Who leads the dance – the supplier or the customer?

Throughout my working life I have come to believe that, in any sort of service sector, that a successful enterprise reacts to the needs of the market. That is the essential underpinning of Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” – the market invisibly works to match supply and demand.

Except in France. You have to admire the French economy’s commitment to workers’ rights and to a certain lifestyle. After a week here on holiday, I am still adjusting to an economy that closes for two hours in the middle of the day. Supermarkets are still all closed on a Sunday. Are the French horrified or delighted when they come to the UK and see shop workers arranging their lunch breaks so the retail outlet can stay open, or the hordes of eager customers queuing at Tescos or IKEA on a Sunday?

Today, a Sunday, I have visited the beautiful village of Riquewhir in Alsace – officially one of France’s most beautiful villages and a tourist Mecca. It is a popular stop for the European bus tours – I saw eight coaches at any one time, with constant change overs all day. Today there is a small festival with live music and extra tourists from France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, us from the UK and I am sure others. The main street is thronged with visitors, on a gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon.

And the tourist office is steadfastly shut. It is open tomorrow at 9.30, when I suspect the tourist numbers will be 10% of what they are today. So, should the office open when the “customers” are present, or when it suits the workforce? As I heartily enjoyed the tarte flambée and the smoky porter (Black Page no4) brewed on-site at the Brasserie Du Vignobles, I pondered why the retail outlets and restaurants can open on a Sunday, but the Office du Tourisme (ODT) was firmly locked.

Surely it is too simplistic to say that the ODT is government run, or is it? Many French shops close for lunch, and not just owner-managed independents. As a business coach it all seems to be missing an opportunity, yet I am sure France is statistically more productive than the UK, so have they got it right?

Luckily, the family running the vineyard where I am staying have a more commercial outlook, and I have enjoyed a tasting and have bought some lovely Alsatian Riesling to enjoy as I ponder this further…

A very welcome, cooling beer!

Lots of tourists, no tourist info..

2 Replies to “Who leads the dance – the supplier or the customer?”

  1. Sometimes I think commercialism has gone mad in the UK. Maybe we should take a leaf out of the French book and scale it back a bit, giving people more time to spend with family.
    Great blog James 🙂

  2. Have you met my family?! More time in the shops, please 🙂.

    In all seriousness, you might be right though Gill. Thanks for commenting!

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