Virgin Holidays ordered to meet refund deadlines or face court action

( via – – Fri, 23rd Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Virgin Holidays has been ordered to meet refund deadlines following Covid-related cancellations or face court action by the regulator.

The company has agreed to pay refunds by 30 October for any holidays cancelled before September.

Those cancelled last month or this month will be refunded by 20 November.

By law, package holidays cancelled by an operator should be refunded within 14 days, but some people have waited three months to get their money back.


Virgin Holidays has received 53,000 refund requests since the start of March, totalling £203m – a situation which it said had put the company under “extraordinary pressure”. The company said it had 1,300 claims left to process.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it had received hundreds of complaints that people were not receiving refunds for holidays cancelled owing to the pandemic.

It said many customers had been forced to wait for an “unreasonably long time”, with some told the refunds would take three months.

If Virgin Holidays fails to hit its deadlines, the regulator said it was prepared to take the company to court. This included refunds for Virgin Holiday Cruises.

Your Virgin refund nightmares

Holidaymakers have spoken to the BBC in recent months over the stress of getting refunds from Virgin Holidays.

Newlyweds David and Natalie Rogers, from Dudley, saved for two years for their dream honeymoon safari trip in Kenya but coronavirus ruined their plans.

“We were quite angry about having to wait on hold [to Virgin Holidays] for over eight hours, and a message on the line saying that travellers should have already received a voucher for their missed holidays. It just felt like we'd been forgotten about,” they said.

Lynn and Martin Fox had remortgaged their home to pay for a holiday of a lifetime with their two children in Florida.

“If only they [Virgin Holidays] would have been honest with us and communicated with us, we would have been happy. If they put a date on the refund, we could have planned. But the phone cut off calls and emails were ignored,” Mrs Fox said.

Hannah Nash and her family paid nearly £7,000 for a holiday to Disney World in Florida but struggled to get a refund.

“The stress is making me ill. These are not small amounts for normal people,” she told the BBC in June.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive at the CMA, said: “Our action means that Virgin Holidays customers should receive all their money back without further delay.

“We are continuing to investigate package holidays in relation to the coronavirus crisis. Should we find that any business is not complying with consumer protection law, we won't hesitate to take action.”

The regulator has issued similar warnings to other companies including Sykes Cottages and Vacation Rentals.

A spokesman for Virgin Holidays said: “We have gradually reduced refund timeframes and are now 98% through the refund queue.

“Our focus now is on rebuilding trust with our customers, recognising that it has regrettably taken much longer than normal to process their refunds. We thank them sincerely for their patience throughout.”

What are my rights?

If you have a package holiday cancelled by the provider, then a refund should be provided for the whole holiday within 14 days

If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund to the original form of payment within seven days, although many airlines are struggling to meet that deadline. You can accept, or refuse, vouchers or a rebooking but a voucher will probably be invalid if the airline later goes bust

If you decide against going on a future flight, which is not yet cancelled, then there is no right to a refund. Different airlines have different rules over what you can do, but many are waiving any charges for changing to a later flight or having a voucher instead. Your travel insurance is unlikely to cover you

Regulation of holidays and flights is divided between the CMA and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The CAA has now announced that refund credit notes (RCNs) will have greater protection than normal until the end of the year.

RCNs were handed out by some companies instead of refunds early in the coronavirus crisis, as the businesses found themselves stretched by the level of claims. Customers must be given a cash refund if they ask for one.

RCNs can be used to book another holiday, or a refund is given when the note expires.

They have been temporarily protected under the Atol scheme, which is government-guaranteed and administered by the CAA.

Protection has been extended to cover any issued between 1 October and 31 December. It will apply to all relevant vouchers issued by Atol holders operating within the UK.

This means that the refund will be honoured, and can be drawn from a central pot, even if the provider goes bust.

By Kevin Peachey

How Reebok’s 3D Technology Is Breaking the Mold

Source: Bloomberg

Reebok is using 3D technology to break the mold. Bloomberg's Anne Mostue visited the Boston-based company's headquarters to see how it's using proprietary liquid material, software and robotics to draw shoes in three-dimensional layers.

The Exceptional Growth of Online Grocery Delivery Amid The Coronavirus

Source: CNBC

Online grocery delivery is seeing exceptional growth amid the coronavirus. Over the last few weeks, Instacart has seen customer order volume increase more than 500% year-over-year. But after the coronavirus, will demand for these online services stick? Thousands of small businesses have closed due to the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. But one sector that's seen exceptional growth is online grocery delivery.

