Your address will show here +12 34 56 78

I love trees, and one of the great things about London – compared with other cities – is it’s green spaces and tree lined streets. So I’d like to see more of them, and welcomed the idea of a ‘green bridge’ in the heart of the city when it was first mooted. Especially as it was to be coupled with innovative – almost sculptural – design. But if this Observer article has got its facts right, why don’t we just use the £60 million of public money, supposedly pledged to this project, to grow ourselves a proper forest that’s open to all? That’s fifteen million trees by my reckoning! Read more….

Green Bridge Design For those of us old enough to remember, this story must call to mind the lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s song ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ from the album Ladies of the Canyon, released way back in April 1970.  It goes something like this:

They paved paradise And put up a parking lot With a pink hotel, a boutique And a swinging hot spot

Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got Till it’s gone They paved paradise And put up a parking lot

They took all the trees Put ’em in a tree museum And they charged the people A dollar and a half just to see ’em

0

The opening of the new V & A exhibition – What is Luxury? – has got the press into a lather this week trying to decide what constitutes the ultimate indulgence, and how it will be defined in the future. Surely the simple answer is ‘silence’ or at least the absence of irritating distractions. Has silence become the ultimate luxury good in our frantic world? The Telegraph Picture
The author Mathew Crawford’s, whose new book The World Beyond Your Head is just out, says, “Figuring out ways to capture and hold people’s attention is the centre of contemporary capitalism. There is this invisible and ubiquitous grabbing at something that’s the most intimate thing you have, because it determines what’s present in your consciousness. It makes it impossible to think or rehearse a remembered conversation, and you can’t chat with a stranger because we all try to close ourselves off from this grating condition of being addressed all the time”.  
0

As a nation we seem to have a developed a thirst for lists and superlatives, and TV shows ranking everything from top ten records, funniest comedians, and highest bridges abound. So, great news! With the Sunday Times Rich List out this weekend, Retail Week magazine has just published its list of the world’s 100 richest retailers. At number one is Amancio Ortega, who has managed to amass an eye-watering £38.76bn. Whilst, coming in last in this select cohort, are Michael and Rainer Schmidt-Ruthenbeck with a paltry £1.33bn between them! Add the whole lot together and they’re probably worth more than the economic deficit of a modest sized country, and I’m sure they’re worth every penny!

Top 100 Retailers

The nerd in me welcomes the arrival of another listing; a kind of retail Top Trumps for those who like order in their lives. And I’m sure that those at the top of the rankings are puffing their chests out with pride at the confirmation of their peerless business acumen. But apart from giving their egos an unnecessary boost, and giving Retail Week a few more column inches, what’s the purpose of these rich lists?

Yes, it’s heart-warming to read the entrepreneurs’ epic struggles from rags to riches, but are their stories and wealth meant to inspire envy or admiration? Do they prove – as Gordon Gekko said – that “greed is good”? Should we be overjoyed by their success, or depressed by our lack of it?
Top 100 Retailers 2

Are there lessons to be learned or a moral to be inferred? For instance, if only we lazy slackers got off our backsides could we  be as rich as Croesus too? Inspired by this example lowly paid shop staff will surely be spurred on to make their own pile from retail! Or, should those laggard billionaires ranked eighty through one hundred pull their socks up and emulate their betters in the higher echelons?

I suppose, when all’s said and done, some good has come of it after all. At least compiling the data kept some journalists and accountants in work – proving that wealth does indeed ‘trickle down’. And during these austere times it does your heart good to confirm – like the politician said – that “we’re all in this together”!

0

Morris Dancer edit1Was it an April Fools stunt? When launched on the first of the month, some commentators thought Amazon’s new Dash service was just that. But it isn’t! It’s more like a bad dream really; a glimpse into a dystopian future, some might say! I wouldn’t go that far but it does mark another way-point on our descent into total consumerist immersion.

