Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The One Where They Sell Caravans (or The Apprentice Candidates Camp It Up In Birmingham)

Camping it up, Apprentice-style
As ever, the introduction to this evening's Apprentice reminds us that this process is not about a job.  It's about Lord Sugar, ploughing £250,000 into a new business.

With that firmly in mind, we churn through a rehash of last week's tortuous away day task - because we all needed to see Alex as Corporal Freddie Mercury the Vampire again and Francesca squinting through her eyeliner as she outlines how much plastic flamingo hire is (FYI - £shitloads).

And...we're on with the next task.  We're in the last of the double figure cast lists - only ten remain.  It's like an Agatha Christie novel title - Ten Little Muppets.

It's another 6am call - and the candidates are off to the Tower of London, with the instruction to pack an overnight bag.  Jason packs his teddy (not an all-in-one lace number, an actual enormous teddy bear - not sure entirely which is the more disturbing image... One for the #brainbleach, I suspect).

Neil winds Alex up by saying it's still legal to kill a Welshman at the Tower of London before 9am - Alex's patience is wearing thin as he hisses and exposes his pointy canines, vowing to kick Neil right in the Crown Jewels if he carries on.

So, they're at the Tower of London, not for diamonds and rubies type task - oh, no, nothing that glamorous.  The link between the location of the task reveal and the actual task is that the Tower is visited by tourists and their task is linked to holidays and recreation.  Tenuous, Shugs, vair tenuous.

And...they're off to the Motorhome & Caravan Show at the Birmingham NEC, where they're to choose products to sell, including one high-ticket item.  The caravan industry is worth over £6 billion per annum - as-ton-ish-ing!  That's a whole lotta chemical lavatories!

The team that sells the most will win.  One of the losing team will be fired.  Same as ever - gotta love the format (and I genuinely do - the Beeb has got it spot on here)!  #weakpunalert Anyway, whatever happens, the excitement will be...<drumroll>  Sorry.

Jason is warned not to hide any more (there are no vegetables to prep in this task, SURELY?!), as Lord Sugar mixes up the teams.

Team Evolve
Neil (moves across from Endeavour)

Team Endeavour
Count Dracula

First task - to decide the team leaders.  Myles is not keen to volunteer - his glamorous lifestyle means that he has no experience of caravans (they're apparently "banned in Monaco").  Conversely, Kurt has had plenty of experience, and has lots of energy for the task.  Alex also offers, but he scuppers himself by not having had any caravan holiday experience (they're not popular in Transylvania either), so they go with Kurt.

Neil's project manager for Evolve and one of his first duties is to knock back Jason as he "puts his flag right at the front of the sales queue".  Wise move, given that Jason is always looking to "sweeten deals" that were in the process of being done by leaping about like The Eager Discount Puppy and offering money off where none was needed.  The teddy-cuddling guffawing twat.  Neil says everyone has to have the same opportunity, so Jason picks up his metaphorical flag and tucks his enthusiastic puppy tail between his legs #brainbleachagain

Myles "literally hates caravans".  Jason asks "why on earth" people go caravanning.  Great team!

Alex and Kurt are doing market research en route to Birmingham, using the failsafe "let's look at how old we think the people driving cars pulling caravans are".  Over 50 is the answer.

Meanwhile, the other halves of the teams are scoping out the products they're going to sell.  They've been given a number of options from which to choose - a chair with a hood, a roofbox boat, a plantpot barbecue, a battery bike, a children's camping kit.

Next task, to convince the vendors of the products that they're the right team to sell on their behalf.  Myles does his best crawly-crawly-bum-licking flattery act and over-enthusiastically tells the creators of one of the mediocre camping accoutrements that they should be really proud of themselves.  Nick Hewer isn't impressed - he felt "nauseated" by Myles's approach.  But Myles thinks he can deal well with people at the very highest level, including A-list celebrities and royalty.  He forces a smile to prove it.

Luisa (who still hasn't brushed her hair) is gushing over the kids' camping kit to its vendor.  Not literally gushing, but she may as well be.  Jordan does a G-G-G-Granville and fetches a cloth.

Then Myles and Leah get their hands on the kids' camping kit maker - and Leah does her best Banquo impression as she pours cold water on any enthusiasm Myles might fake, saying she hasn't got kids and asking how much discount she'll be able to offer at the end of the day's trading on this product.  I think Luisa's unseemly gushing might have won the day there.

Kurt and Alex are at the Motorhome & Caravan Show, spotting old people (or, as Kurt ironically calls them, "coffin dodgers" - a concept that Alex the Vampire surely isn't familiar with).  They're there to look for their high ticket item.

