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(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 25 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –
It’s the super-shopping day of the year: the so-called ‘Black Friday’ where we spend billions chasing bargains and cut-price goods. But this year more than any, British shoppers have been shunning the actual shops to instead get their deals from the comfort of their computers or phones. Whilst it means stores on the high street have been quieter than expected, it’s been a different story for online sales.
British retailers reported strong online demand in early “Black Friday” trading, as shoppers chased deals in a spending spree that is expected to top last year’s record level.
Shoppers are looking for bargains ahead of an expected rise in prices in 2017 as a weaker pound starts to push up the cost of imports, putting household finances under pressure.
Last year marked a change in the nature of the U.S.-imported discounting day. It generated record revenue but was subdued in terms of store-based sales, with shoppers put off by bad weather and memories of chaos and scuffles in 2014. This year, shoppers are focussing even more online.
Currys PC World – part of Dixons Retail (DC.L), Europe’s largest electricals and telecommunications retailer – reported its highest ever number of orders, up 40 percent on 2015, with over half a million visitors to its website before 0600 GMT.
Electricals to toys retailer Argos (SBRY.L) saw similarly robust trade with over half a million visits to its website between midnight and 0100 GMT, up 50 percent year-on-year.
“It will be the busiest trading day of the year,” Argos CEO John Rogers told Reuters.
“It’s becoming an increasingly mobile (phone) shopping day. We’d expect to be north of 60 percent online and almost 80 percent of our online orders are coming from mobile,” he said.
John Lewis [JLP.UL], Britain’s biggest department store group, said its website was taking five orders every second.
UK retailers will be hoping the promotions kick-start Christmas trading, building on a strong October when cold weather and Halloween boosted sales.
Many, including Amazon (AMZN.O), Argos, Dixons Carphone and Tesco (TSCO.L), have extended Black Friday to run for a two week period either side of the main day.
UK consumer spending has held up since June’s vote to leave the European Union. However, the Bank of England and many economists fear higher prices caused by the Brexit hit to the value of the pound and slower jobs growth will eat into households’ spare income next year.
Wednesday’s fiscal statement from Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond also did little to ease looming pressure on household budgets.
PwC, the accounting and consultancy firm, is forecasting revenue from Black Friday promotions to grow by 38 percent to 2.9 billion pounds.
Researcher ShopperTrak forecasts Friday’s in-store shopper numbers will be down by 2.8 percent year-on-year – a second straight year of footfall decline.
Some analysts argue Black Friday discounts pull forward Christmas sales that store groups would otherwise have made at full price and can dampen business in subsequent weeks.
Retailers, however, say carefully planned and targeted promotions with global suppliers allow them to achieve a sales boost while maintaining profit margins.
An investigation by consumer group Which? Found half of the products “on offer” in last year’s Black Friday were actually cheaper in the months before or after the event.
Peter Ruis, the boss of fashion chain Jigsaw, told the BBC that Black Friday discounts were “deceptions” as the goods are often not worth the original price. Shops risk being perceived as “traders peddling cheap stuff on a market stall,” he said.
Argos’s Rogers countered by saying there was no “smoke and mirrors” at his firm. “Customers are great at sniffing out a bargain. They know when something’s a good deal,” he said.
And the popularity of Black Friday is spreading overseas.
“1.2 percent of the population of Denmark was on our Danish website at 1 minute past midnight … looking at our Black Friday deals. 60,000 people,” tweeted Dixons Carphone CEO Seb James.
By James Davey
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com – – Fri, 25 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –
I used to work at a writing mill, churning out page after page of promotional material on technical subjects. I was not, thank you very much, a “tech writer.” Business writers view tech writers as failed engineers or talentless hacks who are one economic downturn from working at Taco Bell. Tech writers, in turn, think business writers to be technological maladroits who could not pour water out of a boot if the instructions were not written on the bottom.
