A simple country baker

10 March, 2006
Comment
Page 18 

Tony Phillips is past president of the NAMB and is (allegedly) retired from running Janes Pantry with 10 shops in Gloucestershire

Never accept statistics at face value as in this day and age they are usually slanted to put over one specific view. We are always being told about traffic deaths and the need for speed cameras. But in The Sunday Times it was reported that the AA had done a survey and found that 40% of all pedestrians killed over the age of 16 were drunk, while, at the same time, only 22% of the drivers were over the limit.
Should there be speed cameras and pavement humps for pedestrians? I bet the police have not realised what a huge potential there is for fining pedestrians and making even more money from the population they used to serve.Similarly, I find with computers and EPOS tills that the amount of information I am given is more than I can digest or usefully use. The great temptation is to keep collecting the data, without really using it. The most difficult task is to stop the office producing it, as there is always a feeling it might be useful.While I know exactly what I sell, the time it is sold and how much per hour we take, it does not tell me how I can find staff to come in and work for two hours over the lunch period, when I really need them. With the cost of travel, they quite understandably want more hours and this, in turn, plays havoc with my wage percentage.Without any question, the most difficult job we have is keeping our shops fully staffed and the wage costs under control. With ever-increasing holidays, maternity and family leave, plus the normal sickness pay, we would, in a perfect world, be overstaffed by some 20% in every branch to have an easier life. There’s just one little problem: we would go bankrupt!The minimum wage is causing us a great problem in our shops – not only in the obvious way that it erodes differentials, but in the very term itself. People do not like working for what is termed the ‘minimum’. It tends to reduce their self-esteem and the value of the work they do. It is funny how, a few years ago, the major problem we had was getting bakery staff; nowadays the problem is shop staff. Perhaps the reason is that, with more equipment in the bakery, we produce more with the same number of staff, whereas shop work has not really changed.High street rents are now as high as 10% of turnover and this is driving even more bakers into secondary positions. The wage percentage in most of the retail trade is about 8-12% of turnover and, in a busy bakery shop, it is hard to keep it below 20%. We are at a huge disadvantage unless we can find a way of reducing wage costs and self-service does not really work in our business.The only way I can see is to increase our unit sale and that, to say the least, is difficult. We have to sell higher value products, but there is a limit on what you can charge for doughnuts or morning goods. We are always looking at our range and attempting to sell higher-priced products, but, I must confess, with little success.Anyone who has found the answer to these problems, please let me know and, in my next column, I will be delighted to write about how we can all get rich.



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