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Trading Plunges into Deficit

Oct 17 2007 17:53
The Dark Knight
The union's trading operations were hit badly last year as a result of rising costs, losing a six-figure sum.
Drink more beer please!

The dramatic and controversial changes in the union's trading operations appear to have had an equally dramatic effect on the bottom line. ICU's financial reports for 2006-7 show that the trading operation as a whole has seen a reversal of fortunes amounting to some quarter-of-a-million pounds.

The walkway shop, newsagent and online shop* continued to lose money last year despite the expected upturn in sales due to the Centenary year. Many alumni were expected to purchase new regalia and while an increase in the value of sales was seen, costs increased by a greater amount wiping out any gains. This means that between 2005-2007 a total of £50k has been lost, mostly by the online shop*.

Bars and catering also saw a fall in sales of around £70k, however a reasonable chunk of this was projected at the start of last year and blamed on Beit being a bulding site until February. The previously profit-making sandwhich bar in dBs was also hit by the cheaper offerings in the refurbished JCR, leading to its eventual closure. This reduction in income combined with an increase in costs (partly due to the restructuring) led to an overall loss just into six figures, a huge reversal on the large profits normally made by the bars.

Hopefully the one area of the Union expected to make money will begin filling its reserves once more - there is, after all, a major redevelopment of the bars planned in a few years and lots more awnings to buy.

Overall the Union made another on-paper profit in 2006-2007 - up on the year before - thanks to reduced depreciation costs. Whether this is because all of the Union's equipment has reached the end of its expected life and needs to be replaced this year remains to be seen...

*The online shop concerns only the "official" online regalia sales and not any income via the union website itself

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Discussion about “Trading Plunges into Deficit”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
1. Ant   
Oct 18 2007 00:10

Loving the photo caption, "Drink more beers please"? I know several people who have been trying on numerous occasions since term began...however everytime they have theres usually one ale at most on in the union bar and that never lasts the night.

Before someone says I can order from whats on next door, when the staff are already struggling to handle the demand its a bit harsh to ask them to bring 10 pints of Ale through from da-vincis, slowing the service even further.

Oct 18 2007 00:18

Perhaps the reason why this was never picked up by the exec or council... was because the ex-DPFS was very poor at giving out any meaningful finance figures, if at all.

Exec or whoever was responsible for the closure of the db's sandwich bar should really take the blame for not responding to the new threat from JCR promptly by differentiate themselves... instead wasn't there a long, meaningless and unrepresentative consultation on what should happen to db's - much like those pointless government consultations? Who came up and strongly supported the 'easy' option of closing the outlet altogether??

Last year's exec and council clearly lack the finance and business skills required to ensure the union's survival... no wonder why college is now in charge.

Oct 18 2007 01:41

"Last year's exec and council clearly lack the finance and business skills required."

Elected representatives need the right aptitude, attitude and enquiring mind to be able to understand what they are being asked to decide, approve, scrutinise and ratify. On top of that though I think they also need training (or at least access to someone who can answer their questions). If the student representatives aren't in a position to fulfil their role effectively and they are trying their best, then some of the fault has to be with the system and the information they are being presented with.

Not all council/exec members will have finance skills, the way they are asked for their input should allow for that.

Oct 18 2007 10:18

Exec and council shouldn't have to have top business skills - there is a staff structure in place designed to deal with that side of things. Indeed, the elected students were frequently blocked with "its an operational issue", only managing to properly intervene when it was too late.

It was the staff structure that should have responded to the threat from the JCR earlier and I presume that is partly what triggered the latest restructuring completed over the summer.

I hear bars and catering are doing very well this term...

Oct 18 2007 11:20

A large report with many meaningful financial figures was prepared by the ex-DPFS to be presented to exec but its publication was blocked by the ex-president. At the exec meeting that closed the sandwich bar the then DPFS was seen referring to this report and appeared very unhappy that he couldn't present these figures.

Oct 18 2007 11:26

Last year's Council and Exec were perfectly capable of making sound decisions. What they lacked was basic financial information in the form of regular management accounts, which were often five or six months late. This is the main reason why Exec resolved to restructure the finance division last summer and bring in expertise from College so that future Exec members will have the information that they need to keep the Union's finances on track.

