More mixed news on the economy this week. A raft of big losses on Wall Street sent share prices plunging, while the nationalisation of Northern Rock looks ever more likely – to the misery of shareholders.
However, the picture on the high street was much improved (at least until today’s news that total retail sales fell in December). Ted Baker, JJB Sports and N Brown all announced strong Christmas results on Monday, as did Primark, Argos and Comet on Thursday while even HMV managed to do better than expected. Tesco came in below expectations – but still recorded healthy growth, particularly in its overseas business. And even the much-maligned Woolworths is threatening to get back into the black. Call it the miracle of Christmas.
It’s been a less-than-happy week for Terra Firma boss Guy Hands, who has found himself under the cosh from all sides since announcing his plans to restructure EMI on Tuesday. Yesterday even the reliable cash cow that is the Rolling Stones walked out (though we’re sure the timing is entirely coincidental). Perhaps his next move should be to take on a football club, most of which continue to be models of bad management. Liverpool’s American owners did their bit for Anglo-US relations by presenting their manager with a cast-iron constructive dismissal case, while Mike Ashley raised eyebrows across the football world by bringing Kevin Keegan back to Newcastle. Though the Geordies seem happy…
Which is more than can be said for the workforce: one in three of us are apparently ‘disengaged’ from our employers. Another challenge for managers, who are already facing a tough enough job – if it’s not enough that they have to worry about their corporate reputation, sustainability policy and even their waistlines, we were reminded this week just how hard it is to interview someone without getting sued.
Really, what's the world coming to when you can't ask a candidate: “So is it true that a Chinese woman from your local church is going to look after your current children from previous marriages should you fall pregnant with your latest child during the next trade union rally?” It's political correctness gone mad.