Many of us are just back from SIAL in Paris. Well there are worse places to go for a trade show I can think of!


Although, despite what my team think, these trips are probably not as exciting as they think, with all the daylight hours being spent inside a metal shed, and any of the Paris tourist sights are glimpsed from the back seat of an Uber in the dark! For those who haven’t been to Paris since the terrorist atrocities earlier in the year, you need to know that it is a safe place to go back to – there are armed soldiers everywhere in the city.

Of course, it is a great time to export, with the recent slump in sterling, so those British exhibitors who had booked a booth were delighted. Whether they were all as delighted with what Angela Leadsom had to say I don’t know, as I had to leave before she turned up. The British pavilion had a large pie chart on its wall saying that 78% of British food and drink exports were to the EU. The message coming from the government that “we should concentrate on other export markets rather than the EU” will have probably fallen on deaf ears as food and drink exporters tend to focus on the low-hanging fruit within the EU. 78% is quite a stat bearing in mind that the USA alone is another 5%. The words “cloud” and “cuckoo” come to mind with the noises coming from Westminster at present.

That’s enough of Europe for now. Time to concentrate on the domestic market for the next few weeks. We will have our largest week of the year so far this week as retailers stock up with gift food for Christmas, as the silly season properly begins the week the children come back for their last term before Christmas the following week. By all accounts, despite current economic gloom, retailers seem to be expecting a good Christmas. Especially good for retailers as they will have ordered all their Christmas stock prior to the recent slump in sterling, which will affect supplier’s margins but not retailers. I wonder if that will encourage them to pay suppliers on time this year – probably not!

I have always wanted to ensure our suppliers are supplying us at a price where they are still making a margin. If not, it is a very short-term strategy. Some retailers don’t take this view. I had one recently wanted us to supply them at less than 10% gross margin, and wouldn’t consider talking to us unless we offered them at least 15% discount. We are not talking as I wouldn’t go for business that would make us a loss. Good luck to our competitors, some of whom seem to “buy business” at cost or less than cost. That won’t make for a Happy Christmas!