I was new to the job and eager to impress. I was designing a training program, and I asked the program managers how many hours had been billed to the project; he looked at me blankly and shrugged. He didn’t know. Not to be dissuaded, I went to the CFO who told me, “We don’t track that.” When I asked him how many hours they based the quote on, he was equally clueless.
Ask me no questions.
So there I was working on a project without knowing how many total hours had been bid and how many of those had been used. Madness. By now self-conscious because I believed my questions sounded more accusatory than inquisitive, I gently inquired how in the living Hell the company knew whether or not it was making a profit. I was informed with withering condescension that we billed customers, and that was called gross revenue, and then we subtracted our costs, which revealed our net profit. Madness; all around me, madness.
I grew to accept that loosey-goosey accounting method that they don’t teach you in accounting classes. There were no lofty terms like depreciation and debits, and no such pesky acronyms as FIFO and LIFO inventories. No, this was something easier and somehow more pure. Truthfully, it removed any and all accountability: I was absolutely at peace with it. Still, this company did eventually collapse, largely because of its amateurish cash-flow system, but I had abandoned ship long before.
There can’t be two.
I had another job in a velvet sweatshop writing training. I was sure the first company was an outlier: there couldn’t be two companies that didn’t manage profit and labor on an individual basis. I was wrong.
I was again plunged headlong into a world of madness where nobody kept score until the game was over. This time the company only tracked overhead, code for: You useless fool! You aren’t working making money for the company. Here, to have over 10 percent overhead on your timesheet was to put a bullseye on your back, although everyone quickly learned how to game that system.
If you are an entrepreneur — whether you are a sole proprietor or the owner of a medium- to large-sized company, you must know how much each project is costing you relative to how much you are billing for it. This is easier than it seems, but there are some rules you should follow:
Spell out exactly what is billable and what is not.
In your quotes to prospective clients, detail what’s billable. Is travel to and from the customer site billable? How about kickoff meetings? A clear understanding of exactly what constitutes billable activity is essential; what’s more, it avoids disputes over billing.
Share the quote with the team.
Too many business owners are paranoid about their billing; in their minds, they don’t dare share that information with their employees. They fear that if their employees knew the rate at which they were being billed to a client, they would demand a raise. If you fear that, explain to your employees the concepts of burden rate (how much it costs a business owner to actually employ a worker) and profit (the reason you’re in business). Most people will get it, and the conversation will end well — except for ones where the employer is actively ripping off everyone in the equation. (You know who you are. So, in that case, you might want to fix that first, you greedy, dishonest pig.)
Don’t schedule mandatory nonbillable meetings and events.
Too many employers fill employees schdules with nonbillable meetings and then punish employees for being nonbillable. Now, assuming a 40-hour week (HA! LOL … sorry, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face), an employer scheduling a daily, two-hour staff meeting instantly cuts employees’ billable time by 20 percent. Think about that, but also know I’m being kind here. I have worked for companies that harp on people for the level of their overhead billing and yet routinely schedule 20 hours of nonbillable activities (meetings, training, employee birthday parties, etc.). This practice puts the employee in an intolerable dilemma: either he or she can cheat and bill the customer for that time, or the employee can log an extra 20 hours or so of work outside the workweek to retain a high, useful billability rating.
Keep good time sheets.
Everyone hates doing timesheets. Show me someone who enjoys doing timesheets and I will show you someone who probably eats food they find on the side walk (“Oooh, street pizza”). Good time keeping allows you to understand how much effort a project really takes; it differentiates between people who are good at their work and those who aren’t.
Learn from your failures.
Just because you lost money on a project doesn’t mean you’re workers failed to perform. When you lose money on a project ask yourself why? Was it scope creep (where the project slowly grows but the price stays the same)? Was it poorly quoted? Did you miss listing key assumptions that affected your ability to bill the project more? By knowing exactly why you lost (or for that matter, why made money), you can correct the error and do better next time.
