Category Archives: Blog

The future of retail

Can we afford to lose nearly 1 million retail jobs by 2025, as predicted by the British Retail?  The government clearly thinks so by putting its hands over its ears and shouting la la la.

What have they done so far?  The last business rates review by Sajid Javid was a shambles and in his words was deemed “too difficult” for this government to deal with.  This historic rates tax was created in the 1500s as a poor tax, and must surely come with a health warning to the Chancellor: Collect tax in this world, not the old one! The Conservatives might not be in power when the chickens come home to roost, but the country will regret irreversibly damaging consumer confidence by kicking the issue  into the long grass once too often! Not much of a Tory legacy.

I applaud the creation of the Retail Sector Council but if it is merely shuffling papers just so you can stand up in the House of Commons and say ‘we’re dealing with it’ it’s not enough! Actions speak louder than words.

The government must recognise that to tax online and physical stores differently is reckless.  They are taxing the diminishing cake, the high street, but not the rising cake, digital retail. It is deluded.  How difficult is it to realise that? Even the big boys like M&S are closing stores, not because the rents are too high, but the rates are too high!  You can negotiate with your landlord, but not on rates.

I am for a transactional tax at the point of purchase for both online and physical retail. The solution is not difficult – collect from the online giants, who currently pay very little taxation in this country. They can’t get away with it anymore. We can get rid of rates altogether, and raise extra funds for the Chancellor’s coffers, allowing him to find the cash that the NHS so desperately needs.

Also what about the environment?  Inactivity will just lead to more and more vans chugging out fumes, to deliver millions of products, often of low value. MPs will happily campaign against wood burners, but not prioritise this pollution catastrophe already happening. They need to act now and tax accordingly!

So, the high street is like an orbiting satellite looking to land in its new incarnation. The government has the power to create its soft landing, and with it protect the future of millions of retail workers.  To do nothing is negligent and they owe retail and the people of this country more.


The Statistics Gap…

The Statistics Gap…

I’m sure that you would have heard me say in the Den, ‘Your numbers don’t stack up and for that reason, I’m out!’ Business has lot to do with numbers, however, it is not entirely about numbers. It is also important to understand the essence of a business and ultimately what drives those numbers. When it comes to statistics, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics’.

Organisations with over 250 employees recently published their Gender Pay Gap ‘numbers’. One of my businesses Boux Avenue has one of the widest ‘gaps’. The essence of this business is that it has a strong female workforce and sells intimate products, lingerie, to females. 98% of the employees are female, and since reporting the top two executives are female. Out of 606 employees, only 12 are men. Our most senior and highest paid executive is female and every single one of our stores is run and operated by females. Every single product sold at Boux Avenue was sourced by a female and sold by a female to mainly female customers in our stores. You get the gist; Boux Avenue is dominated by females for females.

So why is there such a wide reported Gender Pay Gap at Boux Avenue – a business that gives so much opportunity to females? A company that I am proud of and as a Group we celebrate for giving relatively more females the opportunity to work at all levels of the business.  The answer is that the statistics are one dimensional and skewed. They are skewed by an average calculated, without regard to so many factors that should be considered, to ensure that the important issues we are all interested in are properly addressed.

The Gender Pay Gap at Boux Avenue is skewed by the significant majority of females employed by us or in other words having so few males. There are no males working in our stores, which is where most of our colleagues work. The twelve males we employ are all on salaried roles in Head Office. Our stores have full and part timers. The number of females on salaried roles in Head Office outnumber the men by 6 to 1. The number of directors or managers in the business is also heavily in the favour of females at 4 to 1. There are not enough males to have a statistically meaningful average, to compare to the average, for females based on a much bigger and wider sample.

Also since reporting we have built a new warehouse facility for Boux Avenue to meet our growth plans for the business, commissioned in October last year. Jobs in warehouses have traditionally been dominated by males. With Boux Avenue, not even this is the case, where 81% of colleagues at this facility are females.

I am proud of the opportunities offered to females at Boux Avenue and my other group companies (whose Gender Pay Gap calculations are significantly better than the national and retail average). We continue to work at ensuring that any opportunity for recruitment or development is based on factors that are not discriminatory in any way. Looking around my business, I believe we are doing a good job, and with Boux Avenue a great job, when it comes to careers and pay for females. The bare statistics in this instance don’t reflect this.

So, despite that the Boux Avenue Gender Pay Gap calculations for me don’t stack up and require more context, I’m very much IN to ensure that our business thrives for all of our colleagues and customers. Boux Avenue by its nature will be influenced by the intimate nature of the products it sells and the service required to ensure our customers get a comfortable fit. But the statistics on their own are misleading.

Despite its shortcomings, I still believe it to be the right thing to do, as it has to start somewhere, and if you don’t try you’ll never get anywhere.  So, in spite of the statistics gap, I do very much support the report…rant over!