Black Friday

As featured on the Oddbins Blog:

Before we get accused of cheap anti-Americanism, may we begin by saying that we are big fans of American imports. It goes without saying that we love American wine, and we obviously finished all series of The Sopranos/Mad Men and The Wire before they went mainstream at the water cooler, because we’re just totally cool and zeitgeisty like that.

However, there is one US import that we have watched increasing in popularity in the UK with growing trepidation: Black Friday. This mega discount-fest (held on the Friday after Thanksgiving) has been running in America since before the Second World War, but has only really made its mark on the UK shopping calendar in the last few years. Since then, it has raged out of control to the extent that some industry experts expect internet sales to surpass £1bn on Black Friday this year, making it the biggest shopping day of the year.

Now, we are a retailer. We sell things, and we are as fond of a spot of rampant consumerism as much as the next capitalist. But we can no longer sit back and ignore the fact that the increasing power of Black Friday is having a terrible impact on customers and retailers alike.

Rush

To start with, it’s dangerous. In the US, there are countless examples of customers and employees being injured and even dying in pursuit of a so-called bargain. There’s even a website dedicated to detailing its cost on human life and wellbeing: blackfridaydeathcount.com. One woman was arrested outside of a Toys ‘R’ Us store after pushing in the queue then threatening to shoot other shoppers who complained. Let’s imagine THAT moving scene on Christmas morning: “Mommy got you the VTech Toot Drivers Super RC Raceway you wanted, Chuck, but she had to threaten some other naughty shoppers with a handgun to get it. MER-RY CHRISTMAS!” Admittedly things are not as bad in the UK yet, but the mad scenes of violence across the country last year are a harbinger of disaster if retailers continue with this insane one-upmanship.

Discount Poster

The next problem comes with the ‘discounts’ offered. Yes, there are undoubtedly some genuine savings out there, but in such limited supply that they are impossible to find, and lead to the scenes of mayhem and aggro above. But so many retailers just go down the age-old, shonky route of inflating their prices to improve the perceived discount: that electric banana peeler was never £50 and it still isn’t worth the £10 they are trying to charge for it now. At Oddbins, we are always banging on about the subterfuge of high-low discounting and the importance of keeping prices stable and Black Friday has become a monstrous illustration of the art of artificial discounts.

Black Friday PosterIt could be argued that Black Friday is good for economic growth, but that doesn’t add up. In the UK last year, a study showed that Black Friday failed to increase profits or sales over the entire Christmas shopping period. Instead, it has concentrated the eight-week Christmas shopping period into one day, while severely dampening spending before and after. This puts massive pressure on the retail infrastructure with websites crashing, warehouses thrown into disarray and shops filled with panicking hordes. This translates into a much, much poorer shopping experience for customers, unless you really enjoy being put in a headlock by a sweaty lunatic who wants the last electric banana peeler in stock.

So, in the spirit of peace and goodwill to all, we challenge all other UK retailers to join us by refusing to engage with this nonsense: it is a race to the bottom which benefits no-one. So, let’s reject Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Sofa Sunday, Gray Thursday and avoid why-have-I-spent-a-month’s-wages-on-this-useless-crap-Wednesday, or, at least, summon our national pride and agree an amnesty until the traditional British day when retailers are permitted to ruin Christmas by promoting massive sales: Boxing Day.

How Low Can You Go?

As featured on the Oddbins Blog:

“How low can you go?” sang Chubby Checker all the way back in 1962, popularising the Limbo all around the globe.

‘Thanks, Chubby!’ you very might well say. ‘Now my little weekend away on a cruise ship has just turned into another kink to take to the chiro on Monday.’

chubby_checker-limbo_party-front

Big chains have been doing the limbo for years, though, trying to shamelessly cash in as much as Chubby did in ’63 with the forgettable Let’s Limbo Some More.

The Limbo certainly looks like fun but – as the now-septuagenarian Checker can probably attest – not for everyone. And in the wine trade, it’s the winemakers whose backs break under the strains of ever plummeting costs.

To demonstrate, it’s Maths time! (Sorry, Chubby, not Pony Time, we’re afraid).

If you take a £5 bottle of wine, for example, you’re left with roughly 47p for the winemaker after you deduct tax and all the other pesky costs like bottling and transportation. But a £10 bottle of wine, on the other hand? Roughly £2.87 (or six times more) for the winemaker. That means they can purchase higher quality grapes, hire more staff, update their machinery, and yada, yada, yada – it means they can stay in business and provide customers with an even better product.

Some of the biggest wine producers might be able to swallow the deduction but the little guys? Not a chance. Slashing prices just makes the wine market monopolised and monochromatic when it should thrive from variety and ingenuity.

Beyond that, however, it’s a simple matter of honesty and fairness. Unlike Chubby’s psychedelic flop Chequered, we won’t lead you astray like the retailers who hike their prices sky high just to pretend a discount’s bigger when they put it on ‘half price’. Instead, Oddbins’ pricing model is consistent so you can trust that you’re never being tricked, and never paying anything but the actual price.

