Young Apprentice: Atomic’s problems stem from faulty pricing in flower-selling task

The business world isn’t all hearts and flowers, but for one week only Young Apprentice was all about the latter as the teams turned their hands to floristry. Led by Lizzie Magee, Kinetic blossomed, whereas Atomic discovered that every rose has its thorns. After a few verbal barbs, Hannah Richards became the third casualty to be weeded out in the boardroom as her hopes were thrown onto the compost heap.

Having won last week’s Race to the Phone™, Harry Maxwell aka Harry M, Brother of Boney™ makes it a double as he is first to the door of the Apprenti-Mansion™ to receive delivery of a bouquet and a tablet from Lord Sugar. All the boys are already in their suits and ready to go, while all the girls are still in their nightwear. Peculiar.

The tablet plays a recorded message from Sugar which tells them their task is to take £800 worth of flowers and make as much profit as they can via a combination of pitching to three business clients and then selling to the general public. With the boys numbering four to the girls’ six, he rearranges the teams and nominates the project managers. Hannah, Zara Brownless and Gbemi ‘Edna Agbarha Mini-Me’ Okunlola are moved to join Harry M and Lewis Roman in Atomic, with Hannah being named project manager. Meanwhile, Harry H Corbett (Harry Hitchens) and James the One-Man Charm Offensive™ McCullagh join Haya al Dlame, Hayley Forrester and project manager Lizzie on Kinetic.

Got that? Then let’s begin.

Life’s a pitch

The Apprenti-Kids™ gather at Southwark College’s award-winning flower school, where they are given a crash course in the business (mark up your product at up to three times cost) and art of floristry arrangements. The teams’ £800 stock includes everything from 30p chrysanthemums to £8 heliconias (big ugly things that look like triffids) and variegated pittosporum (some green shrubby thing). Where’s Monty Don when you need him?

For Atomic, the democratic Hannah is focussed on team harmony and other lovely fluffy stuff, possibly involving bunnies. They quickly decide to send Zara and Lewis out to do their three pitches. On Kinetic, Harry H, James and Haya are all keen to pitch, but Lizzie makes a firm decision and sends out the two boys. She seems very focussed on winning:

I am a very competitive person. Even in netball in school I used to scratch people to get the ball.

Lizzie - not someone you would want to play netball against (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Lizzie, that’s not being competitive – that’s cheating. You’ll go a long way in this process.

The three contracts the teams must pitch for are a ruby wedding anniversary at a five-star hotel (the Landmark on Marylebone Road, I think), bouquets for the opening night of a West End musical and window displays for a trendy hair salon.

En route to their first pitch in the Apprenti-Carrier™, Zara is all buisiness-like. Lewis, however, seems to be too busy sightseeing, marvelling at the views of London. Helpful.

James and Harry H’s pitches aren’t great. When the girls back at base take too long to decide on pricing for a mantelpiece display, the boys end up guessing a price. At the theatre they try to pitch the heliconias instead of traditional bouquets. And at the hair salon they miss the brief by again pitching the heliconias, which James attempts to label as ‘rainforest chic’. O-kaaay.

Zara proved to be the best pitcher this week (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Atomic’s Zara and Lewis prove to be far superior. Or, at least, Zara does. She takes the lead on all three pitches, ignoring Hannah’s price guidance – a risky move, but probably right given Hannah’s too-low approach to pricing – and adding a further 20-25%. She does, however, pitch very well, especially to the hair salon, where she talks about ‘artistic vision’ and ‘passion’ and sells the concept of glass bell jars filled with crushed ice and dressed with delicate white and green colours. Dreamy.

Lewis, on the other hand, fumbles and bumbles and cannot work out how to turn off his ringing phone. (A teenager who can’t operate a mobile? I didn’t think such a beast existed!)

As it transpires, James and Harry H win the hotel pitch on the basis of price, but Zara and Lewis unsurprisingly take the other two contracts. 2-1 to Atomic.

Day of the triffids

Hayley convinced Lizzie to up Kinetic's prices - a task-winning move (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

We finish day one with an exchange between Gbemi Mini-Edna and Harry M, Brother of Boney™ in which he wants to price their flowers for the following day to sell at three times cost price, while she wants to go for only double. And as the teams set up stall the following morning – Atomic at Spitalfields in east London, Kinetic at Westfield across town – we see first Hayley and then Harry H convincing Lizzie to opt for triple rather than double-cost pricing.

As I mentioned in my ‘how to win’ guide for this task, the pricing decision is so often crucial, with the team that sets higher prices usually winning – and so it proves here.

The day seems to start brilliantly for Atomic, as their two deliveries leave a pair of satisfied customers, while Kinetic’s feeble posies and mantelpiece arrangement for the hotel are so skimpy that they are, as Nick Hewer later describes:

The sort of flower arrangement you’d expect to find in a jam jar.

As a gesture of goodwill, they are forced to knock £25 off the price. In real life, of course, they would have been thrown out completely.

However, despite this setback the rest of the team are doing a brisk trade at Westfield, despite their big mark-up. James even serenades potential customers outside Shepherd’s Bush tube station with some home-made poetry:

Roses are red, violets are blue

Come and have a look, we’ll do a good deal for you

Harry M managed to convinced someone to buy some triffids. Respect (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

I think it’s fair to say he won’t ever be named Poet Laureate. To paraphrase John Betjeman: come friendly bombs and fall on James, he isn’t fit for rhyming games.