A recent survey by RBC Capital Markets in March found that 55% of respondents had purchased groceries online, up from just 36% in 2018 and 15% in 2015 . Online grocery delivery service Instacart told CNBC that demand over the last few weeks has been the highest in the company's history and that customer order volume is up more than 500% year-over-year.

Once a luxury, the coronavirus pandemic has transformed grocery delivery services like Instacart and Amazon Fresh into essential seemingly overnight. But whether or not grocery delivery will become mainstream in the long run will depend on how ther perform now. “This has been a major potential customer acquisition opportunity for the Instacarts of the world, the Amazon Freshes of the world.

All consumers are turning towards them to try them out,” says Mark Mahaney, managing director at RBC. “They'll have some patience for a service that isn't a hundred percent. I think people will be somewhat realistic about that. But if in a month or two, if Instacart and Amazon Fresh aren't able to get their act together, you're going to have a lot of people who'll have tried to service, found it wanting and will go right back to the grocery stores.”

Retail sector concerned shops could be the cash machines of the future

( via– Thur, 15th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

The Treasury consults on an expansion in cashback, but a retail industry body says it has a number of concerns.

By James Sillars, business reporter

The retail sector has expressed concerns at government proposals to protect access to cash that would see shops offering cashback services more widely.

The plan builds on a budget pledge by the chancellor to protect the cash system, as ATM numbers and bank branches continue to decline rapidly in the face of the challenge posed by digital payments and contactless cards.

The Treasury's main proposal – the subject of a six-week consultation – is that retailers' tills effectively become cash machines, and customers would be under no obligation to buy anything at the same time.

Shoppers received £3.8bn in cashback last year, mainly via supermarkets, and it is hoped that more stores can offer the service in future in a bid to keep cash flowing and distribution costs down at the same time.

However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) suggested that an industry – reeling from the effects of the coronavirus crisis – was unlikely to want to invest in the potentially costly provision of cash.

Andrew Cregan, the BRC's payments policy adviser, welcomed scrutiny of the issue but said: “The government and regulators should ensure that, where cashback services are provided by retailers, there are appropriate mechanisms in place to ensure that merchants are compensated fairly.

“Furthermore, government plans to allow cashback at all shops would pose challenges for retailers who would often have to hold significantly more cash than normal – putting them at an increased crime risk.”

The government's wider proposals include giving the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), oversight of the retail cash system to protect small and medium-sized businesses in addition to its current obligations to the consumer.

The City regulator fired a warning shot at banks during the summer, warning against renewed branch closures after usage collapsed during the coronavirus lockdown as customers were forced to stay home.

It highlighted data from the consumer group Which? that showed 3,500 sites had been lost over five years.

The watchdog also expressed concerns about plunging numbers of free-to-use cash machines – with almost 10,000 lost over two years. The BRC said it believed there were just 10,000 left.

The FCA's own proposals include a requirement that it is notified of any closures in advance and that customers are given at least three months' notice to allow them to make any alternative arrangements.

It cited this year's Financial Lives survey which found one in ten people, many of them elderly, did not know how they would cope in a cashless society.

John Glen, economic secretary to the Treasury, said: “We want to harness the same creative thinking that has driven innovation in digital payments to maintain the UK's cash system and make sure people can easily access cash in their local area.”

The Community Access to Cash Pilots (CACP) initiative is working on a number of pilot projects, including the use of cash back without purchase, to test solutions to the cash crunch.

Link, which operates the UK's largest cash machine network, is among the bodies taking part in the trials.

Its chief executive, John Howells, said of the Treasury's intervention: “The UK is not ready to go cashless yet and Link welcomes the government's intention to legislate to support cash access.”

UK Amazon Prime Day shoppers urged to support small businesses

( via – – Tue, 13th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Campaigners ask consumers to consider plight of retailers struggling due to Covid

Campaign groups and small business representatives have called on consumers to shun this week’s Amazon Prime extravaganza and support small retailers instead.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the tech giant will host its annual Prime Day event, with thousands of tempting bargains – many at up to half price.

However, campaigners are calling on consumers to consider the plight of local businesses that were already struggling to compete with Amazon ahead of lockdown.

Ethical Consumer, which has long campaigned to persuade shoppers to boycott Amazon on the basis that it aggressively avoids paying taxes, has urged online shoppers to stop, pause and “think of the cost to vital public services before they click to check out”.

Meanwhile, the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) has asked consumers to consider the small retailers who need their support “more than ever” if their local high street is not going to become a boarded-up wasteland.

Amazon Prime Day started in 2015 as a flash sale of mostly technology products and normally happens in July.

