Young Apprentice: Selling to the over-50s isn’t as easy as pie

This week we reached the halfway point of Young Apprentice in a task which presented us with a number of surprises, such as James McCullagh proving to be a calm and effective leader. Less shocking, however, was yet another defeat for Team Atomic – that’s no wins in four tasks now – as a result of which Lord Sugar‘s Digit of Doom™ fell upon the increasingly incoherent Lewis Roman. The Scouser ended up with egg on his face after his half-baked questioning and incessant waffle proved that selling to the over-50s really wasn’t as easy as pie.

Anyone know any good old age jokes?

It’s morning at the Apprenti-Mansion™, and in a reversal of last week the boys squabble over bathroom rights while the girls are dressed and ready for business. Haya Al Dlame wins this week’s Race to the Phone™, denying Harry Maxwell aka Harry M, Brother of Boney™ a hat-trick of wins in this all-important pre-task competition. The candidates are whisked off in the Apprenti-Carriers™ to meet Lord Sugar in the dinosaur hall at the Natural History Museum which we are helpfully reminded is “home to fossils dating back hundreds of millions of years”.

Haya won the Race to the Phone™, but not the task (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

That’s no way to talk about Nick Hewer. Or Sugar’s jokes.

James tells the camera he hates both nature and history, while Hayley Forrester the Invisible Candidate™ says that she finds fossils extremely boring. Honestly, is this what a GCSE education gives kids these days? Haven’t they seen Jurassic Park?

As I noted in my pre-task preview, the over-50s have huge amounts of disposable income. Sugar tells the teams this age group spends over £260bn every year. (And no, it doesn’t all go on telephone voting for X Factor.) This week’s task is for each team to sell two out of a selection of eight products at the Over-50s Show at Olympia, with the team which sells the most winning.

To confuse the viewers, Sugar again decides to shuffle the teams. Haya and Hayley move to Atomic to join Harry M and Lewis, while Zara Brownless and Gbemi Edna Agbarha Mini-Me™ Okunlola join Harry H Not-Corbett™ (Harry Hitchens), James and Lizzie Magee on Kinetic.

Lewis, Harry M and Haya all offer to project manage Atomic, with Haya promoting her case by saying that she really likes old people. She wins the day, prompting Harry to mutter about being just as qualified to lead the team – even though everybody clearly despises him – and stating:

I’m just going to have to get behind Haya as much as possible.

Presumably because that makes it easier to push her off a cliff or stab her in the back.

Meanwhile the Kinetic girls unanimously elect James as their project manager over Harry H. Surprisingly, this turns out to be a good move as James lays out a clear strategy, proving that he has actually paid attention to previous shows: clarify the supplier’s recommended retail price (RRP), confirm the lowest price they can sell for, and be enthusiastic at every pitch. So far, so good.

Kinetic get trollied

As regular viewers will know, selecting the right products is crucial in this kind of task. There are always some clear front-runners, while others are, shall we say, of limited interest to the wider public. The eight products on offer to the two teams are:

  • A small pie-maker (RRP £19.99)
  • A 600-watt Maxi Vac hand-held vacuum cleaner – basically a super-powerful Dustbuster (RRP £39.99)
  • A nest box with a video camera so bird-watching enthusiasts can create their own wildlife TV channel (RRP £89)
  • A foldable shopping trolley bag from Barcelona, which comes complete with its own chiller compartment (RRP £125)
  • An inflatable dog shower (RRP £129.99)
  • The Versatile Pillow, which can be twisted to mould to the shape of the wearer or furniture (RRP £9.99)
  • A solar-charging backpack
  • An inflatable travel protector thingy
  • A food processor and a cuddly toy

Sorry, I just had a Generation Game moment there. I’m back now.

James had his best week so far, leading Kinetic to victory (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Both teams split into two to cover all eight suppliers between them. For Kinetic, project manager James is accompanied by Gbemi and is enthusiastic but efficient, negotiating on price but building good rapport. His other sub-team of Harry H Not-Corbett™, Lizzie and Zara are equally business-like, but do not negotiate a minimum selling price with anyone. Oops.

Atomic’s sub-teams are Haya and Lewis, and Harry M and Hayley the Invisible Candidate™. Haya comes across as professional, while Lewis babbles on like a speaking random word generator, asking the trolley supplier about whether his product is wind-proof, weather-proof and bullet-proof, and whether he has any proof. Harry again shows good salesmanship in spinning his stories for the suppliers while Hayley is, well, there too.

James listens carefully to his sub-team, backing their preference of the Maxi Vac while plumping for the shopping trolley from his and Gbemi’s selection. There is a clear advantage in this approach. With both teams having separate stands for each product the following day, it means that both stalls will be promoting a product they really believe in.

Haya, however, is adamant that she wants two of her products – the pie-maker and the trolley – ignoring Harry’s impassioned argument in favour of the Versatile Pillow. However, she loses out on the trolley to James’ team and, determined that she must have a high-value product, opts for the nest box camera. It is a somewhat bizarre and highly risky choice – a high-value product certainly, but also one with a narrow appeal which will be of no interest to the majority of exhibition visitors.

Sell, sell, sell

At the Over-50s Show, the Apprenti-Kids™ have seven hours to sell their wares. Each team has two stands, one for each of their products.

Haya and Lewis are selling the pie-maker. Initially Haya sets a selling price of £29.99, £10 above RRP. Their free pie samples pull in the punters, but it is clear that the high price scares them off just as quickly. Lewis remarks that “people over 50 love freebies”. I think you’ll find that all people love freebies. Later, he grumpily adds:

I never, ever want to be old.

