Thursday, 13 November 2014

Sainsbury Right, Tesco Right, TDC Wrong? A booksellers view of trends in shopping and RiverOak want to build 2,000 houses at Manston.

 The world of retail is undergoing a process of change, which as a small independent town centre shopkeeper is of great interest to me personally.

Partly this is a direct result of internet shopping and partly I think it is due to people changing their behaviour due to changes in our social environment. 
 Now about twenty years ago our local council decided that the way forward was out of town shopping and have actively supported the construction of Westwood cross and other large out of town shopping ventures, now the biggest and pretty much the longest lasting in Thanet Sainsbury and Tesco are both reporting difficulties, particularly in their large out of town shops.

At the same time our local council adopted a policy of reducing the size of our shopping centres, the idea here was I think to allow the shops on the edges of the towns to be converted to residential, so there were less shop properties in the towns which they thought would result in less empty shops. 
 In retrospect I don’t think this policy was successful, the middle of Margate town centre collapsed completely and Ramsgate town centre pretty much survived and now seems to be recovering.

During the period of the expansion of out of town shopping which I think started to affect the town centres adversely around 2000 and peaked with the opening of WC in 2007, when WC phase 2 opened in 2010 and not all of the units were let immediately, I did wonder what was up, but I think it is only now that I am beginning to understand it. 
 Of course now in Ramsgate the council have taken this policy to a new extreme of buying up shops in fully let shopping areas of the town centre and then using the fact that they are the planning authority to get planning consent to turn the shops into social housing. I am not sure if this a last ditch attempt to help out of town shops or some vain hope of regenerating Margate as a food shopping centre.

Recently while Sainsbury and Tesco have been seeing reduced sales, my sales in the bookshop have been increasing, I guess that is partly because I can regulate prices in a way that Sainsbury and Tesco just can’t.
 This is because the majority of my stock is either secondhand or manufactured by me, so I can produce prices to compete with the internet. I wont go into the economics of the new books that I source from bankruptcies and various booktrade sources as it is fairly complicated and my local book publishing enterprise was never intended to be profitable, more of a hobby or interest gone bonkers.

The secondhand book business is much easier to explain and in this area Amazon leads the field, another big source is ABE also owned by Amazon, ebay is also a contender but for the most part my main competition is Amazon.  
 The secondhand bookbuying on Amazon started with secondhand bookshops selling their books through Amazon, they put their best books for sale there, sold them and then their shops closed, partly because of the online competition and partly because they had sold all their best stock.

Now I would say that most of the secondhand books for sale cheaply on Amazon have been donated to charities, sold to large commercial organisations with automated warehouses and listed for sale on Amazon by someone who doesn’t know much about books.
 This is very difficult if you are trying to sell a book using the internet as there is usually a copy available for a price including postage that is around what it would cost you to post it. It is also very difficult if you are trying to buy a book cheaply and therefore secondhand on Amazon as it is very difficult to tell what sort of condition it is in or even if it is a stolen library book.

I guess from my point of view this means that people are likely to get more money selling their books to me than they would if they sold them on the internet.
 So as an example an ordinary thin paperback will post as a large letter for £1.17 plus about 20p for jiffy bag I would think the average price including postage on the internet would be about £2 including postage and I would think that about 40p of this would be listing fees and paypal charges so around £1.70 selling costs giving you around 30p for every one you sell, I would say the average price we are selling an ordinary thin paperback for is £1.50 and as we pay a third in cash or half in exchange vouchers, it isn’t difficult to see what the options are. 

I am not saying here that I don’t sell books via Amazon, because I do, there are always going to be a certain number of books that have no local market, but for the most part I make sure that my walk in shop customers get the first chance at all of the books I buy for stock. I also endeavour to make sure that the on the shelf price is more attractive than the internet price. 
 There are various different types of bookshop both new and secondhand, some seem to stock any old book that comes along cheaply and some seem only to have books that are much more expensive than you could buy them for online.