It has grown rapidly, and last year’s Prime Day was the largest shopping event in the company’s history as it sold more than 100,000 laptops, 200,000 televisions and more than 1m toys.

To take advantage of the offers, customers need to be Prime members, which costs £79 a year.

Tim Hunt, director at Ethical Consumer, said there were a host of reasons why consumers should take their business elsewhere.

“Aside from tax avoidance, Amazon has a dubious track record on many issues including workers’ rights and the environment. We urge consumers to think about whether they really need to make that purchase on Amazon Prime Day and instead how they can use their money in way that benefits society and the environment.

“There are a number of more ethical big name brands that pay a fairer rate of tax including Richer Sounds and Lush cosmetics (both of whom have been awarded the Fair Tax Mark), we call on those consumers who need to make purchases to seek out more ethical companies such as these.”

Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s chief executive, said almost a quarter of independent retailers failed to reopen after the lockdown, with many others under severe strain.

“Despite the lure of the internet, nothing can beat the positive experience of buying from a local independent retailer knowing that money spent in a local shop will in turn be spent in the local economy. Independent retailers are part of the community and need the support of shoppers now more than ever,” he said.

Meryl Halls, who runs the Bookseller Association, said the pandemic’s impact on high streets had been “catastrophic” for some, and was a continuing challenge for all retailers, including bookshops.

“It is crucial that consumers shop local to ensure the future of the retail sector this Christmas,” she said. “There are now even more ways to shop from local bookshops: booksellers have developed websites, and adapted to offer ordering by phone, email and online, with home delivery often an option. We are actively encouraging book lovers to start their Christmas shopping early to spread out demand. Shopping locally and early will help secure jobs and support a thriving community high street.”

During lockdown it emerged Amazon shoppers had been spending almost £9,000 a second on its products and services.

An Amazon spokesman said this year’s Prime Day would see its “biggest small business promotion ever”.

“We are investing heavily in creating jobs and infrastructure across the UK – more than £23bn since 2010. The UK has now become one of Amazon’s largest global hubs for talent and this year we announced plans to create 10,000 new jobs in the country by the end of 2020, taking our total workforce to over 40,000. This continued investment helped contribute to a total tax contribution of £1.1bn during 2019 – £293m in direct taxes and £854m in indirect taxes.”

Alex Cruz steps down as British Airways boss

( via– Mon, 12th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

IAG said Mr Cruz had led the airline “through a particularly demanding period” as the pandemic prompted major restructuring.

British Airways (BA) chief executive Alex Cruz is stepping down from the role with immediate effect, owner International Airlines Group (IAG) has said.

IAG boss Luis Gallego said the shake-up came as the company navigated “the worst crisis faced in our industry” – which has seen demand crushed by the coronavirus crisis and thousands of jobs axed.

BA's new chief executive will be Sean Doyle, who is being brought in from Irish carrier Aer Lingus – also part of IAG.

It was one of a series of management changes announced on Monday by Mr Gallego, who took over as IAG chief executive a month ago after the retirement of Willie Walsh.

Mr Gallego said: “We're navigating the worst crisis faced in our industry and I'm confident these internal promotions will ensure IAG is well placed to emerge in a strong position.”

He said Mr Cruz had “worked tirelessly to modernise the airline”, adding that he had also “led the airline through a particularly demanding period and has secured restructuring agreements with the vast majority of employees”.

Mr Doyle, BA's new boss, previously worked at the airline for 20 years before moving to head Aer Lingus two years ago.

Mr Cruz will remain non-executive chairman of BA for a “transition period” before also handing over that role to Mr Doyle.

BA has been undergoing a painful restructuring as it counts the cost of the coronavirus crisis and slashes flight schedules.Where jobs are being lost across the UK economy

Last month it revealed progress in its negotiations with unions over changes to pay and conditions as it battles to save costs.

But it also said a total of up to 13,000 were expected to lose their roles at the airline, with more than 8,000 having already gone.

BA's handling of the restructuring drew accusations of a “despicable” fire-and-rehire approach, but Mr Cruz told MPs last month that it was on course to secure agreement with trade unions.

He also reiterated that the impact of the pandemic means it is “fighting for its survival”.

Last week, Manchester Airports Group – owner of Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports – announced plans to axe nearly 900 roles as the Treasury's furlough scheme comes to an end.

The announcement of a government task force to look at using testing to try to reduce travellers' quarantine periods received a lukewarm response, with no timeframe for a testing regime to be introduced.

Monthly passenger statistics published by Heathrow on Monday underlined the scale of the crisis, showing a decline of 5.5 million in numbers in September – or 82% – compared with a year earlier, to 1.2 million.