Who does he think he is, Peter Pan?

With sales slow, in a bit of a panic Haya decides to drop the price to £14.99, affording Nick Hewer the opportunity to make a wry comment about their pie-in-the-sky pricing. Really, Nick, you’re so much better than that pun.

Harry M again showed sharp salesmanship (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Their teammates Hayley and Harry M, Brother of Boney™ also struggle to shift their nesting box, in part because of some haphazard and unattractively high pricing, However, it gradually dawns on them that they’re stuck with a bit of a duff product. and that zero times a high retail price still adds up to zero sales. Late in the day they slash prices. Hayley sells one unit for £100, while Harry starts hawking his stock to other exhibitors, finally shifting five more at £80 each. Despite being lumbered with a poor product, you have to admire his persistence and entrepreneurial spark.

Over on Kinetic’s two stands, Harry H Not-Corbett™ and Lizzie are hampered by being unable to budge from their £40 selling price for the Maxi Vac. It never occurs to them to pitch their product as being reduced from, say, £50 to £40 for one day only. Nonetheless, they persevere and, thanks to good demonstration technique, start to shift product at a decent rate. Meanwhile James successfully sweet-talks a couple of customers into buying their trolley bag and works hard to keep everyone’s energy high throughout the day. However, as morning turns to afternoon we see Zara sitting down, while Gbemi has resorted to pushing a trolley backwards and forwards listlessly. It’s not a great performance by either girl.

Boardroom Brouhaha™

In the boardroom Lewis sucks up to Haya, calling her leadership “outstanding”, but Nick calls her out on her product selection:

Harry [M] put up a fierce fight for his pillow but Haya stamped her foot.

Meanwhile, Harry H compliments James on his stint as Kinetic’s project manager, although his sub-team come under fire for not negotiating discounted prices as instructed by James and it is revealed that Zara achieved zero trolley sales. Oops.

Sugar quickly tires of this good-humoured banter and calls for the results. Atomic’s pie-maker raised £347.42 in sales, while a late surge saw them sell £500 worth of bird boxes, giving them a total of £847.42. Kinetic sold a modest £329.98 worth of trolleys, but a highly impressive £808.79 of the Maxi Vac. Their total of £1,138.77 gives them victory by nearly £300 – a wide enough margin which would have been even more emphatic if not for Harry M’s persistence. Last week he sold triffids, this week bird boxes with cameras. Next week he will no doubt sell snow to Eskimos. I have previously criticised him for his overbearing arrogance and lack of respect for teammates, but there is no question the lad is a natural-born salesman and entrepreneur. He must now be considered a leading candidate.

Kinetic are rewarded with a private show from the magician Dynamo on their own pod on the London Eye. He turns playing cards into banknotes. Now wouldn’t that be a useful skill to have?

A dejected Atomic make their weekly trip to the Cafe of Broken Dreams™. The faces have changed from week to week, but for Lewis and Harry M it is their fourth trip in a row here. Haya says she thought she led the team well, but the problem was that Harry M and Hayley didn’t listen to her, which is an interesting – and utterly untrue – interpretation of events.

Back in the boardroom, Haya takes responsibility for her selection of the pie-maker, but points a finger at the high pricing of the nest box. Harry admits that it wasn’t so much price that was the issue as the fact the product had no appeal, whereas he argues (correctly, in my view) that the pillow had a broader appeal than the pie-maker. Sugar wants to know why they lost out on the trolley, and the focus turns onto Lewis, who Nick identifies as a waffler – for which he can have this week’s Statement of the Blahhdy Obvious Award™.

Lewis was enthusiastic. But that was about it (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Sugar reveals the individual sales numbers: Harry M £400, Haya £216, Lewis £130, Hayley £100. This helps inform Haya’s choice to bring Lewis and Hayley back in with her. Harry is allowed to return to the house, although had he not made his one big trade sale he might have been in big trouble. But he did, so he isn’t – and rightly so. Fortune favours the brave.

After Sugar has a quick conference with Nick and Karren Brady, the trio return to hear their fate. Hayley says Haya should be fired, while Haya and Lewis gang up on Hayley. Sugar pins the choice of the pie-maker and the loss of the trolley pitch on Haya. The poor girl is virtually halfway out of the door in tears, not realising this is the usual fake-out, when Sugar instead dismisses Lewis with one wave of the Digit of Doom™, for being a triumph of puppy-dog enthusiasm over any actual business acumen.

On the assumption that we will have four finalists and no interview round – there was none last year – there will have to be one week with a double firing. I really thought this might be it, as Sugar could justifiably have fired any of the three boardroom candidates. Haya could easily have gone for a series of poor decisions, while Hayley might have been fired for both saying and achieving very little so far in the entire process. But no, it was just Lewis this week.

So our resident Scouser is whisked away in the Riches-To-Rags Roller™, where he spouts utter gibberish:

Even though I sold more than Hayley, Lord Sugar believes in opportunities and he’s gave [sic] Hayley an opportunity to prove herself. I’ve already proved myself in this competition and I don’t think I need to prove anything else.

In other news, Adolf Hitler was just a misunderstood loner.

Next week: It’s the return of the advertising task. Hurrah! The teams must create a TV ad for a new anti-perspirant deodorant. Will it be no sweat or cold sweats for the candidates? And will either team come close to matching the legendary Pants Man?

Young Apprentice continues on BBC1 on Monday at 9pm.

Link: BBC official website

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