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Discussion Starter #1
I know this question comes from a position of ignorance. For the last ten years - at least - we’ve wanted a ‘better deal’; cheaper flights, cars, comparing prices online to brag about getting ‘a great deal’.

In doing so, have we stripped the ‘fat’/profit from the system, in line with the thinking that profit is evil and bad, and God forbid anyone who wants to make a mark up. Not least when we can get it for ten quid less from Amazon.

But that frowned upon ‘fat’, if saved and used wisely, is also a buffer in times like these.

I know this is a bit broad brush, but could more businesses have survived - and more folks kept their jobs - in this scenario, if we were less hell-bent on gloating about getting so many things on ‘the cheap’, thus giving them a bit of ‘fat’ to dip into when the poop makes its way to the fan?
 

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Yes, it is now the case that maximising profit in all circumstances and scenarios is the one and only overriding goal.
Naturally resulting in a 'race to the bottom' on quality, safety, ethics etc.

Think Grenfell Tower fire as only one example.

I have heard business people express the idea that they could be considered negligent by investors if they failed to squeeze every last drop of profit from their company.
 

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It’s a curiously conflicted dynamic. Maximise profit, yet the consumer wants the service/product for close to nothing. Maybe it’s the consumer - not ‘big business’ - that’s being greedy.
 

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I do think there's increasing price consciousness, and that it pushes businesses closer to the margin. One element is the improved information available on the internet. Shopping around for a washing machine (for example) meant going to a few shops, hoping one had what you wanted, and guessing whether it was a good price. Now it takes ten minutes to find a dozen sellers and compare their prices. Why would you choose the most expensive?

Another factor, I think, is that standards of customer service have become ever higher. If you found a shop where the assistants knew the products, which could be trusted to deliver on time, and which would sort out any problems, then you'd cling to it. Now decent service is the norm, so price is the differentiator.

Transport has become cheaper over the centuries. Go back to the fifties and you'd have to buy British. Back to the eighteenth century, and your shoes would be made in your village. Now they come from Bangladesh and cost the square root of nearly nothing. You literally buy the cheapest in the world.

I'm an old leftie, but wouldn't knock businesses for making a profit. They need it to survive. I wish there were more mutual organisations (like John Lewis or the few remaining building societies). But they still need a profit, otherwise they're dead.
 

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It’s a curiously conflicted dynamic. Maximise profit, yet the consumer wants the service/product for close to nothing. Maybe it’s the consumer - not ‘big business’ - that’s being greedy.
It's a joint responsibility. The consumer can and should 'vote with her/his wallet' and consider ethics when making purchase decisions.
Businesses should be at pains to point out to consumers the ethical consequences of procurement based only on the cheapest deal available.
We need to educate ourselves, take responsibility for and be aware of the consequences of our actions.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I agree, Chris. ‘Something for nothing’ always backfires.
 

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I think it is undeniable that WE killed the high street, we starved it to death (although some of the retailers aided and abetted the crime with their incompetence and inflexibility: and government; local and national; have played a big part too).

But the truth is things do change. However painful the transition is for some in the short term; we could never save what has become outdated and no longer relevant for the long term. (I say this as an ex-steelworker who lives in an old coal-mining village).

Overwhelmingly we will use the systems and methods that are more; convenient, efficient and easy in preference to those that aren't. And for the most part, on-line traders have the advantage for now in that respect (as well as the maybe accidental unfair advantages in taxation, rents, rates etc they get too).

I suppose there could be a social effort to support the "heritage retailers" (maybe something akin to the "fair trade" initiative) but realistically we have become too rational and calculating for it to prevail on the larger scale over the longer term (imo).
 

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I saw a post on LinkedIn where somebody I know was saying how great the people like shop cashiers , truck drivers etc were in being unskilled but keeping things going. I remember when she was so proud to be on the team that came up with another new way to pay(pal) for a meal , without having to pay the waiter at the end of your meal, instead using an app. Her family have a big house with a new Discovery parked outside and she never gets her hands dirty.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I think it is undeniable that WE killed the high street, we starved it to death (although some of the retailers aided and abetted the crime with their incompetence and inflexibility: and government; local and national; have played a big part too).

But the truth is things do change. However painful the transition is for some in the short term; we could never save what has become outdated and no longer relevant for the long term. (I say this as an ex-steelworker who lives in an old coal-mining village).

Overwhelmingly we will use the systems and methods that are more; convenient, efficient and easy in preference to those that aren't. And for the most part, on-line traders have the advantage for now in that respect (as well as the maybe accidental unfair advantages in taxation, rents, rates etc they get too).