Neil and Jason are also there.  Jason wants to buy a motorcycle.  Neil doesn't.  So Jason sits in a comfy chair.  Neil calls him a big girl's blouse; the weakest member of the team.  But he is an affable buffoon - maybe that'll help him with this task.

Francesca, Luisa and Jordan are looking at an electric bike (the Batribike).  It retails at £949 and there's no flexibility on the price.  None.  Last year, the vendors of this item sold 55 over the six days of the show - is the lure of the high value sales price enough for the possibly low turnover of this item for Francesca, Luisa and Jordan?  But, for the other team, Leah wants to offer more discount at the end of the trade show?  No.  Natalie wonders about offering a discount for selling more than one?  No.

They ask Neil and Jason which products they should choose - suggesting the Batribike and the kids' camping kit.  Neil tells them to make the call, but afterwards, Jason doesn't think much of the bike as a choice.

Kurt and Alex get their call - and Myles, Leah and Natalie want the exact same products.

Which of the teams have the product owners chosen to represent them?  Well, neither of them was impressed with the penny-pinching cost-cutting that Leah and Natalie favoured, with their insistence that discounts at the end of the show were a necessary part of the deal.  They both plump for Team Evolve and Myles has the difficult task of calling Kurt to tell him that the products he had wanted aren't on the table any more.  Alex is unimpressed and does some angriness.  He loses his rag rather a lot about people, doesn't he?  I wonder if that'll keep going unnoticed?

Neil and Jason are looking at high ticket items.  Jason falls madly enough with a little silver caravan that you could apparently fit an elephant in.  Unless there was an elephant in it already, I suppose, in which case it'd be quite a squeeze.  Luckily, for all sorts of reasons, there's not.

Neil's favouring a retro camper van.  They've already sold six this exhibition, but is the £17k funky camper right for the older demographic?  He's unsure.

Alex and Kurt are looking at a trailer that pops up into a tent - which fits all demographics, apparently.  It sells for £11k and they've sold 11 already.  They seem to prefer the retro camper though, saying that if they sell one of those for £17k, they'll have won the task.

Neil and Jason decide they want the folding trailer tent, based on the sales figures.  Alex and Kurt go for the more expensive retro camper.


Neil sets targets for his team - nine bikes, 60 kids' camping kits.  He wants to see who can sell the most - it's a competition.  Jason looks horrified.  I think he'd like a comforting spud to peel.

Kurt wants to sell the retro campers, with Myles.  Alex argues with him, sounding petulant, fair stamping his feet over not being able to sell the bespoke pretty campers.  But Kurt's made his decision.  He thinks 22-year-old Alex is too young to be a plausible salesman for a camper van.

To give him his due, Alex then puts his whole self into the hokey-cokey process of selling chairs with hoods.  I can't help but sing to myself, "I'll protect you from the hooded...chair...keep the vampires from your door..." but then I get a bit Frankie Goes To Hollywood at this time of night usually, so I shouldn't read anything into it if I were you.

Luisa tries to sell an electric bike to a humorous older gentleman who laughs at the concept - why would he buy an electric bike?  If he wants exercise, he'll buy a bike and pedal it.  Quite!

And the kids' camping kit is £99, which is, as Karren points out, not an impulse buy either - they've chosen two relatively high ticket items as their low-price accessories.

Alex, meanwhile, has sold a roofbox boat for £550.  Get in there, Mr Vampire!  He's promised the buyer that when the chips are down, he'll be around, with his undying, death-defying love for him - but I think the guy was fine with just being able to empty his camping shit out of the roofbox and going for a float on a nearby river without all that nonsense.  Still, Alex made the sale and he swishes his cape and hangs from a rafter for a bit to celebrate.

Myles has come up against a caravan snorter - one of those chaps who gets so excited about caravan dimensions and potential for avoiding tolls on French roads that he starts to make small, excited pig grunts as he speaks (he doesn't really - but wouldn't it be fun if he did?).  Nick Hewer shakes his head as he highlights Myles's schoolboy error - he hasn't qualified his potential "buyer" to see if he's actually in a position to purchase at the show. And, indeed, he isn't.  For the very excellent reason that his wife isn't with him.  I should think not!

Jason's rather impressing Karren with his rather camp, theatrical, "overly sincere" sales patter - perfect for this demographic.

What's this?  Luisa's sold a battery bike!  AND a kids' camping kit!  Jordan asks her what she's doing that he's not - she's initially defensive, but Jordan's actually asking for help.  Luisa very helpfully says she doesn't know.  She's "just selling them".  She should write a book on sales tips.  Well, a pamphlet.  Well, a Post-it note.  In fact, what Luisa knows about sales, you could write on the head of a pin.  In a fat Sharpie.

