5pm and the candidates are chillaxing for the cameras, as you do, when the phone rings. The cars will be arriving in 20 minutes to whisk them to what must surely be the spiritual home of The Apprentice: a wholesale warehouse in Essex. Lordalan recites his I Started My First Business In A Van psalm for the congregation. Before handing them their £150 for stock, he points out the warehouse has ‘everything a business needs to turn a profit’. Oddly no-one storms the aisles looking for the strategic plans or the common sense.
Actually, this is a time-honoured Apprentice task. (I’m saying ‘honoured’ but …) Take a punt on the first batch of stock and pick two locations. Restock once you’ve sussed the market, and biggest total sales plus stock in hand wins. It’s all abaht smellin’ wot’s sellin’. (Thank the lord – or perhaps the Lord -we’ve moved on from street food, or someone would have to make a nasty joke about Adam’s nasty little balls.)
Steve is transferred to Sterling, and Laura to Phoenix, and the jockeying for PM begins. In this week’s Non-Celebrity Deathmatch, Nick plays Jade. From the off, Nick seems to be pretty on the ball. (Except maybe on choice of hairstyle, which came in for what I think has been its first adverse comment: considering his One Direction do Donald Trump approach to coiffure, he’s been very lucky.) Picking a shopping centre and a market in Romford, the mall gets beauty products and the market household goods. Mr Hewer isn’t the fake tan type (although I wouldn’t exactly call him pale and interesting either), but he seems impressed by the approach and the decision-making. If you’re going to flog stereotypes for big margins, do it in Essex, my son.
Jade’s crew take so long to pick locations that they almost run put of time to buy stock. Not that they know what they want to buy, or how it’ll be divvied up between locations. If Nick H was selling lemons, Karren would be buying one to suck by now. Tom frets about margins and costs, and Azhar about strategy, which they’ve opted not to include in their initial haul. Laura poo-poos the idea of fake tan. Despite video evidence of her doing this being broadcast, nobody mentions this ever again, which is rather fortunate for her.
In the compressed timescale of the programme, it is only seconds before we see Jenna flogging fake tan like hot cakes for Nick’s team, and getting £10 a can for it. Meanwhile, Ricky and Steve sell mops in the market with more than hint of Waiting for Godot as played by Terry and June. It’s entertaining, if not riproaring, but they are saved by the rain and by Nick phoning desperate for more stock of fake tan. In a rare mistake, they fail to drop off the remaining household stock with him, 4 minutes away, and opt to sit in a traffic jam en route to the warehouse. Still, they bag the last 84 cans of orange gunk, and some more hot water bottles. I can’t imagine why they are popular in Essex, especially with fluffy covers – with fake tan? no, babes, no! – but the important thing is they already know they’re selling. Someone says the tan is really shifting, but nobody gets the joke.
Meanwhile, Jade’s team are struggling to sell a rather motley range of stuff in Ilford. Laura does fairly well selling toy insects at a 500% mark up, so Tom phones Jade to suggest getting more. She isn’t listening. Az phones to ask what the strategy is. He looks like a man phoning a call centre where the operative can’t hear the caller. He repeats this several times. Laura takes the executive decision to be annoyed by it. Karren is still praying for someone to sell her a lemon. Thankfully, Adam – despite Pitsea market being 15 miles away, and other stalls being priced very low – is being asked to be a market trader. Pot? Kettle? Not ‘alf, missus. He sells like a man possessed. Back in Ilford, Tom has the air of a man who wishes he’d brought his hipflask. Or perhaps a pistol. Az phones Jade to ask for a strategy. Again. Seems she’s out of stock.
In Romford, and running out of stock, Gabe gamely flogs beardtrimmers to women as bikini line topiary devices. Now that’s what I call creative. Unaware that they have an opportunity to catch up, Jade’s team – thanks mostly to Tom spotting the margin on them – get more toy insects to sell, and off the little critters fly. Only three knicker a pop, mind, but business is business …
Come 6pm, and Lordalan has laid on pitches at Lakeside. Lots of people are asking Nick for fake tan, and paying for it. Four people are asking Jade for a strategy, and paying for it in a different sort of way. She opts to do deals and flog stuff cheap. Her team are left with stock in hand of all seven selected items. Nick refuses to drop prices and carries on selling. Jade appears to have forgotten that value of stock in hand is included in the final total. Karren is visibly dreaming of gin to go with that lemon. Karren is possibly not alone in this.
In the boardroom, Nick’s Sterling rack up £955. Jade’s Phoenix flop into the ashes with a total of £838. As Jade says “let the fights begin”. Boxercise revisited, perhaps, although Azhar’s proverbial arse might be better covered this time? Lordalan gives them a bit of a monstering. It was all a bit clueless, even when some people said ‘Hang on, this is all a bit clueless, isn’t it?’. Despite knowing she’d lost and having a tea break in The Losers Cafe to reflect, Jade says she’s unprepared. She brings back Tom – which surprises everyone – and Azhar, who I have the impression she would prefer to beat to death off-camera.
Having established that no-one, including Jade, knows why Tom is in the final three, he is spared. Jade was totally out of control, ignored team mates and had no plan. So, true to the spirit of the 2012 series, Lordalan fires Azhar.
Apparently, Azhar was ‘moany’. Given how much he had to moan about, this didn’t strike me as that unreasonable, and asking your PM for a strategy isn’t moaning as much as asking them to do their job, surely? Having long given up on The Apprentice as a business lesson, I hope for entertainment. This week, the task was tired. There was no drama: we knew Jade was going to lose about 8 minutes in. As Azhar said at one point, it’s not just about selling. And her team lost at that too. And the candidate who doomed their team to failure stayed – for her ‘enthusiasm’ (although I was a little vague about what she’d been enthusiastic about) – when she really should have gone.
Me, I’m off to the kitchen. We’ve got half an old lemon somewhere, and I’m getting desperate.