The Apprentice: Felicity’s fatal flaw exposed in beastly beauty balls-up

Last year they tried to sell high-end fashion to the unsuspecting citizens of Manchester. This year, the teams on The Apprentice are tasked with selling beauty products and treatments to the people of Birmingham. And, despite a shuffling of the teams, Logic lost for the fourth task in a row after somehow contriving to make a loss. The only difference this week was that it was finally a female candidate – project manager and creative arts entrepreneur Felicity Jackson – who became the fourth victim of Lord Sugar’s Digit of Doom™.

Pitch and put-up or shut up

After Natasha Scribbins wins the weekly Race to the Phone™, the would-be Apprentices are told to high-tail it from the Apprenti-Mansion™ to the British Museum, which Susan Ma thinks is full of “dinosaurs and stuff”. (That’s the Natural History Museum, love.) Sugar points to a statue of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, as he makes this week’s Tenuous Task Link™ and introduces this week’s task of setting up their own beauty treatment and products business.

Zoe was installed as Venture's project manager (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

First things first, though, and it’s time for a reshuffle. Zoe Beresford is moved back to Venture, where she is appointed project manager. Meanwhile, Jim Eastwood is returned to Logic along with Felicity, who is given the dreaded PM role. That means Logic now comprises Felicity, Jim, Tom Pellereau, Vincent Disney Disneur, Ellie Reed, Melody Hossaini and Natasha, while Venture are made up of Zoe, Leon Doyle, Glenn Ward, Susan, Helen Milligan and Edna Agbarha the Control Freak Über-Bitch from Hell™. Got that? No matter, as they will doubtless be rearranged again next week, just to confuse us all.

Heading off in the Apprenti-Carriers™, we are treated to the twin insights that Ellie is “not a girly girl” and Vincent is confident that “I know my cosmetics”. As he tosses his luxuriant mane backwards, TV ad-style. And looks into the camera saying “Because I’m worth it.”

The teams select their sites. Logic opt for the Bullring in the city centre, which has a great pitch for their product sales but a poky broom cupboard of a room about 500 miles away for their treatments. Venture choose an out-of-town mall, but their sales pitch is next door to an expansive three-room beauty spa. It’s not really touched upon very much after this, but with treatments having been identified as the more lucrative side of the business, that is surely a significant advantage for Venture.

You may have missed her saying it, but apparently Susan is an expert in the skincare business (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Anyhow, next on the to-do list is to hear various vendors pitching their products for the teams to represent. For Venture, Susan is all “I’ve been selling skincare products for the last three years” – she goes on to mention it approximately 3,000 times, just in case we forget – but her enthusiasm is critical in winning the all-over spray tan treatment that both teams are desperate for.

Logic, meanwhile, are all “yeah, whatever” and Felicity seems generally surprised when they lose out on the spray tanning. They end up with lava shells for hot massages and some hair treatment stuff which includes clip-on hair fringes called ‘winges’. Which is surely the worst name for a product ever?

The final decision the teams need to make before setting off for Birmingham is how much stock to buy. A confident Susan – who stops just short of claiming she can sell ice to eskimos – wants to spend a sum equivalent to that required to bail out the Icelandic banks, but Zoe keeps it down to around £500. Felicity just wants to buy everything, in the manner of someone who understands the concept of ‘retail therapy’ but not ‘credit limit’.

Purchases made, it’s off to Brum!

Taking the Bull(ring) by the horns

Felicity's indecision cost her dearly (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

So, how do Felicity’s Logic team fare in the Bullring? Well, they certainly have an interesting approach. Here are some selected highlights:

  • Having been told repeatedly that all the money is to be made in treatments, they focus almost exclusively on selling products. Indeed, having started at 11am, they do not sell their first treatment until 3.30pm.
  • Natasha’s sales patter for selling their fake fringe winges: “It’s like a pet hamster, really, isn’t it?” O-kaaaay. She later tries to sell a blonde winge to a brunette, and follows it up by attempting to sell Christmas to turkeys.
  • An exasperated Nick Hewer abandoning his observer’s role to inform a procrastinating Felicity “I wouldn’t gas about it – I’d get on with it.”
  • Felicity’s late-in-the-day solution for selling massages to customers? Offer them three minutes for free, and then charge £1 a minute after that. I wonder how many customers stopped after three minutes. You just would, wouldn’t you?
  • Jim chipping in by doing a lava shell hot massage on a bloke. I sense an impending bromance.

Overall, it’s a pretty feeble effort. The downstairs team are so busy trying to sell low margin products that they seem to forget about upselling to the lucrative treatments for most of the day. Consequently Ellie and Melody are left twiddling their thumbs while Felicity faffs around unable to make any decisions without calling a team meeting. And when they do make a treatment sale, it seems to take them a long time to realise that if they don’t chaperone customers three floors up to the treatment room, then most of them simply don’t bother. It’s all basic errors, really.

Have you seen my weird finger thing?

Mind you, Zoe’s Venture crew don’t have the smoothest of days at their out-of-town mall either:

  • An obviously uncomfortable Leon gets off to an awkward start as he tells a potential female customer “We can get you naked and spray you.” The last time I tried a line like that on a girl did not end well.
  • Glenn tells it like it is: “I can’t talk you through what they are. I just know they’re pretty. You’re pretty …”
  • Helen has problems operating the spray tanning machine – then realises she has forgotten to switch it on.
  • Susan contemplating why sales are slow: “No one has any money round here. Everyone seems so poor.” (Karren Brady‘s face is a picture here – remember she was managing director of Birmingham City football club for 16 years, so is unlikely to have taken too kindly to the comment.)
  • Leon’s “weird finger trick” for attracting customers. It’s one part Dr Evil, one part downright, well, weird. Whatever, it works.
  • An underperforming Susan being confronted by project manager Zoe. “You’ve made your bed. You’ve got to lie in it.” Miaow!