What I try to do is to have defined book sections that relate to people’s interests and over the last few weeks I have been working on what I would loosely describe as the “craft section” I guess my children would describe it as the “design and technology” section, social history perhaps, anyway hard to define so the pictures tell the story.
 As well as buying books for, collating books for, covering dust jackets for, pricing books for this section, I have been trying to get these books into some sort of order and it is the latest pictures of this section in the bookshop I have used to illustrate this post with.

So still the question why is my bookshop doing better, I don’t think my books stock is very different in quality to what it was this time last year, I think it may be partly to do with book shopping becoming more of a leisure activity, partly due to Ramsgate town centre being busier than it was last year. 
 The pictures in this post should expand if you click on them, and I may ramble on here if I gat more time.
At the moment no blog post seems to be complete without something about Manston airport, the latest being the minutes of the Kent International Airport Committee going into the public domain, these seem to say that RiverOak want to build 2,000 houses on the site, here is the link http://www.scribd.com/doc/246454440/KIACC-Minutes-2014-09-30   
There are various comments flying around the internet to effect that these are the wrong minutes, or that the information in them is incorrect, so about the norm for Manston.
As far as I understand KIACC is either some branch of or in some way related to TDC and so either this means that the information is wrong and just a clerical error, or the information was right and may have to be changed, or of course the councillors knew that they were mounting a cpo for a property investment company.
In the craft section of the bookshop I am wondering whether the people who normally buy books about sewing, knitting and fabrics will be interested in me adding a whole shelf of books about cotton spinning, fabric dyeing and wool spinning to this section.

If you have some preconceived ideas about this it could be seen as a sexist question.  
I think that is about it for the blog post, apart from our new sales director who is late for his book advertising meeting. 
I managed to track down Flat Eric, he has found a book that greatly interests him and doesn’t seem to like the idea of me selling it, so he won’t display it for tonights advertisement.
RiverOak have issued a rejoinder see http://www.riveroakinvestments.co.uk/riveroak-responds-residential-units-challenge/ some of the phraseology is interesting and as I have many American customers I am used to them saying “I’m mad about my flat” when they have a puncture. However I am left with an odd feeling about this 

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

.. of course it is all lies, Manston Pickle are making it up and the sun still shines from the rears of the Americans' saviours... ?

Joe Turner said...

The most likely explanation is an error in note taking, it seems to me. Which is pretty serious for a public meeting - or alternatively a conspiracy of silence from those involved, which would be worse.

I guess this all just goes to show the value of vibrant local media that monitor and take an interest in local politics.

Michael Child said...

Joe it looks like a case of the council suppressing information about an important local issue backfiring, I thought it was a public meeting organised by the council and so assumed they would have published all of the information about it.

As for the response from RiverOak, link at the bottom of the post, just plain weird.

Anonymous said...

"an error in note taking"?

An error in not taking is writing down Bob's name instead of Bill's or 10 instead of 20... you don't inadvertently say someone is proposing to build 2,000 houses !!

Joe Turner said...

Well the secrecy is certainly baffling, but I think it is easier to believe in a mistake than a conspiracy, although frankly anything is possible. Do the Discovery plans include 2000 house units?

I don't know what to think about RiverOak. I am unclear what they could possibly do to make the airport viable which has not already been tried and the plans seem to me to be highly unlikely to be profitable.

Whether their longterm plan is for building, I have no idea - they say not. But if not, I can't really understand what it could be.

Chris Wells said...

Riveroak's response seems pretty straightforward. How exactly is it weird?

Michael Child said...

Chris the phraseology; “Dear Honourable Councillors” “please don’t hesitate to reach out to me” if I get phrases like this in a business letter I make sure they pay for the book first. It may be that the author has had their sense of humour surgically removed, making these phrases excusable, but the rest reads like an ordinary business letter.

Purple Om said...

Conspiracy
The truth will out

Anonymous said...

