Business analysis: 'Flexibility and opportunism will be key attributes in the times ahead'

These are strange economic times. On the one hand, the Government and most commentators are full of gloom. On the other, well, people might not be quite so ready to part with their cash as they were in the heady carefree days of a few years ago, but supermarket and some department store groups seem to be surviving the downturn in a lot better shape than most people expected. Even John Lewis, owner of the decidedly upmarket Waitrose, posted a near-10 per cent increase in profits for the most recent period and handed out hefty bonuses to its “partners”.

Perhaps even more surprising, customers were apparently queuing up to get into the new Louis Vuitton store in London’s West End before it opened, while the UK launch of the iPad saw Apple gain its usual devoted crowds.

Perhaps all this is not so strange. These businesses are doing something that gains attention. John Lewis attributes much of the success of Waitrose, Britain’s fast-growing supermarket chain, to the launch of its “Essential” range that offers Waitrose quality at a more affordable price. Louis Vuitton is seeking to turn its premises into a “destination” rather than just a shop by exhibiting works of art and making the premises “a place to be seen”, while Apple, of course, has gained iconic status as a bastion of cool, with any new product gaining more than its fair share of attention. Considering the iPad could be the start of a new direction in high-tech devices, the excitement starts to make sense.

There is a lesson to all this. These are all sizeable, well-established businesses, but they all – by reason of attitude, culture or industry – think and act more entrepreneurially than some of their rivals. That has got to be the way to not just survive but to prosper in the current |economic environment.

This is also the approach being taken by Dominique Busso, who launched an online magazine dedicated to information technology in the face of intense scepticism. Busso has been involved in several IT publishing ventures in the past, and worked with fellow managers at the publishing house VNU to buy out the management of various online businesses in 2007. Now grouped together in NetMediaEurope, they claim to form the leading set of business-to-business niche websites aimed at IT professionals in European countries. It’s too early to tell whether it will be a lasting success, but in a little over a year the main vehicle – eWEEK, which targets specialists in Europe’s leading IT markets of the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – has grown to 50 staff, half of whom are journalists.

Busso is not expanding for the sake of it, though. While acknowledging that people and services can be acquired more easily and cheaply in a recession, he is highly pragmatic. For example, by teaming up with Ziff Davis Enterprise, product reviews can be shared with the associated US website. The familiar technical publishing brand Ziff Davis also gives his venture added credibility. Not all of the material on the US will work in Europe – hence the need for his venture. “Europe is a niche market, but it also has niches [of its own],” he explains, pointing out the site employs local editors to ensure material is relevant for particular audiences.

Such flexibility and opportunism look like being key attributes in the tough times ahead. While there is no reason larger companies cannot display such facets, experience suggests it should be nimbler, more enterprising organisations leading the way.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Sport
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Sport
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

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

The benefits of Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

Finance Assistant - Part time - 9 month FTC

£20000 - £23250 Per Annum pro rata: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pro rata ...

Marketing Manager

£40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes