With the year-end approaching, there are plenty of lessons for retailers to learn from this year’s standout news headlines.
“Graham always wants to learn more” was a memorable comment on my school report, circa 1958. Brought up in a typical mining village, my education was limited. But luckily I acquired the habits of reading, listening and asking questions.
Today I often meet confident young managers with little experience handicapping themselves with the belief that they know it all. If you miss the obvious attitude and body language signals don’t worry: they will soon unashamedly tell you of their burgeoning talents.
To be fair, I do recall being a similar know-all when I was 20. Doubts set in by 25 and today I recognise without caveat how little I really do know.
Fortunately education is not only about classrooms, self-improvement books or other consciously auto-didactic pursuits. We can learn through the experience of others.
With the year-end approaching it seems natural to look back on the lessons that stand out from the memorable headlines of 2014.
For example, what can we learn from the downward spiral of the Tories’ greatest asset, Ed Miliband? Well, as the spring floods pointed to the merits of living on a hill and the mansion tax threat highlights the benefit of residing in a tent, the lesson from Ed’s experience must be: don’t take on a job that is too big for you, especially if you are a bit weird.
Turning to a different kind of ass, Kim Kardashian’s iconic derriere has assumed even greater prominence – driving a 58% increase in demand for buttock implants. The lesson protruding here for M&S and Victoria’s Secret is simple. Stock more supersize knickers and consider reinforced gussets.
The ever-present Nigel Farage and UKIP remind us to take nothing for granted, whether in the prospects of long-established political parties or once well-loved retail chains. They are a powerful reminder of what can be achieved by harnessing people’s baser emotions through marketing and spin.
Luckily the overwhelming impact of the poppies at the Tower shows that there is still mileage in focusing on the nation’s better nature, too.
In recent weeks the millionaire revolutionary Russell Brand (quote by Noel Gallagher: “I couldn’t see him overthrowing a table of drinks.”) and John Lewis’s Monty the Penguin have achieved similar prominence. The important lesson there is that even waddling stuffed toys can be more credible than some humans.
Overseas, the rich comedy of Monsieur Hollande’s affaires may lead our EU amis to question the wisdom of choosing a leader whose role model appears to be Benny Hill.
From the revelation that British workers are too grand to make sandwiches to the People’s Party sneering at White Van Man, there are insights to be gained from the media.
The biggest lesson of all, though, is to enjoy the humour in each story and learn to love life. Identify what you like to do, and do more of it. Whether that is at home, the shop, the warehouse or the office, it makes perfect sense.
- Lord Kirkham is founder of DFS