The start of 2015 saw a very old saying amongst stockbrokers come true: ‘Sell your shares in any company when it buys a company jet or builds a new headquarters’ they say. Companies lose touch with reality as they get bigger and one person who seems to agree is ‘Drastic Dave’ Lewis, the new Chief Exec. of Tesco. He announced the closure of both their Cheshunt HQ and Kansas Transportation Ltd, the Company subsidiary which discreetly operates a fleet of 5 executive jets.

From now on it’s RyanAir only for Tesco directors as they struggle against falling sales and a £260 million accounting scandal

This must come as a disappointment to former CEO Phillip Clarke (currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office). It limits the possibility of doing a flit in the £31 million Gulfstream jet delivered last month as part of the £29m cost of flying executives around the world 2005-2012. From now on it’s RyanAir only for Tesco directors as they struggle against falling sales and a £260 million accounting scandal. And now we know who owns all those private jets parked at Luton airport.

The good people of Cheshunt, home to Tesco’s ugly concrete HQ since 1973 were also less than happy about job losses and a move for remaining staff to Welwyn Garden City. ‘I can’t believe it’ Ward Councillor Mike Iszatt told the ‘Hertfordshire Mercury’. ‘I don’t know why they want to move out of the Borough – it’s so convenient for their employees next to the station and we’ve got crossrail coming in the near future. I hope they will reassess their decision’.

The international credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded Tesco’s credit rating to ‘junk’

Apart from that, Drastic Dave suspended yet a ninth executive – Chris Robinson, finance director at food sourcing – and confirmed the closure of the defined benefit pension scheme for staff, 43 convenience stores and cancellation of 49 new store developments. Stockbrokers seemed mildly pleased and shares rose to £2.20, still less than half their pre-scandal level. Nevertheless the international credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded Tesco’s credit rating to ‘junk’, saying “structural changes in the UK grocery retail market will continue to challenge the Company’s operating performance”. Whether that enables suppliers to demand better terms from the retailer is unclear.

The announcement of a new ‘Retail Ombudsman’ has been greeted with mixed feelings

The ‘Kipper season’ is now upon us. It’s always a good time for everyone to have a moan so the announcement of a new ‘Retail Ombudsman’ has been greeted with mixed feelings. The response to this ‘new independent service to resolve disputes with supermarkets, high street brands and online retailers’ has been less then overwhelming. Like several other Ombudsman services it lacks teeth as it is unofficial i.e. not established or vetted by Parliament. Its adjudications are not binding on anyone unless they happen to subscribe to it, but if you do and it does find in your favour don’t feel too smug – the complainant can still take you to court.

So why establish a toothless Ombudsman?

So why establish a toothless Ombudsman? Apparently this is a mainstream retail response to the forthcoming EU ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution directive’ which will take effect in July. This says the retail sector must have an ‘Alternative dispute resolution body’ – but Parliament has already decided the new watchdog must be official i.e. vetted by the Trading Standards Institute. So whilst toothless in the interim it may morph into that in due course but the meantime is funded by subscriptions from 3,000 or so retailers who have signed-up to it. You can offer it as part of your Customer Care Charter which is one way to take pressure off your Customer complaints department. Especially if you run the notorious ‘No-help-whatsoever-desk’ at RyanAir which has an annoying habit of emailing an apology to your mobile and not accepting replies.

Although the new Retail Ombudsman may be a bit of a crock in terms of Consumer protection it’s a different thing if the Ombudsman is regulated e.g. for energy, financial advice, mortgages, insurance and savings. If you receive or want to make a complaint then go to http://www.ombudsmanassociation.org to see if there is a relevant ombudsman and if its findings are binding.

 

 

 

Meanwhile suitably-barmy advocates of ‘Workplace Wellness’ in the USA are hoping 2015 will be the year that ‘Standup Desks’ take off. These have been favoured by great minds such as Leonardo da Vinci and of course Michael O’Leary, the Chief Exec. of RyanAir. He once suggested RyanAir were considering ‘standing-only’ spaces on their flights and charging people to use the loo. Despite criticism from the Guild of Chairmakers, Joe Nafziger, the Californian inventor of Standup desks said “It’s definitely a worldwide thing that’s picking up speed”.

Advocates of ‘Workplace Wellness’ in the USA are hoping 2015 will be the year that ‘Standup Desks’ take off

Joe would love to hear your opinion of whether standing behind a stall all day in January is good for your health.

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