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Shouting Too Loud

Stephen White
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I’m sitting in a Starbucks at an airport, and on the wall opposite me is a sign proudly announcing “99% of our coffee is ethically sourced”.  I should be proud of them. Haven’t they done well to help protect the environment and make sure that coffee growers get fair trade prices? But instead, my immediate thought is “what happened to the other 1%? Is that unethically sourced? Why? Couldn’t they have tried just a bit harder and eliminated unethical sourcing altogether?”

This on the day it was revealed that after the stonking publicity success of the pre-Christmas advertising campaign by Iceland Foods pointing out the ecological dangers of palm oil farming it has been revealed that they continue to sell 28 own-brand products and 600 branded products which contain palm oil. Iceland Foods point out their own-brand offenders are products manufactured some considerable time ago which are still on sale. So that’s all right then.

Basking in the sun shining on the moral high ground has its dangers. The First Direct ‘Apology’ advert, in which a smug employee apologizes to his competitors for winning a Best Bank award did not make me feel well disposed to them, but rather left me wondering how long it would be before schadenfreude kicks in and First Direct get their noses rubbed in it by one of those self-same competitors who win the award next year.

Publicity is a dangerous thing. The old saw that there is no such thing as bad publicity is bonkers. Try telling it to the ex-employees of Patisserie Valerie, now in administration after news of a £40m hole in their accounts was publicized. And I also suspect the publicity that their accountants Grant Thornton are likely to get will do them no good at all either.

So, when I read that Mike Ashley of Sports Direct is in serious talks (aka negotiations) to acquire the stricken HMV empire I did not think “Mike Ashley to the rescue of the British High Street”. Instead, I could only think that he is intent on creating a monopoly and that does not bode well.  We shall see.

Stephen White
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