The Apprentice takes the biscuit

Is it just me who thinks that the latest batch of wannabes on The Apprentice is lousy? Despite the talent drain, I continue to enjoy my weekly dose of Lord Sugar. Last week the teams were tasked with creating a new biscuit and pitching to the major multiples.

I must remember to take the TV cameras with me the next time I go to see Tesco or Sainsbury’s, as it seemed to help secure an audience of at least three buyers and the setting of a large meeting room suite that I have never been invited to before. Based on my recent visits to the nation’s retail nerve centres, I count myself lucky to get anything more than a 20-minute slot with a maximum of one buyer, usually sitting in reception or their canteen.I do hope that the budding apprentices do not think their treatment is usual store policy.

In the final analysis, a biscuit with a chocolate star shape proved to be the kind of cutting-edge innovation that Asda was looking for. So much so that they placed a first order for 800,000 units.

By my calculations, that’s about 2,500 packs of biscuits for each of their supermarkets. I only wish that my sales team could land our new product development launches with such conviction.

Mind you, I do hope for the sake of those buyers that the Asda finance director was not watching the show, as he may not have been too impressed with all those hours and working capital tied up in just one brand of biscuits.

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Fortunately Asda’s stretchy payment terms should see them through that particular crunch. More likely Asda is planning one of its price ’rollbacks’ to such-and-such a date and the young apprentices shall quickly learn a painful life lesson about how pushing the sales line too hard can knacker your margin and trigger a cashflow crisis. Still Lord Sugar won’t be too worried about that. He is, after all, a career salesman who has never been afraid of a bit of hard-nosed trading.

Perhaps the champagne moment of the show was Lord Sugar reprimanding Big Irish Jim for daring to include television advertising in his launch support package (in addition to his Harry Potter sponsorship throw-the-kitchen-sink-at-it launch activity).

Big Jim may have wowed Asda but Lord Sugar was worried that he might not be able to afford the £20m-£30m minimum that he reckons it costs to advertise on TV these days. It looks like Lord Sugar hasn’t bought any TV spots recently.

If he has, I’d love to be his media buyer.

Read Lara O’Reilly on why brands should be fired up by Apprentice app task

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