Last year's Exec also had to work in an environment where communication between the recently abolished Commercial Services division and the rest of the organisation was wholly inadequate, largely due to the staffing structure. Again, action was taken over the summer to improve communication by making the (newly created) DGM responsible for trading, retail and student services operations.

So while last year was not great, I am pretty confident that financial and commercial management will improve this year thanks to the reforms last year's Exec started and this year's Exec is in the process of implementing.

Oct 18 2007 12:35

If I remember correctly Exec did point out on several occasions that the shop may well be losing a lot of money. However each time a certain sabbatical officer spoke of the issue, he was told that he was talking out of this ass and the shop was making more than Harrods. The auditor?s report clearly stated that the shop was making a severe lose mainly due to its online operations, which had to write off its huge stock of 70s style tracksuits and chess sets. The people incharge of the shop then argued that the auditor was just doing some "clever accounting to make the shop look bad". Why the hell would you appoint an auditor that purposefully made your accounts look bad? Regarding the ?expected upturn in sales?, I believe that is just some ?clever budgeting?, where a Commercial Services just decided to ignore out going costs and pretended that laser pointers for ?22.95 will actually sell. The shop has been making a loss for a number of years now and each time they increase their profit expectation from the previous year for some unknown reason. Many of the sabbaticals have also expressed their concerns about the goods the shop was stocking. However there were very little they could have done since it was an ?operational issue? and if the shop f**ks up, which it clearly has for the 4th year running, the sabbaticals get the blame.

It was the DPFS who actually had to dig out the figures to show that the union was throwing away enough food from DBs each day to feed a small African country. This should most certainly have been done by the so called ?experts? from Commercial Services, but they were too busy stacking shelves in the newsagent. Exec told them to p*** off and think of something constructive to do with DBs and without Exec?s approval someone purchased 5000 ?Halal frankfurters? (note: I have no idea how you get halal pork), when later questioned, a feeble attempt of an advertising campaign was presented. As you expect, they were once again told to go away and think of something sensible, which they didn?t do.

If you are looking for someone to blame, then I don?t think Exec is the place you are looking for. I person don?t think the shop will make much improvements this year if the shop manager choose to manage it like the way it has been previously. Hey but who am I to comment, I do not have the finance and business skills required to ensure the union's survival.

Oct 20 2007 17:01

I'd drink more beer if I could actually get served at the bar and if the staff actually knew where the drinks were!

Oct 20 2007 17:02

Who was the idiot who chose to replace Lowenbrau with that Tuborg rubbish, which I see they are reduced to selling at ?1.50?

Oct 20 2007 23:35

It was packed tonight, but there was a lovely member of staff serving in the union bar (female, black hair dyed slightly red?) who gave the first real service-with-a-smile I think I've seen for ages on both occasions I was in there. It's a very welcome mark of friendly service in the bars.

11. lol   
Oct 22 2007 16:35

Ashley is in LOVE

Oct 22 2007 18:02

Most of the bar staff fall foul of the half-plus-seven rule for me...

13. plus   
Oct 25 2007 01:23

his missus probably wouldn't approve.

Nov 09 2007 17:06

If I use a couple of half melons in a bra and dye my hair slightly red will I make a favourable impression too?

Nov 09 2007 20:41

Maybe if you smile, talk rather than grunt and pull a semi-decent pint.

Actually, the bar service when I've been in the union bar the last couple of weeks has been quite good, despite lots of new faces.

Nov 09 2007 22:41

That's because they are all RSM and we know how to drink... um... I mean pull a pint. =)

Nov 10 2007 08:32

Is that the currently DPEW implying that our bar staff drink while they are pulling pints behind the bar?

Nov 10 2007 11:15

It is illegal for bar staff to drink (alcoholic and non alcoholic) or eat whilst behind the bar. It is classed as a food preparation area under the law, and hence for health and safety reasons people should not be eating or drinking there.

Nov 11 2007 02:27

i bet you're an absolute riot at parties with that kind of knowledge.

Nov 11 2007 09:27

That is a bit rich coming from somebody posting anonymously on Live! at 2.30am on a weekend.

Nov 11 2007 22:20

For anyone with an issue with the bars/catering/ents...

It was mationed in the President's weekly email... but seeing as I tend to delete those I thought I'd post it here...,186,ICUNS.html

even if they don't listen to you there are meant to be free sandwiches and snacks.

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