GENERAL ARTICLES

J. Bull: Customer

CHARLES W. STOKES October 15 1936
GENERAL ARTICLES

J. Bull: Customer

CHARLES W. STOKES October 15 1936

J. Bull: Customer

CHARLES W. STOKES

WE last SOLD year—products John Bull $303,500,000 of our Canadian worth of fields, goods mines, fisheries, forests and factories. That was 12 per cent more than in 1934, which again was 8 per cent more than in 1933.

But please, before getting all “het up” about this, stop and remember that, while this represented to us more than tw’o-fifths of our entire export outlet—41.5 per cent to be exact—it meant, when translated into imports as pounds sterling, only 7 per cent to John Bull.

This is indeed the vital and significant thing—that you could sink all our foreign trade in John Bull’s world-wide purchases, and he could still support thirteen additional Canadas. If he bought 100 per cent of our exportable foodstuffs instead of 63 per cent—which, to a country still so essentially agricultural as ours, would sound rather like heaven on earth—he would have to switch to us only 3 per cent of his present orders to other countries.

Is this enormous market worth further effort? And if so, what kind?

Now it is quite wrong to think that this has anything to do with politics, the Ottawa Agreements, or Hands-Acrossthe-Sea. Nothing so easy as that ! It is as well to put on one side the theory that Canada has any particular kind of divine right in the Old Country market. A very much older theory must be substituted—that the Customer is Always Right; or prefers, anyway, to think he is. The locale of the argument is therefore not Canada, with its hordes of ever eager producers, but Britain, with its much greater hordes of rather fussy customers over whom the whole world haggles.

Our export trade is long past, or ought to be past, the mere publicity stage, when its principal function was just to make another nation “Canada conscious.” It is not a matter of what our Canadian producers would like to export but what the British customer can be induced to consume; and if there is any investigating to be done, the first place to do it is not Ottawa or Downing Street, but Ashton-under-Lyne or Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and the first witnesses to be called should be Mrs. MacFoozle of Auchtermuchty, Mrs. Apjenkins, of Lian fair fechan, or Mrs. ’Enery ’Awkins, of Old Kent Road. Ask them what they think about Canadian products.

From them there would be a complete unanimity of reply; “Is it better? And what’s the price?” Did we not discover, years ago when we plugged the Made-in-Canada movement right in our own bailiwick, how surprisingly little patriotism resides in the shopping basket of the average housewife?

The real acid test would be for the British importer who handles Canadian products to tear off all the labels, and still be able to sell the contents of the can as at least as good as anything produced elsewhere.

And just how far is this happy condition a matter for rugged individuality or for Government action? If the best

way to increase our export trade is to export better goods, who supervises the job, who will formulate the standards whereby the ultimate customer will never make a mistake in asking for “something Canadian”?

Of all the stories I have heard in collecting the material for this article, none has been more interesting than that of the Prince Edward Islanders.

Away back in the seventies of last century, it was a common practice in villages of the Potato Province to tackle export sales on an all-in basis. First, having sowed winter oats, the village would then during the winter build

a schooner. When the oats were ready and threshed they would be loaded into the schooner, and certain selected men would then sail the whole caboodle to London. Arrived there, they would sell the whole lot, schooner included, and come back steerage. 1 found this transaction, containing who knows what epic angles, prosaically recorded in the bookkeeping records of a London food broker.

Perverted Journalism

TT IS really very simple to write this kind of article. You use the formula “My Country, Always Wrong!”, lash yourself into a frenzy about inefficient methods, obsolete advertising or none at all, and inability to appreciate the foreign customer’s peculiar mentality; concluding with the grim warning that every other nation does it much better.

This method produces picturesque journalism, but often inaccurate reporting. Far be it from me to emulate such a formula, particularly in remembrance of the fact that Canada’s exports to the Old Country have increased, as aforesaid, by some $57,000,000 in two years. But after as many conversations as I have had lately with London importers, officials, salesmen and advertising men, it is impossible to escape the conviction that I could take any article I have ever written in the past on why British manufacturers miss out so badly in the Canadian market, reverse the words “British” and “Canadian” every time they occur, and present a picture that, with some conspicu-

ous exceptions, is sincerely believed by the British importers who handle Canadian goods—and if I make some leading statements, 1 but echo what I have been told.

Now first for some figures. You must excuse these serried rows of statistics, but some are inevitable. And heaven, or maybe the League of Nations, speed the day when all countries will keep statistics in the same way! These figures represent some of the lines we sold to John Bull in 1935. Please remember, it is not a complete list.

