product . But why then are they making a press release about it ?
Why, when they have a very similar target audience, are Wilko’s suffering, whilst Home & Bargain, B&M and Poundland are creaming it. May I suggest that they all have access to the same listening (consumer data) but it is how they have dealt with what they hear, that makes the ‘not’ inconsiderable difference.
It is not only about talking to your customers and hearing what they have to say , it’s talking to your suppliers , your competitors even. They may not always say what you want them to say, more often it is what they don’t say that is just as helpful. Visit Trade Exhibitions and see and hear what is happening within your industry. Read Trade Journals, albeit much of the content is very benign, nevertheless, I guarantee every so often there is something you would not already know.
There is a huge amount of data bombarding us on a daily basis. Much of it is just noise. But we cannot pretend it is not there, the skill is filtering the noise and to do this we need to listen.
There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing
At a very recent trade show , I discovered, inadvertently that a product a customer of mine was seeking to import from the US was actually made 100 miles from him in the UK. He would no doubt have found out eventually, but it might have been a very expensive route. This came about from a very random conversation with an exhibitor who was displaying something very similar to the product my customer had told me about. An argument could be made that my customer should have found this out by listening. Can’t argue with that.
Another retailer being a little concerned about their poor level of business over the Christmas period and putting it down to general economic malaise, then discovered from other local traders that many of the locals in their area (it must be pointed out that the average consumer in this area is quite affluent and used to spending the summer in Tuscany!) had indeed decided to go away for an extended Christmas holiday.
True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information
He doesn’t specifically talk about listening but that is what I take from the quote ( or at least in part).
42% of companies don’t survey their customers or collect feedback.
Ignore customers at your own peril
Back in the summer of 2011, Netflixignored their customers by splitting its DVD and streaming businesses and effectively increasing prices by 40%. As a result, they lost a whopping 800,000 subscribers, their stock price fell to less than half its previous value, and the company became one of the 10 most hated companies in America.
Not listening to your colleagues
The best example is from a Kodak engineer named Steven J. Sasson. He actually invented the first digital camera back in 1975. But his management did not take it seriously, it didn’t want to be associated with it. Kodak’s management failed to see digital photography as a disruptive technology because printed photos had been there for over 100 years, and who would want to see pictures on a television screen? At the same time, Kodak did not want to cannibalize its film roll business so it tried to keep the new technology under the radar.
Not listening to the consumer and the market place
BlackBerry believed too much in what they owned. The Customer experience is where BlackBerry turned out to be a laggard.
The process of listening encompasses a whole gamut of activities. Be they visiting trade shows, attending conferences, speaking to friends, colleagues, customers , suppliers, associates , family, reading /listening to various media, being aware of what is happening on social media, especially, but not solely ,business sites like LinkedIn . There is a lot of guff in the latter two , but sometimes there are little gems .
There is an idiom in the English language “I’m all ears”. Not a great image as the guy below may testify but an imperative when trading in the current climate.
“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listeningthan talking.”
Bernard M. Baruch
There is one resource we all have in our Commercial Toolbox , the facility to listen. And it costs nothing. Not using it can cost an awful lot.
My Customers will, soon, start asking me the perennial question…How do you think the new year will be? I am very succinct and precise. It could be good or bad. That’s it in a nutshell.
There is a footnote to this response that is not always obvious as depending who the customer is, I do not include this is in my ‘six word ‘ financial forecasts.
I am very clear in my own head ( as if anyone is any doubt ??)
I am not a financial analyst
I am not a retail analyst
I am not a market analyst
I am not an analyst
But I am frequently asked this question at the beginning of the year by customers, colleagues, Julia , A few friends ( very few that confined, in that I only have a few , very few. To extend my audience I have asked Aristotle ( our dog) and his canine response is I am only interested in three things …
Walking (currently it is -5 degrees but that doesn’t bother him )
As long as my face and the sound of my voice assures him, that is the only interest he has in the coming year.
Stormy Monday Blues – T bone Walker -Lately Eric Clapton
There is undoubtedly a number of gloomy indicators out there , especially for the first three months.
Cost of energy,
continuing Ukraine crisis,
interest rates ,
and a lot of uncertainty within the World at large.
