Many people under 30-somethings assume that the discount store economy is a new phenomenon and drool over its convenience and prices, but how new is the concept?
I have often marveled at the miraculous exponential growth of the ‘Pound-Shop’ economy and how the heck can they even think of making a profit on most of their items in the store when they have overheads like rent, staff salaries, storage , transportation, advertising and, I’m sure, much more.
At least one of these Pound-Shop dynasties has a ‘Trade-Counter’ that offers incredible discounts to those with a large amount of money that burns a hole in their pockets, so how the heck can they ‘afford’ to do this? Do they get all their shares for FREE or something?
Then I remembered a comment made to me by a guy who used to rent old and broken diesel cement / concrete mixers in the early 1970s when he was working places like Lower Early, Great Hollands, Furz Platt and many more on the Thames. Valley area. Back then I outsourced to a prime plastering contractor (AJ Moran), a great guy, very fair, but I didn’t pay as much for Sqr Yard as I did back then. It didn’t charge the developers much either, but I’ll go back to Andy, for now I’ll focus on Bevan, the Cement Mixer King.
No matter where you were, you would almost always see this guy come to the site with his trailer and another old, though generally 100% reliable mixer, and place it where needed on the site. He would show up to chat and have a cup of tea / coffee for a few minutes before leaving, then one day I thought I’d find out the current rate to hire one of his mixers as I was getting more ‘private’ work.
He amazed me by telling me that he charged only £ 7 a week including delivery and collection.
“What? – Only £ 7 a week? How the hell can you afford that?” I said. He took another sip and said calmly, “Yeah, but now I have over 200 out there that I only paid at most ten for at various auctions, and they are usually in place for many weeks before I have to put them on. Elsewhere, I don’t have to find storage as I always have contractors ‘begging’ me to give them one so ‘they’ do all the storage for me, and as you know, I don’t rush about everything. ” He wasn’t either, he was the most laid back guy you’ll ever meet (aside from Andy Moran, our boss).
Now he also knew that he built many of them by cannibalizing two or three shipwrecks in one good hit, and “he” would be the one to show up on site if there was rarely a problem with one, but do the math; If only I had 200 mixers at £ 7- the POP! that was £ 1,400 a week (a good income back then in the 1970s) for driving his old Land-Rover and trailer around the various sites, a few mechanical hours a day, and nights and weekends alone for him.
His formula was simple. Charge a price the bigger boys can’t match. Deliver merchandise as promised and on time, and don’t be ‘greedy’ factor number ONE. It was also the motto of ‘Super od’ (Max Quarterman) who I worked with in many places and ‘learned’ how to make MORE ££££ than anyone else at work.
Now, as I said before, Andy Moran was the prime casting contractor in the area for many years (along with his brother Noel). He started like the rest of us subby around the area until he started Caversham Park and went from subby to a ‘trial run’ as a contractor (with several other small to medium sized plastering contractors) where he got people like me and many others to pump as many as many houses per week as possible to keep prime contractors happy. He was a great man-manager with his calm and laid-back manner and he brought out the best in most of his own subordinates, and as he took a portion from each man, his coffers grew exponentially as well.
Did you get a good reputation there for meeting schedules and ‘variable’ quality?
Over time he took over most of the development and went from fortress to fortress landing ever larger contracts across the Thames Valley (and beyond) due to his reliability and the fact that he kept his prices very competitive for the builders. and for us the subbies.
OBJECTIVE! as he used to remind us, we could have “runs” of houses to be plastered. We never had to constantly get up and move on to other jobs, and everything was handed over ‘for’ us to just get started and earn the money. (Which most of us did, with great success).
In the mid-1970s, I had extremely good money “in my pocket” because Andy and his foremen were so reliable and eager to keep us producing the goods that, in turn, were also worth their money. Friends and even relatives insisted that it was impossible to earn the amount of money he was making at such a low yard price. (So I took a couple to work with me on the weekends; They never worked so hard in their entire lives. )
There were builders and other plastering contractors who paid ‘more’ than Andy, but because their organizational skills weren’t too high they couldn’t make a lot of money from them (there seems to be a good lesson to be learned) and Andy won in all directions. And WE too!
Now after a while, as I said, I started taking on more and more ‘private’ jobs. Other small builders, private renovations, etc, etc; but a question kept coming up over and over again “Do you know a ‘really trustworthy and trustworthy’ electrician, plumber, carpenter, tiler, painter and decorator?” etc etc, who would charge competitive rates like me.
Well in the past (before the computer) I had a nice list that I had photocopied many times and always had a batch of these in the van to hand out to my clients during or after the job was done. I never charged, it was just an add-on that cost me nothing except some photocopy ink and some paper. It turned out to be very popular and continued until I had to stop working several years ago.
Since then, I have given up building a customer / business-to-business referral website called CheckFred.com. I have listed some of the ‘trustworthy trades’ I talked about earlier, plus a Electronic library and Business promotion resources. I have purchased all of these as PLRs over the years and continue to provide free access to those who visit the site, whether they use Trusted Trades or not. I think that is firmly in line with the principles of the Pond-Shop Economy.