Success, the Progressive Accomplishment of a Worthy Ideal

Written by Alex Barrett on .

As the wheels of the economy continued turning while you were sleeping, it is vaguely possible that you did not notice a few more long term High Street names falling by the wayside over the Christmas and New Year break.

La Senza, Barratts Priceless, Best Buy, Past Times and Blacks are all victims of the retail downturn and we shall learn more this week as the holiday season retail figures come out from the British Retail Council on Tuesday and Wednesday.

However, all is not gloom and doom and the few retailers that have managed to buck the trend all seem to have something in common.

You're reading a blog on the site of an internet marketing business, so you may already have guessed what the common factor is. So I'll let that be for now and wander off to take a look at the way the world was a hundred years ago this week.

Sunday 8th January marks the hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the African National Congress.

The ANC was formed after a period of negotiations that started in 1909 with a delegation of black South Africans came to London to put across the many objections there were to the terms of the South African Act after the South African War (more well known as the Boer War, or Anglo-Boer War).

The Boer War achieved (at massive cost in human and financial terms) British dominion over the disputed colonies of Southern Africa. The British were, at the time, far more concerned in forming some sort of deal with the mixed European Afrikaans population who had been "granted" the Orange Free State and South African Republic in 1902 and bringing the whole of the area, including the two British provinces of Cape and Natal into the British Empire which was eventually achieved in 1910 with the Union of South Africa.

The interests of the Blacks who had allied themselves to the British and indeed been armed and brought to fight alongside them in the Boer War, were completely ignored by the colonial powers whose interest was solely in the exploitation of the plentiful mineral resources in the area. The delegation to London, however, received some sympathy in the press for this was a major time of change in British society with the emerging suffrage movement and more general education leading to more liberal attitudes.

The African National Congress thus was born from a sense of frustration and betrayal with the British in a second conference in the New Year of 1912. This sense of injustice remained the simmering fuel that eventually led to the regime of apartheid as the White population became less and less secure in a changing world environment and finally to the days of the "Rainbow Nation" in 1994. Sadly politics and power have not proved pure and unsullied since the heady days of the early nineties and the future for South Africa is now as uncertain as any country in the world.

Now, let's get on with the gloom forecast this week!

Westminster wakes up on Tuesday as our beloved representatives return to shout at each other and argue a way out of the current chaos. The drama will probably start with faux wit and wisdom at PMQs on the 11th January. Wednesday also sees the official trade balance figures for November, which are expected to indicate an increasing export deficit in direct contradiction to the government's original "Plan A".

On Thursday we shall see if Prime Minister Cameron's upbeat talk about manufacturing is reflected in the official numbers from  the Office of National Statistics. It will be important to compare these to the Eurostat figures for the Eurozone as a whole (released the same morning) particularly Italy whose difficulties may not be reflected in its, usually strong, manufacturing sector.

Lunchtime on Thursday may, possibly, be time for another shock as the Bank of England and European Central Bank will both be setting interest rates for the next month. While nobody expects the BoE to shift rates up from the current 0.5% base, the ECB has surprised commentators in the past and there is really no consistent consensus among the talking heads about how things will go this week.

Many commentators - and coalition politicians - have been predicting inflation will go down this year and has peaked already. An early indicator of this will be revealed on Friday with the producers' prices index. The consensus of financial analysts and economists sees the annualised rate dropping from 5.4% to 5.0% for December and any variance from this will be significant.

The only growing sector in retail at the moment is on the internet. While the large retailers are still getting their acts together and some, indeed, not managing to master this fast changing market, it is a great opportunity for the small retailer to consider jumping aboard the closest thing to a gravy train that we are likely to see in the next few months.

If you would like advice about how to get your products to your customers using the internet as a shop-window, do get in touch because there is a wide variety of options to choose between and it is important not to wander down a blind - and potentially expensive - alley.

And finally, my title this week comes from a famous motivational broadcast from some fifty-five years ago, that is used these days to encourage hopeful entrepreneurs and dreamers and, though I take issue with many of those who exploit the hopes of the gullible to sell them dreams of the wealth of Solomon, there is a lot to be said for maintaining faith and optimism in your purpose.

In the tough times ahead it will be essential for all of us independent entrepreneurs to keep to our plans and not be distracted by the turbulent waters that we are all experiencing.

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