Down Down, Deeper and Down

Money is tight. Jobs, decent paying jobs, are few and far between. So when a company like Focus DIY and Gardening, which had become a recognised mainstay on virtually every retail park in the country goes into administration, one is starkly reminded that things are beginning to get worse long before anything will get any better. Indeed, a recent survey from Deloitte shows that the number of retailers falling into administration in the first quarter of this year increased by 30 percent when compared with last year. I stood in the queue with my cut-price pond filter as literally hundreds had turned up to vulture-circle every product with a hawk eye on the closing discounts on offer. It dawned on me that we were witnesses to another tragedy brought on in part by the greed of bankers some of whom are still having a laugh at our expense. All I could see was the destruction of some 4,000 jobs nationwide, though the man in front of me wasn’t backward in coming forward with his opinion as he began, somewhat undiplomatically, to voice his opinion to one of the ‘condemned’ check-out assistants. “Maybe if you’d been selling things at these prices all along you’d still have a job”. Frankly, I thought his comment was unnecessary, ignorant, even hurtful, and I told him so in no uncertain terms. I even found myself apologising on his behalf. The official Focus company line is that they had been struggling for some time due to low consumer confidence and a very weak housing market brought on by the financial crisis. It reminded me so much of Texas Homecare (remember them?), though I have to wonder if the Focus marketing management had checked out the entry for Texas DIY on Wikipedia. Their demise in 1999 was remarkably attributed to, ‘a recession and depressed housing market’. Ring any bells? At that time the state of the economy was described as a downturn when the price of oil fell below $17 a barrel from $20-$21. It’s as if there are stock answers that are fed to the general public which are lifted directly from the crisis management manual of the retail sector. In 2008 we had to say goodbye to another family favourite Woolworth’s after their banks, GMAC and Burdale (which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bank of Ireland) rejected any initiative by the company to survive and recalled their loans. This is how the banks treated people then, and I see no real improvement in their attitude to business today, even after all the government rhetoric about bringing the banking community to heel. Only last week they were reported as having failed, again, to deliver on their promise to lend more to British business. I told the checkout girl at Focus that I thought I’d heard on the news that a buyer may have been found for her troubled company, but she told me that that may be the case, but that her job must go.

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