My Column

Tis season to be jolly well angry

  • Date: Monday 16th December 2019
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It’s easy to get swept up in the magic of the season, but it can prove a risky time of year for businesses looking to capture a touch of that magic.


Led by Edinburgh’s annual Christmas markets, who brought in a reported £113 million towards the country’s economy back in 2017, we’ve seen more interest in seasonal events popping up across the nation and it’s easy to see why.

However, for every success story, there’s also the potential for a festive flop which fails to capture an audience and this can provide a valuable lesson for companies looking to be creative at Christmas.


Over the past week, Scotland’s event experts itison have learnt this lesson all too well with the launch of Elfingrove, the latest in their Glasgow-based events which so far this year have been a beacon for the city’s tourism trade.


Following the success of GlasGLOW back in October, itison set aside £1 million to transform Glasgow’s much-loved Kelvingrove Art Gallery into a spellbinding after-hours experience, with the intention of bringing the museum to life.


With their initial announcement months ago, the hype machine was cranked up to eleven and over 100,000 tickets were snatched up by excited families looking for a fresh and imaginative new Yuletide tradition in a single morning. The sheer demand resulted in the event’s website crashing, which itison CEO Oli Norman was rightly quick to compare as ‘on par with some of the biggest stadium gigs in the UK.’

Skip ahead to launch weekend last week and the Christmas cheer quickly turn to jeers as an underwhelming response from revellers triggered a Grinch-like backlash on social media with visitors even drawing comparisons to the infamous disaster of the Netflix-documented Fyre Festival.


With an estimated 170,000 tickets priced at up to £18.50 sold,  itison’s ‘world class Christmas production’ was slammed for ‘completely misleading’ ticket buyers with dancing Brussels sprouts, Rudolph skeletons and a twilight tour around a museum which is free to enter during the day.


The uproar from customers has been heard far and wide, even triggering an assessment into complaints by the Advertising Standards Authority.  This response, fuelled by the rule out of any refunds to speak of, has seen itison state they would ‘listen and evolve’ by tweaking the event to reach the quality promised by the pre-hype they had generated.


Negatives aside, over £3 million in ticket sales has seen the event been an undoubted financial success and a continued proving ground for itison’s clout in the Scottish events game.


But more importantly, it’s been a dissected example of how sometimes getting wrapped up in the spirit of things can sometimes be an idea’s undoing.  Hype can be an incredible gift both for reputation and financially, but the proof is in the pudding if the planning simply isn’t up to scratch.


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Christmas can make or break a retail firm, what with it being one of the most important times of the year financially, which is why it’s so tragic to hear of the troubles at Ted Baker.


Since it opened its very first store in Glasgow back in 1988, the brand has been a fixture of the high streets across the UK, expanding to an impressive 201 outlets across the UK, making its current uncertainty all the more worrying.


The latest bump in the road for the company comes as both the Chairman and Chief Executive have quit following a £25 million inventory blunder.


The firm has announced that lawyers have been called in to review how the firm has overestimated the value of stock by such a huge deficit, which frankly, beggars belief.


This shock also comes after worse-than-expected trading in November and poor Black Friday sales – which normally would have little effect on the brand.


In easily-comparable terms, last year the company made pre-tax profits of £50 million, whilst this year they are expected to see profits of only £5 to £10 million. Anyone can see this is a huge loss and only the tip of the iceberg.


All of this just goes to show that no matter how large the company or how long they have operated, no brand is too big to fail.


Having two senior figures leave the company is less than ideal too, which makes me think that someone has to be held accountable for the downfall.


It might not just be the one reason for its problems, but it highlights just how important accountability is for firms whether they are small start-ups or multi-million pound household names.

Once an established retailer, a series of setbacks such as this cant fail to a huge effect on the unstable brand’s employees, profits and sales.


These resignations are not the only change of management. You will remember when the founder was forced out of the business after being accused of harassment and ‘forced hugs.’

Arguably this could have been the beginning of the end for Ted Baker.


Decisions have been made to bring in consultants to review the company’s business model and its operations in an urgent bid to save the company. It’s never a pleasant experience for anyone involved and I have nothing by empathy for those affected. It’s something I have seen first-hand many times before and will again, no doubt, especially as our current climate of economic uncertainty is showing no signs of settling down any time soon.


Personally, I may not be their target demographic or shop in its stores, but I would be sad to see this brand go under. The last thing our struggling high street needs is the failure of another retailer.



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Particularly since the rise of social media, we seem to live in a world of complainers these days, so I had a smile on my face when I heard about the couple praising their trusty old boiler.


Graham and Dorothy Braddick have only just had to purchase a new one after their first boiler packed in after an incredible 48 years of service.


Having purchased it in 1971 at the then-going rate of £200, the couple are understandably devastated that they’ve had to replace it.


It just goes to show that things really were made to last back then, which is more than we can say nowadays, especially when we live in a culture where we purchase new before even attempting to repair whatever has broken.


The poor couple have had to spend a whopping £2,500 on a new boiler system – more than 12 times the price of their original - and will it last even half as long? Only time will tell but I wouldn’t hold my breath.


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In these difficult times, it’s always good news when there’s a new shop or restaurant opening, so I was delighted to hear Sugo Pasta launched in Glasgow earlier this month.


Created by the team behind the popular Paesano restaurants, it looked to being a popular and welcome addition to Glasgow’s food scene, however there seems to have been a little social media mishap of late which has left a bad taste in some customers’ mouths.


The new eatery took to social media to blast a Manchester restaurant with the same name after confused customers had bought vouchers from the English firm.


Apparently Sugo Pasta (Glasgow) trademarked the name in 2017 but the Manchester restaurant actually opened two years earlier, so surely they got there first? Regardless, taking care of public image is something I always stress that new businesses pay special attention to, especially in the early days when it really counts.


Sugo Pasta have shot themselves in the foot here, with the result being no small amount of embarrassing online comments for the Glasgow restaurant. My advice would be to get a new social media manager and quickly.


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