I bought two cups of coffee on
my way to work this morning. The first at a stall in a provincial railway station. My usual black Americano (why is it called that, Wikipedia doesn’t know?) cost me £1.50, and the brew served-up was watery and insipid. English coffee of the old school. I didn’t finish it.
Matters improved though, as an hour later I was cycling away from the Monmouth Coffee Company in Covent Garden, my hand tightly clasped around a wonderfully flavoursome and punchy cup of coffee made from beans sourced (since the 1970s) “from single farms, estates and cooperatives around the coffee growing world”, with my pocket lighter to the tune of a more than reasonable £1.00p.
Not far from Monmouth Street, across Cambridge Circus and down Old Compton Street is long-established Soho institution, a glorious remnant of
the ‘little Italy’ history of Soho, I. Camisa. This family-run delicatessen will sell you the very best Parma ham you’ll find in England (let me know if you think I’m wrong about this, please). And guess what? It’s cheaper then you’ll find anywhere in the provinces or in fact in a supermarket or deli in the rest of London.
What do these two retailers have in common, that allows them to keep quality up and price down so outstandingly?
- Product turnover : a lot of coffee and Parma Ham is sold every day. Volume of sales allows prices to be kept down, and a ham that’s used quickly will taste better…
- Independence : institutional investors are not demanding their pounds of flesh (ham or whatever).
- Expertise : walk into either shop and you know you’re dealing with real experts, who (literally!) live and breath their work.
- They are in it for the long term.
OK, that’s enough about food, but I do have a parallell to draw with what we do at Harvest Digital and for agency services in general.
At a meeting yesterday with an agency bigwig, we were told to get our “outsource value proposition” sorted out. To translate, he meant we should look at using cheap executional resource from overseas (for design /coding / whatever), packaged and sold-on to our clients as a way of saving them money.
He might well be right. We have looked at this area periodically, have worked this way on a few projects; but so far, we’re not convinced that quality of service can be maintained at the same time as reducing costs.
And anyway, is out of town necessarily cheaper? Not if you’re buying coffee it isn’t.