Category Archives: Philanthropy

UK Retailers Must Change Their Target Market To Survive

There is something disturbing going on in UK retail. The January Sales, which were stupendous online because of low footfall before a rainy Christmas, have never stopped. An upmarket bathroom company did not take enough percentage off in the January Sales and must have had to whip another television advertisement out to catch up with its rivals. In mid-May they are still in 50% off sales mode and have been joined by DIY chains, especially for kitchens.

Everywhere you go, there are 10% off days and up to 30% off stickers in shop windows. Austin Reed, beloved of women city workers has just gone under. You would think that there was room for a high quality tailor but the markets have changed. It seems as if everyone is looking at cheaper clothes, discounted cars etc.

Economists did say in 2012/2013 that there would be less spending by 2016 as a result of cutting the deficit. The result has been higher utility and petrol bills with few or no pay rises. It was thought that the spending of baby boomers taking lump sums from their pensions would fill that gap. However, much of their spending is going on holidays abroad, thereby taking money out of the British economy.

Unfortunately this government does not seem able to consider consequences of its actions. BHS, a beloved retailer, rival to M&S has just gone into administration and the government allows it. Why was the Business Minister, Sadiq Khan not involved in a pre-administration solution? Its 11,000 employees are now looking for work plus 1,200 people working for Austin Reed.
What is the solution? Company boards must go back to basics and find out or confirm who is their target market. For example, there is no point producing high-heeled boots for sale to 70-year old baby boomers.

The highest consumer spending is generally speaking, the sector with the most free cash. This used to be those on welfare benefit, but cuts and refusals across the board means there is another huge group looking for paid work and cutting their spending. Some of them are second-generation claimants.

Let’s hope that the people with jobs become more aware and a little less smug. The UK has just had two negative quarters of growth, i.e., nothing. Banks are writing to their customers saying that they are cutting their savers’ rates from measly to nothing.

The future of shopping is online. I bought a winter coat online in the January Sales and it arrived immaculately packed, within two days. Having said that, I saw a dress online in a Sale and went to the store to try it on. I came out with something totally different, probably due to the skill of the Sales Assistant. The prices online and instore were identical. Distribution is the key to profit.

Concessions in larger department stores have worked in the UK over the last ten years. Are they still working? If not, who is looking at the problem and what answers have they come up with? I fully expect to be told it is ‘commercial, in confidence’, but meetings between the top ten retailers can surely help each other.

Any ideas on the way forward, because we are sliding into recession? I hope that the government doesn’t blame possible exit from Europe for a dwindling economy. We have a lot going for us; we just need positive guidance.


Leave a comment

Filed under Philanthropy

David Cameron, a Moral Politician

David Cameron was right and took a politically courageous and moral position to state that it would be best for Syrians to stay in their country. This was said at a time when a hundred thousand refugees were headed to Europe, and people were being drowned on their way.

Television newscasts have shown 97 refugee families living in a partly-built shopping mall. On other days, some refugees have said that they love their country and do not want to leave. Now there comes the obliteration of northern Syria, a dramatic development, said to be Russian.

Can we in the peaceful world, carve out an independent Syria zone, made up of a 1000 km –wide zone somewhere west of the Turkish border, of land that is fertile, or industrial or electronic, or whatever the majority wants, to ensure peaceful living.

Russia, America and the West must cross their hearts and promise any God they believe in, that they will leave this Syrian zone in peace. There are those who want Syria as a strategic asset. No-one wants to be that. The zone will be carved by people talking. Let them be experienced diplomats and not old Western politicians. Too much is at stake here for mistakes. A good way to move forward,or not?



Filed under Philanthropy

Lebanon Has Experience of Migrants

Maybe Lebanon could teach the world how to deal with refugees.

Forty years ago there were Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, living in a shanty camp, their shelters made of whatever materials they could find; mainly heavy duty plastic sheeting and corrugated iron. There were four thousand people to one tap and they were classed as second-class workers, which meant they rarely, if ever, found work. I remember not understanding how they could live without money and also of my beloved father, who knew everything in my child world, not being able to give me an answer.

What happened to those Palestinian refugees? Did they stay during successive wars to the present day and contribute to Lebanon?

Let Lebanon, one of the most beautiful countries in the world, teach the rest of us how to deal with refugees.


Leave a comment

Filed under Philanthropy

Divert the £20 million to Hospitals

Incomers should learn our culture and customs as well as our language. Some other cultures try our patience.

“hash bit, hasbit”, the woman shouted at the bus driver. She sat back down.

“Hospital?” I ventured. She stared. “Sorry, but that’s in the other direction.”

“Hasbit, husband.”

Oh, your husband, as yet invisible, is coming to meet you. She drew a large-faced watch out of her pocket and frowned. The bus was running a minute late. Had someone timed her bus route in advance and all she had to do, was to get off at a certain time?

She jumped up again and pressed the ‘stop’ button. The bus duly drew to a halt at the next stop.

“Hasbit, hashbit.” She shouted loudly at the driver.

“I can’t understand what you are saying.” Said the bus driver, reasonably.

He waited for her to resume her seat. No such luck. By this time she was distraught and the passengers sympathised with her in a strange place and unable to communicate. Then she waved a dismissive gesture in our direction. The English think this is very rude. You simply do not do it, especially when someone is trying to help you.

I found a pen and notepad, but she just made the dismissive gesture again, which I was starting to find annoying. She stared at the pen and another woman passenger said that she would probably be unable to write it down anyway.

After some legitimate passengers stopped the bus, she continued to sit down and start up every time she saw something she thought she recognised.

Eventually we arrived at a bridge. She stamped wildly, gesticulating between the bus driver and the door.

