Chairman’s Notes – December 2017
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Chairman’s Notes – December 2017

Writing this as I am, post the Black Friday weekend and not clear whether we have caught up or pulled forward or whether that was the peak, the end or the beginning, I am reminded more of Coca Cola icon Don Keogh’s 10 Commandments For Business Failure than I am the festivities and merriment of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

So looking back on 2017 and the businesses that I chair, advise, invest in and observe, some thoughts for 2018 :

1. Quit Taking Risks

Either become a platform or get on one fast. That was the outake from an excellent dinner we hosted with KPMG’s Head of Retail Paul Martin earlier this month. How will I explain to the children that Amazon is actually based in Lapland this Christmas?

2. Be Inflexible

I can remember a buyer, actually I was concerned at the time that it was a child, from ASOS coming in to our showroom at Boxfresh some years ago to place an order for 15 pieces for a company called As Seen On Screen. This week it is more valuable than Marks and Spencers.

3. Isolate Yourself

Next and Tesco……Victoria Beckham and Reebok……..who’d have thought!

4. Assume Infallibility

30 years on from its creation, just 28 of the original FTSE 100 companies remain on the index. Of the 72 that are now missing many are retailers with technology transforming the list. JUST EAT entered this elite only last month. Surely I didn’t do that all on my own?

5. Play Close To The Foul Line

As a customer facing retailer, I have always interpreted this particular guidance as the failure to create desire and delight for your customer. If you don’t want retailing to be all about price, there is simply no alternative anymore. It’s got be experiential. Hasn’t it always been?

6. Don’t Think

Working now as I do, purely with the SME sector I am constantly reminded of how powerful thinking is and can be. It is mainly because there is so little money and support for these businesses yet I am constantly amazed by the results that these businesses and management teams produce as a consequence of really addressing an issue or opportunity. “We’ve got no money….we are going to have to think”. Try it in 2018.

7. Put Faith In Experts

Well done to Missguided, Boden and Joe Brown for opening stores and to the brilliant Primark steadfastly refusing to open e-commerce. This despite 20 years of predictions from the consultants, fund managers and journos that made it a bricks n mortar v online battleground.

8. Love Bureaucracy

Another reason I love working with the SME market and in particular the owner driver that is the heartbeat of this part of our economy, is that decisions get made and implemented so quickly. My apologies if this email arrived a little late….I was waiting for sign off.

9. Send Mixed Messages

Well done to Andrew Jennings and his recently launched great read, Almost Is Not Good Enough : How To Win Or Lose In Retail. As Andrew puts it, “if there is haze in the pulpit there will be fog in the pews”. About time somebody pointed the finger at the £6700 an hour leaders as oppose to the £6.70 zero hours.

10. Be Afraid Of The Future

With leadership in mind and regardless of being a Remainer or Leaver, has the post Brexit retail outlook for UK Plc ever been led by such an incompetent, inept and out of touch Board of Directors!

Sorry Don, they scare the shit out of me.

Have a great Christmas and a happy New Year. I think 2018 will be alright…..the weather has just turned a bit colder.

Best wishes. Greg