Taken at face value, the idea of having handy prompts around the house reminding you to order everyday essentials is no bad thing. Who doesn’t need a little help compiling their shopping list? Who hasn’t exclaimed “damn, I should have got toothpaste!!” when unpacking a week’s shopping? It’s frustrating, but conquering the shortcomings of one’s memory is a useful discipline!

But, if I’m reading this right, Dash isn’t so much about useful prompts and organising your needs but instant gratification, slavish loyalty to brands, and elimination of competition. It’s potentially resource hungry and wasteful too. Regular replenishment is one thing. Programmed delivery of printing ink, water filters, and janitorial supplies has got to be more efficient, but how does the economics of whizzing round with an instant toilet or kitchen roll stack up?

Presumably some-one has to pay for delivery. Would that be Amazon, the customer, or the self-employed courier; paid per parcel, but responsible for his own fuel and vehicle, and working unlimited hours? Or maybe the skies will soon be buzzing with delivery drones? Ignore the Sunday afternoons – and maybe nights – shattered by infernal noise, what is the risk of being poleaxed by a parcel falling from the sky, or swiped across the head by a rogue drone, as it bounces off your roof, and breaks a few tiles into the bargain? Threats to privacy, security, vandals with catapults, portents of Metropolis-the list of reasons not to use delivery drones just goes on and on!

 
24/7: Terminal Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep, by Jonathan Crary ……….the idea of a divergence between a human world and the operation of global systems with the capacity to occupy every waking hour of one’s life seems dated and inapt. Now there are numerous pressures for individuals to reimagine and refigure themselves as being of the same consistency and values as the dematerialized commodities and social connections in which they are immersed so extensively………. ……There is a pervasive illusion that, as more of the earth’s biosphere is annihilated or irreparably damaged, human beings can magically disassociate themselves from it and transfer their interdependencies to the mecanosphere of global capitalism. The more one identifies with the insubstantial electronic surrogates for the physical self, the more one seems to conjure an exemption from the biocide underway everywhere on the planet. At the same time, one becomes chillingly oblivious to the fragility and transience of actual living things.   VersoBooks.com
0

Every trade association or membership organisation should have a social media presence, right? Yes, but think hard before leaping in! It’s not something to be tackled halfheartedly, so be sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, and have the right resources – human and financial – at your disposal.

Nuffield Type Writer 1.1

As a former trade association CEO, if my inbox is anything to go by, some of the most hyped training courses are about getting the most out of social networking. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t get an invitation to attend a course where I will learn about the effective use of the Internet and social media to drive business growth. The idea being to harness Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, and others to drive sales.

There is anecdotal evidence that it works. Contrary to tradition, and In a reversal of their usual approach of shouting about the unique benefits of their product in the hope of snagging customers who are ready to buy, some companies are trying to build a community of interest around their activities and employing engagement marketing to bring customers to them. It is one stage on from transactional marketing and it clearly works for those companies that have employed it to best advantage.

But will it work for membership organisations? The key words, of course, are ‘community of interest’; or the people who buy into the ideas, brand, or lifestyle that is being promulgated, or share the same beliefs as those doing the talking. It’s the basis on which all membership bodies work, so the concept is not new, it’s just the method used to achieve your objective. For instance, back in the olden days, retailers had local high street shops, and they developed a community of interest by talking to their customers and understanding their lives and needs. Membership bodies did the same using print media, social events, and meetings. But now, because we enjoy less personal contact, and a businesses’ ‘community’ may be flung far and wide, we need to use new tools to achieve the same ends, so social media appears ideal.

But beware! What might seem at first glance to be a cheap and cheerful marketing tool – beloved of trade associations – may swiftly become an albatross around your neck if you don’t have the resources to see it through? And by that I don’t just mean money! Before membership bodies take the leap they should be mindful of some of the pitfalls.  Because, once committed, there is no going back!

