The first task: Blank Canvas. Buy some blank gear, slap some designs on it, and sell. As ever, the premise was so simple, it gave the candidates ample rope with which to hang themselves. The boys managed to show complete lack of regard for what they were providing to their public. Targeting ‘gullible’ tourists with shoddy designs was the Phoenix sales strategy.
The boys may have walked away with the win, but not before their slap-dash approach to quality and service came back to bite them. They had to drop the original price of the product in order to shift the offending items, and a retailer demanded a refund for an order of abysmally printed bags.
The Sterling girls put a little more heart into their products, but lost out through lack of sales planning. The group sent out into the field chose to wander London Zoo in a pack, taking it turns to sell for seemingly no other reason than that it was ‘fair’. They may have felt like stalking lions (“there’s a dad I want to attack!”), but they looked like cats amongst pigeons.
The final demise of Sterling was cringe-worthy even by Apprentice standards. Here they morphed into “baying hyenas”, surrounding a retailer as a mass of bibs and baby-grows. When she expressed her discomfort they waltzed off, loudly declaring they were ‘wasting their time.’ The encounter resulted in an almighty telling off from the shop owner, leaving the girls shuffling sheepishly on the doorstep.
While the candidate’s embarrassment plays out on prime time TV, we remember that companies are even more visible today’s ultra-connected world. Reputation is key, and you will struggle to survive if you are seen to be any less than completely in tune with customer needs and expectations.
The mistake both teams made was to see the product and the strategy to make money as two entirely separate entities, when they are entirely dependent on one another. Lord Sugar rightly pointed out you can have the highest margin in the world, but it means nothing if the end product is splodgy tat. And Bilyana found in the boardroom, no matter the quality of your product (she was head girl you know), you still can talk yourself out of a potential business relationship. Katie, the blonde and largely silent assassin, lived to slay another day.