Bunhill: Come on, Nike, just sell it

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The Independent Online
FEELING distinctly down at heel just now will be Nike, the sportswear supplier famed for its "Just do it" catchline. So pervasive has this marketing proved that Tesco has just done it - bought up pounds 8m worth of stock and put it on sale at a massive discount to normal high-street prices.

Nike won't like this. It has spent a great deal of money building up a brand that confers "dangerous to know" street cred on its wearer, and you can't put cachet in a shopping bag. Last year Tesco did the same thing with Levi's, prompting the jeans maker to complain that a supermarket wasn't a "suitable environment" for its products.

This argument, of course, is about as practical as button flies. If manufacturers worry that the outlets where their products are sold affects people's perception of the brand, they might as well choose their customers - after all, put a logo on our clothes and we're all walking advertisements. To illustrate my case: I'm a rotund wig-wearing scribe, I powder my face and I'm named after a cemetery in the City. Hardly a would-be Eric Cantona then ... but I've got a pair of Nike trainers. So there!

There's also an element of trying to have your shoe and wear it in the manufacturers' argument because they're happy to flog off stock in bulk to wholesalers - with no questions asked about where they'll end up. This is the so-called "grey market": when the wholesalers order too much, the stores take the surplus off their hands.

Anyway, Nike should worry, because the only people who'll buy its stuff in Tesco are those who put value for money before image - in other words, a whole new market. Meanwhile, bunging a pounds 45 pair of trainers in with the oven cleaner and toilet brush just isn't the kind of thing bad boys do ... unless they're being pushed round in the trolley by their parents, that is.

AND LO it came to pass that the disciples said they had seen the future, and the future was downsizing and delayering, and God saw that it was so, and the disciples were delivered to the promised land.

God moves in mysterious ways, as we know, but they're not half as mysterious as management theory, so I suppose we must congratulate the Church for embracing the "Bible's got nothing on this" world of business-speak. People Management magazine reports that Bishop Grosseteste University College in Lincoln is offering a two-year MBA in church management.

Before you start wondering what Christianity has to do with "cost efficiencies", "rationalisations" and "boardroom coups", don't forget that religion was the inspiration for many modern business practices. For instance, who was it who invented Sunday opening, flexible working and multi-skilling? And as for "Just in time" management - Noah had that one licked a long time ago.

Pay now, die later

DEATH: I wouldn't recommend it on balance. Ten years ago you'd have been all right dead because in those days burial costs hadn't gone straight to hell. Now, though, Co-operative Retail Services (CRS) reports that dying will set you back twice as much - and that's a stiff rise.

The reason is that even death isn't immune to the economic laws of scarcity and demand. Apparently, while the public's appetite for pushing up daisies remains unquenched, few new burial plots are coming on the market and landowners are charging more to use sites where corpses already exist (if you see what I mean). The rise in land values is particularly marked in the South-east, CRS says, so if you live in London, die somewhere else.

To help us, CRS has launched a "funeral bond" whereby you pay for a future funeral at today's prices. Young and old, the company claims, have found that planning their own funeral "gives them a sense of control over their destiny" - though, ultimately, not that much control. But the philosophy is beautifully simple: pay now, die later. You know it makes sense.

LAST week I mentioned a new insurance policy from Stone Financial Risks designed to protect clients from the bank-breaking escapades of rogue traders. So it should be noted that Nick Leeson, the trader who inspired the policy, has clearly taken out his own cover - against being played in the film of the Barings affair by an ugly actor.

The insurers must have taken fright because they've fixed it that our man is to be played by Ewan McGregor, the Trainspotting star whose resemblance to Leeson is less than uncanny but very flattering. Less happy may be those on the Barings board at the time of the scandal; rumour says they are all to be played by Mr Bean.

By the way, I've taken out a similar policy, so our hero in the forthcoming blockbuster Bunhill: the Movie is Michelle Pfeiffer. The likeness is remarkable.