UK: EDITORIAL - WHEN DIAMONDS AREN'T FOREVER.

UK: EDITORIAL - WHEN DIAMONDS AREN'T FOREVER. - The last month has produced several more examples of how businesses can go badly wrong. The shenanigans at Morgan Grenfell Asset Management (and Jardine Fleming) demonstrate - yet again - the frailty of man

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The last month has produced several more examples of how businesses can go badly wrong. The shenanigans at Morgan Grenfell Asset Management (and Jardine Fleming) demonstrate - yet again - the frailty of many of the financial world's internal systems. But the events at Matthew Clark, the acquisitive drinks group, will send shivers down more managerial spines.

Within a couple of months, sales of one of the company's strongest branded products all but disappeared: sales of Diamond White were down by 60% in August, compared to a year earlier, as newly arrived alcopops helped themselves to huge chunks of market share. Matthew Clark's share price immediately halved as a bewildered board backtracked on its bullish trading statement of two months earlier.

With hindsight, Matthew Clark can be criticised on many counts, notably its narrow focus on cost control. One effect of this was that the baby went out with the bathwater when advertising expenditure was slashed.

It is also true that alcopops are a whirlwind product in a notoriously fickle market. But this still does not alter the fact that the company appeared defenceless against an innovation that had been dreamt up in Australia two years ago. Those who point to the special characteristics of the drinks market to explain why such a catastrophe could not possibly happen to them ignore the real message: nothing can be taken for granted when the pace of change in business life is so quick.

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