Karl gets many requests to appear on TV shows with a retail theme, but this was a TV appearance with a difference – being invited to be an expert on the judging panel of BBC One’s The Apprentice. Here, he sheds a little light on the experience and what can be learnt from it.
You were a judge, were you in good company?
Definitely, there were around 15 other judges in total. Representing grooming were the head of lingerie and beauty at Debenhams, the MD of Nails Inc, the head of menswear at House of Fraser, and some independent spas and salon owners. Confectionary called upon the MD from Green and Blacks, a number of independent chocolatiers and a packaging expert.
I think they saw me as representative of VM, brand delivery and retail – along with Ed Burstell, MD of Liberty, of course.
What was the task?
There were two tasks and two teams. Each had to develop a new product (male grooming or confectionary) from scratch and create a retail environment to sell it from. This ‘shop’ was realised in a contemporary office space in the Docklands and they had two to three days to put it together.
What did you do?
I saw both retail environments and was given five minutes to review each, make notes, test the products and draw my conclusions. Then as judges, we sat together in the concept area and the teams presented their business plans to us. They then left the room and Lord Sugar asked us for our views and opinions to assist him in forming his decision on which team had performed best in the task.
How did they pitch?
The male grooming team were very good, with a highly polished presentation. The confectionary team delivered an impactful retail concept but lacked clarity and impact in presenting their business plan.
The male grooming idea (Modern Gentleman) was simple, focused, easy to understand and essentially delivered the brief. However, considering their solution from a branding and retail delivery perspective, it lacked impact, originality and was somewhat lackluster in execution.
For me, the confectionary team (Sweet Thing) had a more distinctive branding and retail shop concept. This had a distinctive look, featuring a pale blue box with feminine typography and a heart motif. Whilst the design was somewhat unconventional for a food product, somehow it worked, and many of the judges were impressed by the overall visual impact they delivered.
However, presentation of their business plan was less effective when compared to the male grooming team, being clumsy and disjointed with shaky facts and figures about the concept.
Who did you think would win overall from that point?
At the time I thought one of the male grooming guys would win without a doubt – and I was right!
What did you take from the day?
Overall, It was a great experience and I was delighted to have been asked to take part in the show. I really enjoyed meeting Lord Sugar, and the other judges, and in sharing our thoughts about the candidates’ business ideas and pitches. It was a positive and inspiring atmosphere.
I was also really impressed by the production team – Talkback Thames. Everyone involved in the day was extremely professional and really well organised. Things ran very smoothly and without any hitches, something that was appreciated by the both candidates and judges alike!
I was also approached about another new project on the day – can’t say for who though, but watch this space!
Does this pitch scenario happen in real life?
Yes, VM people often need to present their ideas for seasonal schemes and promotional events etc. People need to demonstrate great ideas, present these in clear pitches and with a confident, passionate style. It’s also important to demonstrate their subject knowledge and any specialist expertise too. Importantly, the pitch should be able to stand up to scrutiny from their managers and others internally with questions about any aspects of the proposed ideas.
Overall, if an idea has been sold in effectively, it will have a much greater chance of actually happening. It’s about having good ideas, great planning and preparation and delivering this with an enthusiastic (realistic and honest) style which makes the difference.