Death of a salesman…..or not ?

Just whispering the word ‘salesman’ will send many rushing for shelter, either through fear of being sold something they don’t want, can’t afford or just being bored to death by an unrelenting sales pitch. Trust me, I know , I have been one for most of my working life.

Throughout modern commercial  history , say the last one hundred years, going from one extreme, second car sales, double glazing through to Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff, salesmen have not always garnered much respect within society.

In my experience the salesperson, no …’salesman’ , as even today the vast majority of those in sales are men, the ‘profession’ has gone through various cycles. The thirties through to the sixties, they  were commercial travellers. In the U.K. these were often grey striped, black coated, bowler hatted ‘gents’ with a sample case. Often travelling by van or train. Mid sixties through to the late eighties were the ‘sales representatives’, sharp suits and Ford Cortinas.  The gold standard often came from food and confectionery companies such Mars. Their training was extensive and intensive, yet when released into the field they were little more than order takers as their brands were so strong.

From the mid nineties onwards, technological developments, increasing pressure on costs saw many organisations slashing sales forces as easy financial savings . The days of how many calls can be made in a day, are over. The days of orders takers are fast disappearing.

Buyers are looking for a lot more value beyond just a binary transaction, the sale and purchase of a product. They want insight and partners who can help them grow their business. This takes a whole new level of competence.

“The top-performing companies now focus their sales on industry or niche expertise to ensure that clients get the best results. These corporations realise they have a re- sponsibility to deliver results for the client, not just make the sale.

Raconteur report: The Times, September 2017

The sales function should now seek to show the client how they can help develop their own business. In order to do this ethically and effectively the sales person must believe in the organisation and its services and products , they represent. Maximising the sale, without benefiting the client results is very short term, ineffective and sours client/supplier relationships.  In today’s climate this is not an acceptable nor conducive  way to a successful commercial relationship.

…Sales people are becoming more like business consultants and consultancies, such as McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group or Deloitte, and are increasingly having to go out there and sell their services,” . “Everyone is having to offer genuine business insight right now.”

Ian Price- business psychologist at Recludo Consulting.

 The nature of the job is changing. As it redefines itself so the numbers will decline but the professionalism is and will continue to change and improve. It must in order to survive.

So, apart from being one most of my working life, why is this of interest ? Because it has vindicated my own belief. Organisations need people to create a symbiotic and mutually profitable relationships between existing and new customers. Symbiotic because they need to learn from each other. Mutually profitable,  because that is the nature of the contract. A buys from B. If A is not profitable they will no longer be a client of B. If the reverse is true then A will loose a supplier. It is part of the sales function to understand the needs of the ‘buyer’ and match those products and services that meet those needs . Part of that process involves an element of trust. The ‘buyer’ should be able to trust the information and data from the supplier.  The supplier should understand the requirements of the buyers and the market within which they operate . Often a complex procedure if executed properly, even with basic products. It is no longer about ‘selling a load of gear!

Finally, I come back to the ‘salesperson’ rather than ‘salesmen’. It is never been a profession that has attracted many females. No doubt due, in part, to its dubious associations with second hand car salesmen, unethical practices, golf club/football talk ‘boys club’ image . Yet in my experience those women I have come across in sales have been far more effective than their male counterparts. Perhaps the redefining of the role will encourage more women to enter this, increasingly professional and rewarding career. So perhaps it is the death the salesmen , but it it is being replaced  by something very different and a ‘salesperson’ does not quite do it justice.

Much ado about nothing….

Maybe at the very end of the sixteenth century , William discovered that little happened of any importance in the Northern Hemisphere during August. Consequently, he decided to write a play so titled. Apart from Kim Jong un, everyone else sods off, or the media gives the impression that little happens apart from natural disasters.

So here are some of my picks of ‘nothing much adoing…’


Up until the last few weeks the government has banged on about five a day healthy eating. At the beginning of August a study , said this was nothing like good enough and we should have ten . By the end of August, the following was in  The Times

If you obsessively count every piece of fruit and vegetable in pursuit of the magic “five a day” it seems you can relax — one of the largest studies of its kind has concluded that there is no point having more than three.

People who ate three or four large portions of fruit and vegetable a day were a fifth less likely to die early than those who had less than one but eating more offered no extra protection, research in 18 countries found.

Then there was ……

Low-fat diets could increase your risk of dying early, according to a large study that adds to confusion over healthy eating advice.