However, the spray tanning operation ticks over nicely and, Susan the Incredible Sulk™ aside, everything else seems to go relatively well.

Boardroom brouhaha™

Back in the boardroom for the all-important results, both teams declare that their respective project managers were “good”. Zoe takes the opportunity to lay into Susan for her poor advice and overconfident sales estimates. Felicity bemoans the loss of the spray tanning business, while Sugar wryly observes that it “looks like Vincent had one before you lost it”.

After that jovial banter, it’s down to serious business. Karren reveals that Venture – who had £60 worth of leftover stock at the end of the day – spent £734 but sold £937, bringing in a modest profit of £203. That mediocre performance is made to look like absolute genius, however, as a disgusted Nick reports that Logic spent £924 and only generated sales of £677, thereby recording a loss of £246.28 or, as he so appositely terms it:

A pig-ugly loss.

Quite. Overspent. Undersold. Basically, hopeless. Tom and Vincent look absolutely distraught – for the pair their task record now stands at 0-4.

Venture’s reward is to be taught how to dance by Katya and Robin from Strictly Come Dancing. (Is it just me, or are the winners’ treats getting stingier with every passing year? Next week: a trip to the dogs and chicken-in-a-basket.) For Logic, however, it is a trip to the Cafe of Broken Dreams™ and the subsequent tap-dance in the boardroom.

In said cafe, Felicity’s in-depth assessment of her team’s failure runs as far as:

I believe we’re all equally responsible for the failure of this task.

Which, as comments go, is about as useful as the proverbial chocolate teapot, really. Back in the boardroom, Vincent adds to the insightful analysis by offering the following Statement of the Bleedin’ Obvious™ on what he terms a “shambles”:

Well, we overspent and we made a loss.

Vinnie, baby, you had me at “well”. And you really should have just stopped there.

Natasha adds in her two pennies’ worth – and I’m not sure it’s worth even that much – trotting out exactly the sort of drivel that had me filling in my Bullshit Bingo card rabidly. I think it was something like:

In my view, there was no sales process implemented waffle blah outside the box blah waffle there was no strategy double-think double-speak speculate to accumulate blah blah what was the question, by the way?

When asked directly who she thinks is at fault, Felicity’s only response is “as a team, all of us”. And when pressed to name which of her team members she wants to bring back in, she seems genuinely surprised that she has to bring two in, saying:

This is so hard … I’m really struggling … [pause] … Right, I’m going to be decisive … [longer pause].

In the meantime, Sugar, Brady and Hewer have popped out for a quick Chinese dinner. In Beijing. Finally, she settles on Ellie – who is spoiling for a fight – and Natasha, who completely misreads the way the wind is blowing by trying to compare herself favourably against Jim.

While the trio wait outside, the three on the inside have some less than complimentary things to say about each of them. Most damning of all is Karren’s assessment of Natasha:

She comes in here, she talks the talk. All of the things she says that she saw, she noticed, she would have done differently – it’s all talk.

After being brought back in, the three women descend into a bit of an unedifying bitch-fight. Natasha and Ellie blame Felicity. Felicity blames Ellie. But in truth it’s an easy decision for Sugar to make. He has clearly had enough of Felicity’s “the team this” and “the team that”, pointing out that he expects his business partner to be able to operate on their own. Firing up the Digit of Doom™, he concludes:

This was a disastrous task and a lot of decisions weren’t really made here. For that reason, Felicity, you’re fired.

Felicity troops dejectedly out of the boardroom and, quite pointedly, neither Ellie nor Natasha make any attempt to console her or even say goodbye. Double miaow!

In the Taxi to Obscurity™, Felicity underlines the naivety which has been particularly evident in the last couple of episodes:

As soon as I brought those two back in they stabbed me in the back and just said that I was a bad project manager, which is completely going against what they’d just said minutes before.

What exactly was she expecting?

Where did it all go wrong?

Felicity failed on the task in several key areas. To name but a few:

  • A lack of enthusiasm at the product pitches cost her the spray tanning business, which both teams correctly identified as the biggest money-maker (clear benefits, quick and easy, profitable and unisex appeal).
  • She bought too much stock of low margin products, which drained their profits (although it is never specified how much by). In all these buy-and-sell tasks, it is almost always better to err on the side of too little stock. You can always put prices up (which increases profitability), and you don’t burn profit by dumping stock at knock-down prices at the end of the task.
  • Too much focus on selling low-margin products versus high-margin treatments.
  • Having made the questionable decision to opt for the Bullring, she never considered how she was going to sell treatments to customers and then ensure they actually turned up to have them at their treatment room three floors away.
  • Offering three free minutes on the treatments merely attracted a load of time-wasters which filled up their small treatment room for very little revenue. It would have been far better to sell the treatment at full price while offering a small discount on the products to ensure their biggest and most profitable revenue stream was always running at its most profitable.
  • Made too few decisions, too slowly. If everyone is involved in every major decision, then no one is accountable – which slows down the entire process and also makes it difficult to apportion blame in the boardroom, at which point the buck has to stop with the project manager.

Felicity seemed nice enough, but she consistently failed to provide direction and showed little appreciation for the harsh realities of the business world. She always looked completely out of her depth. A mercy killing now was probably the best for all involved.

In the fight to become Lord Sugar’s business partner, 12 candidates remain. And there’s still plenty of dead wood to get rid of yet.

Next week: The teams must create, brand and pitch a new pet food.

The Apprentice continues on BBC1, Wednesday at 9pm. Companion show You’re Fired follows on BBC2 at 10pm.

Link: BBC official website

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