Opinion: Are Agents An Endangered Species? Jo Bannister, London agent shares her views

We all hang on Sir David Attenborough’s every word when he highlights a gorgeous creature that is close to extinction…are independent sales agents next?

Prompted by the retirement of two of the company’s long serving agents, during his talk at The Ladder Club at the end of last year, Ged Macemd of The Art File suggested that such is the paucity of sales agents and that so few are coming onto the scene, that they are something of an endangered species.

Above: Jo Bannister (right) with Mooch’s Sandra O'Connell and Evelyn O'Flaherty, a customer in Ealing, with The Art File’s md Ged Mace at last July’s Retas awards event.
Above: Jo Bannister (right) with Mooch’s Sandra O’Connell and Evelyn O’Flaherty, a customer in Ealing, with The Art File’s md Ged Mace at last July’s Retas awards event.

PG Buzz tracked one of these wonderful beasts – Jo Bannister, who covers London and Middlesex with her colleague Joanna McFarlane – to find out about life in their habitat over the last year.

Territory: Jo works with her colleague Joanna McFarlane together covering London and Middlesex. They represent The Art File, Bexy Boo, Eloise Hall, Glick, Louise Mulgrew, Paper Salad, Meraki, Meri Meri, Rush, Sally Scaffardi, Stephanie Dyment, Think of Me and Two’s Company.

The trade terrain: “Well it’s a jungle out there, it’s a survival of the fittest among the shops. Retailers are having to stay ahead of the trends and are very canny with their buying nowadays, they know exactly what they want before the agent walks through the door. The independent retailer is still a very special breed. If they have managed to survive the cull over the last few years they are obviously doing something right, and to see a shop showing off its full plumage is a sight to behold.”

What’s your hunch for 2019?: “I think 2019 will be a positive year, despite the anxiety over the ‘B’ word. The companies we represent are all creating such wonderful, innovative and unusual products that we are blessed with customers really wanting to see us and what’s in our bags. The UK leads the world on greeting cards and it keeps going from strength to strength, and we will continue to play our part in this.”

If you were an animal or a bird, what would you be?: “I would be a swan, all serene on the surface but paddling madly under the water!”

Above: Jo feels she is most like a swan than any other animal or bird.
Above: Jo feels she is most like a swan than any other animal or bird.

Are agents endangered?: “We are certainly getting low in numbers. Quite a few publishers have stopped having a sales force, deciding to sell directly from the office, but this just results in lower value orders, or in many cases a lack of an order. It’s a false economy as we are so much more than just agents, we are counsellors, dog walkers, therapists, retail consultants and shop designers to name a few. We’d also like publishers not to sell directly to the consumer as this just undermines our treasured retailers.”

Above: Jo Bannister (left) at PG’s Warren Lomax’s 60th ‘rocking’ birthday [arty with (2nd left-right) Really Good’s David Hick’s and PG’s Jen and Ian Hyder.
Above: Jo Bannister (left) at PG’s Warren Lomax’s 60th ‘rocking’ birthday party with (2nd left-right) Really Good’s David Hick’s and PG’s Jen and Ian Hyder.
Top: Jo Bannister (right) with colleague Joanna McFarlane on the London tube on the way to see a customer.

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