Neil's not impressed with the sales figures, but Luisa, Jordan and Francesca tell him he's set them unrealistic targets.

Natalie and Alex have a bit of a debate over whereabouts you sit in the roofbox boat to work the oars.  Natalie thinks the bench in the middle is a table and you sit either end.  Alex thinks Natalie is stupid.

Jason's trying to close a folding trailer tent sale.  And, actually, he's sold one - for a whole £10k!  Which hurts Neil's manhood.  He shouldn't have stood so near it as it was being folded then.  Oh, hang on, that may not have been what happened.

Myles is blaming the product choosers for picking the retro camper, as he can sell things, but just not this, to the demographic in the sale.  All the punters say their children would love it, but it's not their bag.

Kurt's sales technique is what Nick Hewer describes as lackadaisical.  And that's no good on  a one-day sales task!  C'mon, Scouser, raise your game!

The end of the day is nigh, and the teams pick up the pace.  Leah sells a roofbox boat, Neil sells a folding trailer and Luisa sells another electric bike.  Jordan doesn't.  And nor do Myles and Kurt.  Kurt decides they need "eye candy" to sell the camper and suggests that Leah comes over to encourage sales, though doesn't outline his precise reasons to Leah herself...

And with one more folding trailer sale for Neil, the curtain comes down on the day of camp sales.

Boardroom time

Lord Sugar makes his tiny way into the boardroom, climbing onto his boardroom chair and swinging his legs as he outlines why he set them the task and what he hoped they'd achieve.

The high ticket product - he thinks - is a difficult sell.  So, either team manage to sell any?

Team Endeavour

Shugs asks why Alex wasn't project manager?  He never has been...  So why not?  Don't the other candidates trust him?  Surely it wasn't because Kurt has been in a tent as a child?  Apparently so...

Myles says the girls were responsible for them not getting the products they wanted to sell from the vendors, because they weren't enthusiastic enough.  Leah and Natalie argue about how many times they asked for discounts, both fibbing somewhat.

Kurt and Jason chose the retro camper to sell - which had a target market age of 35-45.  Not an amazing thing to pitch to the over 50s then...  Was Alex happy with the salesmen decisions Kurt made for them?  Were Kurt and Myles the best people to sell them, or should Alex have been there?  Unsurprisingly, Alex doesn't think Kurt made the right decision - he's sold to royalty, no less!  Well, sort of.  The people of royalty.  Or perhaps the corgis, Shugs quips - he's quite the card, eh?

Team Evolve

Did they meet their sales targets?  No.  How did Neil, as project manager, choose the high-ticket product?  He looked at average sales per day, went for the one with the highest and figured that if he could meet or surpass it, they'd be OK.  That almost sounds sensible.

Shugs asks Jason if he's ever been in a tent or a caravan - no, nor had he ever been to Birmingham either.  Good lord, he's so posh it hurts!  But Jason thinks they worked well as a team.

Drilling down into the financials

Team Endeavour

Accessories sales: £1,479.
Retro camper: Leah came closest, but no sales.

Total sales: £1,479.

Team Evolve

Accessories sales: £3,116.
Folding camper: £30,499.

Total sales: £33,615.

So, Evolve win, on accessories sales alone!  And their treat is to go to the velodrome in Manchester, to meet up with eminent cycling enthusiast and Lycra wearer, Sir Chris Hoy!  Team Evolve leave in delight, hugging each other and punching the air, as is their wont.  Shugs calls Jason back into the say don't look so worried, well done for selling one of the folding campers.  Jase, to whom I am warming, with his foppish manner and ludicrously posh ways, backs out of the room, bowing slightly, saying he hopes he can keep impressing Lord Sugar. So do we, Jason, so do we.

The treat

At the velodrome, in fetching stretchy garments, the winning team have another chance to compete - this time against one another, as they do a time trial.  Jordan wins, with a 19-second sprint cycle round the track (and Luisa leches over Sir Chris Hoy's backside as she cycles, which is surely treason).

The losers

They head to the cafe of sorrow and blame and are sorrowful and blame each other.  Alex thinks it's the fault of the sales strategy, not the selection of the high-ticket item in itself.  Myles thinks it was the selection of the high-ticket item that's to blame.  This is shorthand for Alex blaming Myles and Kurt and Myles blaming Kurt and Alex. Natalie blames Kurt.  I wonder who Kurt will blame in this Venn diagram of buck-passing?  We won't find out till they're back in the boardroom - which is now!

Boardroom time

Kurt's blaming Alex for high-ticket item product choice - Alex defends himself by hissing and showing his pointy teeth.  Oh, and he flannels on about how he quite understands when Karren and Shugs pull him apart for choosing a product for the wrong target age for the demographic they knew would be at the show that day.  Quite what he understands remains a mystery.

