JEM Retail Consultants providing services in buying and merchandising, Programme Management, IT services and Logistics & Warehousing.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Flying High Between Contracts

While being a consultant gives me the opportunity to work with a variety of interesting people on exciting change programmes, gaps between contracts are an occupational hazard. Oscar Wilde said "a break from employment is not a holiday" and on this occasion I decided to do something more constructive with my break than play tennis and chase the next assignment.

Looking back on it now I was foolish not to have flown off to some exotic destination the moment my last contract ended, isn't hindsight a wonderful thing? Instead I have filled my time with various, mainly none paying, projects that have gradually grown to the point that I find myself "working" at something or other 7 days a week. So now my situation will move from working all the time whilst unemployed, to working in full time employment without ever having the holiday on an exotic beach in between!

So what am I busy with I hear you ask? Well I will tell you about one of those projects and if this blog gets enough hits to keep Mike happy and off my back for a couple of days, then I will write about another one.

Concorde was one of the most beautiful and iconic aircraft ever built. It was also one of the most exclusive with just 20 being made between 1966 and 1979 and only 14 of them ever entering commercial service with BA and Air France.

October 24th this year marks the 10th anniversary of the last commercial flight by Concorde when 3 flights landed at Heathrow within 5 minutes of each other to "cheers and tears" according to Joan Collins who was on the last of them arriving at 16:05. The last flight ever was on November 26th 2003 when Concorde was flown from Heathrow to its birth place at Filton Airfield near Bristol carrying 100 BA staff.

After more than 250,000 hours of flight time Concorde had come home.

But I am starting to sound like Wikipedia. The point of this is that a friend of mine has a source of Concorde memorabilia including some stunning fine art prints signed by Concorde pilots and stylishly framed with the unusual addition of an authenticated seat belt. As you can imagine these products have extremely limited availability making them very collectable and my friend wanted to market them to coincide with the forthcoming anniversaries. Unfortunately he didn't have the time, which is where I came in.

Going with a website was the obvious thing to do and Sara at Creative Remedy, who built the website for JEM Retail Consultants, was on hand to help. What was less straightforward was settling on a price point that will provide the required margin and return on investment but not put off the customer. As these are unique items there was really nothing to go on.

Then there was trying to estimate the demand. The exclusivity is a great selling point for the prospective buyer but could be a stock availability nightmare for us. There is no planning system here full of 2-years sales history. There is no tried and tested customer profile. The largest task of all is the search for the potential customer base and finding ways of drawing them onto the website.

I think even my trusted colleague Erica would forgive me for resorting to a spreadsheet if, in fact, that would even help. What will the take up be? Will 2 of us have the capacity to fulfil the orders? Will our supply chain be fast and robust enough to meet sales? Do we need to source more products? Other products? We discuss and debate all of these questions; we then stick our fingers in the air and grab numbers out of the sky. Hopefully that doesn't sound like your planning system. Or does it?

Kidding apart I am excited about the venture. The website will go live on Tuesday 24th September when I will send out a quick update to let you know the details and keep you informed of its progress, hopefully success and the performance of our planning and merchandising system!

Written by Jane Fransen-Hale: JEM Retail Consultants.

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