140,656.739 bushels of grain 27,434,073 lb. of canned tomatoes

24,104,233 lb. of canned fruits 6.954,610 lb. of tobacco leaf 3,916,978 lb. of raw wool 2,431,039 barrels of wheat

2,330,089 barrels of apples 2,305.765 cwt. of newsprint 2,326,424 lb. of poultry 3,834,036 lb. of honey 1,739,317 pairs of canvas shoes

1,571,723 pairs of rubber boots and shoes 1,243.284 cwt. of bacon and

1.037.809 cwt. of wood pulp 858,257 muskrat skins

749,315 feet of lumber 527.196 cwt. of cheese 514,741 rolls of wallpaper 298.413 railroad tics 187,600 cwt. of canned salmon

71,358 cwt. of butter 43,753 lb. of candy 47,484 dozen pairs of silk stockings and socks 34,Ml lb. of maple sugar 26,309 cwt. of canned lob-

5,689 automobiles 3,310 vacuum cleaners 989 adding machines 12 pianos

and unknown quantities of laerosse sticks, skates, etc.

A word or two on some of these lines. Automobiles, for example, 5,689 of these, valued at $3,533,000, present a very heartening figure. The King, perhaps you remember, gave a tremendous advertisement to Canadian motor cars by buying one a few months ago. But the sum total doesn’t make much, dent on a market which, according to licenses, possesses over 2,000,000 cars, nor to a country which herself exports about eight times as many as our 5,689. The possession of a Canadian-made motor car is merely one form of “being unusual”-—the kind of swank that breaks out in high-priced Spanish or German cars.

Continued on page 32

DOMINION DAY, JULY IST 1936 •CANADA’S 69™ BIRTHDAY

CANADA

CALLING

BRITAIN

It WM on July í*t, 1867, three hundred and thirty-three year« after the discovery of the St. Lawrence by Jacquea Cartier, that, by virtue of the British North America Act, the provinces of Canada were united and Canada became the greatest selfgoverning Dominion within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Canada is seventy times the size of Great Britain and her three and a half million square miles represent one third of the total area of the British Empire, with fifty-seven thousand miles of railway.

Canada has an annual production of £412,000,000 and year in, year out, she sends us her wealth of minerals, timber, paper and pulp; of fish and furs and fruit and vegetables ; of dairy produce, wheat and meat, and many other products.

From her 350,000,000 acres of farmlands come the foodstuffs, which are protected at every point in their production by the most stringent pure food laws, designed to make Canadian goods the symbol of absolute purity anj^^rpaafted quality. Canada calls to Britain to buy calls in the i

of an Imperial partner, reciproc.

in the name ofj across thej

Dull

The “Canada Calling Britain" display which appeared on Dominion Day WHS a dull aifair.

“ Canada 1msan annual production of £412,060,000, and year in, year out, she sends us her wealth of minerals, timber, paper and pulp, eto,” This is hardly likely to make anyone, rush out to buy Canadian—it’s more likely to make »hem rush to the next page or, alternatively, to say “ Well, if Canada does so well, maybe I’d better buy English goods instead."

J. Bull : Customer

Continued from page 18

A certain and in some cases large number of Canadian-made razors, cameras, fountain pens, radios and such like are sold in Britain—principally, one must admit, j because of the old-established connections ; created more by American head offices than their Canadian branches. But I found the 47,484 dozen pairs of silk stockings and socks rather an intriguing item, and took the trouble to learn something about them. The reason for their being popular, despite a 36per cent duty, is that Canadian producers use a higher twist of silk and much better conditioned silk, also that the stocking manufacturers support their British agencies with almost lavish advertising. But even here, strong American and Continental competition is slashing prices; and my informant, a Regent Street importer, told me that ! whereas he used to sell freely a Canadian I line that retailed at about $1.75, today he cannot sell better than a $1 line.

Rubber is another item that intrigues. John Bull, as a matter of fact, bought last year some $3,300,000 worth of Canadian manufactured rubber goods; and the two items included in this division, boots and shoes, show that every fifteenth person in the Old Country bought a pair The explanation of this, I think, is that production in Great Britain is more spasmodic than in Canada, and that the highly organized rubber industry of this country, with its all-year production and its highly efficient export departments, provides a surplus from which the stockists are delighted to order.

And then, of course, there is lumber. We actually sold John Bull $18,500,000 worth of raw and manufactured lumber last year, besides newsprint and wood pulp. Lumber, of course, pushes itself—although not on advertising. We would only fool ourselves if we thought that by pretty-girl posters we could bust in on the highly organized British distributing ring. This is one place where selling is done by educational work rather than by hip-hip-hurrah, and it is being done, largely by the Department of Trade and Commerce and by the timber specialists from Eastern Canada and British Columbia. It is their job to educate architects and large institutions, and to see that Canadian lumber gets a break when the large orders are being passed out.

But now back to foodstuffs, the biggest item in this transatlantic trade. Of every dollar Canada gets from John Bull, 60 cents comes from selling him food and drink, with, on the side, a slight amount of tobacco. There are, of course, certain articles that Canada cannot climatically supply; but apart from these, and taking the good old staples—grain, bacon, canned goods—what proportion do we actually supply?

John Bull buys 42 per cent of his wheat

from us, 63 per cent of his flour, 13 per cent of his bacon, 1 per cent of his butter, and 19 per cent of his cheese. Once more, is this fussy old market worth while?