Those who ate the least fats were a quarter more likely to die during the study, suggesting that what people eat instead of meat and dairy products could be even more dangerous.

Those who ate the most carbohydrates were 28 per cent more likely to die during the study. The Canadian researchers called for global dietary guidelines to be revised to warn against white bread and rice……

“When you emphasise lower fat people replace fat with carbohydrate and the harm of refined carbohydrates has been shown by our research,” said Mahshid Dehghan of McMaster University in Ontario, who led the study of 135,000 people in 18 countries over a decade.

So that’s all straightforward then….until next week. Can say I have  not seen anything about red wine recently. That is often touted as the biggest health seesaw , one day good, one day bad. Four glasses a day, half a bottle …or nothing, who knows ? There has, however, been a pronouncement on prosecco. It’s bad for your teeth.


Next up are driverless cars. following Gove’s pronouncements on electrifying anything that moves by 2040, Oxford University August gushings (or rather one of its professors. That is what they do when the office is on holiday, academics that is) are pontificating the impact of driverless cars.

Driverless cars will lead to the creation of huge urban sprawls as lengthy commutes become painless and workers flock to the suburbs, an academic has claimed.

Timothy Hodgetts, from Oxford University, said reduced travel times in vehicles that allowed passengers to work, combined with high property prices in city centres, would cause ever-spreading “suburbanisation”.

He doesn’t specify whether they will flow out to the suburbs from inside the city , or ‘in’ from the countryside. Well, whatever, presumably it would be good for wildlife because driverless cars will be taught not to flatten hedgehogs, foxes, squirrels, badgers,cats and the odd magpie.


UK Govt

We need EU workers…we need to cap EU workers….EU citizens are welcome…except on Tuesdays….we need to think about what we need …aah thought about it and we need to do some research…there will be no hard Brexit barrier between Northern Ireland and Eire…we are talking to Trumps Mexican wall planners…we will borrow supermarket scanners to check the border posts on incoming goods …

The EU

No..maybe…no you can’t …you need to pay us 42 million trillion wongas….no of course it’s not that much… we don’t need to tell you anything …..if you except elderly Germans with dementia, ex French presidents’ mistresses and retired polish jockeys , we are sure the freedom of movement can be sorted….do the British Government always take so much time off..

In short, little has happened . Can so many achieve so little….
Korean Kim and his arch enemy ‘The Donald’ , have to their credit not taken August off. The former firing off his favourite toys and the latter firing off his favourite tweets. Or maybe they have taken August off…..

What happens in the Southern Hemisphere in August ? Don’t know …nobody in the North tells us…

Natural disasters 

Natural disasters have no concern about whether people are having time off. The horrendous storm that struck Texas, killing up to fifty, displacing tens of thousands and destroying billions of dollars of infrastructure has dominated the world’s media . The storms that have hit the Indian sub continent, killing at least fourteeen hundred and displacing over forty million , has also been covered….just .

My point here is probably blindingly obvious . Despite the fact that a bucket load of the world’s media (or at least in the northern is winter in the south ) are in Tuscany, Thailand, or idly frittering their down time in their back gardens (all members of the media have back gardens ), there are still a load reporting much about nothing. 

So if it is not about shortage of resources, what is that deems we are more interested in a relatively less impactful natural disaster in the US as apposed to a rather larger one in Indian sub continent ? This is a question, not a judgement ….

Torch, Torchy, the battery boy ….

Torchy was launched on TV to the unsuspecting young in 1960. A puppet show, whereby the main protagonist ‘Torchy’ was powered by a battery. Was this a subconscious predictor of the future ? Was it a precursor to ‘ Govey, Govey, the battery boy ‘. In a strangely Orwellian manner, one of Mr Bumbledrop’s , Torchy’s on screen creator, opening lines was

I hope you are going to work..

I have to think that this was in the back of Micheal Gove’s mind when announcing the ban on the petrol and diesel cars in 2040.

I don’t have any issues with this strategy, and would buy a battery driven car now, if they were less expensive and had longer ranges. I am also very confident that  the battery technology will have reached that stage within 23 years, assuming I am still capable of driving. It is the ‘knock on effects’ I am less convinced about .

Assuming the charging technology remains the same, but much more efficient than it is today, Property developers both commercial and residential need to putting into place now , on new sites big and small the infrastructure needs of a society where everyone has an electric vehicle. Is this happening or being discussed ? I don’t think so.

