Mike Vickers' Blog

March 18, 2011

Shopper Habits

Filed under: Linlithgow Business Association, West Lothian Coffee Morning — derryvickers @ 9:05 pm
We had an interesting discussion this morning at the West Lothian Coffee Morning on shoppers’ habits.

Despite encouragement from the public authorities, the customers are no longer making for the High Street.   Views put forward were that High Street shops are no longer attractive, there is no easy access or free parking, and there is no opportunity to inspect the goods before purchase.  More telling, shop keepers are too committed to make a sale that they are unfriendly to the customer; in contrast staff in supermarkets come over as much more friendly because they are not involved in the commercial success of the enterprise.

High Street shops are not open on Sundays; they loose out not only to supermarkets but also to retail parks.  Retail parks in particular meet the growing need for social shopping – ‘what shall we do today (Sunday) Oh lets go to the New Town retail park’; such parks have filled the vacuum left by not going to church.

Supermarkets and Retail Parks have only arisen because of the ubiquity of the motor car – customers shop for a week or longer and pile it all into the car boot.  Supermarkets and retail parks have been able to cash in on cheap ‘Out of Town’ land and have been able to take advantage of the fact that customers will do anything to avoid paying for parking.

But all this is changing; customers are increasingly buying on-line, already major book sellers such as Borders who were well represented in retail parks have been driven out of business by such as Amazon and Amazon have long expanded their offerings to all types of goods.  Supermarkets such as Tesco’s have recognised the danger and offer to buy on-line.  But the downside of on-line purchaese is that the customer cannot look and feel the goods before purchase.

So it could be that we have gone full circle where there is a High Street shopping opportunity for quality goods that the customer can view, touch and savour and not necessarily buy on first acquaintance.  But this requires that High Street shop keepers need to recognise that customer cultivation is everything with a friendly face, a coffee area, extended hours and Sunday opening and above all don’t force the goods down the customers throats.  The pubs do its so why not the High Street shops, shop keepers need to take a leaf out of the shops at ski resorts .

Thanks again to my colleagues at the West Lothain Coffee Morning for the thought provoking discussion.  Why not come and join us every Friday from 8am at O’Briens, The Wintergarden, The Centre, Livingston.

March 11, 2011

Reform of Scotland’s Universities – a SPIF Forum

Filed under: DHI SPIF, Education — derryvickers @ 9:42 pm

I attended a SPIF (Scottish Policy Innovation Forum) forum for the reform of Scotland’s universities, chaired by Jim Gallagher with speakers Prof Seamus McDaid of the West of Scotland University, Jeremy Peat of the David Hume Institute and Liam Burns, President of NUS Scotland.

All agreed that Universities are the key asset of Scotland.  Graduates are part of our social as well as our economic capital.

So why is the % GDP that Scotland invests only 1% while England is 1.3%, the OECD average is 1.5%, China and India 2% and the US 2.9%

The deficit in funding to Universities will be £142 this coming year and obviously Student fees came up.  Note that only the Tories said that they considered it necessary to impose a graduate contribution in Scotland but all speakers were sceptical that once the election was over that the other parties would continue to hold the no fees line.  Liam Burns welcomed Scotland’s position on no graduate contribution but considered that whatever the situation it was better to consider a package of student support. 

Seamus McDaid and others felt that too little attention is being given to part time students who could go through HNC, HND and then on to university as one means of reducing the cost of student support – a University Apprenticeship model

Seamus also considered the transition from school to university needs smoothing.  This lead to a consideration of whether students completing a 6th year at school might not go straight into the 2nd year at university. 

If by not charging it is important that Scottish Universities don’t get classed as 2nd class and it is important that students continue to come from South of the Border and from outside the EU.

Speakers from the floor raised the question of directed / sponsored research in the 4th year and this got some welcome.  John Francis of the UNESCO Scotland recalled that he did two years learning and two years working on industry based projects. 

It was take as a given that universities will always have research as part of their remit.

Jeremy Peat was more concerned with introducing efficiencies through, for example, shared back office processes and outsourcing canteen arrangements – he felt it was quite anonymous that outsourcing is subject to 20% VAT while doing the job internally avoided this cost.

Paul Spicker of Robert Gordon’s and Richard Kerley of Queen Margaret’s felt that we are only tinkering at the edges, a much more fundamental look at the role of universities  is necessary – the universities are still back in the middle ages; however neither came up with much in the way of fundamental reform except perhaps the need to carter more fully for ‘life long learning.  More generally it was felt by a number of members from the floor that universities need to think again on why they exist and make their objectives more transparent.

Jim Gallagher in summing up felt that universities were in crisis which would emerge once the election was over yet the universities are a top quality national asset.  ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’.  There needs to be a short term and a long term solution.  The short-term is the funding, the long term is creating democratic intellect (no I don’t know what this means).  Universities need to become more egalitarian.  He suggested there are more valuable ways of filling the funding gap than removing bus passes.

An  important kick-off to reforming the Universities in Scotland.  The only pity was that there could have been a lot more attendees and it would have been good to see a few MSPs.

March 9, 2011

Imitation is the sincerest form of Flattery

Filed under: The Virtual Coffee Shop — derryvickers @ 12:26 pm

The Virtual Cafe got there first

Alternatively why not join the Leaders & Thinkers Gang on Linked-In at the Virtual Coffee Shop – Whats not happening at Starbucks.  The coffee is always steaming hot, its free, the company is sharming and the conversation is exhilarating.

March 6, 2011

The Virtual Coffee Shop

Filed under: The Virtual Coffee Shop — derryvickers @ 9:09 am


The Virtual Cafe - my friends in Leaders & Thinkers

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