At Spitalfields, Atomic’s cheaper bouquets – or, as Lewis calls then, ‘boo-kets’ – are also selling well, but as one customer remarks: “For London prices, they’re very cheap.” For which read under-priced.

Meanwhile, Gbemi and Harry M head off to tout for sales around local businesses. They shift some stock but Harry is determined to offload his vase of six heliconia stems triffids. With time running out, his persistence finally pays off as he sells the triffids – cost price £48 – for a whopping £150 to a trendy bar owner. Note that Gbemi is hovering around outside at this point. All credit to Harry: he may be cocky and pushy, but he’s a good salesman. It’s a task-winning play. Or is it?

Boardroom Brouhaha™

Back in the boardroom it’s all looking good for Hannah and Atomic. She gets great feedback from her team. Zara and Lewis are praised for their passion and enthusiasm, even though they missed out on the full set of three business wins because Zara overcooked on price. Oddly, Hannah attempts to allocate joint credit for Harry M’s triffid sale to Gbemi, which the latter happily claims with a mumbled “Yeah, more or less” while wearing the shifty expression of a guilty criminal who’s really bad at poker. Tut tut.

Kinetic raise a laugh when James – the same James who got the joint-highest score in GCSE Economics in Northern Ireland – claims that:

I myself am not very good with numbers.

Which is a bit like a heart surgeon saying that he’s not very steady with his hands, really.

Anyway, after such frivolity comes the serious bit. Karren Brady reports that Atomic made sales of £858.25 with associated costs of £407.29, for a profit of £450.96. Pretty good. Nick then trots out the numbers for Kinetic: £912.10 sales, £448.48 costs, making a profit of £463.52. Lizzie and Kinetic win by the slender margin of £12.56 – but if not for Harry M’s triffid sale, the gap would have been a more decisive £115.

As a reward, Kinetic go to Fortnum & Mason for a dinner in which all three courses contain chocolate, while Atomic – for the third week running – head off for overstewed tea and a stale choccy biscuit at the Cafe of Broken Dreams™, where Gbemi Mini-Edna makes two telling comments. First she notes:

If we had set our prices at triple we would definitely have got more money than the other team.

Firstly, have this week’s Statement of the Blahhdy Obvious Award™. Secondly, weren’t you the one insisting that triple the cost was too expensive? Then, more appositely, she absolutely nails Hannah’s shortcomings as a leader:

Hannah as project manager, she was quite good. However I don’t feel that she really led us. I thought that she more worked well with us rather than actually leading us and being decisive.

Hannah brought the wrong teammates into the boardroom, and paid the penalty (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Back in the boardroom, the bickering ramps up a notch. Harry M (correctly) highlights their low pricing as the reason they lost the task and tries to reassert that the heliconia sale was his alone (which it was). Gbemi says she thought charging three times cost price was too much. (Make up your mind, will you?) Hannah thinks it is Zara’s fault for disobeying her orders. Zara also points a finger at the pricing decision. When asked directly by Sugar, Lewis – in a moment of startling honesty – thinks himself and Zara were most at fault.

And then Hannah seals her own fate by electing to bring Zara (who pitched excellently) and Harry (who made the single most profitable sale of the entire task) back in with her. It is a clearly emotional decision, based on the fact that Zara ignored her unwise direction to try to generate more profit (or, at least, negotiating room) and because she simply doesn’t like Harry (understandable, but a terrible reason). Gbemi certainly contributed to the task in terms of designing arrangements, but she was also a big influence in the decision to go with low prices. And Lewis had an incredibly lucky escape, as it is difficult to see what he brought to the task other than enthusiasm, an inability to turn off his mobile and – perhaps most relevantly – being friends with Hannah.

The writing is already firmly on the wall for Hannah. She says Zara should have listened to her and Harry isn’t a team player, but Harry puts her firmly in her place by reiterating that the task was lost on pricing.

Sugar quickly tells Zara she is safe – and rightly so. He mulls over the repeated issue of Harry being singled out as a non-team player – leaving him looking genuinely fearful – but then says his salesmanship and his big last sale have saved him. For making a fatal error with her team’s pricing structure – and for clearly bringing the wrong pair back into the boardroom with her – it is Hannah who finds herself on the receiving end of the Digit of Doom™.

In the Riches-To-Rags Roller™, Hannah is refreshingly calm and free of bravado for a fired candidate:

I’m proud that I got this far yet a little bit disappointed that I didn’t go further. But I know I’ll walk away from this knowing a lot more than when I came. It’s kind of given me a foundation to build on for the future.

Back at the Apprenti-Mansion™, the remaining candidates debate over who is coming home. It is clear that Harry M has few friends in the house, whereas Hannah is universally popular. So it is with a mixture of shock and dismay that Harry and Zara are welcomed back. Lewis, whose animosity towards Harry has become increasingly open over the past two weeks, throws a diva strop and flounces out of the room. His days are surely numbered.

Hannah seemed a nice girl – perhaps too nice and democratic for her own good in this competition. She did make one massive error on the pricing, but if she had made the rational decision and brought Gbemi and Lewis back with her then I’m certain she would have survived and Lewis would have been on his way home instead.

Next week: The teams must choose two products they think will appeal to the over-50s market. After last week’s attempts to sell to the parent and baby market, this one has ‘disaster’ written all over it.

Young Apprentice continues on BBC1 on Monday at 9pm.

Link: BBC official website

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