By Phil La Duke
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Thu, 24 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –
Despite billions of dollars invested in antihacking technology over the past 10 years, companies appear to have little idea of how to respond to a cyber attack. When Target was hacked during the busy 2013 Christmas season, investigators found the company had missed early warnings that might have prevented the loss of data belonging to 70 million customers. When the news came out, lawsuits were filed, and Chief Executive Officer Gregg Steinhafel resigned. Sony Pictures Entertainment’s fumbling response a year later to North Korean hackers turned a bad situation into a terrible one, costing Amy Pascal, one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, her job as co-chairman.
IBM, which has spent five years buying companies to make itself the world’s third-largest cybersecurity provider, wants to train corporate security teams, CEOs, and PR departments to handle those kinds of crises. Shortly after Election Day, the company unveiled a facility that combines gaming techniques and millions of dollars of sophisticated hardware to re-create scenarios like Target’s and Sony’s in white-knuckle, stock-plunging detail.
The idea is borrowed from the Pentagon, which uses a similar approach to train soldiers for cyberwar. Instead of the pressure of combat, the facility at IBM’s security division headquarters on the Charles River in Cambridge, Mass., wants to re-create a postbreach pressure cooker that can move rapidly from a regulatory investigation to a call from the FBI to whatever else the range’s multimedia producers can conjure. “We don’t want to scare the crap out of people,” says Caleb Barlow, vice president of IBM Security. “We do want people to feel a little of the adrenaline burst and the pressure.”
By the time IBM’s cyber range is fully operational in January, it will offer 12 training programs. Think of them as plays, Barlow says, with settings, acts, and an unusually wide range of actors, including general counsels, marketing teams, and C-suite executives.
The staging area is a bit like a flight simulator built for two dozen. Theater-quality video panels cover the front wall, and the ceiling is studded with the same sensors that allowed Tom Cruise to manipulate data with his hands in the movie Minority Report. (The ceiling array, made by Oblong Industries in Los Angeles, is the most expensive thing in the room.) Racks of servers located a floor below simulate the data stream of a full-size corporate network.
During a recent afternoon demo, the training program began with a phishing e-mail sent to a fictitious HR rep. The hackers made off with a cache of data before the IT crew could isolate the source of the breach. Then an insider leaked news of the breach, and the pressure mounted. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission initiated an investigation. More pressure.
As the afternoon wore on, events spun out of control. The security team discovered that the hackers hadn’t just stolen information, they’d also altered the company’s financial data shortly before its quarterly earnings report. Uh-oh.
$200 million: IBM spending on its cyber range and teams for intel and incident response
All this realism doesn’t come without risks. The range is designed to test out some of the most virulent malware, so the whole thing is air-gapped, which means it’s not connected to the real internet. Instead, developers collected data from thousands of web pages to create a miniature, self-contained internet.
Like many of the range’s features, that idea came from Joe Provost, the project’s threat modeling and simulation architect and a former master hacker for the National Security Agency. Two days after hackers took some of the world’s most popular websites offline in October with a botnet of infected home routers, TVs, and other internet-connected devices, Provost figured out how to replicate the attack so he could add it to one of the range’s scenarios. In the simulations, he also plays the main bad guy.
The facility is expensive, and IBM wouldn’t say exactly how much it costs to run. Barlow says the company had spent a combined $200 million on the range and the development of cyber intelligence and incident response teams for on-site investigations of major hacks. He may be reticent to break out spending on the facility, because there’s no guarantee the investment will pay off. IBM says it’s not planning to charge people who come in for the training sessions; it’s more of a marketing tool, an effort to convince companies there’s enough value in IBM’s various cybersecurity technologies to make them worth buying. “This is in some ways a grand experiment,” Barlow says.