The Internet is not the sole preserve of the young, but it’s a fact that having been brought up in a computer based environment they take more readily to the medium. The age of your target ‘community’ will influence your tone and how you communicate, but don’t imagine you can just hire a ‘youngster’ and let them get on with it! Plus, social media sites aren’t a broadcast medium. The traffic isn’t all one way and they rely on action and reaction; developing a conversation over time. So, ask yourself, can you develop an enduring narrative; are you comfortable writing persuasive informal text; and can you keep it up day after day and night after night. Considering the websites I’ve seen that haven’t been updated since the year dot, and the lamentable rubbish I’ve read online, the evidence isn’t looking too good!

Consider the amount of precious time consumed just reacting to your email inbox, and the time commitment is pretty clear! And have you, personally, got heaps of sparkling ideas with which to entice your eager waiting community? Describing your breakfast every day simply won’t cut it – unless you own a café – and what happens when you want to take a break? Going silent for a fortnight isn’t an option, so without help you can wave goodbye to uninterrupted holidays, your life will never be your own again.

So, the tools may be free but the content isn’t. It takes resources – both human and financial – to develop engaging content, and there can be reputational risks too! It’s all well and good when your community loves you, your ideas, service and product. What happens when they don’t? Or, more likely, when a vocal minority, or a disgruntled customer doesn’t! An old customer service mantra used to run something like, ‘a happy customer will tell his best friend and an unhappy one will tell everyone’. That was in the days of neighbourhood gossip, today the Internet has given rumour an exponential boost. Just look at current world events to see the power of social networks and the inherent risk if they disseminate unfettered and un-moderated comments.

But these aren’t reasons not to proceed, just why you mustn’t assume social media is a cheap option that can be easily delegated. It requires, clear objectives, defined resources, excellent content, measurement and management. And, once you commit to the process, you’d you better get your running shoes on to keep up with the ‘next big thing’. Because as surely as night follows day, when the pioneers and acolytes of social networking realise that their chosen medium has been debased by cynics, they will move on faster than you can say Twitter. With effectively half the UK population having an account, Facebook is now arguably mainstream, and the corollary of that is that it’s no longer ‘cool’ for the younger generation – and probably hasn’t been for a couple of years at least. I guess that’s what we call progress folks!

But, with a little bit of help, it doesn’t have to be like that.

Michael Hoare

0

A couple of weeks ago I wrote (Wait for it…wait for it!) about the  adrenaline kick from the instant gratification provided by shopping; remarking that we need look no further than the hysteria generated by Black Friday discounts as an example of retailers harnessing this effect to their advantage.  I went so far  as to suggest that retailers’ USPs might soon include ‘best fist fight in pursuit of a bargain’, or ‘best Black Friday riot’. Little did I think I might be predicting the future, or that 99p Stores would be so far ahead of the curve. But then in last Wednesday’s Guardian newspaper there appeared the headline, ‘Police called to quell riot as 99p store halts sale‘. 

sale bannerApparently police were called to a 99p Store in Wrexham, north Wales, after crowds flocked to a half-price sale, enticed by posters offering everything for 50p! But trouble flared when shoppers laden with cleaning products, toilet rolls, crisps and drinks, were told the sale was over – and everything was again 99p – as they queued to pay. Bedlam ensued, and the shop had to be closed when shoppers refused to leave, but no arrests were made.

Now, giving shoppers a thrill is one thing, but the roller coaster emotions engendered by a ‘now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t’ sale are taking it a bit too far don’t you think? And just how have we got to such a sorry state that a sale in a 99p shop generates this much excitement? It’s made me think though. I was always against moving police stations – and even courts – into retail premises to save money. But now – if we’re regularly going to experience ‘shopping-as-soap-opera’ – I’m not so sure! Shop, arrest, court, all in one place is so much more efficient. Or is this what they meant by bringing drama back to the high street. What do you think?

Michael Hoare

     
0

PREVIOUS POSTSPage 3 of 6NEXT POSTS