What is going to happen in existing sites ? What is going in older urban housing stock , with no garages and no front gardens, yet all residents have vehicles ? Will the whole concept of a garage forecourt, or motorway service areas have to be rethought? Charging technology will undoubtedly get much faster but I can’t see it being as quick as shooting a load of liquid through a hole in the side of your vehicle ( I keep saying vehicle, as I am not convinced cars will be term associated with vehicular travel in the 2040’s). If this is the case the occupants will not want to hang around inside their transport doing sod all, and I suspect the forecourt operators will want them up and out of the ‘car’ spending money in their shopping mall.

In addition to the environmental benefits , there is a much touted cost benefit to electric travel . How so? Yes, currently the cost of recharging is relatively attractive. Come the advent of all vehicles being refuelled by electricity I can’t see this continuing. For starters, with petrol or diesel there is still the element of competition and the conditions of the oil market. With electricity it comes from one source the National Grid. In 2016 there were approximately 45 billion litres of petrol and diesel sold. At an average price , say £1.10, that is £50 billion , a good chunk of government revenue and the balance organisational sales income. This huge  chunk of money cannot just be written down as a ‘saving’ to the economy . Quite the opposite, it will be an economic loss.

None of this matters, well it does, but you could chunder on for ever, listing the implications. As far as I am concerned, the significance points are the motor industry will, and is sorting out the technology and they will achieve what needs to be achieved within the time scale. Government, and that is not just the UK, will not have produced a plan to completely redesign the relevant social and physical infrastructure. The change needs long term cross party  planning .

That plan , even in outline, needs to developed now or maybe ‘Govey’ is thinking

I hope it is going to work….

And here’s another thing…part of the motivation to move towards electrification is the need to move away from the limited resource of fossil fuels. What are batteries made of ? Stuff like cobalt, lithium, nickel, manganese…which are ? Yep, all are from a limited resource.

For those of you wanting to know more of the philosophical futurism of ‘Torchy’ (or a representation of ‘la la land’ government policy) the link below will take you to the first episode..


Independent’s Day….

Nothing is quite what it seems. Some may think it is a Google world view spaceship, imaging Europe. Maybe Amazon’s latest space based distribution centre . Poetic licence dictates it’s an alien craft coming to seek retribution on multiple retailers and free the Independent (retailer, not the newspaper, albeit it only existing in an online format).

It is difficult to ascertain what percentage of the entire retail market is held by independents. Within the food market , according to Kantar World Panel, it is less than 2%. Yet it is estimated that for every £100 spent  with independents , between £50-£70 is recirculated within the local economy. For every £100 spent with multiples this drops to less than £5.

I don’t dislike multiples, some are really good at what they do- this varies from Waitrose types through to IKEA. Some enable the consumer to shop in an effective economic manner – the good discount operations ,and there those that offer  unique and interesting product such as Tiger(Danish), Zara(Spanish) Hema(Dutch) and Maplins to name but a few. But it  is the good independent that differentiates our town centres and offers product and service that cannot be matched by multiples and online . Yet there is no ‘divine’ right for  independent retailers to exist. There are  rubbish retailers, indeed there are loads of them, and just because they exist doesn’t mean there is an obligation to shop in them. To survive they have to be good and they have to go the extra mile. 

According to ‘This is Money’, a financial website, in 2015 , there were only 117 more shops opening than closing as against a figure in 2010 of 4000 (which is somewhat surprising). Yet there are still over 270,000 small independent operations of all types within the U.K.

There is much stacked against the retailer, in terms of rents, minimum wages, rates, errant local authorities and town planners but there are some towns waking up to reality and working with the good independent. Nottingham has the “Nottingham Business improvement District’ a non profit making organisation with 850 members promoting independent businesses in the city. A couple of weeks ago they had an ‘independent shopping day ‘ which by all accounts was very successful . Events are being organised through to October. Many other towns, such as Bath have a natural affinity with good independents. According to the web site, the town with the highest number of independents is Sparkhill(edge of Birmingham) accounting for 95% of the outlets(bit of a surprise there). The very same web site suggests it is not quite all gloom and doom for the independent…

The data from the Local Data Company and the British Independent Retailers Association shows that indies saw a increase of +4 shops, a reversal from the net decline of 194 shops during the same period last year. A net growth of 200 units was one of the main drivers in growth.