Roland Cloutier, chief security officer of payroll-services provider ADP, says that based on what he knows of the gaps in traditional cybersecurity training, IBM’s plan should work. “What IBM has been able to do is take two very different processes and combine them into a single training,” he says. “One is technology-based—I have an attack going on, and I have to stop it. But then you have crisis management, which is about leadership in tough situations. That’s a whole different skill set.”
The bottom line: IBM has built a cybersecurity training center to test corporate readiness. Now it has to persuade customers to buy its gear.
By Michael Riley
(Updated second paragraph to correct IBM’s global market position.)
Pro-Brexiters rallied at Old Palace Yard, just outside of the Houses of Parliament, on Wednesday, calling for a hard Brexit following a court ruling that the British government would need parliament’s approval to trigger article 50 to leave the EU.
Conservative MP for Monmouth David Davies addressed the crowd, claiming that while the Brexit camp had “won a battle” they “did not win the war”. The Tory MP went on to state that the referendum result was “being undermined by a rather shadowy bunch of people” who were finding “loopholes to try and prevent the voice of the British people from being heard.”
The landmark challenge to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s ability to trigger Brexit negotiations without a vote in Parliament was ruled on by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd at the High Court of Justice on November 3. The British government has stated that it will appeal the decision in the Supreme Court.
In his first Autumn Statement to Parliament Wednesday, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will outline a series of measures to help “ordinary working-class families” and stress that a stable economy, fiscal discipline and better productivity are the best ways to raise living standards. Watch the address live right here on YouTube.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Tue, 23 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –
Housebuilders will receive a major boost in the Autumn Statement today as the Government steps up its affordable housing drive to help address a chronic shortage.
Philip Hammond will use his first fiscal statement since becoming Chancellor to announce a £1.4bn funding injection to help thousands more families to buy a home.
It came as a jump in corporation tax receipts helped to reduce public borrowing last month to its lowest since 2008, handing a boost to Mr Hammond on the eve of the Autumn Statement.
Higher national insurance, VAT and a 24pc jump in corporation tax revenues pushed down public sector net borrowing, excluding public sector banks, to £4.8bn in October, down from £6.4bn a year ago.
This is the lowest October deficit since 2008, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and well below economists’ estimates for a fall to £6bn.
The Chancellor will announce measures today to help renters and aspiring homeowners as part of a pledge by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, to ensure the economy “works for everyone”.
The Government estimates that 40,000 new homes will be built as a result of the funding injection, which will be used to help first-time buyers, existing shared owners who wish to move and former homeowners who can no longer afford to buy.
Mr Hammond will abandon the rigid framework set by the current Affordable Homes Programme, with the £4.3bn of current and £1.4bn of additional funding allocated “flexibly” between existing shared ownership and affordable rent schemes.
Previous plans indicated that 88pc of funds would be used to build at least 135,000 homes for shared ownership, which are targeted at families with incomes of £80,000 or less, or £90,000 in London.
Around 10,000 homes were expected to be built under the Rent to Buy scheme, where prospective buyers pay a discounted rent for five years while saving for a deposit.
Allocations will now depend on demand from local authorities and housebuilders.
The Chancellor’s announcement will be part of a package designed to help people’s money go further and boost living standards as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.
A modest infrastructure boost will be announced alongside a warning from the Government’s independent fiscal watchdog that slower growth due to the Brexit vote will reduce tax receipts and force up borrowing over the next five years to plug the gap between revenues and expenditure.
The Government has borrowed £48.6bn so far this financial year, according to ONS data.
While this is £5.6bn less than a year ago, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), warned last month that the current borrowing target of £55.5bn for this fiscal year was “very unlikely to be met”.
Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, expects borrowing for the current financial year to be revised up by around £10bn.
Mr Hammond has already abandoned a goal to balance the books by the end of the decade and some economists believe the hit to the public finances could be as large as £100bn over the next five years.
The Chancellor will present new borrowing rules in the Autumn Statement that will give the Government flexibility to respond to fiscal shocks.