Mr Cruz had a tough period in charge of BA even before the pandemic struck, hit by strike action a year ago and a huge customer data breach in 2018 which saw it facing a fine of £183m.

Unions were scathing about his legacy.

Nadine Houghton, national officer at the GMB union, said: “He leaves behind a demoralised workforce during the greatest crisis the aviation industry has ever seen.

“Cruz is now the scapegoat for BA's catastrophic threat of fire and rehire. His departure should be a stern warning for any other CEO believing it's a tactic they can get away with lightly.”

Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots' union Balpa, said: “He was given a remit to cut costs and found it impossible to do that without alienating BA passengers and employees alike.”

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

12 Black Owned Luxurious Resorts & Hotels

Source: Black Excellence Excellist

Between versatile AirBnb’s, luxurious resorts, intimate boutique hotels, all-inclusive stays, and cozy bed-and-breakfast properties, Black Travelers have countless options for accommodations when traveling within the states. There is a hotel for every type of experience a traveler could want, and with enough research, you can even support black hospitality entrepreneurs in the process.

15 People You Need If You Want to be RICH

Source: Alux

This Alux video will answer the following questions:

15 People You Need If You Want to be RICH What people do you need to be rich? Who are the people that keep you rich? Who are the people that can make you rich? How to hire talent? Most important people to hire? What kind of people do rich people have around? How to find a good lawyer? How to find a good accountant? Why do rich people use private banking? What kind of people should you have in your inner circle? How do rich people pick friends? How do rich people choose who to hire? How to work for someone rich? What do rich people look for in an assistant? What kind of people do the wealthy hire? Who do you need in your inner circle if you want to be rich? What are the most valuable hires if you want to be rich? What kind of people will help you to become rich?

Tim Hortons’ to create 2,000 jobs in UK expansion

( via – – Fri 9th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons is planning a major expansion in the UK, hoping to capitalise on increased demand for drive-through dining.

The move comes despite the recent collapse in sales at the chain due to the coronavirus crisis.

The firm told the Telegraph it hopes to open an outlet in “every major city and town” over the next two years.

The growth could create around 2,000 new jobs, it said.

Tim Hortons, which is known for its coffee and donuts, opened its first UK location in 2017 and now has 23 locations.

The brand is owned by fast food giant Restaurant Brands International (RBI), which also owns Burger King and Popeye's Chicken. Together, the company has more than 27,000 restaurants globally, which it operates through a franchise model.

The firm has been pushing to expand that footprint, especially outside the US and Canada. In August, chief executive Jose Cil said the firm remained focused on that goal, despite the upheaval caused by the pandemic.

“We cannot predict exactly when the dust will settle, but we're confident that we will be well positioned to capitalise on opportunities for growth as we emerge from the crisis and continue toward the 40,000 restaurant goal we talked about last year,” chief executive Jose Cil told investors.

Sales collapse

Sales at RBI dropped more than 20% in the three months to July, as lockdown forced many locations to close or restrict their offerings.

At Tim Hortons, which has more than 4,900 locations globally, sales fell more than 30%.

Mr Gil said the firm expected to end 2020 with roughly the same number of restaurants as the year before, despite unusually high numbers of closures.

In June, Burger King's UK boss warned it might have to close up to 10% of its restaurants.

Tim Horton's had just 937 locations outside of Canada as of June, including 23 in the UK.

The first new UK location is planned for Milton Keynes, according to the Telegraph.

UK’s biggest airport group plans to cut 900 jobs

( via– Thur, 8th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Jobs will go at Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands, blamed on lack of progress on testing and the end of the furlough scheme.

Britain's biggest airports group has announced plans to cut 900 jobs – as ministers launch a taskforce on COVID-19 testing to try to revive travel.

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – which owns hubs at Manchester, Stansted and the East Midlands – said a continuing slump in demand as the furlough scheme ends, and a lack of progress on testing, had prompted it to act.

MAG said it was proposing to cut 465 jobs at Manchester, 376 at Stansted and 51 at East Midlands. Other employment changes will also be made, including to shift patterns.

The announcement came as the Department for Transport said a new taskforce would work with the industry to try to reduce 14-day quarantine times for travellers through the use of testing.

But there was no timeframe for a testing regime to be introduced, prompting a lukewarm response from Virgin Atlantic – another business badly hit by the pandemic – which welcomed the move but warned that “every day counts” as 500,000 aviation jobs are at stake.

MAG said prospects for a revival in demand – down 90% since March – were fading amid a resurgence in coronavirus cases across the UK and Europe, and a full recovery in passengers was not expected until 2023-24.