A total of 31,216 independents either opened (15,610) or closed (15,606). In 2015 the figures were 16,534 and 16,728 respectively.

In contrast, chain retailers declined by 1.02% in the first six months of 2016, compared to 0.44% in 2015.

There are, of course, many towns that are  doing nothing in support of the independent, and it is very evident when you are in one . You get the feeling that a local authority has taken the view that as long as there is a Tesco, or Asda, a discount operator, coffee shop , couple of betting shops, a Boots or Lloyds , and WH Smith or McColls and if you are lucky a bank , the locals will be happy. They are not, and  nor should the local authorities be. Particularly if the stats concerning the re-circulation of cash independent vs multiple.

I beleive the multiple needs the independent and whilst the latter may disagree, the reverse is also true. It is a symbiotic relationship. The independent needs the numbers a multiple attracts. The latter needs the former, without which the shopping experience would become truly dull. But the relationship only prospers if there is local support both from councils and communities.

The consequences are that the ‘High Street’ would continue to decline to a degree that there would be no winners , apart from some online operators. It may seem a bit over the top but the reality is without healthy retail environments, suppliers(big or small), retailers(multiple or independent), consumers, local authorities, local communities and society in general would suffer. Says who and why ? Well apart fromme , I don’t know . However, logic dictates that if the bricks and mortar aspect to retailing continues to diminish ,jobs, town centres, sections of communities, and local finances will inevitably decline. Both big and small have to be creative,professional and entrepreneurial and to fully  understand that  to exist and prosper , is not a right, it has to  be earnt.

The Perfect Storm, or at very least a very big one ….

It is nothing to do with Brexit, it is not Trump, North Korea or banking (although three major banks in Europe have collapsed in the last couple of weeks), it is to do with retailing .

The big players in retailing are diversifying at a rapid rate. Amazon, the devil incarnate, not only started opening books shops they have just purchased a grocery chain (Whole Foods -mainly USA, but does have stores in the U.K.). Tesco seeking to move into wholesaling (Bookers), Sainsbury’s trying to buy NISA , a buying group of independents. Ocado, the giant UK online food operation is seeking to replicate its model throughout Europe.Major car brands opening car showrooms in shopping centres. Online operations  are going forwards and backwards, and the end consumer is undergoing a complete psychological restructuring . The electrification of cars will restructure the retail landscape in ways that have yet to be explained (come back to that in a minute).Not least, the latest approaching whirlwinds, Big Data and AI. These two alone will be more than capable of forming their own retail hurricanes.

Big data, is what is says it is :

extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions.

It is said that 90 % of data available to mankind was created within the last two years. Only the biggest have the resources to handle this data and what they do with this is anybody’s guess. Lucifer (aka Amazon) offers some pointers. Currently they are experimenting with Amazon Go, a completely ’tillless’ experience. You walk in, take what you want , walk out entirely till free. It is a retail ‘holy grail’. Initially, it ain’t bad for the consumer. If there is anything to ruin what enjoyment , you may or may not, experience shopping , it is soon ruined by the queue at the checkout .To reach this stage , Lucifer has had to absorb, crunch , diagnose , and utilise big data. Even  they (or rather he, she or it, whatever Lucifer is) find that not all is hunky dory. Yet as sure as Lucifer sells books, it will happen. 

Electric cars, now there is something I don’t think has been thought through , the consequences that is. I am not against , and would be quite happy,if the price dropped and the charge lasted 500+ miles, to buy one. Petrol forecourts are a reducing breed anyway, but the petrol need bit will disappear entirely . In its place will be re-charging centres, presumably? However, instead of a 5 minute fill and maybe a packet of crisps, inordinately expensive packet of liquorice allsorts , and an amazingly low priced Apple Watch ‘look a likey’ guaranteed for over 72 hours, the car occupants will be there for at least 30 mins. So what’s to do ? More cafés, a small shopping mall, profits will need to be made.  The oil companies will have to completely overall their business models of retail forecourts, which, I suggest, will have their own impact of other retail concepts.

Artificial Intelligence, is with us , or very nearly , in the form of driverless cars. It is used every day by Apple, with Siri, or Microsoft with Cortana. Google search is driven by AI. Currently, we are in a place in time when we can talk to a small device in our kitchen and order a toilet roll. This can only be the beginning. As to what that ‘beginning ‘ maybe, is very unclear . What is clear is that the impact on retailing will be of ‘storm force’ proportions. 