The RiverOak letter does not read like a normal letter,as it is seeking to tell Thanet councillors to think about a meeting where they were no in attendance! The timing of this letter is interesting, as it was issued just after Iris has issued her response on the Support Manston Airport FB page, in which she stated that the Minutes were inaccurate. Strange that, as these are Final Minutes, which had been approved by all the Committee before they were issued. Also strange how RiverOak got to know this so quickly after Iris' post, All very weird

Michael Child said...

Look chaps and chapesses I think you are missing the point here, we all get emails with phrases like: “Dear Honourable Councillors” “please don’t hesitate to reach out to me” and I have no doubt the management of RiverOak get them too. This type of email invariably either has a direct request for money or bank account details, is trying to sell you something you don’t want or is ordering a large quantity of goods. I spam about thirty of them a day, the question that interests me is why the management of RiverOak would be using these phrases in a letter to TDC? Any ideas on this would be of great interest to me, do readers think it is supposed to be humorous? I am not good on American humour.

Anonymous said...

It becomes more intriguing because Iris E-mailed Paul Twyman yesterday. He's had plenty of time to reply, but I can't see any confirmation that he has said the minutes are incorrect. If he had agreed I'm willing to bet we'd have heard about it by now. So far, the only person who was at the meeting who has said that the minutes are wrong is Richard Nicholson. But he's hardly impartial because he's the person being accused of making the comments. Before we decide that this story has no basis in fact we need to hear from the other people who were at this meeting, particularly the Chairman.

Purple Om said...

The plot thickens has Iris said she has now been in contact with the author of the minutes and they are false????? No she has not!!

Anonymous said...

Section 35 of the Civil Aviation Act requires that all designated aerodromes put in place appropriate public consultation mechanisms. The purpose being that dialogue between the local community and airport owner will be objective, continuous and forward looking.
Such that development may proceed, or be modified on a “no surprises” basis.

Looks like the next meeting should agree the minutes of the last meeting (what ever they are) and wind the committee up!

Anonymous said...

With all that traffic chaos on the M25 yesterday causing people to miss flights from Gatwick, I think it's about time we had an international airport down here in Kent.

Anonymous said...

Michael, are you happy publishing a comment by Purple Om calling Iris a liar? Because I suspect TDC's lawyers aren't.

Anonymous said...

Anon (Friday 12:33) - how exactly do you know they were approved minutes? From those minutes themselves, it appears that the minutes of the previous meeting are not approved until the next one. Perhaps you have more information and are involved, or perhaps just repeating what is being said on other anti-groups?

Purple Om - how do you know Iris hasn't been in contact?

Thanetian said...

Oh dear, news goes round the world before the truth can get it's boots on.
The first rule of good journalism,check your source.

Anonymous said...

The Minutes cannot be just a simple typo as without the reference to the 2000 houses, the rest of the minutes would not make sense. These were final minutes, so all people present at the meeting would have approved them before they were circulated.

I am not worried about the wording of the RiverOak letter, but I am concerned about their involvement in interfering with local governance

Purple Om said...

Still nothing from iris and the Manston pickle post still stands

Anonymous said...

Are you not concerned that RiverOak seems to be running ThanetDC now? Within minutes of Iris' first reaction that he minutes must be wrong, RiverOak sent a letter to all Councillors informing them what was not said at the Meeting? Are you happy that a US company is interfering in this way with our local government? They have no status, as they cannot even claim that they have been selected as Thanet's indemnity partner at this stage. I am shocked that this does not seem to concern you, as if it continues like this, I wonder where it will all end.

Anonymous said...

I see there is ANOTHER petition - how can any campaign be treated seriously with petition after petition after petition.... ?

Anonymous said...

I think you ain't seen nothing yet. If Riveroak is selected, I would expect them to take control of running the CPO and instruct the officers. I wouldn't be surprised to see them install Mr. Freudmann in and office in Cecil Square. "Ms. Homer, could you pop down to my office for a moment. We need to discuss what you are doing about...."

