OUR SLEEPY CONSULS
An Antiquated System that must be Swept Away Root and Branch
As much as any other cause, the excellence of the German Consular Service, modelled on the American, and the hopelessly antiquated character of our own, has served Germany's purpose and handicapped our manufacturers.
We must in future have Consuls worthy of the name business men, not lawyers men who go about and mix with men, not dignified holders of an official sinecure. Let it be a serious offence for such Consuls to leave any trade inquiry unanswered, as they habitually do nowadays.
For instance, some years ago the great silver-plate firm of Walker and Hall sent to every British Consul all over the world catalogues of their goods, with a request to put them into touch with any possible buyers. " I offered not only to defray their expenses, but to pay commission on orders," said the head of the firm, Sir John Bingham, Bart., recently; "but I never had one single reply."
This system must be swept away root and branch. If the President of the Board of Trade wants to know how to set about the work, let him take a leaf out of the American book.
Not only does the American Bureau of Manufactures collect and exhibit to traders, at all times, all specimens of the kind of articles that sell in every country, sent in by the Consuls an idea which our own sleepy Board have just woke up to but they publish daily a bulletin, sent out free of charge to business men, in thousands of thousands. This bulletin gives, as far as possible, one subject a day. If umbrellas be the subject, by the time you have read the bulletin through you know exactly how many ribs and how many tassels the inhabitants of every country under the sun expect to find in the umbrellas they buy, what weight they expect to carry, and what price they can afford to pay, together with statistics as to the rainfall and its quality.
When you have read such a bulletin, if only you are half-alive, you want to go and buy a stock and sell it. That is business.
Source: The War on German Trade - 1914