I DONT KNOW whether you noticed the recent series of adverts from the Health & Safety Commission that extolled the commercial sense of good safety practices. “This Port Authority saw its absenteeism drop by 70%, its days lost through sickness fell by 50% etc etc.” All very laudable stuff, I’m sure, but I, for one, am beginning to despair of the never-ending stream of new measures and restrictions that are being foisted on us in the name of Health & Safety or saving the planet.
A FEW YEARS AGO I agreed to join a local Business Environment Association. Not a purely altruistic decision, but one that was somewhat influenced by the fact that they controlled the purse strings to some quite lucrative Government grants! Well I got my assistance towards installing new interceptors and I got my assistance towards a new cctv system, so I thought it was rather churlish not to keep my subscription going. Each month they send me bulletins of legislation that might affect my business and I usually spend a few minutes having a look through.
LAST MONTH’S ENVELOPE proved to be something of a watershed – it contained 12 A4 double-sided, closely typed sheets of Euro-Directive-inspired initiatives and revisions to existing laws. And I finally decided to give up the struggle! No more am I going to even bother to try and implement anything new. In the past I’ve done my best and it still hasn’t stopped the local busybodies producing a list of jobs to do after each of their visits so I might as well just press on regardless!
AS ONLY A SMALL, somewhat trivial example, I give you manhole fall arresters. A cage-type structure to sit in our petrol tanks so that people can’t fall down the manhole during a fuel delivery. Seems eminently sensible so what’s the problem? Get them fitted! Well, for a start there’s the cost – somewhere in region of £1,500. But then there’s the little matter that in over 30 years of petrol retailing, with tens of thousands of deliveries, the number of incidents we have had of people falling down the manholes is... absolutely zero! And talking to my friends, the number of incidents they have had is... absolutely zero!
IN FACT, considering all health and safety issues, the total number of genuine accidents we have had over the past 30 years is four. And the number of site visitors over that period? I obviously don’t know exactly but it must be many millions. A record, I’m sure, that Tesco and the likes would be proud of. Maybe I’ve just been very lucky or maybe the average forecourt is actually a place where the majority of customers and employees exercise a little commonsense.
SO IF WE THOUGHT it had been bad last year, this year has plumbed new depths. Easter Egg prices at the hypers, that is. When £2.99 retail price eggs are being sold at four for £5 it suggests that, either the confectionery manufacturers have been ripping everybody off for years or, that they or the hypers are absolutely desperate for market share. And I don’t believe that Asda would sell at such a huge loss. I was lucky – this was the first year I didn’t sell Easter Eggs. My good fortune was that, when I finally placed an order with my suppliers, I was told that they had sold their initial stock and the manufacturers had cancelled all successive orders as they had shipped all their stock to the hypers. So you can guess my reaction when I heard that two weeks before Easter one hyper had returned 28 container loads to Nestlé Rowntree!
THE PERCEIVED RETAILING WISDOM is that in the weeks leading up to an event like Valentine’s Day or Easter we should decorate our shops and get people in the mood to buy. But if I analyse my sales the vast majority are on Valentine’s Day or Easter Sunday themselves. So when the customer has time to choose he shops around for better value, but when the customer forgets and is desperate on the day he buys from us. Which suggests that we should take down all those ‘Valentine’s Day is this Wednesday’ signs and hope that our punters forget. Funny old game this retailing lark!