Economy-wise, I predict a riot

04 May, 2007

Retailers could be in for a bumpy ride but at least a Kaiser Chiefs genius was once Zak's tea boy

Leafing back through the endless archive of paperwork we keep , I've come across the first staff hours report with my name on it. On Nov 30 2000, I did my first hours for this company . A copy of my timesheet is still tucked in the back, and I can see that I've managed to double my wage , although, to be fair, it was startlingly low to begin with. Did people really work for so little at the turn of the century? It seems so; even the manager at that time was earning less than we pay our greenest newbie (who isn't particularly green, or that much of a newbie anymore).

It's given me cause for reflection as this is the longest I've worked for one employer. When I started , I was writing up a Ph D (which was never finished, like so many) and recording an album with a friend. We were beavering away in a back-street studio in Headingley, writing an album we hoped would make us Robbie Williams-style rich beyond our wildest dreams , take us on tour round the world , and generally allow us to live out our boyhood fantasies of being paid a lot of money to arse around in a recording studio, with occasional headlin e slots at Glastonbury, Leeds, and oh go on then, we'll throw in a tour of Japan for good measure.

It was real; I'm not making this up. There was a deal with Sony, a proper producer and a tea boy, who actually made tea, bought food, and noodled round in the background writing his own music. He was quite good, and we used to joke that he was actually the most talented one in the studio, such was his effortless command of melody, counterpoint and lyric. How right we were - it was actually Nick Hodgson, then of the local band Parva, now drummer, singer and songwriter in the all-conquering Kaiser Chiefs. Six and a half years later, he's the one touring the world and I'm sweltering in an unseasonably hot shop, doing exercises to keep my back supple and wondering what the bloody hell happened.

It's not all bad though . I'm lucky enough to have employed a team so alert, so ruthlessly honed to diamond-tipped perfection, that these days I play an almost supporting role. I deal with the logistics, refine the product range, manage the stock and generally faff about with various outside projects, the latest being a tasting evening fundraiser for the local primary school, however inappropriate that might seem. Bizarrely, the chap who approached me about it, one of the local parents, turns out to be Jez from the Utah Saints. Whatever next? Cocktails with The Sisters of Mercy? Done it, actually. Truly, the musical glitterati throng the streets of Headingley as though it's the Notting Hill of the north.

But returning to my opening salvo, and looking at how the business has progressed, what of retail profitability

I'm curious to see what the rest of the year will bring. Although we're doing OK , others say they are struggling a bit. It seems inevitable that interest rates will rise at least twice this year, along with the minimum wage, and with retail rents pegged to an all-time property high, and inflation simmering a bit too hard, things may well get bumpy for everyone before the year is out. I hope not, but you can't stop progress.




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