Spotting new retail formats that have the potential to change the way we all think about business is part of the fun of this job. And I modestly think that we have had a pretty good track record over the years of championing some really great concepts - such as the premium frozen food chain Cook, or Ocado, the UK's only dedicated online grocer, or the fishmongers-cum-restaurateurs behind FishWorks. Admittedly, we have also got a bit too excited about some ideas that have proved to be ahead of their time (management speak for 'absolute stinkers'). Any of you still remember Rocket or Leaping Salmon?
But the one new-ish company that I get asked about the most isn't actually a consumer-facing business - it's online wholesaler Blueheath. Ever since its launch at the tail end of the dotcom boom, Blueheath's critics have been whispering in my ear about its imminent demise. Yet, the business has continued to attract investors, who have been as excited as us by the potential of its technology, and Blueheath has kept on growing. True, it isn't profitable. But there's no doubting the fact that the business has been making waves ever since it took its first orders in the spring of 2000. And that's why we placed founder Douglas Gurr at the top end of our recent wholesaler power list.
Oops! Gurr is now on his way out and Blueheath is clearly at something of a crossroads, as we explain in some detail on page 32. Now, we've taken the famous Stevie Smith poem 'Not waving but drowning' as the inspiration for our feature. For those who don't know it, there's a line in there that goes: "I was much too far out all my life, and not waving but drowning."
I honestly hope that doesn't prove to be the case for Blueheath; I have always liked the business and don't want to be reporting that it has either drowned or been rescued. But the omens are not good.