A spokesman for the Treasury said Mr Hammond remained “committed to fiscal discipline” and would “return the budget to balance over a sensible period of time”.
Separate data published by the Confederation of British Industry showed factory bosses reported their healthiest order books in November since before the Brexit vote.
Britain’s biggest business group said manufacturers were at their most optimistic about the near-term outlook in nearly two years.
However, its monthly survey showed many were poised to raise prices at the fastest pace in almost three years, reflecting the sharp fall in the value of the pound since the EU referendum result.
By Szu Ping Chan
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Tue, 22 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –
British finance minister Philip Hammond got some rare good news about the country’s finances on Tuesday as he finalises his first budget statement, which is still likely to forecast a surge in borrowing as Britain prepares to leave the EU.
Breaking with a pattern of borrowing overshoots earlier in the financial year, official figures on Tuesday showed public borrowing in October was 25 percent less than a year earlier at 4.8 billion pounds ($6.0 billion), its lowest since 2008 and beating all economists’ forecasts.
But Hammond still stands little chance of meeting the budget deficit reduction target for the current financial year which his predecessor, George Osborne, set out in March. He has already abandoned Osborne’s goal of reaching a budget surplus by 2020.
Instead, economists predict Hammond could announce more than 100 billion pounds of extra borrowing on Wednesday, as Britain’s independent budget office is likely to forecast slower growth, weaker tax revenues and higher social security costs in the wake of June’s vote to leave the European Union.
“To put it bluntly, Brexit will be assumed to make the UK poorer which means the government must eventually lower spending, raise taxes, or permanently borrow more,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Robert Wood said.
Hammond played down expectations of much extra spending on public services or infrastructure to cushion the effect of years of uncertainty as Britain negotiates to leave the EU on Sunday, and described debt levels as “eye-wateringly” high.
Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond arrives at 10 Downing Street in London, November 2, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
Bank of America’s Wood said he expected Hammond to announce extra discretionary stimulus that amounted to just 0.5 percent of gross domestic product, in part because he may want to keep his powder dry in case of a sharper economic slowdown.
This could include freezes to taxes on vehicle fuel and air travel, and modest further investment in infrastructure such as roads and broadband internet connections.
Britain’s economy has slowed much less than most economists forecast since the Brexit referendum, and on Tuesday the Confederation of British Industry reported the fastest growth in factory orders since the June 23 vote.
But analysts see tougher times ahead for households as a 15 percent fall in the value of sterling against the dollar feeds into higher prices.
The public finances were underperforming even before the Brexit vote. Borrowing since the start of the tax year in April is 10 percent lower than in the same period of 2015 at 48.6 billion pounds, the Office for National Statistics said, versus a 27 percent fall needed to meet Osborne’s 55 billion pound target for the whole tax year.
“The government is committed to fiscal discipline and will return the budget to balance over a sensible period of time, in a way that allows space to support the economy as needed,” a finance ministry spokesman said after Tuesday’s data.
Britain’s budget deficit was 4 percent of GDP last year, down from 10 percent at the height of the financial crisis but still more than almost all other big economies.
The ONS said net public debt rose to a record 1.642 trillion pounds in October, equivalent to 83.8 percent of gross domestic product.
October’s improvement in the public finances was driven by faster growth in tax revenues. Overall these were up 6.8 percent on the year, with particularly strong growth in corporation tax. The ONS was not able to say if the trend was likely to last.
By David Milliken and Andy Bruce
Donald Trump says that Nigel Farage would do ‘a great job’ as the UK ambassador to the US. But is another diplomatic role a possibility?
On the night of the US elections, Mr. Farage was asked by Andrew Neil if he’d consider the role of US ambassador to the EU, if he was given
(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Tue, 22 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –
Employees suffering from a migraine might want to think up a better excuse when phoning in sick from work, as just one in five bosses consider the headache serious enough to warrant a day off.
