The Apprentice, episode 7: pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap » SMEInsider

The Apprentice, episode 7: pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap

This week our candidates took on volume selling, where they set up their own discount stores in Manchester’s Arndale centre and reinvested their profits in more stock. We bring you expert commentary from last year’s runner-up, entrepreneur Bianca Miller, and Neil Dagger, senior product marketing manager for domain name registry Nominet. Warning: contains spoilers.

Missed the last one? Catch up with our commentary on episode 6.

Join the conversation on Twitter: @SMEInsider #TheApprentice #BiancaMillerSays



Bianca Miller


This week’s episode was to set up a discount store, though you might not have guessed that from looking at the way the teams set up shop.

One team thought that the right philosophy was to simply double what they paid at the wholesalers to come up with the price to charge their customers. Even though they were right next to Poundland, the biggest discount retailer in the UK! Yes, there were quite a few blunders in this episode.

The Apprentice dropping boxes

Business lessons from this week’s episode:

Honesty is essential – Karren Brady picked up on this in the episode: it isn’t right to say an item has been reduced in price and on ‘sale’ if you have no history of selling it. Integrity is a huge part of business: if someone cannot trust you, how can you expect them to do business with you?

Gift of the gab – some people have it, some don’t. But it’s better to know the figures than to blag: it’s not ideal to go and meet a client or a wholesaler without having an idea of what you want, what it costs, the price you want to sell it for, and therefore the margin.

The Apprentice versatile try their luck

Gift of the gab can be important in your selling style – while some people just naturally engage with customers, others are more considered in the way they respond. Either way, customers value preparation: “if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”. Know your price, product and what problem the product solves.

Customers are not stupid – you can’t sell the same item for double the price of the store next door. Never assume a customer does not know or understand the market: most customers are quite savvy and have a mobile phone at their fingertips to Google prices.

The Apprentice bathroom tissue 3 pounds

Know your business philosophy – understand what your business stands for: is it a luxury business at a high price point or is it a mass market business with a low price point? The purpose of this task was to stack high and sell cheap, not to stack high and sell expensive.

The customer journey is essential online and in a physical space – understand what the customers sees, what they are willing to pay and what problem it solves, even if it is just mouthwash. At the same time, as we saw from this week’s episode, if you only have one day to sell don’t do the customer journey [a preliminary walk around the store to check things flow well in store] while ignoring customers passing by! Passing trade is key to success in retail – engage with them and give them a point of action. Giving the customer an action is essential.

The Apprentice selina selfie stick



Neil Dagger

Nominet – The UK internet registry for and the new shorter .uk

Well, they thought they were having a nice lazy day off. Doorbell rings. It’s Lord Sugar. The candidates scramble to look half presentable (and fail), and stagger bleary-eyed into the sitting room for an impromptu briefing. It’s a classic task. Buy a load of cheap consumer products wholesale, mark them up, flog them fast, and go back to restock on the highest selling items. Most profit wins. Sound familiar?

During the product procurement process one of the candidates, Sam, admitted that “maths was not his strong point” as he became dazed and confused by his pocket calculator when it refused to give him the answers he wanted. Eyes rolled and the tutters tutted. Why do I think that remark will come back to haunt him?

The Apprentice sam does his maths

After a mad dash around an Aladdin’s cave of a wholesalers warehouse, procuring an assortment of merchandise, the candidates set up tables on a busy high street and started selling. The competition are the array of pound shops that proliferate on today’s high street. One team missed rule No1 – do your market research. They failed to check the prices of similar items at the store next door. Result: slow sales. Luckily some kindly passers by took pity on them and mentioned that same items were available next door for much less. Doh!

One of the subteams, led by “Mr Specification and good customer service” Brett, decided to make up some spurious list prices against which they were discounting. That’s a major no-no. You cannot offer a discount on a stated price unless it has been on sale at the higher price for 28 days. Karren informed him of his embarrassing error and price tags were adjusted.

The Apprentice connexus mark down prices

Having worked out the top sellers and popular items on day one, the teams scurried back to invest their earnings on more goodies. On day two, a retail shop unit was made available to each team in a busy shopping centre and the selling frenzy recommenced. After a day that felt like weeks the shops closed and the numbers were added up. No, they didn’t ask Sam to do that. Sure enough, his team lost. Lord Sugar’s finger of doom pointed in his direction and he found himself in a taxi heading home.

The Apprentice sam you're fired

It occurred to me how difficult it must have been to open a store and sell things in the days before the internet came long and made it all so easy. Relying on dragging in passers by is labour intensive and business limiting. Today’s entrepreneurs can just secure a great domain name, on a .uk domain naturally, for a few pounds a year, build a great website with ease, implement a basic ecommerce platform, put up some online banner advertising and pull in the orders from customers nationally or even internationally.

The more adventurous will use social media and PR to build goodwill, followers and interest, and in time reap the rewards. All great reasons to get your business online and make your business visible to those searching for products like yours.


Make your mark online with a .uk domain name for web and email

A domain for today and tomorrow, bringing UK values to a global audience, .uk represents the trusted, new, shorter domain for everyone. From ambitious start-ups to vibrant brands, students and families, this dynamic online space offers a shorter domain that puts the emphasis back on your name. For businesses and individuals. Starting your digital journey or taking your business to the next level. Get on board with your own .uk.



For more information visit:
or you can call Nominet on: +44 (0)1865 332244

  • Tony Clayton

    The latest episode of The Apprentice is a fraud. The idea that whoever
    has the highest cash balance in addition to their total assets (i.e
    stock) is silly. It was a no-brainer for both teams to purchase with at
    least 50% of their profit or midday turnover more like a large amount of
    items. A complete no-brainer. As soon as he gave them the task you
    could see it was easy to win if they had listened properly to the basic