Storms create problems but they also create opportunities and whether you are supplier, retailer or even consumer, we have to mitigate the problems and seek the opportunities. Sounds so easy when you write it.

Copy cars or copy cats?

Most suppliers of branded goods pour vast amounts of resources into protecting their brands from counterfeits, knockoffs or poor imitations. Within our industry we are all very aware, of what suppliers are trying to do to mitigate this.

However, the images below suggest, and this is not the first time I have said this , ‘you got no bloody chance ‘

Courtesy of, a U.K. Car Magazine.

I make no apologies about using pictures to paint this story .

This is an example of fake Cartier watch on a web site quite clearly stating it is a fake.

So do we all give up and go home. No, of course not, ‘cos if we did the fakers would have nothing to fake! Whilst we need to be diligent and aware of what is going on and discourage any vendors from selling these counterfeits, but to spend copious amounts of resources in trying to eliminate the fake, we should use those resources to develop, create and innovate and keep ahead of the flattering (there are better invectives) fakers. 

There is another aspect to counterfeiting, about which we need to be a little more circumspect. I don’t walk around with a halo around my head , and on trips, especially to the Far East but not uniquely, I have been tempted to buy the odd counterfeit watch. Its a strange phenomena, that when we leave these shores we think it is a bit of fun , but if we were offered the same item in a pub we would (or some would) exclaim ‘..we wouldn’t touch that with a barge pole..’ . Now I suspect there are very few decision makers  of all types of suppliers, importers and retailers who have not bought the odd counterfeit Gucci handbag, Louis Vuitton case or a Cartier watch for a ‘bit of fun’ in some foreign clime, down some dingy night market. Essentially are our actions any different from that consumer who buys a knock off of our own product that they happen to buy in their home country ?

No they are not.

 None of this a justification for a counterfeit. I am just trying to illustrate how tough it is to fight it from the supply end , and then how tough it is to change consumer psychology.

Retailing is hard….but perhaps all is not lost…

Phillip Day , owner of Edinburgh Woollen Mill , has recently been quoted as saying the retail market is as hard as it has ever been. No doubt retailers  such as M&S , would not disagree, as they go through another shake up , trying to reinvent themselves yet again (I believe part of their problem is that they think they reinvent themselves, whilst in reality they paint over cracks and dint look much different to 20 years ago ). The problems are not confined to the UK , a retail analyst in the USA, birthplace of all things retail, has predicted that at least 50% of all shopping malls in the USA will close within 15-20 years.

Yet, Phillip Day currently goes from one success to another. Having completely restructured and revived the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, he has bought other ailing retailers such as Peacocks, Austin Reed and only last week Jaegers. Interestingly, he, rightly, turned his nose up at BHS, saying that there was nothing that could be done with it. 

Going back to the M&S situation, highlights the problem that many retailers, independent and multiples face( the Arcadia group was over 9% down on like sales at Christmas-might also be something to do with their boss) and that is the need to change and innovate. Yet don’t or can’t . The ‘can’t ‘ is invariably down to lack of funds or creativity. Which is why people like Day succeed as they appear to have both.

If the High Street was doomed why do the likes of Amazon, start to open stores ? Consumers still enjoy the experience of shopping . Retailers need to understand what that ‘enjoyment ‘ entails . The successful shopping centres are those that offer alternative experiences such as cinemas and restaurants. Many retailers feel that these outlets only take spend away from them and all that is left is a ‘browsing consumer ‘ with nothing left to spend . I suspect there is a lot of truth in that belief. However, on the flip side many stores are not much fun either. Poor service levels, low comfort levels ( I confess to not being a great shopper, but surely there can’t be a bigger turn off than over hot  department stores, both in winter and summer, lousy service and product selection) , lack of innovation and bad inventory control both in stock levels and product choice and innovation. Having personal experience of how long the ‘new product buying process’ can take (and that includes independents) , is it no wonder the consumer turns to their screens to buy . 

Another piece of recent research says that the age group 21-34 , still has intentions to spend but not on things but on experiences . Within our own industry i.e. Party, we are part of those ‘experiences ‘ and should be able to capitalise on that spend. In part this means enacting the retail cliche of creating ‘theatre’ . I beleive if a consumer walks into a retail outlet and comes out (even if they don’t buy the first time) and thinks I enjoyed going into that store they will be back and they will spend . Moreover, I firmly believe , they will return to that store before buying online. How can I be so sure? Cos I have seen it happen, and I know enough good retailers to know it works for them.

