The Apprentice: Lesson seven - it's all about margins

By: Rachel Miller

Date: 4 May 2012

BBC Apprentice - Essex market traders{{}}Lord Sugar is taking the candidates to his old stamping ground on this week’s The Apprentice.

The candidates have to buy stock from an Essex wholesaler and sell it at local shopping centres and markets. It’s a simple task — but it’s guaranteed to reveal just how much business nous each of the remaining candidates actually have.

The trick is to spot the best sellers and flog them for all they are worth. They’ve only got £150 to spend so the idea is that they keep on restocking as they start to sell out. At the end of the day, Lord Sugar will count their assets — stock and cash — to see who has won.

The teams get a reshuffle and look like this:

Team Pheonix: Laura, Tom, Adam and Azhar, with Jade in charge.

Team Sterling: Stephen, Ricky, Jenna, Gabrielle, and leader Nick.

Jade’s team is a bit of a mess. They take ages deciding where to sell the stuff and leave themselves with just ten minutes to actually choose their stock.

Jade calls herself a “born leader”. But you have to question the truth of this statement since she’s the only candidate who has not been a project manager until this point.

At the market, Adam is “totally at home in this environment” and by sheer force of personality sells out of everything, albeit for rock-bottom prices.

But there are rifts in the team. Azhar has no faith in Jade and rings her every five minutes to quiz her about her strategy. Granted, she’s not on top of things, but it’s a blatant attempt to undermine her.

The star on team Sterling is Jenna, who is selling fake tan at a hefty £10 a time to queues of women desperate for a healthy glow. Meanwhile, Ricky and Stephen have transformed themselves into Essex boys. It’s all “lovely jubbly” and “happy chappy”.

But it’s the fake tan that’s the star of the show, with its impressive margins. Unfortunately, Nick leaves it far too late to restock and they end up manning an empty stall for two hours in the middle of the day. But once they’ve got more tan in a can, they’re back to business as usual.

In the boardroom, it’s no surprise that team Sterling has won the task with assets of £955.20. Team Pheonix have managed to amass £838.21.

The post-mortem is clear. Team Sterling bought well, sold well and made good margins. Team Pheonix bought a bit of everything and sold it too cheaply.

Jade is quick to point the finger at Azhar but struggles to find a second contender for the chop. No sooner has she chosen Tom than she is apologising and singing his praises.

So it’s clear that Lord Sugar has to decide between Jade  — who is enthusiastic but ineffective — and Azhar, who is probably right but not a team player.

This is a hard one to call. No doubt about it — Jade has stuffed up. But Lord Sugar doesn’t like Azhar’s subversive tactics and in the end, he gets the finger.

Next week: Psst, wanna buy a Banksy? — selling urban art

Find out more about the candidates on the BBC Apprentice website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/apprentice

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