Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wholesome attitudes

I was away, and missed the last Retail Partnership monthly board meeting, so I was pleased to catch up with business at this morning's meeting. On the way in, I stopped off at church to lay out the Herbert Chapel for a board meeting of the Evangelical Alliance (Wales), due to start just about the time the Retail Partnership meeting was due to finish, so I succeeded in getting ahead of myself for once.

Having lived through the months of retail pessimism at Board meetings preceding the arrival of credit crunch and the use of the word 'recession', it was encouraging to hear positive reports of the state of trading, increased visitor numbers, and delight at the positive publicity for the city as a result of last week's Ashes Test match. Retailers aren't psychic, but they read customer moods and attitudes well. They are well pleased when things turn out to be less awful than anticipated, yet optimism is always moderated with caution. With careful reflection, most manage a good guess what what's most likely to happen next.

Bankers and investors work from the abstraction of trade figures. Retailers generate those statistics by their labours. I wonder how many people in the money business really sit and listen to retailers' talking as they try to sense the conditions and the mood that will enable them to earn their living? Discernment is an art rather than a science, involving heart, head and intuition, and yielding more than deceptive statistics can offer. More statistical analysis is done nowadays with ever more powerful tools for extracting new information from raw numerical data, but the world still ends up in a mess, miscalculating things. Perhaps because dominant intellect can work without regard for feelings intuition or observation, when focussed on abstractions, and on its own can easily be misled.

Anyway, it was pleasing to sense a good mood among retailer, as we heard the news that just over 60% of the retail outlets of the new St David Centre will be occupied and running when it opens for business on 22nd October coming. The meeting gave me an opportunity to announce that St John's would be hosting a Civic celebration of thanksgiving on 22nd November to mark the completion of the redevelopment. This was received with interest and appreciation. But I'll still have to work at getting people to come after the close fo trading on a Sunday evening.

All I had to do when I got back to church was switch on the lights in the Herbert Chapel for the EA group. They were installed and organised, but couldn't find the switches, hidden by a large processional banner, cause of some amusement. After the meeting, John Martin Evans, Gweini's level headed statistician, stopped by to thank us for the use of the chapel. He said that it had been a calm and positive session, no doubt aided by the peace and beauty of the place including the large commemorative chest tomb of the Brothers Herbert, helping meeting participants keep a sense of balance and perspective on life. I liked that. Perhaps a little 'memento mori' would induce a deeper realism in the deliberations of the world's financial whizz kids too, and save us from the damage that 'boom and bust' economics metes out to ordinary people.

No comments: