Gerald Ratner

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Gerald Ratner
Born 1949
London, England
Occupation Businessman

Gerald Irving Ratner (born 1949, London) is a British businessman and motivational speaker. He was formerly chief executive of the major British jewellery company Ratners Group (now the Signet Group). He achieved notoriety after making a speech in which he jokingly denigrated the company's products, which caused the company's near collapse (the so-called "Ratner effect").

Early life and career[edit]

Gerald Ratner based his philosophy of business on his experiences as a boy in Petticoat Lane Market. He observed that "the people who shouted the loudest and appeared to give the best offers sold the most."[1]

Ratner joined the family business in 1966 and built up an extremely successful chain of jewellers during the 1980s, of which he was chief executive. The shops shocked the formerly staid jewellery industry by displaying fluorescent orange posters advertising cut price bargains and by offering low price ranges. The Ratners Group consisted of Ratners, H.Samuel, Ernest Jones, Leslie Davis, Watches of Switzerland and over 1000 shops in the USA including Kays. Ratner was one of the few retailers to succeed in the States.[citation needed]

The speech[edit]

Although widely regarded as "tacky",[2] the shops and their wares were nevertheless extremely popular with the public, until Ratner made a speech at the Institute of Directors on 23 April 1991.[3] During the speech, he commented:

We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, "How can you sell this for such a low price?", I say, "because it's total crap."[4]

He compounded this by going on to remark that some of the earrings were "cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn't last as long." Ratner's comments have become textbook examples of the folly of making fun of, and showing contempt to, customers. In the furore that ensued, customers exacted their revenge by staying away from Ratner shops. After the speech, the value of the Ratner group plummeted by around £500 million, which very nearly resulted in the firm's collapse.[5] Ratner resigned in November 1992 and the group changed its name to Signet Group in September 1993.

Today, Ratner's speech is still famous in the corporate world as an example of the value of branding and image over quality. Such gaffes are now sometimes called "doing a Ratner",[6] and Ratner himself has acquired the sobriquet "The Sultan of Bling".[7] Ratner has said in his defence that his remarks were not meant to be taken seriously.[citation needed]

After Ratners[edit]

Following an unsuccessful attempt to become a jewellery consultant in France during the mid-1990s, he set up a health club in Henley-on-Thames in 1996, which was sold for £3.9m in 2001. Ratner now runs, in collaboration with SB&T International Ltd, an export manufacturing company based in India and the online jewellery business Gerald Online.[8] In 2013 during a visit to India for the inaugural eTailing India Expo, Gerald Ratner announced that he would be entering the Indian market. [9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Sunday Times, 15 May 1988
  2. ^ The Little Book of Big F*#k Ups: 220 of History's Most-Regrettable Moments. p. 179. 
  3. ^ "Leadership Follies". The Seven Pillars of Leadership Wisdom. 
  4. ^ "'Doing a Ratner' and other famous gaffes". The Daily Telegraph (London). 22 December 2007. 
  5. ^ "It still hurts 16 years on". London: Times Online. 21 October 2007. Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  6. ^ "'Doing a Ratner' and other famous gaffes". The Daily Telegraph (London). 22 December 2007. 
  7. ^ http://www.businesscornwall.co.uk/news-categories/awards/ratner-to-address-business-awards-123
  8. ^ Wilson, Bill (29 March 2005). "Ratner prepares his return to the lions' den". BBC. 
  9. ^ "UK’s Gerald Ratner to launch jewellery website in India". India Digital Review (India). 16 January 2013.