I suppose there could be a social effort to support the "heritage retailers" (maybe something akin to the "fair trade" initiative) but realistically we have become too rational and calculating for it to prevail on the larger scale over the longer term (imo).
those are all sound and valid points, bud. I was thinking of other industries that are operating on wafer-thin profit margins. Why are they so thin? For some, it’s just ‘the nature of the beast’, but are others operating on such slim margins just to respond to consumer thirst (greed?) for as much as they can get for as little as they’re prepared to pay? Let’s flip this round; if a boss said ‘I pay you £30k; now I want you to do the same work for £6k’ we’d all go ape. But that’s basically what we’ve been asking of others.

we’ve all done it. £20 for a flight to Spain? I’m packing my case!
 

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Monetary policy has been arse-about-face since probably the 2001 dot com bust, maybe longer. We've had artificially low interest rates, too much money & debt creation, too many liberties were given to financial institutions (at least up until 2008), the low interest rates led to an explosion of buying on the never-never and living it up, to the detriment of saving for a rainy day and investing in businesses which can produce. Thanks to super low interest rates and quantitative easing, businesses which by rights should have gone bust or been overhauled years ago have continued slowly on which has left us in the position we are in, where no-one has any ability to withstand a period of vastly reduced footfall. I fear that the government simply turning on the printing press and bailing out everyone will just kick the can further down the road and not fix the underlying problems in our economy. Its blatantly obvious to anyone with a mind for economics that with our current demographic trends, flatlining productivity & no real reform of our economy, the debt which is going to be racked up by this bail-out of everyone is never going to be repaid. The question is, will we default or will we have a bout of severe inflation to wipe away the debt, and everyone's savings with it?
 

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It is very much a chicken and egg scenario... is business meeting the demand or has supply created the demand? A little of both I think. But I do believe we will see a change once all this is over. People will remember the little corner shops and local businesses who went above and beyond to ensure they maintained supply for everyone and looked after their vulnerable customers just as they will remember the spivs and rip-off merchants who inflated prices and tried to profit from the crisis. They say you don’t know what you got til it’s gone. Maybe people will appreciate what they have rather than wanting more.

Being in a situation when you could die and realising your own mortality can certainly have an effect on people. It did with me... values and priorities change. I became less materialistic and valued quality time with friends, family and loved ones. I stopped worrying about the little things and stopped worrying about things I cannot change. I began to appreciate the simple things that I never noticed before like the birds singing at first light. Who knows, people might realise that there is more to a Friday and Saturday night than drinking as much as possible as quickly as possible.
 

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Scudetto said:

"I was thinking of other industries that are operating on wafer-thin profit margins. Why are they so thin? "

It varies by industry - of course - but globalisation of production means that competition from anywhere is possible, add that to consumer's unprecedented access to information of prices etc from everywhere, the World's playing field has truly been levelled. Meaning nowadays every manufacturer is in direct competition with every other manufacturer (anywhere in the world) for their bit of production. The winners are those that have advantages through: easier access to raw material, economies of scale, cheaper production, cheaper wage costs etc. Global transport costs have become so low that they no longer have much effect on final price.

Because we, as consumers, can find out what the best value version of what we want costs from anywhere, if companies are going to sell anything it has to be as cheap and good as their competitors or we don't buy.
 

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In theory, yes.
However a google search is not unbiased and it’s not a level field. For example, VW has created heycar to sell used cars. Heycar has bought Honest John (which was in receivership) and will potentially influence what appears to be an impartial source of information. Heycar itself is a response to the overly complicated world of Autotrader and able to attract people who find the choice overwhelming.
 

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Scudetto said:

"I was thinking of other industries that are operating on wafer-thin profit margins. Why are they so thin? "

It varies by industry - of course - but globalisation of production means that competition from anywhere is possible, add that to consumer's unprecedented access to information of prices etc from everywhere, the World's playing field has truly been levelled. Meaning nowadays every manufacturer is in direct competition with every other manufacturer (anywhere in the world) for their bit of production. The winners are those that have advantages through: easier access to raw material, economies of scale, cheaper production, cheaper wage costs etc. Global transport costs have become so low that they no longer have much effect on final price.

Because we, as consumers, can find out what the best value version of what we want costs from anywhere, if companies are going to sell anything it has to be as cheap and good as their competitors or we don't buy.
Your first paragraph is a model for Chinese imports. State sponsored business investment that would not be tolerated elsewhere, certainly in the EU countries. But back home, consumerism has driven prices down, consumerism and the growth in the throw away society. For example electric tools from B&Q etc are in general made down to a price, but never made to last. I, like each and every one of you here, buys stuff on Amazon. However the things I buy on Amazon you would need to spend a week searching out 'on foot'. If I want a suit, jumper, shoes etc I go to a shop.

Many businesses have been driven into a corner with on line shopping, where even your take away can be bought via an App, does the restaurant, still make the same margin selling via Deliveroo? No of course not, but Deliveroo is making a profit from peoples laze.

