How to really make money in the City

This is the big secret to making money in the City of London – rent out scaffolding to the City Corporation.

Farringdon Street bridge

In September 2008, a piece of ironwork fell off the Holborn Viaduct bridge, and the approved scaffolding contractor was called in to make emergency works to protect passers-by. This week, 14 months later, the City’s planning and transport committee approved a £2.56m refurbishment project. But the corporation hasn’t any money yet in the budget to do the work, so goodness knows when it will actually take place.

Meantime, the scaffolding is being rented at £5,000 a month. The contractors have declined to sell it in situ (no wonder!) and are gambling on the City Corporation not getting round to buying some from another scaffolding company and having them install it instead.


Threshers – confusion marketing to the last

Press reports of discounted bounty at Threshers stores meant I dropped by my local store Sunday afternoon. I had to wait for the member of staff on duty as he was on the shop phone sorting out his mobile phone top-ups – nuff said.

I asked him to explain the plethora of discounted signs, mostly hand-written, about the store. “There’s 25% of everything, except beer…etc, etc” he explained, leaving me none the wiser. Was that 25% off the shelf edge prices – which none of us have been paying for three years, as they always encouraged you to buy 3 but pay for 2? Or off the net price? Confused, I headed for a handwritten deal at £7.20 – which the shop assistant and his till asked me to pay £6 for.

Confusing to the end.

When did it all start going wrong? Any why did Threshers always have to make everything so complicated. Does anyone else remember, before their daft 3 for 2 offer, they used to have their own coding system for the stock. While the rest of the world used barcodes, Threshers had a brainwave of giving each item its own stock number – which then had to be printed on a label and stuck to each bottle in the shop; then certain bottles wouldn’t be in the computer system, so the assistants would have to find a workaround.

Trouble is, the supermarkets are copying them now, Sainsburys is encouraging us all to buy 3 for £10 instead.

Any chance the drink-drive arrests will be up this winter?



When will we have sustainable office buildings?

On Thursday I attended the New London Architecture conference about the City of London and its new office buildings. Presentations by developers showed how they have to guess what the market wants; presentations by architects and engineers showed how they are trying to make buildings more energy efficient and sustainable.

Of course, there’s a mismatch. Too many new buildings in the City still have the in-vogue floor to ceiling glazed facades – and then lots of clever stuff such as photovoltaic cells to improve BREEAM ratings. A bit like converting your Range Rover to biofuel, when you’d be better off driving a much more economical vehicle. There was a questionmark over how those who choose corporate locations come to their decisions, with the revelation that most office workers prefer not to be in air-conditioned boxes. And, as one of the engineers pointed out, in a few years we might all be using electric vehicles in the city, doing away with fumes and noise that are currently excuses for having sealed windows.

The developers said they would prefer to knock down and rebuild, while the building professionals said refurbishment could be more sustainable overall. And it is the predominant existing building stock that is torching through energy and leaving occupiers with high running costs. Hopefully occupiers will start to rent buildings having taken a much more detailed look at how much they will cost to run.

Of course, their efforts to go green are all in vain, if the office occupiers switch all the lights on first thing in the morning, and then leave them all on right into the evening.

More on the conference in my report in the next edition of City Planning newsletter.

Gary’s guerilla marketing job search

I was in the City of London today, and met the enterprising Gary Sullivan, who has taken to the streets with a billboard. Gary’s short of work, and rather than sit at home sending a load of emailed CVs to people who won’t even have the courtesy to reply, he was out in the rather fresh morning air, making people smile – and making an impact.

Gary had gone the full nine yards – the billboard points people to his personal website, he had friends handing out “Hire Me” leaflets, and even had a Guardian journalist on hand to run a story on Gary’s quest.

Gary Sullivan

Enterprising work seeker Gary Sullivan

Good luck Gary – you deserve it! Check out his details via the website address on the billboard.