Writing this is, admittedly, a bit of self-indulgent therapy for me after the toughest 12 months I can remember since I started Richer Sounds in 1978.
Last April my colleague-owners felt the business needed my supposed knowledge / expertise and, combined with the serious problems in the economy, gave me a call to lend them a hand. After a sustained period of extremely hard work and long hours from all of us, I am pleased to say that the business is in better shape than ever, with a team that I hope will continue to build and prepare us for years to come… an important consideration seeing as my mortality is a given.
So that’s good news for us and, hopefully, for you, our dear customers, to know that Richer Sounds will keep going strong, but the economy is another thing… Adam Smith rightly said all those years ago that you cannot have a happy society if the greater part is poor and miserable… so where did it all go wrong?! The very rich are getting richer, some deservedly but many less so, with everything from Porsche cars, Hermes ties and private jets ‘flying off the shelves’… with a huge gap until we see only Greggs, Primark and charity shops booming on the high street, along with record sales of baked beans (I am simplifying a bit here). But, as citizens, we are experiencing the greatest inequality in our lifetime, which makes me very concerned. Surely we all care about the many, many people struggling?
In my opinion, for what it’s worth, and many of you may well suggest I should stick to selling stereos, we must first urgently plug the tax gap to stop the enormous amount of unpaid tax leaking out of the system to ensure that everyone pays their fair share and which HM Treasury could definitely do with.
I really am non-party-political (even though Nick Ferrari loves publicly teasing me about my long-distant-past donations to the Tory party). I am just hoping that whoever runs the country has integrity, is good at balancing the books and has a genuine social conscience - someone who acknowledges the unfairness of growing inequality as well as the danger this poses to social cohesion and happiness.
I would also love our leader/s to please sort the disgraceful state of housing for far too many non-homeowners, as well as the NHS’s and the criminal justice system’s problems while they are at it… And when I say ’sort’ I obviously mean ‘invest as necessary’, including paying the real living wage as a minimum to allow working people to live decently, and banning evil zero-hour contracts when imposed on workers against their will. And don’t get me started on the water monopolies…
Anyway… sorry to rant, apologies, I get carried away… I can hear our marketing team shouting in my ear to ‘get on with it!’ I wanted to mention just a few things, whilst writing, about our VIP Club benefits (which, as you all know, are available free of charge to all who are willing to let us send them these emails). We had this great idea recently that if we wanted customers to visit our stores, we should try to entice them down (who knew?). So we now have many prices cheaper in-store (and some very expensive free soundbars with tellies) than we do online, for our club members. And our range of ‘inflation-busting megadeals’, that we sell at close to cost price or even at a loss, to help those having a tough time, goes from strength to strength.
In the meantime, we will keep our chin up attempting to deal with rampant rising costs and doing our best to advise and help our long-suffering customers afford the very best electronics they can with their hard-earned cash. And as for customers who are less financially constrained and are considering a home install, we absolutely love you too... and have an amazing custom installation team on hand who can help with all manner of projects, from the design and build of custom home cinemas to kitting out anything from boardrooms to submarines (we really have done several).
To our great relief we are managing to keep our heads above water, but it has taken every tool in the toolbox to keep us there, not least the efforts of the wonderful team I am lucky to work with. And thank God we own our freeholds and have no debt.
Finally, I would like to thank the consumer organisation Which?, who voted us the UK’s best retailer, for the fifth year running last month, and, most importantly, I’d like to thank you for your much appreciated loyalty and support which we will never take for granted.