Le Creuset Hydration Bottles
20th March 2021
Standing in the shower this morning I was wondering, as is my won't, what I could, or should, be talking about in the email this week. I then remembered that I'd said I'd mention Le Creuset's new water bottles and then I recalled a conversation that I had with Mark Mearns, Le Creuset's financial controller last week, which in turn got me thinking about the commonly held archetypal view of big businesses, places run by autocrats who put profit and shareholder dividends before all else. And yes there are probably still far more businesses run with these questionable practices, but there are also ones run on very different principles and this brings me handily back to Mark and Le Creuset.
To give you little history, we have been dealing with Le Creuset since 1972 and over the years a good deal of trust has been built up between Art of Living and Le Creuset, so much so, in fact, that these days they allow us some very advantageous buying terms, one of which is some very long credit terms in the months leading up to Christmas. Their first UK MD, Michael Sworder agreed with me in the kitchen of our Reigate shop in the late 90's, not sure why I remember this? Perhaps because we as a business always start to run short on cash in the late summer (like many retailers, we make our profit at Christmas and then eek it out over the following year) and as a result, tend to live rather hand to mouth from August to December. I recall being so surprised that my argument to him, which was "Give me loads of your stock in late August which we will flood our shelves with and I promise to pay for it in late December" worked, and maybe it was the importance of the agreement to me and us as a company that made it stick in my mind ever since.
So the other day when a stop was put on our account because we hadn't realised that we'd accidentally gone above our credit limit, I was surprised and actually felt a bit hurt because the trust appeared to have gone or at least had a dent put in it. I asked Vicky, our Le Creuset account manager for a call with Mark to try to understand what had happened. A day or so later he rang and we had, what turned out to be a very enjoyable talk. Apparently, and most importantly, he hadn't intended that a stop be put on the account, that had been a miss communication between the accounts and despatch functions, I think, for which he apologised and which of course I accepted and was very relieved about. The rest of our discussions were about credit limits and how to deal with the higher levels of business that we are currently doing with them. Somehow we got onto the subject of government support during the lockdowns, agreeing on how incredible it has been for both businesses. But then he went to say that Le Creuset had a very good year last year (despite, or even because of the lockdown) and that they had been able, but also seen fit, to repay all the Furlough Payments made to them in 2020. I was highly impressed by that, they didn't have to do this, they could have just pocketed the money and run, and I feel that the level of integrity they showed in taking this action really shows what they are made of. And you know I've always got on well with pretty well everyone employed by Le Creuset, they look after their people well and generally and they stay for long periods of time as a result. They also look after their customers well, if my experience is anything to go by, as well as you the end user. I don't know, but I suspect the same is true for their suppliers. And if you're thinking that this all sounds too good to be true, I'd say well I don't work for Le Creuset so it's true I can't be 100% sure, but these are just my observations over thirty odd years, and I believe them to be reality. Was I bribed to say this. No I wasn't. For me this all adds up to a well-run company and that the people who run it have their heart in the right place. A few weeks back I used an analogy of "the company is the car and profit is the fuel". First and foremost what matters is where you drive the car, not how much profit you make. The vision (where to drive) is what they have in spades.
So, having given Le Creuset a glowing write up, I'm now going to tell you about their new Hydration Bottles and my reaction to them. Why call it a Hydration bottle, why not just Water Bottle? Sounds hifalutin or like marketing speak to me! You see they're not perfect! And when you see them you may think how lovely. Or, like me, you may think....ermmm they could have done better. You see they've left out some key colours, green and a yellow and painted three silver lines around a perfectly nice looking bottle, which I think looks... poor or if I'm being brutal, pig ugly.
But this is just me and my taste, and whilst I think I have good taste you are completely free to disagree with me and buy one of these Water bottles. So if you are one of those people whose good taste differs from mine... and wishes to buy one, then they come in 8 colours, are 500ml in capacity, (which is the same size as Chillys Bottle) and retail for £27. And for this weekend we are even offering £5 off using code HYDRATION5 when you checkout.
If you've either been bored silly by longer than usual preamble this morning or unimpressed by my sales technique, I promise to do better next week, or at least try....
I trust you have a pleasant and peaceful weekend.