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|Gerald Irving Ratner|
Ratner at The Telegraph Business Awards
1 November 1949 |
|Education||Hendon County Grammar|
|Occupation||Businessman and motivational speaker|
|First wife: Angela
Second wife: Moira
|Children||With Angela: Suzy (1974) and Lisa (1977)
With Moira: Sarah (1989) and Jonny (1991)
|Parent(s)||Rachelle and Leslie Ratner|
Gerald Irving Ratner (born 1 November 1949) 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 two of the company's products, which caused the company's near collapse (the so-called "Ratner effect").
Gerald Ratner was born in London and 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."
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 US including Kays. Ratners was one of the few British retailers to succeed in the US.
Although widely regarded as "tacky", the shops and their wares were nevertheless extremely popular with the public, until Ratner made a speech addressing a conference of the Institute of Directors at the Royal Albert Hall on 23 April 1991. 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."||"|
He compounded this by going on to remark that one of the sets of earrings was "cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn't last as long." Ratner's comments have become textbook examples of why chief executives should choose their words carefully. In the furor 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. Ratner hired a chairman in an attempt to stabilise the situation, but was subsequently fired by the new company leader in November 1992. The group then 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", and Ratner himself has acquired the sobriquet "The Sultan of Bling". Ratner has said in his defence that his remarks were not meant to be taken seriously. He also largely blamed the aggressiveness and deliberately wrongful interpretation of several media outlets for the severe consumer reaction.
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. In 2013, during a visit to India for the inaugural eTailing India Expo, Gerald Ratner announced that he would be entering the Indian market.