There are many other issues facing retailers, however, if they don’t get their own basics right, they have no chance and all will be lost.

Oy! you! Yes you know who you are….read this !

Dropped into a recent telephone conversation from an old friend (yes, you do know who you are) , he said…(there’s a clue, he must be male)

When I see your blog on Facebook, I read the first paragraph, and don’t go on any further because I say to myself , I am no longer involved in the business so I don’t need to know any of this 

Well what is ‘this’? Trying reading a bit more this time to find out.

With two months remaining for the current fiscal year to come to an end, the execution of the Finance ministry budget is at 96 per cent, according to Rwamuganza.

 Rwamuganza also said that Rwanda will continue to enhance savings and lending in the long term through treasury bonds.

As of February 2017, Rwanda had issued Treasury Bonds worth over Rwf190 billion since 2008, according to figures from the National Bank of Rwanda.

Rwanda NewTimes May 11th 2017

That has absolutely nothing to do with the Party Industry. So what has it got to do with ? Nothing(unless you are Rwandan) and everything.

We are all , to some degree, guilty of being judgemental. Everyone of us, at sometime makes an assumption about something or someone with very little information to support our beliefs.

All individuals and all societies, no matter where in the world, make judgement calls on the basis that they can’t be bothered, don’t have access to the resources , or just assume there is nothing more to know. It can stretch from Pacific Islanders thinking the Duke of Edinburgh is a god, to a native of these islands,who doesn’t want to travel abroad because they can’t stand foreign  food , yet they probably have a curry once a week ( is that foreign food?). 

Even on a more mundane level, don’t watch news, cos it is always bad….don’t watch telly cos it is rubbish….don’t read books, they’re boring….aubergine? Naah, foreign muck….I can almost guarantee that we will have one conversation, every day, in which either party will make a call on something or someone, which is completely unsubstantiated.

Occasionally, we won’t have access to relevant information (as with the Pacific Islanders!) to make the correct judgment. But that is not what this about . This is questioning our proclivity to making lazy judgements. Regrettably, we all loose out because of this tendency. We don’t eat things , see, hear or read things, engage with particular individuals , go to places, because we can’t be fagged to investigate.

These are a few examples of common ‘judging a book by its cover’ or alternatively, ‘ you don’t know until you tried it’ :Japanese food, Manon des Sources, Mary Beard, The Wire, War and Peace, and of course the French.

Now here a few things I wish I had been judgemental and knew less about…Trump, macaroni (hate it with a passion and I have eaten it a lot , a long time ago ), Richard Branson , Campari (even though it looks nice),  Towie, Lassie, and any biography of anyone alive under 40.

Does it matter ? Yes and sort of no. Yes, because we all miss out making inaccurate decisions and inevitably miss out on somethings that we like. No, because History is littered with horrendous events where decisions have been made on assumptions and little knowledge and there is no reason to think that will change.

So back the Rwanda NewTimes. I have seen this article (or rather I found for my idle mate) and I assume it has no relevance to me but I shan’t take the time to find out. And my friend, well if he did not read on he will not find out he is an idle git.

Chicken or egg…egg or chicken….

The latest retail figures indicate that there has been a fall in retail spending in the last quarter. My personal findings reflect this, in so much as many of the retailers within our industry have experienced a very flat March and April. This, in itself, is a milestone as my findings rarely tally with those of the professional analysts. 

There are many reasons for this, such as creeping inflation, static wages, confidence in the future , Brexit (who said that ?), late Easter, too cold, too hot, wrong type of dry weather, poor English wine harvest, lettuce shortage and the list goes on. With so many influences, it comes as a bit of a surprise that anyone is buying anything .

The fickle finger of flippancy could , rightly, be pointed, fairly and squarely, at me. Whatever the reason, the consumer is not spending. But then why should they. I blogged before on how I think many developed economies are at a point where constantly increasing retail spend will be difficult to achieve as the consumer maybe reaching a point of they don’t need anything more (this, of course, precludes essential spending such as food and replacement clothing).

