My name is Charles du Parc; despite the name I was born in London. Currently I live in Brno in the Czech Republic teaching and training clients in English and business.Previously, in the UK, I worked for many years for a Swiss owned retail company and ran two retail/catering businesses.
I have interests in many business areas and politics. Politically I would say I’m right of centre economically and left of centre socially. In other words my political views can often be difficult to reconcile-but isn’t that what politics is about?
I spend a lot of time doing research for my clients, who have interests which range from manufacturing to finance to agriculture to IT etc. I have the opportunity to see things through Czech eyes and British eyes, so I thought it would be good to share these insights and hopefully gain some fresh ones from other contributors.
Business and politics -mainly but not exclusively from a British and/or Czech perspective. So if you want to know why David Cameron refused to sign the new European treaty or why British towns are un-twinning themselves. Or maybe you want to know the latest corruption scandal to hit the Czech Republic (actually worth a blog on its own) or how South Moravia is becoming the silicon valley of central Europe this is the place
I could not be so presumptuous as to guess who might be interested in these ramblings. All I ask is that you contribute,correct (if necessary) and add your own thoughts.
I’m sure many companies have been asking themselves ‘why can’t we do that?’
I wasn’t planning to talk about supermarkets again but there can’t be many people who use social media that haven’t seen these two letters. A letter written a few months ago by a 3 1/2 year old child to Sainsbury supermarket (one of the big 4 in the UK.) saying that the markings on ‘Tiger Bread’ looked more like giraffe. The reply from Chris King the customer manager is a perfect example of how to reply to The Customer; whether such personalised non-standardised letters are the norm I don’t know. What I do know is that the result is positive publicity and PR that millions of pounds couldn’t buy you. The girl’s mother was so impressed she published it on her blog from where it went viral. What is more Sainsbury has seen the error of their ways and actually changed the name of the bread.
It would be hard to create a better case study about how good PR should work. It should also highlight that social media can be a huge opportunity for companies; that is, as long as they deliver what they promise.
In the Czech Republic the concept of customer service is at best paid lip service; at worst ignored completely. Many companies hide behind the law which allows them thirty days to decide whether to accept a complaint or not; so they wait 30 days and then tell you your complaint is not justified. You are then left to decide whether to try to take the complaint further without any clear way of doing this. Legal redress is uneconomic for all but really large value items (e.g. a car) so most people just don’t bother to complain in the first place. What is needed is some cheap system , similar to the small claims court in the UK, to deal with such grievances-but I’m not holding my breath.
For those of you that don’t know, Marmite is a British yeast based spread which is well known for people either loving or hating it. Most people I know either love Tesco or at least shop there regularly (OK, not quite the same thing); or they regard it as something akin to the devil.
My trouble with Tesco is that I love it and hate it equally. I have admired it for the way it has developed from from a basic ‘pile it high sell it cheap’ company of the sixties and seventies to the company it is today. Wherever you look business writers and commentators laud it’s management ‘Over the past three decades, Tesco’s bosses have been consistently first rate’ etc. They were pioneers in the UK in moving supermarkets into non-food retailing, financial services, loyalty cards and internet shopping. They also managed to be more successful than most in building up a property portfolio maxmising what opportunities are available. You can pick many statistics to demonstrate their domination e.g. ‘A study carried out for the Sunday Times by research group CACI 12 revealed that Tesco has almost total control of the food market in 108 of Britain’s postal areas – 7.4% of the country.’ Also I have been known to occasionally shop there if the nearest other supermarket is more than 10 miles away.
Those of you in the Czech Republic will have seen examples of it’s overseas expansion. It now generates over £10 billion of sales in Europe (excluding UK) and is now number three in the Czech Republic. It has also introduced internet shopping there. Indeed, growth in the Czech Republic has been supported by the successful launch of Clubcard – with over 10% of the population already enrolled. That’s a million Czechs happily carrying around a Tesco clubcard, freely donating to Tesco all their personal shopping information in exchange for a few discounts here and there.
However they have survived competition enqiries, media onslaughts about their bullying of supplier tactics and even anti Tesco campaigns like the website ‘Tescopoly-every little hurts’ But now maybe the tide is turning, it has just issued a profits warning after poor Christmas trading. And there is talk of it losing touch with its customers. More critically it has lost the support of Christian Voice (thank you hodgkinssmodgkins for this.) The reason for this is it has donated £30,000 to the (gay) Pride march in London. There is now a boycott Tesco campaign. I really thought this Christian right fundamentalism was an American phenomenon; but no, it is alive and well in the UK. It also highlighted the Halal meat scandal; halal meat is being sold in UK supermarkets unlabeled. Their objection to this is not animal welfare but that, at the point of slaughter, the animal receives an Islamic blessing. Am I digressing away from business topics? I hope so but worry that I am not. When you look at the power of the Christian right in the USA to affect business and politics; it is worrying that in the UK, where Muslim fundamentalism is an issue, there exists this type of campaigning group.
So Tesco, am I loving you or hating you today?(before McDonald’s, I would not have been able to write that sentence). Having just paid a visit to the local Tesco store in Brno , definitely hating you.
At this time of year it is easy to find prophets of doom. Read any publication over the past week, whether in the Czech Republic or the UK and you will find something similar. But the trouble is with forecasters is that they are always behind the curve, relying on data that is weeks or even months out of date. They then just predict these trends into the future with adjustment to reflect their views. They also tend to follow the accepted ‘groupthink’, hence the collection of doom laden prophecies.
However, when you look at the news in this first week of January, there seem to be glimmers of positivity; not just the USA employment figures but nearer to home in the UK, where some retailers had a good Christmas, and in Germany, where employment is holding up . This is not yet a reason to start booking your luxury holiday yet, but maybe by the end of 2012 we might be looking forward a bit more positively.
All this, of course, relies on the Euro no longer being teamed with the word crisis; these two seem inseparable bedfellows at the moment. So much has been written about this that there is not much to add other than German politicians need to wake up to the fact that the Euro will not save itself and however much it goes against the German grain to support irresponsible governments this is by far the lesser evil compared to counrties defaulting and falling out of the eurozone.
This was meant to be a positive post; but when you look at the downside risks you have to hope rather expect us to be in a better place by the end of the year.