Years ago I ran a small horticultural business, and I recall a more experienced nurseryman than I explaining the cause and effect of a ‘market correction.’
Say you start a small annual event – a plant sale. You invite just ten nurseries and you advertise it like crazy. Those ten nurseries all have a fabulous day, and book to come again next year.
Then you decide that you are onto a winner, so you invite fifteen nurseries the following year, and as the event is still new you advertise like crazy and everybody has a good day.
Year three you invite twenty nurseries, and advertise in the same old places as last year. Everybody has an OK day – numbers through the gate are static.
The year after you invite twenty five nurseries, and again everyone has an OK day – the take is a little lower, and you’re seeing more hobbyist nurseries there, which pad out the professionals, making the place look very full, but lots of stock is repeated amongst the different sellers.
Year five, and you invite thirty nurseries. Everyone’s take is down. Your event is so established by now that the numbers through the gate are steady, but each nursery is taking less, because there is too much stock, too many vendors, and the money is the same, so everyone gets a bit less.
Year six, and nurseries (in fact the professional ones) have moved on to other events, and aren’t booking yours. The amateurs are still there, although a few have given up.
You have an aha moment, and do a reset. The year after, you invite the fifteen best nurseries, and begin again. Everybody has a great day.
Why is this relevant? Well you only have to look at the British High Street, where cheap clothes have been the order of the day for so many years, that the likes of myself, well I buy on ebay second hand, or from charity shops – because the quality of the high street shops is abysmal.
You know what you want, as a consumer. You want clothes that last – warm in the winter, and light in the summer. They need to wash well, retain their shape, and be well made enough to last for a few years at least (particularly everyday classics).
But you cannot buy clothes like this today. If you buy from the High Street, the clothes are thin, often shapeless, the seams come undone, they don’t last, or if they make something good, you can bet your bottom dollar that they won’t repeat the design the following year.
This is why we need a reset in real markets – I’m talking about our shopping experience, I’m talking about our choices. I’m talking also about the moral choices – can I buy an organic, fair trade cotton T shirt on the high street? Nope. Can I buy one like that with 1% lycra in it, so it’ll keep it’s shape? Nope.
I could buy endless shapeless garments with upside down crosses on them. Yes really (at least last season – I actually went looking today and found the motherload – another post will follow this one with the best of 2015 illuminati clothing!). I can buy junk clothes which are so unsuitable for an adult you can’t believe they bothered to manufacture them. I can buy blouses with GEORGETTE SLEEVES in the WINTER!!!!
I can buy acrylic cardigans. I can’t buy warm woolen anything unless I want to go off the High Street (or am aged 50 plus).
So when clothes shops struggle, they get in the venture capitalists. They wring ever more profit from a dead donkey, by cutting staff, and cutting wages, and cutting what they pay for product, and that company wins out – the other guy, who might have had an ounce of morals, or even a better product, he goes to the wall.
Every market has a breaking point – falsely keeping a market buoyant with venture capital or other management techniques would be like staying with the thirty nurseries and just allowing anyone to provide the lowest common denominator product – the public get switched off very quickly – why is there so much High Street gloom – because you can’t even buy a quality item!
Even good old M&S has succumbed to the race to the bottom – this started when they brought out their own £10 jeans – who wants £10 jeans!? I want jeans that are well cut, look good, made of nice quality fabric and will last. They want £10 from me this year, and then £10 from me next year. I want to give them £18 now, and see ya in a couple of years time!
Who wants a £5 or even a £3 Tshirt? I want one which is well made, warm in winter, good cut and a little lycra to keep it’s shape – like I said – it’s a no can do.
Some High Street shops must fail in order for any to survive lean times. It was the same with the nursery game, and it’s one of the reasons I quit – I wasn’t making enough money. My market share will have gone to another business – that is just business, neither bad nor good!
We need a market reset for the High Street, and I urge you to put your money when your morals are. Maybe it’s time to get the sewing machine out!
God Bless you