The Third Leader: Once upon a time

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The Independent Online

Business is a funny old business, isn't it? Some of us are old enough to remember when Marks & Spencer was a successful company. Year upon year, period upon period, splendid result followed splendid result, and story followed story marvelling at its success. And now? Exactly. "What a wonderful day for running into Marks & Spencer," you might remember Ken Dodd saying, if you are also old enough, "and shouting 'Woolworths!'" Not much point now, apparently: nobody there. Even knickers are down.

Business is a funny old business, isn't it? Some of us are old enough to remember when Marks & Spencer was a successful company. Year upon year, period upon period, splendid result followed splendid result, and story followed story marvelling at its success. And now? Exactly. "What a wonderful day for running into Marks & Spencer," you might remember Ken Dodd saying, if you are also old enough, "and shouting 'Woolworths!'" Not much point now, apparently: nobody there. Even knickers are down.

Sainsbury's, that's the same, isn't it? And WH Smith, and Woolworths, too, for that matter. Funny old business. You can tell from this penetrating analysis that our Mr Warner is unlikely to snap me up for his Business pages, but sometimes, you know, there's nothing like a fresh mind. Besides, everyone else seems to have had a go.

As it happens, I couldn't help noticing a fascinating survey into shopping habits and attitudes which M&S might do well to study: the one revealing that a third of the men questioned would rather have a free set of power tools than sex. Well worth a try, I should have said, Mr Rose. The power tools, obviously. I know you do a digital tyre-pressure gauge, but put, say, a 15.6V cordless rotary max combi drill and driver next to your beige lightweight utility jackets and really watch them go.

A well-advertised free and frank discussion about future direction between yourself and Philip Green next to the personalised cake selection at the Marble Arch store on a Saturday afternoon would also, I feel, pack them in. And, memo to all of the above: what about the hoodies?

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