“I am not allowed to stop here, Madam.”

She started yelling and thumping the door:

“No, no, no, no.”

He let her off. The rest of us sighed in relief. I thought that the bus driver had done a good job, yet he laughed it off. The woman looked Nepalese, religion unknown, with white lace held scarf-fashion with a curtain ring. Maybe she was not Nepalese and I do them a disservice. She was the first to display anger. Usually they are unfailingly courteous, at least in English. And there is the rub.

When they chatter in their own language, a colleague pointed out to me that they could be insulting us. That had not occurred to me, but she says groups of incomers often pass her and snigger in some unfamiliar language. She works in a hospital.

So I ask David Cameron to help these workers learn English. Hospital cleaners are largely foreigners. One, a Portuguese lady, wanted me to teach her English, but she could never find time outside my working hours and hers. If this money were allocated to hospitals, they could use a meeting room at a weekend and bring the workers in by free bus. The incentive is to learn English. Perhaps when certain levels are reached, there will be a nationally-recognised certificate. If the teaching of English as a foreign language, with words for specific disciplines, hospital wards will be a safer place for staff and patients alike.

Please would incomers remember that no-one likes people talking over them. Hospital workers often chatter away and leave the patient upset and out of the conversation. Here in the UK, we do not talk at patients, we talk to them.

Muslim women are not the only ones who need to learn English. Diversion of some of the money to hospitals will benefit patients and staff. It could become the difference between a good and an outstanding hospital.


Leave a comment

Filed under Philanthropy

Western Retailers Versus China


When will the West realise that it has to help stop China going into recession? For the first time in a thousand years, China has attempted to mould its economy into a workhorse for other countries in order to make a contribution to world power. Their almost limitless supply of cheap manpower made them very popular with Western retailers.

Twenty years ago, Western retailers whooped for joy as they had found a place where their products could be manufactured and transported cheaply. Their profits surged accordingly. However there were problems in the consistency and quality of the product, due to communication issues on all sides.

If you come from a society where you mend things if they break down, then the British and Chinese have much in common. However, Britain has British Standards and all products must conform to them. In the latest case, of the Hover toy made in China, when they came to fit the standard moulded plug, the fuse was too big to fit, so the Chinese inserted it another way. There were presumably no checks made beyond that it worked. Only when the device was put on charge, did the failure of the fuse become apparent and the device burned out. Consignments were refused entry to Britain by Trading Standards.

The product was made in good faith, so the problem must lie in Quality Control. To help China, the West must offer help in this area. If it is permitted, they could offer help in building a new industry where every product passes the safety requirements of the receiving country. Apple has a manufacturing and Quality Control facility in China. Other western retailers must do the same. They cannot demand a perfect product without putting in their own checks.

Time was when the British had an Empire and sent its Civil Servants to help train up the indigenous Engineers etc., and then moved on after three years. Maybe this is an alternative course. Unfortunately David Cameron has sacked a hundred thousand Civil Servants and Britain may be taking its own shortcuts, which show up in the Foreign Office diplomats being made redundant following a trade visit to China. They have to be there in the long-term for this to work.

The one thing stockbrokers cannot do, is to wring their hands and wail that there is a Chinese slowdown, without helping to end it. They must do this without causing the Chinese to lose face. No man likes that. Maybe you could also involve women, who have brought up a successful generation of Chinese people and now look for another challenge. Just a thought.


Leave a comment

Filed under Philanthropy

Manage Your Family At Christmas

Happy Christmas Everyone,

Your family thinks that they know you and how you generally behave. Call it expectation. A difference in your conduct, as a result of stress or someone being mean, changes your behaviour. Everyone else has to work around this new happening and that is when there is an upset. They cannot cope.

For families who live together from baby to grand-parent, stresses sometimes culminate at Christmas. Many British families often come together at Christmas and other events.

Be true to yourself but stand up for yourself if the other person is in the wrong. Smile.

‘If you can hold you head up high,
Whilst all around are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
You will be a man, my son’ (or daughter. Rudyard Kipling did not live in enlightened times.)

Here is a fervent hope that your Christmas is happy.


Leave a comment

Filed under Philanthropy

British Philanthropy in Nepal

Where better to put British philanthropy to work than in Nepal? Generations of Gurkhas have helped Britain defend itself since the early 1900’s and soldiers sending money home was a boost to the Nepalese economy.

An earthquake in April this year left about 9,000 people in shelters of corrugated iron that offer no protection from the winter cold and a generation of young men, forced to make the difficult decision to make a living in the hot desert countries like Qatar, building the football stadium or staying at home. He would be the single man out of twenty-five originally in the village to stay and rebuild his home. Now there is even less choice as the electricians and plumbers have all left to earn money abroad.

It is apparent that they live on tenterhooks, as the football stadium in Qatar is being built for the 2022 World Cup and the row about corruption continues. Meanwhile it is a lifeline for Nepal.

Could the British send electricians and plumbers to Nepal? It is a huge job, but one that Britain used to do, when it had its Empire. An army of Civil Servants was recruited to train up the locals to do the jobs and then they would move somewhere else where they were needed. They helped countries to prosper. Can Britain do that again now? This time thousands of Nepalese people will die in the winter cold, without fuel or electricity to warm their homes.

Looking at that, it is easy to understand why Nepalese families came to Britain after their military service ended. But are they happy or would they rather be back home in their communities? Has anyone asked them?

Thousands in Britain support charity. Let us take that charity to Nepal and build them a better life.

Article acknowledgement : Kieran Cooke, BBC News, Nepal


Leave a comment

Filed under Philanthropy