Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Monday, 5 September 2011

This Little Piggy

In what must surely be an appropriate fable for our time, Jane Croft, purveyor of handbag pigs to the stars, has gone bankrupt.

Former investment banker and amateur pig-fancier Croft spotted a gap in the market and set about crossing traditional British breeds with miniature Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs to produce 'micro-pigs' with an adult height of  around 14".

A combination of excessively photogenic cute piglets and ruthless PR ensured a surge in demand as Croft appeared in countless media interviews singing the praises of her 'perfect pets'; even her website was liberally sprinked with stardust, carrying endorsements from the likes of Andrew Flintoff, Robbie Williams and Vanessa Feltz.

A best-selling book full of predictably cute images (and, it has to be said, reasonably sensible advice) followed and soon Croft's farm's 50 resident pigs had become a gold-mine; piglets were selling for up to £1200 each and, thanks to massive publicity and celebrity hype, demand was rapidly outstripping supply.

Aristotelian tragedy dictates that the hero (or heroine) has a fatal flaw that brings about ultimate downfall and this was it - the former investment banker, a product of the 'growth is always good' school of thought, expanded her business to seize the market.

“I couldn’t keep up with the demand so I bought extra pigs believing they were micro-pigs. They grew to be massive so I had to offer refunds."

Surely, then, she should have been seeking redress herself from her suppliers; someone was definitely telling porkies here. Instead she took back the expanding swine and refunded the purchase price and soon she was unable to pay her staff, an omission which has now landed her in the bankruptcy court.

It may be that, in years to come, Jane Croft's experience makes an appearance in social commentaries on the early 21st century; a media-frenzy fad for preposterous pets leading to hubristic misjudgement and eventual financial ingnominy gives as neat a summary as you could wish of the risks of a fashion-led business venture in today's celebrity-obsessed age.

4 comments:

  1. and amateur pig-fancier

    An accusation sadly leveled at me from time to time

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  2. "...carrying endorsements from the likes of Andrew Flintoff, Robbie Williams and Vanessa Feltz."

    *manfully struggles to avoid making first comment that sprang to mind*

    Turing word: pencesow ! No joke! How did you DO that?!

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  3. Mind boggling, avoiding the obvious jokes she certainly made a pigs ear of the business.

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  4. Now now, PC, that's no way to talk about a lady!

    JuliaM, ditto! (But, to be honest, I struggled with that one too.)

    Demetrius, you did better than the Times headline writer who describer her as being 'left without a sausage'; in fact, since Ms Croft had to buy back the oversized porkers she sold, sausages are presumably all she has left.

    It's one of those stories that no one comes out of well; Ms Croft is either an unscrupulous saleswoman or surprisingly naive and gullible for a former banker*, and I can't bring myself to feel much sympathy for someone whose emulation of a celebrity fad extends to forking out £1200 for a pig they can put in a handbag.

    *On the other hand, it might explain a lot about recent events in banking...

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