Back pain, injury caused by accident and even elective surgery such as a cataract operation or hip replacement fail to arouse sympathy out of managers, with around 37pc considering these ailments adequate excuses for missing work.
The medical insurance provider AXA PPP Healthcare surveyed 1,000 business owners, managing directors and chief executives about their attitudes towards employees’ sick leave.
The research found that flu is the most acceptable ailment for staff to stay at home – even though it won sympathy from just 41pc of bosses.
While mental illnesses such as stress, depression and anxiety were not viewed more or less kindly by managers, employees were significantly more likely to lie about non-physical health.
A survey of 1,000 non-executive employees found that 7pc would tell their boss a lie if they had to miss work for a physical ailment such as back pain, flu or accidental injury.
However, they were almost six times more likely to lie if they called in sick due to stress, anxiety or depression, with 40pc saying they would not tell their manager the truth.
The survey also found that 22pc of employees would not give the honest reason if they phoned in sick due to a cold, while 12pc would lie about having a migraine.
“Employers need to challenge this blinkered attitude, both for their own benefit as well as that of their employees,” said Glen Parkinson of AXA PPP Healthcare.
“In many cases it is more productive for an employee to take a day off to recover from a spell of illness rather than to come into work, with diminished productivity and, for likes of colds and flu, the potential to spread their illness to workmates.”
When asked to explain why they would withhold the truth from their managers, 23pc of employees said they preferred to keep their health issues private.
A further 23pc admitted they were afraid of being judged, 15pc said they were concerned about not being believed, 7pc said they were afraid of their manager’s reaction and 3pc confessed they would feel ashamed to reveal the true reason.
Mr Parkinson added: “Showing sympathy and flexibility when employees are unwell is crucial to maintaining a healthy and committed workforce, which in the long term creates a healthier business.”
By Lauren Davidson
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Mon, 21 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –
Facebook (FB.O) said it would expand its presence in Britain by 50 percent in 2017, joining other U.S. technology firms in increasing investment despite the uncertainty sparked by the country’s vote to leave the European Union.
The social network firm said it would hire 500 new staff, adding to the 1,000 people it already employs in Britain, as Facebook gears up to open a new UK headquarters in London next year, following other firms drawn by talent and a thriving tech start-up scene.
Before the Brexit referendum in June, campaigners in favour of remaining in the EU had warned that international companies could seek to reduce their presence in Britain as a withdrawal from the bloc would make it a less attractive place to invest.
Some big banks such as Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and Citi (C.N), which employ many thousands in London’s financial centre, are said to be considering shifting some jobs elsewhere in Europe as a result of Brexit, a worry for the British economy where financial services account for around 10 percent of output and provide some of the best paying jobs.
Facebook’s UK expansion comes after Google (GOOGL.O), owned by parent company Alphabet Inc, said earlier in November that it would invest an estimated 1 billion pounds, and make 3,000 new hires in the Britain.
“The UK is definitely one of the very best places to be a technology company,” Facebook vice-president of Europe, Middle East and Africa Nicola Mendelsohn said at a conference run by the CBI, an employers group, adding that it was too early to say what Brexit would mean for the movement of labour.
“The movement of talent is something…that matters to us.” she said, adding that Facebook employs people of 65 different nationalities in Britain.
Facebook opened its first engineering office outside the U.S. in London in 2012 and has been growing rapidly in the UK since. Its main UK operating unit’s staffing increased by 90 percent in 2015 from 2014, according to its latest accounts, with more than half of those hired engineers.
It also employs hundreds of sales and marketing staff who tend to focus on larger clients or running regional teams, according to Facebook job ads and linkedIN profiles of staff.
Amazon (AMZN.O), which created 3,500 UK jobs in 2016 at its head office, research and development centres, customer service centres and distribution depots, plans a further 2,300 jobs at three new distribution centres in 2017.
Such investments have helped Britain’s tech sector to shine at a time when some other firms are less optimistic.