And unlike the controversial *ahem* ‘measuring’ app ‘Chubby Checker’– we don’t believe that size is all that matters; we relish working with smaller wine producers. Rather than tying up all our investments in volumes of standard promotional stock which all tastes the same, we hunt for new and exciting parcels from a vast array of companies so an even wider world of choice can be provided to our customers.

Ultimately, we want you to love wine. We want you to taste and experiment and broaden your palate with the gems our buyers are constantly on the look out for. If you come into the store and are excited by our dynamic range – focused on the label, not the price tag – then we’ve done our job well.

Apologies, Chubby, but at Oddbins we don’t like our customers to ever be in limbo; we set the bar high, not low.

A Celebrity Fox Auction? WTF?

As featured on the Oddbins Blog

You may have seen the Oddbins’ furry mascots popping up in shop windows – and, though they may not have Annie’s signature freckles, we reckon they’ve got the little orphan beat for red hair and cuteness.

Charity Blog - Fox in Window

Granted, it hasn’t been much of a hard knock life for them – unless you consider wine tastings and photo-shoots a rough deal, that is. That said, although our friendly staff are far more like Miss Hannigan-at-curtain-close than Miss Hannigan-at-curtain-open, perhaps our stores weren’t the most kid-friendly of environments for our wards – what with all that booze about, and the obscene number of #WhatTheFox’s that have been thrown around lately.

Regardless, it warms our hearts that five of our furry friends have been adopted by benefactors as generous as billionaire Mr Warbucks himself.

Who are these mysterious philanthropists, you may be asking? Well, they’re not so mysterious; in fact, they’re five of the most recognisable faces, voices, cover drives and penalty saves on Britain’s televisions, airwaves and sporting fields – both past and present.

For Twitter

Move aside Annie, Mr Warbucks and Miss Hannigan – it’s now time for Sir Ian Botham, Olivia Colman, Bob Wilson,Greta Scacchi and Henry Blofeld to enter centre stage and take their bows! For each will be putting their fox up for an auction on eBay with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity of their choosing.

The winners will win the fox, of course, but that’s not all. As a bit of an encore, if you will, each celebrity will be hosting a lunch with the highest bidder, which will include a wine tasting by our Head Buyer, Ana, and feature some of the very wines our foxes have been rapt about since coming on board.

So get bidding! You can bet your bottom dollar that the auctions will be running throughout today, Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and the rest of the week.

2014 university fee deregulation in review

Published in Hijacked on December 15 2014.

Hurrah, the parliamentary year has come to a close. But for those of you who switched off months ago in disgust or, much more likely, apathetic ambivalence, what are the main things you need to know about the year 2014 in Aussie politics?

2014 picked up where it left off and ended in a place all too familiar for anyone who tuned in to previous instalments of the farcical sitcom that our federal politics has become. A government unable to win public support or votes in the senate for key pillars of its policy platform, and a besieged Prime Minister slipping in the polls as leadership speculation begins on cue.

Meanwhile we said goodbye to a carbon tax and hello to a tough love budget that still refuses to completely go away. A senator of the rogue PUP decided to go rogue herself and proclaim independence, and debt was the buzzword of the year. But how exactly did students fare?

Fee deregulation’ are the two words that come to mind, and even if you lived under a rock, or had engineering contact hours, say, you would’ve heard of it. Whether you were hassled by the Socialist Alternative, stampeded by the student marches that swept the country in May, or even just turned on Q&A at the wrong moment, it was a topic that couldn’t be avoided.

The reforms threatened to remove the cap on tuition fees and allow the market forces of supply and demand to dictate what a student pays for their higher education. Fees could double, triple, and a degree could even hit six figures.

But while students labelled the proposals catastrophic, ultimately the debate was divided; removing the shackles to promote innovation within a stunted university sector, or simply a death sentence to fair and equal access to an education. Either side could point at the US for back-up, citing colossal student debt on one hand, or the world class quality of Ivy League schools on the other.

But regardless, Clive Palmer saved the day or played the villain, waking up one morning, shaking his magic eight ball, and deciding that perhaps this fee deregulation thing wasn’t too great, and another opportunity to stick it to Lord Tone was far too good to turn up. The changes were eventually voted down by the senate 33-31.

Like a turd that refuses to be flushed, however, old mate Pyne has promised a Round Two, but how he will ensure the sequel is a 22 Jump Street and not a Horrible Bosses 2 remains to be seen. What is known for sure though is a lot more than texting, chocolates, and red roses will be needed to bring Glenn Lazarus and other crossbenchers to the table next year.

Most likely some other changes will have to be dropped from the package to make the reforms more palatable, including the increase of the HECS repayment interest by coupling it to the 10 year government bond rate or cuts to funding. Otherwise Pyne will have to offer reluctant crossbenchers much more bang for their buck than carrots like the eleventh hour $400m Tasmanian higher education package.

Nevertheless, university students certainly found their voice this year, from forcing Abbott to cancel a visit to Deakin University to bringing the Melbourne CBD to a standstill. And although the extent to which the protests influenced Capitol Hill is debatable, Pyne is in for another grubbing if Round Two commences as promised.