David Parkin on a supermarket sweep, rebels without a clue and judge cred

David Parkin on a supermarket sweep, rebels without a clue and judge cred

THE only people who seem surprised by the Competition and Markets Authority ruling out Asda’s merger with Sainsbury’s are the people running the two supermarkets. The CMA announced its decision yesterday saying it believed the deal to create Britain’s biggest supermarket – accounting for £1 in every £3 spent on groceries – would raise prices for consumers. Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe, who had effectively gambled his future on getting this deal done, hit out angrily saying that the regulator was “effectively taking £1bn out of customers’ pockets”. His Asda counterpart, Roger Burnley, was a little more measured: “”We were right to explore the potential merger with Sainsbury’s, which would have delivered great benefits for customers and supported the long term, sustainable success of our business.” That’s the point. Both supermarkets have been struggling to deal with the rise of the discounters like Aldi and Lidl and the steady improvements in trading at Morrisons and Tesco. They might have dressed this deal up as a good one for shoppers but they needed it to fix the flaws in their businesses. The CMA might have felt it wouldn’t benefit consumers, but imagine the leverage it would have given the combined group over suppliers. I’ve seen the ruthlessness with which Asda despatches its own staff when it needs to cut costs, so suppliers would have been squeezed on prices like never before. So what now? Well perhaps Sainsbury’s and Asda will focus on retailing. I suspect the effort put in to trying to get this deal done has diverted valuable management time away from the day-to-day business of running shops. In the...
David Parkin on why bottom of the league are top of the class, a hardy perennial blossoms at the Masters and getting hits with the ghoulies

David Parkin on why bottom of the league are top of the class, a hardy perennial blossoms at the Masters and getting hits with the ghoulies

IF my host at last Saturday’s match between Huddersfield Town and Leicester City had invited me to make himself feel better, then he didn’t mention it. The West Yorkshire club were playing their first game since their relegation from the Premier League was confirmed by a 2-0 loss at Crystal Palace the week before. Their lowly points tally and number of goals scored makes the Terriers one of the worst teams in Premier League history. But not the worst. That was my team, Derby County, who were relegated with just 11 points in 2008. But my host, Jason Taylor, commercial director at Orchard, the facilities management and energy group, and other Huddersfield fans and officials I met at the John Smith’s Stadium were far too nice to mention it. They have had some time to come to terms with relegation during their second season back in the top flight. But that doesn’t make it any easier. So I was delighted that conversation around our table over lunch in the White Rose Club centred on the best pie shop in Wakefield rather than a forensic study of either of our football clubs’ recent fortunes. When it comes to pies, Andy Needham of Approved Foods, Britain’s largest online retailer of clearance food and drink, is an aficionado. Football is a funny old game, as dear old Jimmy Greaves used to say. Fans often enjoy the misfortunes of their closest rivals almost as much as they do the success of their own team. And I’ve always found it a bit odd that certain rules apply in the sport that don’t quite work...
David Parkin on the future of Welcome to Yorkshire and rocking the boat

David Parkin on the future of Welcome to Yorkshire and rocking the boat

DEPENDING on your viewpoint, the scheduling of Welcome to Yorkshire’s annual Y19 conference this week came at the worst, or the best, possible time. Chief executive Sir Gary Verity resigned on health grounds two weeks ago from the role he had held for a decade. He left after concerns were raised over his behaviour towards staff and his expenses. Subsequent reports in the media speculated over the size and details of those expense claims and featured interviews with at least two of his former personal assistants criticising his behaviour. If the Welcome to Yorkshire board hoped that Sir Gary’s abrupt departure would allow the organisation to move on quickly, the furore that followed quickly dispelled that notion. This week, the day before Y19, Welcome to Yorkshire’s board announced two independent investigations into Sir Gary’s expenses and behaviour since his appointment in 2008. Those investigations will aim to establish the facts from the speculation and gossip swirling around his departure. At this stage, the only thing I can say with some certainty is that it seems Sir Gary went through personal assistants at an even faster rate than former Leeds United chairman Massimo Cellino went through managers. On Wednesday the team he once led at Welcome to Yorkshire were faced with delivering their annual showcase event on the 10th anniversary of the organisation’s launch at a time when it was making headlines for reasons other than tourism success. I think we’d all agree that’s a tough job. But I think Y19 came at the right time. Amid all the speculation and schadenfreude perhaps what was getting forgotten was the incredible...