GIMA business meeting yielded key advice for suppliers

Some 40 garden suppliers attended GIMA's business meeting featuring British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson last week.

Stephen Robertson gave lessons on how to approach the recession gained from his experience at B&Q, Mars and talking to top retailers.

Robertson's key points were:

-Consumer confidence is at a record low mainly because house prices are falling

-Between 1971 and 2000

The number of retail organisations fell from 368,000 to 215,000
The number of retail outlets fell from 509,000 to 320,000
The percentage of outlets employing over 500 employees fell from 43.8% to 62.1%
The % of sales accounted for by the 10 largest firms rose from 13% to 38%. "We may see this accelerate again as it did in the 1980s."

-1998-2008 non-food at supermarkets increased by between two and four times depending on sector

-Advice: stay calm, listen to staff and customers, only recruit great people, "get yourself a helicopter" [i.ei keep things in perspective], you are better than you think.
Also at the GIMA meeting, Akenhurst Consultants consultant and Management Today columnist Alistair Dryburgh gave "crazy ideas for crazy times".

Alistair Dryburgh's observations included:

  • There's always someone prepared to go bust quicker than you so cheapest may not be best
  • What makes your business unique? Is it value added? Differentiated/niche? Cost-led like Ryan Air?
  • Cost reduction is not risk reduction. Don't 'boil the frog'-watch the dangers that build up slowly
  • Fight to take the time to look for the monster coming over the hill
  • Listen to your staff-communications organisation often sends orders down to staff who just pass the answer 'yes' back up
  • Staying within budget is no excuse not to promote your business
  • Before cutting costs look at your pricing
  • Think about cash before profit and profit before turnover
  • Turn your business upside down as the economy turns upside down

Clarke Wilmott representative Richard Garlick said companies must have their paperwork and conditions up to date according to the law in case companies they deal with go into liquidation.

Businesses represented at the meeting included: Aggregate Industries. Tenax, Kelkay, Bord na Mona, Garden Innovations, Honda, Gardiner Bros, Clarke Willmott, DLF Trifolium, Salgro, Wolf Garden, Gablemere, Smart Solar, Decco, Gardman, Green Wash, Living Stone, RKW, Addis, Suttons, Tayberry, ONE UK, Stewart, Vital Earth and Chalk and Cheese.

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