Anonymous said...

I see the Save Manston lot are up in arms about the rumours of a required 25 year business plan

"Manston Airport Independent Party
I had a call from Tony Freudmann this evening. @RiverOak are not very happy about the ridiculous demands being placed on them by officers at TDC. Does any other business have to provide a 20 - 25 year detailed plan with projected balance sheets?"

Do they not realise a CPO needs to go through the courts and they will compare Riveroak's "plans" with the current owners plans? If Riveroak cannot prove they have better plans then it will be thrown out by the Secretary of State/courts?

Purple Om said...

It's still standing and no retraction yet from Manston Pickle. You wonder how long it's going to take for TDC/Riveroak/gale to have it removed after speaking to the author or perhaps they already have and the author is quite sure thats what was said. Anyway all we can do is wait and see how this makes all the naysayers look seeing as it had nothing to do with TDC and why they felt the urge to rush in the defence of a US hedge fund is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

It's like the Save Manston lot really don't have a clue.... they say why are Riveroak needing to produce a 25 year plan when Ann Gloag didn't have one...

They really can't see the difference between someone legitimately buying a site that no-one else was interest in, and trying to force an owner to sell it to someone with plans that are just pure speculation ??!!

Without giving the current owner time to draw up their plans, and without the Riveroak being able to give guarantees, and without a land valuation yet, a CPO is going nowhere and TDC would be silly just to accept Riveroak as a partner.

As much as I would love to see the airport reopen in some form, this has years and years to run in the courts before anything happens, be it an airport or a mixed development. In the meantime no chance of any jobs for anyone.....

Anonymous said...

I see Supporters of Manston Airport are still stating:

"Why do TDC even require such a (25 year) plan for the CPO? They will have zero risk, legally or financially, hence the term 'indemnity partner'. Is the asking for these projections standard for a CPO?"

Why do they not realise that if a CPO isn't successful, the new Riveroak company are almost certainly aren't going to refund TDC the costs incurred to date plus whatever else it will cost in the meantime? This is why they have set up the their new Limited Liability Company so there is no comeback....

Anonymous said...

Anyone else see the current ironic posts from SMA?

Manston Pickle write that the Labour leader "accepted an envelope" and SMA are up in arms that they interpret it as accusations of corruption...

Meanwhile they accept endless posts on their Facebook page with accusations bribery, corruption, fraud, ete, etc, etc.

Purple Om said...

Still up there :) and another post from Manston pickle lets call that one "Envelopegate"

Barry James said...

I read on SMA Thanet Council are refusing to accept online petitions unless on their TDC website. Someone is learning

Anonymous said...

The Manston Pickle posting was a factual posting. It referred to an FoI request which revealed that Iris Johnstone received a letter from Riveroak which was hand-delivered whilst she was visiting Ireland. The author of the In Touch with Thanet Facebook page embellished this by claiming that Manston Pickle had accused Iris of taking a 'brown' envelope. Vince Francis then made a series of postings on ITWT inventing increasingly lurid versions of what had been posted. It was Vince who introduced terms such as corruption and bribe. Iris posted a message on the Supporters of Manston Airport Facebook page, saying that she was outraged and demanding a full public apology from Manston Pickle. However Duncan Smithson then contacted her and admitted to his part in the set-up. He has now apologised to Manston Pickle. Vince Francis has not apologised for his part in trying to smear the group. This shole unsavoury episode just goes to show that the pro-airport groups know no limits. They will say or do anything.

Anonymous said...


Anyone else think that the chief 'Googler' at SMA is going to far and trying to fuel the witch-hunt against anyone associated with the council, now moving onto the officers?

It's moving into the realms of harrasement and away from helping their cause...

Barry James said...

They say beware a scorned woman seems they hadnt met the SMA. If I were Paul Carter I'd be sending a few missives

Anonymous said...

