News-Farah and Bolt

So what did you think of the London Olympics?

What a hoot – I don’t know what Danny Boyle was smoking when he dreamt up the opening ceremony but the spectacle was amazing. Wacky and weird but amazing. The Industrial revolution, Olympic cauldron and Lightshow were fantastic and as for Mr Bean – enough said. It made you proud to be British and the Team GB results were the icing on the cake.

Team GB won 29 gold medals which placed us third in the official medal table behind only the USA (46 golds) and China (38 golds).

Just in case you need reminding Team GB won 29 gold medals which placed us third in the official medal table behind only the USA (46 golds) and China (38 golds). That’s a damn good hit rate for a country of only 62 million versus 314 million and 1,347 million respectively. Russian president Vladimir Putin didn’t look too happy at coming in fourth with only 24 golds for 143 million.

But as always it depends on how you look at the figures. There are ‘Lies, damned lies and statistics’ as Mark Twain said so it’s interesting to look beyond the Official Medal Table which is based on simply the number of gold medals won per country. Logic says that if your country has a big population then you’re going to field more good athletes and win more golds – but if you’re small and poor then you’re far less likely to do so. The Alternative Medal Table is much more interesting. It adjusts the official table to take into account the size of each country’s population and the size of it’s economy. If you use that then the real winners are Grenada and Jamaica. Grenada only won a single medal – Kirani James’ gold in the mens 400 metres – whilst Jamaica won 4 golds but Grenada only has 109,000 inhabitants and Jamaica 2.8 million. Both economies are also small so their results were outstanding.

Quite what this has got to do with the Markets industry I’m not sure but I just wanted an excuse to say how brilliant Mo Farah and Usain Bolt are and how Team GB is brilliant. It might have cost £9 billion to stage but the London Summer Olympics were worth it.

In their own way everyone seemed to be a winner, apart from the hoteliers who racked-up prices in anticipation and failed to fill their beds as a result. I suspect a lot of seats and beds remained empty because the BBC TV coverage was brilliant and people opted to avoid the Olympic traffic congestion – which never happened. Employers told staff to work from home and hotel prices fell to the point where you could pick up a decent B&B in the West End for under £100/night.

Despite the retail recession there are some unexpected winners. Aldi is definitely one.

Finding last-minute, cut-price bargains has become a national sport and something to boast about, just like that bargain you sniped on Ebay. But despite the retail recession there are some unexpected winners. Aldi is definitely one. The German-owned discount supermarket has announced plans to create 3,000 jobs in the UK by adding to it’s 400 stores and increasing staff numbers. 100 places will be created on a training programme for university graduates who will start on £40,000 p.a. plus car and can expect £63,000 in four years. But they’ll not get an easy life – Aldi are expert at multi-tasking to cut staff costs. Managers are expected to stack shelves, mop floors and run checkouts to reduce operating costs.

Aldi sales grew 25% in the second quarter despite grocery sales as a whole dipping by 2%.

The popularity of discount supermarkets such as Aldi has soared during this double-dip recession. Middle-class shoppers are ‘trading-down’ to Aldi and boasting about it at their dinner parties. Aldi sales grew 25% in the second quarter despite grocery sales as a whole dipping by 2%. From their first store in 1990 sales soared after the 2008 banking crisis as middle-class shoppers trimmed their shopping budgets. It slowed in 2010 when the ‘big four’ supermarkets fought back with own-brands but soared again when the second dip hit this year. Sales of ‘Tesco’s Finest’ and Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’ ranges has slowed for the first time since 2008 as household ditch even the expensive treats which previously replaced dining-out.

Profits are made in the buying which is where Aldi have excelled.

But as you know, any fool can sell something – you just cut the price until it shifts. Profits are made in the buying which is where Aldi have excelled. The Company was founded in the 1940’s by two brothers, Theo and Karl Albrecht who ran a family grocery shop in Essen. Theo’s speciality was cost control and from his obituary (he died in 2010) he seems to have been very good at it. He realised Shoppers were happy to do without packaging and endless choice if the price was low enough so they piled the stores with bare essentials – baked beans and loo rolls – in plain cardboard boxes. They inspired Albert Gubay to do the same with KwikSave in the 1960’s and use the same so-called ‘baby shark’ method of buying goods on 60-days credit before selling within 7 and using the interest on the cash flow to expand the business.

Despite being a billionaire Theo was a notorious skinflint. He was obsessed with privacy, he was rarely photographed and preferred wearing cheap suits. He was so nondescript that when kidnapped at gunpoint in 1971 his captors demanded he prove they had snatched the right man. They began by demanding an enormous ransom of 15 million deutschmarks for his release but Theo haggled and they reduced their demands to 7 million. After the ransom was paid he was released but only half the money was ever recovered.

Theo then took the tax authorities to court for not allowing him to claim the loss as a tax-deductible business expense.

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