Good day Sunshine -The Beatles
So what’s good about 2023
Inflation appears to be peaking and below what was forecasted
Interest rates whilst still rising are predicted to be well below original forecasts
Sterling has recovered some of its losses
Covid does not present the same barrier it has for the last 2 years
Fixed mortgage rates have reduced a little
The survey of 138 companies, including 50 retailers, found that a net balance of 11 per cent of businesses said sales grew, up from -19 per cent in November (CBI)
A Coronation (at least for the Party Sector in the U.K. )
Retail landlords are starting to become a little more realistic
This does not detract from it being potentially being very tough, but it should be put it into some of perspective. The total retail sales within the U.K. in 2021 were £421 billion . There were approximately 316,000 retail outlets. If retail sales fall by 3% that equals £12 billion . However, if we look it another way a consumer who had £100 in their pocket to spend freely may only have £97. If you extrapolate that further and look at the total U.K. spend on party (of which it is really difficult to find a true figure) even if was half of 1% of total retail spend which would be a gross over estimate , we are looking at targeting less than 50p of the consumer spend .
There will be many (gross exaggeration) readers who will say don’t be bloody stupid ….that’s only £30 million total party market. It is quite clearly many times that, but the principal is the same . Within our market place our target audience is a very small proportion of their overall disposable income. They will look to have a good time, which is why Glastonbury 2023 sold out in minutes despite the ticket price being £300 (220,000 x£300=£66 million pounds =One Event)
It is down to the entire chain no matter what market, to be creative, pro-active, positive, supportive and all aim for very slightly bigger slice of that £421 billion . The proverbial tills wont ring themselves .
Just to illustrate my analytical skills and give you all lot more confidence in what I write : In March 2020 my analysis of Covid was that it was a very bad cold and would be all over by September.
Twixt the optimist and pessimist The difference is droll: The optimist sees the doughnut But the pessimist sees the hole.
There are times (at least for me) when something has been bugging me and then the light goes on. Or in this case someone switched it on for me.
Back in July, I posted about receiving loads of new account enquiries and whilst there was some commonality with most of them, apart from major conspiracy theories I could not understand why this was happening. I would love to say it was analytical genius but alas no.
Enablers is the answer. Well, that’s pretty straightforward then, but pretty oblique. Try http://www.enablers.org it may become a lot clearer. Apparently, in Pakistan there is a concern that their talented internet savvy youth are leaving the country to seek better rewarded positions overseas. Therefore, a web site was set up offering Online trading training, more specifically Amazon trading.
The aim is to create 100,000 amazon traders. Part of their training is in setting up overseas businesses, US, UK & Europe in order to earn much needed ‘hard currency’. There is an additional aim and that by creating such a large number of Amazon traders, Amazon will start looking at Pakistan in a different light and invest in an Amazon fulfilment centre in the country. Currently, they are in India but not Pakistan.
OUR MISSION Enablers is dedicated to enabling Pakistan as one of the largest eCommerce hubs in the world. Our team has exclusively devoted to helping the people of this country become entrepreneurs and work on international platforms. We aim to create 2 million employment opportunities
enablers.org web site
I have had this confirmed by asking a couple of account enquiries if they have come from Enablers. This, they have happily admitted in addition to saying proudly announcing they have personal mentors.
This is all well and good. Whilst I am quite sure they have been very well schooled in the online trading aspect; I can’t say that is the same for the ‘Business ‘ Training.
We have been trading for some time with major brands…is not a good look when your company has been incorporated for only two months.
We are in a position to place large orders ….is not a good look on approaching a new suppler, it is just not professional.
Having a very generic web site which show three or four unrelated brands and only twenty-five products, is, I suggest, not a good look. It has the complete opposite effect of flagging up suspicious trading.
Poorly constructed emails.
Silly addresses for registered offices eg Oxford Street London
Companies in existence for 6 weeks, no employees and there is a Sales Manager. For an Online set up?
Occasional use of Anglised names when the only employee is clearly not an Angle and the registration actually says they are not.
Bizarre company names … e.g TripleexxOnline Ltd, Mainshoppers Retail Ltd, YYY Sales Ltd (apologies to any real companies, that may have these made-up names, I’m sure you are very successful). They are just not credible.
These are just a few of the examples of either poor training or mentoring or both.
Here is another amazing little fact ….
Since the beginning of this year 728,000 new companies were registered in the UK. Yes, that is 2,200 per day. 220,000 registered to foreign nationals. It cost a grand total of £12 to register a company in the UK (Europe averages about £265).
I do not wish to denigrate a Group of Pakistani entrepreneurs wanting to train, develop, and encourage their talented youth. Yet somehow, I think the Model is over simplified and flawed. So, for those Enabler Graduates who are planning to enter the market check the Cultural nuances of the relevant markets in which you are seeking to trade. In For those suppliers who are perhaps contacted just tread carefully. I am, also not convinced that 100,000 (if that figure is achievable) new Amazon Traders in Pakistan is exactly what Amazon are looking for.
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 ….
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.
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.
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…
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.
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?
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….
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.
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.”
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
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….
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 .
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 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 .
Short Upturn .
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 .