Merman's philosophy for the Nineties - small is beautiful


Sophie Merman got the business equivalent of a black eye when her 1980s creation, Sock Shop, went under, but her enthusiasm for her new business venture, Trotters, a children's wear retailer, is undimmed.

"New" is a slight exaggeration since she founded the company with her husband, Richard Ross, in 1990. Their first shop was in King's Road, Chelsea, and the second followed 18 months later on Kensington High Street. Now they are launching Trotters Direct - a lavishly illustrated catalogue offering designer kids' wear by mail order.

"We've had a fantastic number of enquiries, with requests for the catalogue from 81 countries," says Ms Merman. "We called in Fiorella Massey to make the catalogue attractive for children to look at, with lots of bright pictures and watercolours."

So can we look forward to a rapid expansion of the shop chain, followed by a float?

"No. I know you should never say never, but I've got three small children and I want it to remain a relatively small private company. More shops and you lose exclusivity." In what could serve as a warning to entrepreneurs starting out today, Ms Merman concludes: "Times have changed. Small is beautiful now. I want any pressures on me to come from myself, not from the City."

Good to see Totty in the news - Totty the Bradford-based construction company, that is, which formed part of a consortium which reversed into listed company Shorco this week.

David Bramwell, chief executive of Peterhouse Group, the company which led the reverse takeover, explains that there has been a Totty family business since 1864, and there was a member of the Totty family in the company as recently as 1989. "Since then the company's changed hands a number of times," says Mr Bramwell. "Despite the novelty factor of the name, the company is very well known from Newcastle to Leicester."

Take care you don't stand in front of Zeneca's headquarters in Stanhope Gate, Mayfair - you may get buried in the stampede of executives fleeing the building.

Yesterday Nick Bateman became the third suit at Zeneca to leave the drugs company in a fortnight. He follows John Mayo, Zeneca's finance director who defected to GEC two weeks ago, and Dr David U'Prichard, who jumped ship last week to join SmithKline Beecham.

Mr Bateman has joined drug database software provider Chemical Design Holdings as chief executive. Also joining the fast-growing company in Chipping Norton is John Lambert, a freelance healthcare consultant, who will be finance director.

Mr Bateman will have plenty of work to do. Chemical Design's share price has slipped this year from a high of 265p in February to close at 160p on Tuesday.

There's no one with a harder heart than a London club doorman, as Ted Graham, BT's chief spokesman, found out to his cost this week.

BT is about to move into posh new premises in Berkeley Square, Mayfair, just next door to swanky private club Mortons. Our Ted, mindful of the amount of good business he could steer Mortons' way, assumed he would be allowed into the club free, gratis and for nothing. Not so. Cough up pounds 375 or stay out, club staff informed him.

Philip Randall has been elected the new managing partner of the UK side of Arthur Andersen, following the elevation of his colleague, Jim Wadia, to the post of managing partner of the world-wide accountancy behemoth.

Mr Randall tells me it wasn't a terribly tight contest: "Mine was the only name on the ballot paper." It follows a period of in-fighting at the giant firm during which the accountancy side was unable to agree with the management consultants about who should lead the overall global firm. Mr Wadia just missed the top slot.

One of the things which will exercise Mr Randall in his new job is the impending 40th anniversary of the arrival of Arthur Andersen in the UK from the firm's native Chicago.

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