» Archive for category: ‘market

UntitledIn a previous post I have commented on the academic platform Erasmus University Rotterdam offers to the financial industry in a university course specifically designed for Dutch primary school children. In this post I will take a look at the exercise book that the participating children get to use as part of the programme (see cover page above).

The cover page and the title (‘Beleggen: een goed belegde boterham’) leaves no doubt about the overall message of the course material: financial investment pays – in fact it pays very well! Yet, a discursive reading of the exercise book reveals another message: financial investment doesn’t only pay, not doing it is foolish.

How is this second message delivered? The first chapter on ‘money’ asks participants some general questions about their financial situation: do you have money? If so, what is the source of income, what do you do with it, and do you save? This is followed by a second chapter with the title: ‘Spending or saving?’. In this chapter simply putting money aside, instead of putting it into a savings account, is presented as not very financial-savvy as there is no interest earned. This message is given further weight in chapter 3 on ‘inflation’, which makes students realise through a range of simple calculations that the purchasing power of their Euros diminishes overtime. This leads to the question of ‘whether there are ways to earn money whilst saving’ (p.11). The answer to this question is presented in chapter 4 on ‘financial investment’ and is further explored in a number of chapters that follow.

The conclusion that is presented to the participating primary school students is that financial investments make much sense (because it is profitable) if you have spare money. It is also acknowledged that losses may be incurred but that’s ultimately not a real danger because ‘risks’ are presented as manageable and knowable.

This narrative, however, is based on a number of silences. What, then, are the questions that are muted? I note here two main ones: first, there is the unquestioned idea that money must make more money – it must be made profitable. Another important silence is found in the chapter on inflation which is presented as a natural phenomenon which silences any question about its why’s and how’s.

If universities are places to exchange ideas, further knowledge and question what we know and how we know this then such silencing is deeply problematic, particularly if the larger aim of the project is to introduce primary school students to the university.




imagesStudy support on the workfloor: an innovative approach to combining learning and working or a new novel strategy to expand market shares.

Since the summer of 2013, the Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn has regularly featured in Dutch national news for the apparently novel introduction of study support for its largely young and school-going work workforce (see HERE, HERE and HERE).

What’s happening here? Since September 2013 some Amsterdam based supermarkets have been offering free study support to their young school-going workers. The support is offered by university students (not trained teachers) on the workfloor (before and/or after work), and to this end a computer and WIFI have been made available to the young workers.

In line with Dutch labour regulations, Albert Heijn, like other Dutch retailers, employs teenagers starting from 15 years of age. Dutch minimum wages are age-based; the younger the worker the lower the minimum age till the age of 23 is reached. Young workers are further attractive for the flexible nature that characterises the comtemporary organisation of labour in the Dutch retail sector.

According to acclaimed supermarket expert Gerard Rutte, the introduction of study support to the workfloor might have less to do with a concern on part of Albert Heijn with the study performance of their young workers, and more with expanding the market share in the highly competitive Dutch retail sector. By offering study support, Albert Heijn hopes to increase the loyalty among its young workers as well as its quality. Albert Heijn thus expands the boundaries of competitiveness beyond the branding and pricing of its products to include the service quality of its young workforce.

Whether this will positively affect Albert Heijn’s market share will be hard to tell. At any rate however, this novel strategy generated some free, nationwide publicity for the supermarket chain (and yes, this blog posting contributes to this too…)

posted by Roy Huijsmans


posted by Roy Huijsmans






Gender stereotyping in ads for children’s toys is common. This Dutch website is perhaps the case in point. The homepage features a ‘girls’ (meisjes) button and a ‘boys’ (jongens) button streaming customers to highly gendered toys with dolls and teasets for girls and shotguns and drills for boys.

The Swedish company Top Toy diverts from this trend and uses in their 2012 catalogue a ‘non-gender’ representation. On their website they describe the changes as follows:

‘The changes have been made to show girls more actively playing with toys typically perceived as toys for boys – and vice-versa for boys.’

To be sure, this initiative appears reactive rather than proactive. The move is described as both a response to critique from Swedish customers on the gendered stereotyping in toy adverts, as well as a market response to an awareness that in what is described as the ‘modern way of children’s play’ use of toys in children’s play has become less gendered. In other words, removing gender stereotyping in toy catalogues makes good business sense. That this is not about radical transformation is also evident from the note that the gender neutral approach is not followed through to the same extent in neighbouring markets where the gender debate is considered less far ahead than in Sweden.

Whatever the effects will be of this ‘non-gender’ approach. It certainly appears a clever business move. Seldom will the launch of a new toy catalogues have received so much media coverage than this one: The Wallstreet Journal; Volkskrant; the Guardian; the New York Times. With the Christmas shopping around the corner this appears certainly good news for business, whether it is also good news for gender equality we will see.


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