Percentages appear to be the only currency in circulation

Our ‘man on the inside’ provides a view from the top of the marketing tree

This time last year, the retail sector appeared to be crumbling with multiple stories of business failures and collapses. As we begin a new decade, the results coming out of the high street seem to be a great deal better. If I am reading my newspapers correctly, it seems that almost all retailers have enjoyed a reasonably good Christmas – in fact, many are reporting their best ever festive trading figures.

I am pleasantly surprised by the consistent good news bulletins coming out of the high street, yet on the very same business pages I am reading about continued job losses and other less cheery statistics, not least the closure of more than 50 pubs per week in the UK.

As a marketer, I must admit to being confused by the conflicting statistics and what they mean for my own business. Do I like statistics?

robably. Well, I do take a passing interest as I think it is important for a marketing director to at least appear to be aware of macro-economic factors and to plan accordingly.

“Percentages appear to be the only currency in circulation.”

But statistics should, of course, come with a health warning and I can’t help but apply a healthy dose of scepticism to some of the numbers currently spinning out of the high street retail sector. Shops use like-for-like comparative sales figures and, without exception, they have understandably chosen to compare their results this Christmas with those of the previous year – which was the worst in living memory.

What would be really helpful is if we could hear how the most recent performances compared with those of two years ago. Are they up on these, back to similar levels or are they in some cases still considerably behind?

The more press coverage I read, the harder it becomes to decipher what is really going on. After all, if your business is anything like mine, you won’t tend to bank percentages, yet percentages appear to be the only currency in circulation.

We marketers need a regular economic bulletin. A state-of-the-nation dashboard of important and useful statistics that can keep marketing directors informed. Perhaps once a quarter, short and punchy, with killer facts and figures that we could trust, understand and shamelessly cut and paste into our Powerpoint presentations so as to not look so fluffy and uncommercial. Count me in.

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