Simon English: Argos catalogue will one day be history as nice guy Duddy sees the future

 

As a comedian, Michael McIntyre sucks. But perhaps he'd make a half-decent retail analyst.One of his rare good jokes: "Argos is the store that said 'all shops should be like us' and all the other shops said 'no'."

That's about right.

Argos was always an oddity – a place where you couldn't see what you were buying, but were supposedly entranced by its shiny, laminated catalogue pages and the nubby pencils. It worked for a long while, before some twerp invented the internet and ruined everyone's life.

You can't see what you are buying on the internet either, but you don't have to leave the house to make a purchase, which an irritating number of people seem to like.

Yesterday Terry Duddy, the chief executive of Argos' parent group Home Retail, finally admitted that an overhaul was needed.

He's embraced the internet. Visiting Argos in future will be an "experience" (it already was).

So he'll shut a bunch of stores he should have binned years ago and hint that the catalogue is one day going to be history (it's a matter of time, plainly).

Mr Duddy is a nice guy, one of those chief executives that can take a joke at his own expense and give the same back.

So he won't mind you noting that Next, perhaps the best-run retailer in Britain, did similar things long ago. The Next Directory still exists, but its customers are online, mostly.

This internet thing may have a bright future. Argos needs to catch up awfully quickly for hope of the same.

The numbers won't add up – but it doesn't matter

Exciting news due: the UK is out of recession! Probably. That's what the latest GDP numbers are expected to show this morning, though the predictors (City economists) have a track record that does not entirely inspire confidence.

The figures, whatever they are, will attract much attention. The point to keep in mind here is this: they are probably wrong, and they don't matter anyway.

If they are good, that's just because there's an artificial bounce from the Jubilee and the Olympic Games. If the numbers are bad, that's because the authorities can't really properly measure what they are claiming to measure. They'll be revising them for years to come.

Our obsession with these figures may be understandable, but that's not the same as being rational.

Only China produces GDP numbers quicker than Britain does. No one believes China's figures.

When you're in a hole, stop borrowing

What's the correct level of debt for individuals to carry?

I ask it because no one else does. We have a debate about the "correct" levels of taxation, the correct levels of wine consumption, and the correct levels of cholesterol.

Debt we tend to discuss only in terms of how much we can borrow. Are those mean banks lending properly, or are they hoarding it for themselves?

When it comes to buying houses, it remains the case that folk with an apparently steady income are allowed to borrow absurd amounts of money on the assumption that their income will never go down and that the value of the house will only increase. Both assumptions are as deeply questionable as they have ever been.

Yet the talk from government is about how to get banks lending more. The Bank of England's Funding for Lending scheme is aimed at getting banks to lend more and more often to firms and individuals. The ratio of debt to personal income is already high. How would we get out of our present mire by getting people to borrow more?

Dyson's vision was a clear-sighted call

Ian Dyson called it right and early. The former finance director of Marks & Spencer rocked up at Punch Taverns a while ago with a vision. Inside this struggling concern were actually two businesses, he decided, one with an obvious future and one that may need some tough love, may need setting free and left to sink or swim on its own.

So the Spirit arm of quality pubs run by the company was split off and floated separately, and now seems to be thriving under new management.

The bulk of the old Punch Taverns, burdened with massive debts and run by individual landlords of variable ability, was also spun off and told to shape up. It had some assets of clear value, but it needed to reinvent itself, said Mr Dyson.

Yesterday, chief executive Roger Whiteside said that his £2bn of debts need to be "restructured" again, but thinks that there is hope yet. In the meantime, everyone who works for both businesses is much happier to at least have a discernible direction of travel.

Mr Dyson lost his job as a result of the shake-up he engineered. However, there must surely be many other companies where his obvious business skills would be better appreciated.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world