Puking in a fireplace, sleeping under the table during ‘boring’ meetings, mega boozing sessions…
Headlines have been dominated by lurid allegations against Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley, who has been embroiled in an almighty legal row with former colleague Jeff Blue over the terms of an agreement it is claimed was made, ironically, in a pub.
The rights and wrongs of this particular case will, quite properly, be decided in court.
The general point is that once again, whoever wins, the image of retail more widely is once again in the dock.
Only a couple of weeks ago, former Co-op boss Richard Pennycook warned the retail industry that it has developed a “toxic” reputation and the issue must be addressed.
“For many it represents an exciting job and the opportunity to get on in their careers, and for the vast majority it represents at minimum the security of a stable income with a stable company”
“We really should be concerned that our customers rank us below bankers in terms of trustworthiness, and only a shade above estate agents and politicians,” Pennycook said in his BRC lecture.
“We can either pretend that it’s an issue about Philip Green and Mike Ashley, or we can recognise that it’s an issue for all of us.”
The sad thing is that few people working in retail would recognise the picture of the industry that has been painted at times in recent weeks, months and years.
For many it represents an exciting job and the opportunity to get on in their careers, and for the vast majority it represents at minimum the security of a stable income with a stable company.
You don’t need to look very far to see the value of retail in local communities and national life, whether it was the generous response of food retailers in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire, the ongoing support for good causes right across the nation, or imaginative thinking such as Richer Sounds’ founder Julian Richer’s decision to bequeath the business to his employees after he dies.
However, Joe and Joanna Public frequently will not look that far and, to them, retail can often epitomise big business at its worst.
It’s been a recurrent problem and, as often said, can be a barrier to recruiting the brightest and best who often prefer to take their talents to other industries.
How can retail tell its story better to the wider world? And how can Retail Week, as the voice of the industry, help?
Ideas welcome. Perhaps together we can come up with some ideas that can help achieve reputational transformation.