Young Apprentice: selling to the golden oldies

By: Rachel Miller

Date: 15 November 2011

This week, the target market is the over-fifties. Lord Sugar chooses the obvious place to gather the troops – somewhere filled with “the oldest creatures that have ever walked this planet” — the Natural History Museum.

James is his usual charming self. “I hate both nature and history but if it makes money I’ll get to like it.”

The task is to sell two products to the crowds at the Over Fifties fair at Olympia. There are eight products to choose from and the teams are in competition to grab the best products, so they need to put on a good show when they meet the suppliers. They also need to ask the right questions, especially about price.

Lord S redivides the teams and they set about choosing project managers. Who knows anything about the over-fifties? Good news — Haya has a grandmother and Harry M has parents who are over 50. Also James says, “People tell me I’m 17 going on 67”. Phew. I was worried that these youngsters might be out of touch with the older generation.

Here’s how the teams are arranged this week:

Atomic: Haya (project manager), Hayley, Harry M, Lewis

Kinetic: James (project manager), Harry H, Gbemi, Zara and Lizzie

The products are a mixed bag. One is actually a bag of sorts — or at least it’s a shopping trolley. The supplier is totally in love with his product. He purrs, “Let me introduce you to the Rolls Royce of shopping trollies. She’s sleek, she’s sophisticated and she actually comes from Barcelona.”

Both teams are keen on the Spanish trolley but it is Kinetic that impresses the supplier and gets the gig. Or at least, Lewis fails to impress with what Nick calls his “inane” remarks.

Talking of which, Lewis is on good form this week. He tells Haya,”I think old people are lovely like. Every time I see them I always feel sorry for them and I try to give them a big hug and just squeeze them.”

I’d watch out if I were you Lewis. Squeezing old people can be very dangerous. And they don’t like it.

Haya has a better idea — “squeezing the money out of them.” Nice.

Later Lewis says, with feeling, “I never ever want to be old.”

Gbemi has a different take on this high-spending market. “Old people, like, just do want to splash their money because they don’t see the point of saving anymore. If you just keep saving, you save to your grave.”

Has she heard of the pension crisis do you think?

Back to the task. Other potential products include a mini vacuum cleaner, a supportive cushion, a bird box with a camera inside and a pie maker that looks like a sandwich maker. Oh and an inflatable dog bath.

And the upshot is that Atomic take the bird box and the pie-maker to the show, while Kinetic sell the trolleys and the Mini Vac.

Lord Sugar has explained that this task is about sales volume rather than profit and each team has asked suppliers for both a list price and a bottom line price to give them room for negotiation.

The big ticket items — the trolley and the bird box — really struggle. Those cash-rich oldies really like a bargain it seems. And at the end of the day, it’s the Mini Vac that has flown off the shelves — a useful product at a reasonable £39.99.

Back in the boardroom, the numbers are in. Kinetic has brought in £1138.77 of sales thanks to the runaway success of the Mini Vac. Atomic has managed just £847.42.

Who will go?

For all the cross-examination and careful weighing up of the evidence that goes on in the courtroom (sorry boardroom), it is a foregone conclusion. Lewis is history. The fact that his phone went off last week — twice — in a pitch has already sealed his fate. And so it comes to pass.

Lord Sugar does one of his usual boardroom tricks. First he lays into project manager Haya for her failings. Then he says, “for that reason…”. Then he pauses. And then he fires Lewis.

Next week: Making a commercial for a deodorant.

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