Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Retailer Therapy

We have been watching the two-year-old BBC show, "Mary Queen of Shops", which just began airing here. I had my doubts about this show, but it is turning into one of the more interesting things on TV.

The Mary of the title is Mary Portas, who had a noteworthy career in fashion retailing, and now operates a business advising other retailers how to succeed. In each episode of the show, she visits a fashion shop that is struggling and tries to help them get on a successful track.

Sounds dry as old biscuits, which is to say it sounds like most BBC shows. However, it turns out that it's actually very interesting. I am quite surprised that I like the show so because I enjoy shopping about as much as my cat Streak would enjoy having a bubble bath. And when it comes to shopping for women's clothing, my aversion to shopping is multiplied tenfold.

I so do not want to go into a women's clothing store that I have become one of those men who prefers to stand outside the shop on the sidewalk. Sure, it's my way of putting a little bit of pressure on LK not to take too long. And of course it never works because all women have pledged never to give in to such blackmail from men when shopping is involved. If you doubt me, just go to most malls and check out how many old guys are sitting on the benches killing time.

Anyhow back to the TV show, it may be about fashion boutiques but it really is a nice little primer on business in general. Mary Portas takes the shop owners out to meet their customers, has them take a close look at their nearest competitors, shows them some best practice shops that are doing very well and lets them interact with some of the best in the business. She then applies her extensive - successful - experience to advise them on what she thinks needs to be done.

And that is when the show becomes interesting. Because inevitably one or both of the shop owners digs in their heels or is offended or in some other way lets her know that they don't think much of what she is suggesting. Here you have people who are struggling in their business, have obviously asked this top-class expert to advise them and have been given a crash course in business. And they get defensive about their failed ideas! Amazing - and probably predictable.

There's no question that most businesses - hey, most everything - fail because people lock into things they need to change and refuse to do so. Fortunately for the folks on the TV show, Mary Portas is charming and persuasive. She usually gets her way. And inevitably the shop starts thriving and doing record business. And the person who fought her gives her a poor-faced You Were Right while they stuff money in their pockets they would not have had otherwise.

I want to check these shops out the next time we are in the UK. It will be interesting to see if they are still successful or if they only thrived when the TV cameras were rolling. You'll know if they're still doing well. There will be several older guys hanging around on the sidewalk checking their watches every few minutes.


Testing the Heavy Drinkers Quick Weight Loss Program.
Log. Day One.

I have begun the tests to determine the viability of losing weight by not drinking while eating and exercising as normally. Interesting results.

6pm Looked longingly at the wine glass in the cupboard but drank water instead.

7.15 Ignored screeching monkey hanging from the chandelier in the living room when I remembered there is no chandelier in the living room.

8.45 Forgot about wine for 15 seconds as I began to enjoy Mary Queen of Shops when Pom losers became defensive about their bad ideas.

9.15 Ate dinner. Realized I was no longer hungry and stopped eating. Very strange side effect to not drinking!!!!

10.30 Went to bed and fell asleep. Most surprising.

11.110 Woke up feeling refreshed. Wondered why it was still dark.

8.30 am. Time to measure.

Body Mass Index down .3% Might not sound like much, but that means that in 3 days, I could reduce the BMI by 1%. Theoretically, in 300 days I could cease to exist. If I haven't started drinking before then, I won't care.

Weight down 1.1 pounds (.5kg). May be a good sign but just as likely it is the aftermath of the pea soup LK made last night.

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