What to do? One of the basic principles of a good retail business is  controlling cash flow . Consequently, when spending falls you have to scrutinise and manage your stock positions . Scrutinise and Manage being the operative words. It does not mean you don’t buy new product. Without new stock, particularly when you are retailing non essentials, there is an even graver risk of experiencing further declines.

There is an old story about a man who had an apple stall in the market. It went something like this..

An apple sellers son came back from business school and said ‘ dad haven’t you heard there is going to be recession? Buy less stock.’ So the man does. And sure enough the following week his takings are down, so he buys even less stock the next week. Eventually he rings his son ‘ Son, you were right business is so bad I have had to close stall…’

It is a bit of an over simplification but I think it illustrates my point, what comes first the chicken , in this case the apparent recession, or the egg being lack of stock.Even if you reduce your stock levels, there must be new product or else the customer will simply stop coming into the store. There are perfect examples throughout the High Street. One example is  M&S. Though it is more an example of the wrong new product plus it always looks the same and doesn’t appear to have anything new.

BHS and Woolworths were perfect examples of not changing quicker enough. The bigger the ship the harder it is to turn around.  However for independents, if you let your stock get too stale it becomes increasingly difficult (costly) to refresh it. 

As politicians are constantly telling us the immediate future could be bumpy. Possibly after the election, and assuming their are no shocks , confidence may rise, then there maybe a dip , if there is some leak from the press that the EU insists that the negotiations are continued in French. Then another boost as it turns out to be untrue, then its leaked that Trump is planning on draining the Atlantic and so it goes on…but we all still have to trade and be better than our competitors. By offering less of your old stock and nothing new . It is both chicken and egg.

And why am I saying this ? Regrettably, I see a lot of tired old stock both as a consumer and travelling around the U.K. in a ‘professional ‘ capacity. It is not a good look but more importantly it does not augur well for the future of those stores.

Vote, vote, vote again and then a bus comes….

It is the proverbial bus analogy you wait ages for one then they all come together. Ironically buses of late have taken a political hue, as they seem to be the weapon of choice for various political parties . A strange choice when most of us don’t have an particularly good relationship with them. We are either fed up waiting for one, cheesed off stuck behind one or really hacked off because we have just been cut up by one. There again, I suppose it is not dissimilar to our relationship with political parties.

Our new national hobby of regularly popping off to the ballot box is quite tame compared to somewhere like Italy who has had more than 65 governments since 1945.  However ,there is a large chunk of the UK’s population who vote most Saturday nights for someone or something on tv talent shows. 

But what does it mean for all of us ? On a day to day basis, it is six weeks of media political bla bla. Promises, lies, hypothetical tosh and ‘we are better than the others, cos we say so..the NHS is no danger…we will raise/lower your taxes….we love everybody….we will lead you to the promised land…’. However, the consequences of this bun fight, is those who don’t really care , will carry on as before , those who consider the options, will do exactly that, and consider. They are unlikely to make extraneous or unnecessary purchases because of the uncertainties that come with an election especially this one. Ultimately, we are not talking about huge changes but it is the small percentage changes that make the  big differences in running a business in today’s climate.

If we were a nation such as the Italians, or the Belgians who had  no government for nearly two years making little difference, we would probably ignore the political shenanigans. But we are not . We are certainly a nation of the indifferent and the concerned. I am certainly in the ‘concerned ‘ camp, not from the outcome perspective, but from the importance of having a vote to influence any particular outcome. For the ‘ unconcerned ‘ , who may well believe they can’t make any difference whatever they do, this is one opportunity that if you think all politicians are the same , return a spoilt ballot paper. If a chunk of those who regularly don’t vote returned spoilt ballot papers, this could represent a substantial portion of the electorate. A 10% return of spoilt ballot papers would have a seismic impact of politicians of any persuasion. 

Not voting has no impact and no say. But what  really gets me going, is the continuous drivel about what Brexit means to you, your job, your wages, the price of fish , the colour of your passport and whether we will sign a fantastic trade deal with Papua New Guinea. Currently it means nothing to anyone because nobody has the slightest idea what it will be. So please, considering that we have to let politicians bleat for six weeks , just tell us what you would like to do as opposed to what you  claim you will do if your aunt was your uncle .

For the rest of us we have to get on with what we do, assume nothing, and plan with what we know rather than considering the impact of the impact of the  Papua New Guinea trade deal. 

Back to buses… maybe it would make life very difficult without them, but nothing like as difficult if we didn’t have the vote .