Friday, January 18, 2008

B&Q = 10/10 ...Marks & Spencers = 1/10

Yesterday I attended an event run by Help the Aged described: “What Older People want and expect from the High Street". The companies providing speakers that caught the eye were Marks & Spencer, BT and B&Q.

Well it didn’t turn out as I expected. Firstly, the speakers (with one exception) either came from or talked about older consumers from the perspective of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Thus it was not about treating older people as consumers but as people that needed to be “included” not “excluded”.Something like the equivalent of a carbon neutral foot print for oldies.

The event was made worthwhile by the story that B&Q had to tell. Clearly this company means it when it says it takes older people seriously – both as customers and employees. Not only has B&Q discovered that it makes sound commercial sense to employ older staff but it is also worthwhile stocking and having products designed that match their requirements.The company has a new range of products that are soon to be released. I am sure I will talk about this venture some more.

The big disappointment was Marks & Spencer. I have a great deal of time for this company. Their advertising is brilliant; they have come close to capturing their old status as the UK’s best retailer. But, the speaker addressing this event gave a "bog standard" presentation about M&S as an environmentally concerned company. Either he was at the wrong event or decided to use the standard presentation and add a bit of ‘oldies’ customisation on the fly. It didn’t work - big time.

If companies agree to speak at an event, especially when people are paying good money to attend, they have a duty to take some account of the brief they are given.
BT didn’t have much to say. Help the Aged who ran the event are a nice bunch but do themselves no favours by the quality of the presentation material. Amateurish is being kind.

It was worthwhile attending to see a professional company like B&Q talk about their activities. Dick Stroud

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