The infuriating fact about on line suppliers killing prices is that even if they are UK based, they can work with much lower overheads than traditional businesses. I just mentioned Deliveroo, I'm sure I saw recently they are building kitchens in factory units to supply the greed for fat arse lazy food, the price charged to the consumer I'm sure will be no where near what the high St resurant can compete with. I have seen it in my own business, printing, no people are still buying print. Moon Pig, very successful started out in a garage next to the owners house, minimal overhead. UK based large volume printers who's customers disappeared to the far east some years ago, now offer online print, joined by European based suppliers. Your job is 'ganged up' with other jobs so what you get back can be good, but maybe not, bad luck if you dont get it back on time or is poor quality. The individual file checking and quality checking we provide costs us money, but we guarantee a perfect job, if not we do it again, that eats into margin. On that I can tell you, on a fairly regular basis, we will get a call "My order from an online printer has not turned up, I need it urgently", or " My order froom an on line printer has turned up and its all wrong, can you help?" There is always the promise of more work if we do help them out, but to many years in the business tells me you would never see them again. So, we are always to busy to help these people out.
 

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In theory, yes.
However a google search is not unbiased and it’s not a level field. For example, VW has created heycar to sell used cars. Heycar has bought Honest John (which was in receivership) and will potentially influence what appears to be an impartial source of information. Heycar itself is a response to the overly complicated world of Autotrader and able to attract people who find the choice overwhelming.
Indeed, very biased, we've become increasingly aware of the ties between the Haymarket brands; What Car, Pistonheads and Autocar; and VAG, with the Haymarket Network subsidiary providing dealer networking and editorial content across the whole group, and a strange bias in their magazines to anything VAG as a result.

To a lesser extent we have Dennis Publishing that produce Evo, Carbuyer and Auto Express have a subsidiary, Dennis Digital, who provide in dealer video players and touch screens for numerous partners including Skoda.

It looks like Car and Parkers are the next ones to fall. Both are owned by Bauer Consumer Media, who also own numerous radio and TV stations that receive substantial advertising revenue from German auto firms. Recently, Bauer has signed a deal to provide editorial content and technology for none other than Mercedes Benz.
 

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Materialism is being relaunched as everything on a subscription model. Just use a car or even a piece of furniture and pay for the time you used it. Not a very good idea to share things at the moment though.
 

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Maybe, just maybe, there will be a long term shift away from materialism. The two current crises - climate change and coronavirus - will blow massive holes in the way everything is currently structured, including the inangible components such as our values.

We can't predict how the world will look in fifty years time but perhaps consumerism will be less fashionable, and perhaps the voices calling for international co-operation might be heard. Or perhaps there'll be an Apocalypse Soon. Dig me up and let me know.
 

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Indeed, very biased, we've become increasingly aware of the ties between the Haymarket brands; What Car, Pistonheads and Autocar; and VAG, with the Haymarket Network subsidiary providing dealer networking and editorial content across the whole group, and a strange bias in their magazines to anything VAG as a result.

To a lesser extent we have Dennis Publishing that produce Evo, Carbuyer and Auto Express have a subsidiary, Dennis Digital, who provide in dealer video players and touch screens for numerous partners including Skoda.

It looks like Car and Parkers are the next ones to fall. Both are owned by Bauer Consumer Media, who also own numerous radio and TV stations that receive substantial advertising revenue from German auto firms. Recently, Bauer has signed a deal to provide editorial content and technology for none other than Mercedes Benz.
One weekend a while back the ceo of VW was guest editor of the biggest selling Sunday publication which he duly used to promote their move to electric cars...
 

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Maybe, just maybe, there will be a long term shift away from materialism. The two current crises - climate change and coronavirus - will blow massive holes in the way everything is currently structured, including the inangible components such as our values.

We can't predict how the world will look in fifty years time but perhaps consumerism will be less fashionable, and perhaps the voices calling for international co-operation might be heard. Or perhaps there'll be an Apocalypse Soon. Dig me up and let me know.
We can only hope, but as demonstrated in another thread, people are very selfish, being less self centred, being more considerate is for others to do.
 

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Within the last 12 months we've bought a washing machine & a cooker. Both were bought, as were all our existing "white goods", from a local, family-owned high street retailer, a company we know & trust. The washing machine was a straight-forward "I'll have that" but for the cooker my wife was able to go to the shop, discuss her specific requirements with people who know their products & have a personal stake in the business, & order the model which best met her criteria.

Could we have got them a few quid cheaper from somewhere like Argos? Maybe, maybe not - we didn't bother looking. Bottom line is, do you want to buy from a retailer to whom you're just another customer or one to whom you're a valued repeat customer?
 
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