A recent survey showed that three out of four companies with sales between 100 million pounds and 1 billion pounds have considered moving operations to the European continent in the wake of the vote.
Mendelsohn said that Britain needed to work hard to keep its position as a global hub for technology.
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“We need to make sure that we continue to look outwards and not inwards; we need to stay competitive, and we need to remain a welcome home to tech,” she said.
London ranked no.1 for start-ups in the 2016 European Digital City Index, and Google said the talent pool, educational institutions, and passion for innovation helped it decide to invest more in Britain, sentiments echoed by Mendelsohn.
“It’s a place that our engineers want to come and work at, it’s a place that we see this amazing ecosystem, not of just tech companies but also of creative companies coming together inspiring, fuelling one another,” she said.
Facebook has a complex corporate structure for tax purposes and declared Dublin as its European headquarters which means almost no taxable profits are reported in the UK. It also has significant historic tax losses on its books, which means any cut in corporation tax would have little impact on its finances.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May is reported to be considering cutting corporation tax from the 20 percent headline rate in a move to attract companies away from other parts of the EU to Britain.
(Additional reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by Kate Holton and Alexander Smith)
By Sarah Young | LONDON
(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Mon, 21 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –
The Prime Minister has ruled out forcing companies to appoint workers to boards or create continental-style dual boards, despite her earlier complaint that too many directors are drawn from the same narrow social and professional circles.
Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Annual Conference, Theresa May said that the Government would publish a Green Paper within weeks that will set out reforms to shareholder accountability, executive pay and employee representation.
She told business leaders: “I can categorically tell you that this is not about mandating works councils, or the direct appointment of workers or trade union representatives on boards.
“This is not about creating German-style binary boards which separate the running of the company from the inputs of shareholders, employees, customers or suppliers. Our unitary board system has served us well and will continue to do so.”
The update will please many businesses, who have privately lobbied against direct employee representation, citing fears over confidentiality and diluting boards’ primary responsibility to act in the interests of shareholders.
For advocates of the idea, Mrs May’s comments will represent a U-turn. As she campaigned for the Conservative leadership in July she pledged that “we’re going to have not just consumers represented on company boards, but workers as well”.
Mrs May said at the CBI Conference that the forthcoming Green Paper will be a “genuine consultation” with businesses on “what works” for employee representation.
She signalled a less radical approach but insisted reforms would ensure employees’ voices are heard in the boardroom.
Mrs May said: “There are other routes that use existing board structures, complemented or supplemented by advisory councils or panels, to ensure all those with a stake in the company are properly represented.”
Over the summer, business groups lobbied for an existing director to be given responsibility for representing staff interests.
Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, welcomed the apparently less interventionist approach, saying that businesses “recognise public concerns” over governance.
She added: “On employee engagement, different approaches will work for different businesses… whether that’s employees on boards, employee committees, dedicated representatives, or other models that genuinely address the issue.”
On executive pay and shareholder accountability, there have been calls from the City for companies to use more discretion to curb bosses’ remuneration amid rising criticism.
The Investment Association, which represents most of the City’s biggest investors, warned last month that big business needed to “rebuild trust” and called for better justification for executive pay increases.
Investors are split over whether companies should face annual binding votes on executive pay – currently only every three years – amid fears it could encourage short-term thinking.
Mrs May gave nothing away on executive pay but said: “There is nothing anti-business about this agenda.
“Better governance will help companies to take better decisions, for their own long-term benefit and that of the economy overall.”
By Christopher Williams
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Mon, 21 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –
Each holiday season, thousands of teenagers tear gift wrap off shiny, new guitars. They giddily pluck at the detuned strings, thinking how cool they’ll be once they’re rock stars—even if almost all will give up before they ever get to jam out to “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”
For them, it’s no big deal to relegate the guitar to the back of the closet forever, in favor of the Playstation controller. But it is a big deal for Fender Musical Instruments Corp., the 70-year-old maker of rock ‘n’ roll’s most iconic electric guitars. Every quitter hurts.