Lord Sugar turns his attention back to Kurt.  Didn't he want to prove something to Shugs?  Hmm.  Yes, except he forgot.  Or something.

What about Myles?  Nick Hewer is scathing - Myles failed to qualify the people arriving at their stand to see if they were in a buying position or not.  Myles says there were no buyers at the show and apologises for letting Shugs down.  Crawly-crawly-bum-lick.

But Shugs remains unimpressed - Myles has described himself as "the Jedi knight" of sales.  And he hasn't sold anything.  He and Alex blame one another for poor sales technique versus wrong product choice again for a bit and Alex says that Leah came closest to selling one, so nur.

Ah, yes - what about the reason behind Kurt's decision to bring Leah across to try to sell?  She was "eye candy" - was she aware that this was why she was brought over?  No, she thought it was because she was the best at sales.  Oh...dear.  Zee the Chauvinist all over again?

But, what's this, Natalie starts talking!  And she may just make Lord Sugar forget all the hopelessness and poor behaviour of the other candidates by saying that she should have been brought across to sell the retro camper, because she's "in recruitment" and she "headhunts people".  Yes...just like selling camper vans to pensioners, that!  She finally concedes that maybe being in recruitment isn't the magic answer to being able to sell motorised camping equipment.  You THINK?!

So, who's coming back into the boardroom?  Will Myles have his first trip to the boardroom?  Nope. Kurt plumps for Alex and Natalie. Both disagree with his decision vehemently, with Natalie warning him not to be "tactical", but Kurt sticks to his guns.  Will he come unstuck?  Myles and Leah go back to the house; the others head to the sofas in reception to await their boardroom fate.

Shugs asks Nick what happened on the day.  He's unimpressed with Kurt's defence of the wrong product choice and Nick confirms that he's right to be.  He also thinks that Alex realised there was trouble at t'mill with the retro camper sales, saying that he hid in the long grass of the accessory sales team and kept his head down, despite his protestations otherwise.  Karren's confused as to why Natalie thinks she could sell retro campers, but Lord Sugar's a canny sort and thinks Kurt's made a tactical calculation that because Shugs said he didn't want to see Natalie in the boardroom again, she'll be a definite "fire".  Time will tell - maybe she'll be OK if she doesn't talk again...

Back in the boardroom

Why did Alex think he should have been selling the camper vans?  Alex says it's because he was involved with Kurt in selling them, so it should've been him and Myles selling them.  But Kurt defends his decision, saying he wanted to prove he could sell them.  Lord Sugar points out that he didn't sell any #thudmoment

Oh, dear.  Natalie starts talking.  She says woulda, shoulda, coulda a lot - she woulda picked the right product, she shoulda been the one selling, she coulda been a contender.  But Shugs stops her - saying she has the utmost confidence in herself, but she hasn't delivered anything.  She did sell more than Kurt did though...

Was it a tactical move on Kurt's part to bring Natalie back in?  He, after all, knows that Shugs said he didn't want to see her in the final three again the last time she was in the boardroom - though Kurt denies this #implausible  He blames Natalie for the loss of the bike products.

So why should Kurt stay in this process?  He says he could have sold the right product, but he didn't choose the right product.  Hmm, clear as mud.

And why should Alex stay in this process?  Because he's "set up a company on his back" (is he a tortoise?) at the age of 19, and making it a success.  This business is bespoke tombstones - is there a more perfect company for a vampire to run?  Perhaps a blood bank, but it's pretty much top three ideal vampire businesses, eh?  He does lots more talking.

However, Lord Sugar points out that product selection was a fatal error for this task, though Alex has performed well up till now.  Surely he hasn't forgotten the success of the Foldo chair already?

Shugs admires Kurt's honesty - it was the wrong product and he's admitted that he's got it wrong.

And he's also concerned that Natalie's in the boardroom again.

But it was Kurt who messed up the most.'s Kurt who's fired.  And I, for one, won't miss his slapped arse face and lacklustre performance.

Shugs says he's worried about giving his £250,000 to Alex, because he's young and lacks experience.

And then he turns his attention to Natalie again - Kurt may well have made a tactical move to bring her back into the boardroom, but she's had too many chances.  Shugs' patience has run out - it's the end of the line for Natalie as he fires her as well.

And I, for one, won't miss her little witchy chin and whining about what she could've done, if only she'd had some 20/20 hindsight binoculars at the beginning of the task.

Alex returns to the house alone, with Lord Sugar's warning to take his words on board ringing in his ears.

And then there were...eight.  And next week's task is to create an online dating concept.  and there's a frankly disturbing image of Alex in what looks like drag to whet our appetites...  #dryheaves

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