Alex Polizzi (of Hotel Inspector Fame) has popped up in this new watchable series on BBC2 which sorts out ailing family businesses.
In this first series there were lots of tears and emotions running high as we visited Courtyard Bridalwear, a wedding shop in Kettering run by mum Anne Preece and her two bickering daughters Rhiannon and Bethan.
Sadly the business was in trouble as over the past few years profits had nosedived. In 2010 – and with mum Anne not taking a salary and having remortgaged her home to keep it afloat – the shop only made a £5,000 profit. This was down to a number of reasons. Most shockingly 90 per cent of the stock actually went unsold (some £75,000 worth of unsold dresses had been consigned to the back room). Many of the wedding dresses were large and flouncy whereas many of the customers interviewed were looking for ‘plain and elegant.’
Secondly, the whole shop looked tired. In fact, as we saw it wasn’t a cheap shop at all but the problem was the ‘pile it high’ overstocking by the family made it look so.
Thirdly, Alex pointed out, was the relationship between them. While the two sisters argued between them, mum didn’t help by still treating both of them as if they were still children rather than ‘business equals’.
Oh yes, talking of business (which neither mum nor her daughters had ever done) none of them knew what the turnover was, let alone their profit (around £190,000 turnover of which three per cent was profit in 2010, Alex informed them.)
I liked Alex Polizzi in the Hotel Inspector and liked her even more in her new role. Her advice was no-nonsense and her advice should be tattooed on the head of anyone working within a family business:
* The three of them had to pay much more attention to the financial side of the business:
* They had to leave family relationships and squabbles at home and not bring them into work;
* They needed to develop their own individual roles and each be responsible for bringing something to the business table.
On the more practical side, less is often more and they therefore needed to weed out dresses that had been on the hangers for 18 months and never sold and revamp the tired shop with its kitchen pine table as the centre display unit.
To pump back some money Alex advised them to sell the £75,000 worth of unsold stock in a sale. This meant some dresses that were originally priced at £2,000 going for a bargain £150.
I am not sure this sale went exactly to plan, however. I imagine Alex and the BBC thought this sale might be more successful. But the sheer difficulty any business faces in a recession (Alex said the bridal business was virtually recession-proof but I don’t believe any business is) hit home as barely anyone turned up to buy (although those that did went away with incredible and beautiful bargains.) So, as the family wearily folded away all these dresses again, I couldn’t help but feel sorry – especially when we were told they made a profit of just £600 between them for a day that was very much hard work.
And there were some emotional scenes between mum and the two daughters – who came over as a very loving family – as they all struggled to put aside their differences to become ‘business partners.’
The episode finished brightly, however, with the shop looking stunning after a revamp, the obligatory ‘do’ when the press are invited to the relaunch and a revisit four months later to see how they were doing. Thankfully for this likeable family we were told profits are now up by 50 per cent.
Missed it? Click here to watch Alex Polizzi – The Fixer
* Next week Alex Polizzi – The Fixer helps a family bakery in dire straits in scenic Padstow, Cornwall.
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