I do have some concern over what might happen when TDC votes to terminate discussion of a CPO. I wonder if some members of TDC have similar concerns and that is why they have delayed making a decision. Over the last few months we have seen appalling abuse and harassment of individuals posted on the various pro-airport supporters' sites. The various groups have fallen out with each other and there have been vicious rows about bullying and intimidation. We have seen postings which contain threats, casual racism and blatant lies. The people involved seem to know no boundaries. I feel that the politicians who have been using these people to make political capital, and have been responsible for winding them up into such a frenzy, have a moral duty to do something to control the group when it all ends. And that means they should be managing expectations. As we enter the end zone, the likes of Roger Gale and Iris Johnstone should be preparing the campaigners for the final curtain so that it doesn't come as too big a shock.

Anonymous said...

All bullies are cowards.

Anonymous said...

When II see this -

"According to KCC Cllr. Alan Marsh, 36 Airlines carrying freight want to come to Manston when it reopens. He is involved in the Airline business and has flown over 19,000 cockpit hours. He is part of the Baltic Airline Pilots Ass. in London. Cargolux offered Manston £ 1,000,000 more in additional landing fee per annum to stay open. Heathrow are saying that if they get a 3rd runway, they will generate another 120,000 NEW jobs. Riveroak have guaranteed the Airport will be open for 20 years minimum and not cost TDC a penny."

It makes me wonder where are these 36 companies then? Why aren't they are TDCs doors telling them if they go ahead with the CPO they can guarantee business and jobs for East Kent?

Makes me think the 36 don't exist....

Barry James said...

Lets see the meeting on the 11th December will be Cabinet discussing the suitability of Riveroak to be a CPO partner. The Cabinet comprised six members. Iris, David. Mick. Rick, Richard and Liz. Of these 3 will be for Riveroak and at best 3 against. I am presuming the casting vote will be Iris so whatever the Officers advise this charade will carry on into the new year

Anonymous said...

Councillor Marsh's statements sound very promising. But think carefully as you read them and they highlight a major anomaly. We are being told that freight airlines are queuing up to use Manston and, one alone, is prepared to pay £1 million in ADDITIONAL landing fees. Suppose it cost £500 to land a plane. £1 million equates to 2000 landings or 6 per day. Yet Cargolux were operating 4 flights per week. The numbers don't add up.

Anonymous said...

If tens of airlines want to use Manston, and one alone is prepared to pay 1 million pounds (shades of Dr. Evil) how is it that Riveroak weren't prepared to pay more than £7 million for the airport? Even now, they are trying to use TDC to buy it via a CPO instead of making a sensible commercial offer to the owners. It doesn't make any sense. A CPO will take years to be fought through the courts and Riveroak will have to pick up the tab. In the end, if it is successful, they will have to pay for the airport. So, why not just offer what they are prepared to pay now and bypass the CPO? The only reason I can imagine is that they somehow think they will get it much, much cheaper if TDC purchases it for them. I can't see how they could think this. The site will have to be valued and, if you look at other brownfield land in Thanet it will have a price tag of hundreds of millions.

Anonymous said...

Marcus Russell - Please bear in mind the following. 1 - Cargolux offered an extra £ 1,000,000 per annum landing fee to keep Manston open. 2 - 36 freight airlines are queuing up to come to Manston when it reopens. 3 - Just x1 "747" being scrapped each month would pay the running costs of Manston for that month. All the info above was supplied by KCC Cllr. Alan Marsh"

With the 3rd bit of information I'd have though the current owners would be chomping at the bit to operate an operating airport if they can rake in this sort of money.....

... but of course it is a conspiracy that has been going back decades to purposely lose money and bankrupt itself.... !!!

Anonymous said...

These bogus statistics are all getting a bit ridiculous. It costs £5 million a year to run Manston. If you were planning to cover the costs by scrapping aircraft, you would have to get something in excess of £400,000 for each aircraft you dismantled. The actual figure for scrapping a 747 is around £50,000. In other words, Councillor Marsh is spouting nonsense.