With the general election fast approaching deciding how to vote is like assessing the value of a product, says Jacqueline Gold.
Retail is a simple game, complicated by others.
If in any doubt, go back to the grandees of our trade and ask yourself in any situation what would Ken Morrison, Jack Cohen or Bernard Lewis do? It’s all about delivering on the value equation: great products plus wonderful service divided by price.
It’s when you start embellishing the equation with “perceived value relative to others” that you can lose focus. You start to worry too much about what your customers think about a competitor’s product at a cheaper price, so you compromise and cut corners to compete. It’s a lose-lose downward spiral.
Add in the impact of and reaction to social media and your business can have more knee-jerks than a French can-can but without the pretty girls and frilly knickers.
We should also never lose sight of the fact that we are all retail geeks but our customers have lives outside of our shops. They don’t notice nearly as much about what we do as we’d like to think. I’m reminded of a fact I was once told that people only know the price of eight things.
Ask your friends and colleagues – they’ll be anything from 10% to 25% off on the price of bread, milk, eggs, beer in the pub etc. Everyone understands value though because that’s something that is decided over the lifetime of the product.
For me it’s the same with government. For all the hot air surrounding the personalities of those standing, at the end of the day, choosing a government comes down to two things: economic policy and social policy. Whichever your party political persuasion, there’s a broad consensus in our liberal democracy that when it comes to social policy we all want a just and fair society.
So as various political commentators have often said, when asked what are the key election issues, the answer is invariably: “It’s the economy, stupid.” If you run a business or a department with a budget, you get this.
How many times have you been challenged to rework your numbers to deliver more growth, cut costs without harming the business or more likely both. It’s a good discipline to question what’s critical to your success and what is just in your budget because it always has been.
I bet more often than not you’ll have found a creative solution that delivers on all counts. It’s the same with government. Not only has the sky not fallen in despite significant cuts to most departmental budgets but the economy has seen significant growth.
Compared with five years ago, the retail and broader business environment is in rude health, so I for one hope we vote for it to continue. When it comes to products and politics, I’ve always been a little bit blue.
- Jacqueline Gold is chief executive of Ann Summers