Upbeat media stories are hard to come by says Jacqueline Gold, but don’t let that get retail down

Regular readers of this column will know that, as the song goes, I always look on the bright side of life. Problems are opportunities; the glass is always half full; you need both sunshine and rain to make the flowers grow: that’s me, always positive.

However, that doesn’t mean to say that certain things don’t make me mad. I’ve long been bemoaning the negative impact of bad news and the fact that we’re stuck in a 24/7, around the clock cycle of doom and gloom.

If I hear the BBC’s Robert Peston imply that he has “told us so” one more time, without acknowledging that the media, and financial correspondents in particular, have been complicit in the crushing of our customers’ confidence, I will be tempted to introduce him personally to some of our more intimate products.

So when I sat down to write this column I decided I’d talk about good news. So I typed it into Google.

Number one in Google is the Good News Network. I like their mission. Number two in Google is a BBC story from July 2003.

Bearing in mind the premise behind Google is that they deliver the most relevant web pages to your search request, you’d think that this story has to be extremely good news indeed: something positive about Aids, terrorism, global warming perhaps?

I swear I’m not making this up, but the second most important piece of good news on the whole internet, in the whole world, in the past five years and nine months is this: “masturbation cuts cancer risk”.

It’s fair to say, given that you probably have a good idea of some of the products that we retail, that should we make a point of passing this revelation on to more people – and trust me our marketing team will be onto it first thing in the morning – it could only be good for business.

It got me wondering whether there was an equivalent in other businesses and I started to imagine the excitement at DSGi HQ if there was a study that said buying big plasma TVs would end child poverty, or at Gap, if early research indicated that chinos and jeans worn in significant volume could eradicate the threat of malaria. It could be that good for Ann Summers.

Is there a moral to this story? Good news is only a click or two away, if you search for it? What if you made it your mission to spread only good news to your store teams, your head office teams and customers – in fact all of your stakeholders – over the next month? Yes or no: will our customers spend more if we give them good news? Surely there’s never been a better time to buy pretty much anything, so if nothing else, maybe we should start by telling them that.

You might as well try it – what have you got to lose? And you can interpret that anyway you like.

Jacqueline Gold is chief executive of Ann Summers