“The industry’s challenge—or opportunity—is getting people to commit for life,” said Andy Mooney, Fender’s chief executive officer. “A pretty big milestone for someone adopting any form of instrument is getting them through the first song.”
The $6 billion U.S. retail market for musical instruments has been stagnant for five years, according to data compiled by research firm IBISWorld, and would-be guitar buyers have more to distract them than ever. So how do you convince someone to put down the iPhone, pick up a Stratocaster, and keep playing?
Beginning players, whether they’re fickle teens or too-busy adults, have always quit the guitar at high rates. Guitar makers have never before made much of a concerted effort to keep them, Mooney said. But Fender estimates that nearly half its customers are first-time players, and it’s making an effort to treat them as such.
Fender says it hauls in about a half-billion dollars a year in revenue and is on track to grow in the high single digits this year. That’s still down from its $700 million in revenue in 2011, a number revealed when the company filed for an initial public offering in 2012 that was later withdrawn.
The task of keeping kids hooked on playing is a tricky one for a company still crawling back from post-recession struggles. In late 2012, as Fender fought to stay profitable, private equity firms TPG Growth and Servco Pacific took control of it. Last year, they brought on Mooney, a veteran executive who held posts at Disney, Nike, and Quiksilver, to make Fender more digital- and consumer-focused.
That means more apps, more connected devices, and a newfound focus on helping folks learn how to play their guitars. The hope is that players will get hooked early on cheap starter models, then upgrade to fancier guitars as they commit themselves to playing, with the most devoted among them evolving into collectors, their walls hung with high-end instruments. That all means more cash for Fender.
Almost everyone who picks up a guitar, about 90 percent, abandons it within the first year, according to Mooney. Many give up within three months, frustrated or unwilling to commit. Some people bounce to another instrument. And people quit electric guitars more often than acoustic ones, he said, because of the pain factor: Steel strings hurt delicate hands.
Over the next few years, the company will be releasing a suite of digital products to help keep new guitar players strumming along.
The first, a tuning app, teaches players how to change the pitch on their guitars, whereas most of the dozens of existing tuning apps assume some level of guitar proficiency. “When the kid plugs it in for the first time, it doesn’t sound like a screaming cat when it comes out of an amp,” said Mooney. “We want to help with a lot of the basic stuff.”
Fender is also looking to release a practice-room app that can teach someone to play any song in their music library, along with a tone app that lets an amp emulate the sounds of famous guitarists. Fender’s newest amp model, to be released next year, will be able to connect to apps wirelessly, through Bluetooth, to let players alter and share sound effects.
Fender says about 60 percent of its business is in guitars, both electric and acoustic; the rest is a mix of related products such as amps and picks. (The company acquired Aurisonics, a maker of medical and military-grade in-ear monitors, in January and announced new lines of earbuds.)
When it comes to selling guitars, color palettes have become more crucial than ever, said Mooney. Once, all anybody wanted was black, white, or sunburst. Now fashion is coming into play, and Fender is looking to collaborate with artists to create styles. This spring, its top-selling hue was metallic blue.
Nearly all Fender’s business is done through traditional retailers; online sales from its own website make up less than 2 percent of total sales in North America. Mooney doesn’t see that as a problem. Players need to touch, feel, and play a guitar before they buy one, he said, and his company prefers to use the internet as a learning tool for shoppers, rather than to drive sales.
Detractors have predicted the death of the electric guitar for years, pointing to the rise of rap and electronic dance music on pop charts.
But Mooney isn’t worried. More women are playing guitar these days, he said—something he credits largely to Taylor Swift—and Fender now sees as many women as men playing the acoustic guitar, if not the electric. And although the mix of instruments sold is constantly shifting, guitar sales have actually grown over the past decade, he said. “The pendulum swings back and forth.”
By Kim Bhasin
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