And once again, we have to apply to Mrs. 'Enery ’Awkins, Mrs. Higgins, of Huddersfield, or Mrs. Polperro, of Penzance. Better still, we can appeal to those hard-boiled men who sell to the grocery trade, and ask them whether they think the “Made-in-Canada” label is an asset or otherwise.

Canadian Mistakes

ATOU WOULD, I am sure, be jerked out of your complacency at the variety of answers. You would hear stories of inferior material, of second-run can contents, of lack of standardization—particularly the last. United States fruit, for example, has an extraordinarily fine reputation in the British market for the remarkable uniformity of its quality and the exactness of its portions; so has South African canned fish. You will hear of unfortunate trade names, of wrong-sized cans, of cheeses containing miscellaneous foreign matter. And of bacon produced on the wrong formula, unpopular with English tastes which prefer the appearance of Danish bacon, which incidentally, fills nearly 60 per cent of John Bull’s orders.

No one, of course, minimizes certain awkward set-ups. There is, for instance, the salmon problem. No Canadian canned salmon is necessarily sold in Great Britain as such; it is imported, ready canned but without labels, and sold under the brand name that the importer controls. True, if it is canned in Canada, it has that name embossed on the top, and also code letters which indicate cannery, date and grade; but there is nothing at all to prevent Whoopee Salmon being the best British Columbia sock-eye at one shop, Japanese at another, Soviet at the next.

The vagaries of the salmon broker will be a little plainer when you read, in the British Board of Trade reports, that last year John Bull imported more United States salmon than any other kind, but in the year before that, more Soviet; and that in 1934 and 1935, but not in 1933, he bought more Japanese than Canadian. But Mrs. Polperro isn’t wise to all this. You can’t really blame her, when her weekly Whoopee brand turns out to be muck, if she suddenly gets an attack of memory and doesn’t notice that the embossed name “Canada” is absent.

More funny business is involved in bacon. Quite apart from the fact that Denmark is only thirty hours from London and that its highly scientific farms are more like factories than anything else, most Canadian bacon enters the Old Country market not as Canadian Bacon but (following the analogy that any bulk product not otherwise trademarkable can get privileges if it can qualify as Empire) as Empire Bacon. And this in spite of the fact that, outside of the Irish Free State, John Bull does not import 2,500 hundredweight of other Empire bacon per annum ! The fact that some of the large chain stores have finally been induced to label it “Canadian Bacon” is one of the sniping victories of our Trade Commission overseas.

But about 14 per cent of our entire foodstuff exports do enter the Old Country under some sort of trademark or national mark of origin; and if only one-thousandth part of the complaints I have heard were true, that would surely justify a closer Government supervision of all goods packed for export and the adoption of definite export standards. Above all, the great complaint is that the Canadian manufacturer does not take the Old Country market seriously enough. In foodstuffs, of course, all canned goods Continued on page 34 Continued from page 32 (with the possible exception of lobsters) are prepared primarily for the home market, and fluctuations in surplus are inevitable with seasonal weather; but many British food brokers, all the same, regard the situation with a certain amount of scepticism.

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They complain, too, at the difficulty of getting the average Canadian manufacturer to support his foreign representatives with sufficient or even any advertising. Finally, they talk of his disinclination to visit his overseas market and study it at first hand.

And if all this is not an echo of everything ever said about the British manufacturer in Canada—well, I ask you !

Signs of Improvement

T> UT LIKE all such stories, it has other f ' than a gloomy side. I would like to add, very carefully, that a considerable amount of this sales resistance to Canadian commodities must be written in the past tense. See statistics. Very pleasurably, the improvement can be laid on the doorsteps of two organizations—the Department of Trade and Commerce (how sweet to be able to give a break to our Government once in a while !) and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain. The former has not only carried on a programme of advertising, but has spared no efforts to co-ordinate the demands of the ultimate consumer with the high guarantee which ought to reside in the Made-in-

Canada mark. The Chamber of Commerce both as a body and through its individual membership, has labored hard and long to sell Canadian goods not because they are Canadian but because they are good.

The advertising appropriation with which Canada equips its overseas trade promotion organization is, compared with many other Empire countries, microscopic. .1 don’t think I am far wrong in saying that as much is spent in advertising Jaffa oranges ' in the Old Country as on all Canadian products. Part of our Canadian appropriation, however, is spent very wisely in exhibition work, which takes several forms. Canadian exhibits are made at some of the big shows, such as the world-famed British Industries Fair; and at other shows where importers want to advertise but the Government does not, tffe Government makes a contribution by paying f>qrt of the,rental.

The method which most vitally interests Mrs. Consumer, Though, is that of the Canada Shrip. This, purely a local affair, has probably -done /more to identify Canada with good thirtgs to eat than any other. A Town is selected—Bristol, for instance—a.vacant store in a good strategic position is rented for a week or two, an appetizing ..show is put in and widely advertised in (the local press, with local bigwigs to do the formal opening. The success of these Canada Shops has led to a steady and continuous all-year programme of them, in all parts of the United Kingdom. They are one of the best trade missionaries Canada has.