“Meanwhile, the absence of dedicated support for the aviation sector, coupled with a lack of progress in introducing testing for UK passengers to date, has continued to undermine consumer confidence in air travel for next year,” the group said.

But the furlough subsidy is being replaced by a jobs support scheme, offering a “much smaller contribution to meeting payroll costs” for six months from the start of November, it said.

“The reduction in government financial support, combined with a more challenging outlook, means that MAG now needs to propose further steps to reduce the size of its workforce to secure the long-term future of the business,” the company said in a statement.

Chief executive Charlie Cornish said: “By now, we would have hoped to see a strong and sustained recovery in demand.

“Unfortunately, the resurgence of the virus across Europe and the reintroduction of travel restrictions have meant this has not happened.

“With uncertainty about when a vaccine will be widely available, we need to be realistic about when demand is likely to recover.”

Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, called for a sector-specific furlough scheme and said industries like aviation had been “left high and dry”.

The aviation industry has been pushing since the summer for the government to “get a grip” and introduce a testing regime to try to shorten the two-week quarantine period for passengers arriving from countries not on the UK's safe list.

Launching the government's coronavirus testing taskforce, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The current measures at the border have saved lives.

“Our understanding of the science now means we can intensify efforts to develop options for a testing regime and help reinvigorate our world-leading travel sector.”Tracking the UK's recovery from lockdown

The DfT said the taskforce would look at the feasibility of “proposals based on a single test taken after a period of self-isolation, provided by the private sector and at the cost of the passenger”.

The chief executives of Heathrow Airport, Manchester Airports Group, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic said in a joint statement that it was a “step in the right direction… to restart the economy and protect thousands of jobs”.

They added: “We support the decision to opt for a single test, private sector-led, passenger-funded approach, that does not impact on the NHS in any way.

“But travellers need a firm commitment that a comprehensive testing regime will be implemented in early November.”

The International Air Transport Association, an industry body, said: “The proposals on the table do not go as far as we had hoped.

“A reduction in the length of quarantine is the very minimum needed to restart travel demand.”

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

How US Bike Shops Are keeping Up With the Unprecedented Demand

Source: BI

When COVID-19 shut down gyms and made public transportation unsafe, Americans turned to bikes for recreation, exercise, and commuting. Leisure-bike sales spiked 121% in the US in March, and the peak is still holding. Business Insider stopped by Linus Bike in Los Angeles and State Bicycle in Tempe, Arizona, to see how the companies are pivoting to keep up with the unprecedented demand.

Gulfstream Private Jet Flight from London to Dubai

Source: Sam Chui

In January Sam flew in a Gulfstream IV private jet on a scheduled charter flight by Jetsmarter from London Luton to Dubai DWC. This is a video of the 6.5 hours inter-continental private jet flight and you get to see the difference to commercial flying.

Halfords bike sales surge as retailer raises profit forecast

( via– Thur, 1st Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

The cycling to car parts retailer has benefited from staycation trends as well as motorists shunning public transport.

Halfords said it has been ramping up supplies of bicycles as “unprecedented demand” extends into the autumn even after the end of the peak summer season.

The retailer, which also sells and fits car parts, was boosted by a surge in demand as many Britons stayed in the UK during the holiday period, with the pandemic restricting foreign travel.

Halfords said it expected to report half-year profits of more than £55m, up from previous guidance of £35-40m – and the new guidance sent shares 20% higher.

The business has benefited from a trend towards staycations and also stands to grow sales for car parts as some motorists shun public transport and use their own vehicles for short journeys.Advertisement

Halfords said like-for-like sales rose by 22% in the five weeks to 25 September including a 46% increase for cycling products “reflecting the strength of our unique proposition and continual improvement in supply to meet unprecedented levels of demand”.

There was also a 7.5% rise for car products in its stores, as well as an 18% upturn in revenues from its autocentres.

“With the substantial growth we have seen in our motoring services business across both retail and autocentres, we have launched a national campaign to recruit hundreds of skilled technicians,” Halfords said.

However it said it remained cautious on the outlook for coming months, with potential impact of rising coronavirus cases, the end to the furlough scheme and Brexit talks “very uncertain”.

The update comes after Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane hailed the strength of the UK's economic recovery – driven by robust consumer spending – while dismissing “Chicken Licken” pessimism about the future.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: “It turns out that against Halfords' expectations we are not a nation of fair weather cyclists after all.

“Having recently guided for the sales surge in bikes to wane as we head towards winter the company's decision to raise guidance now shows it is continuing to see very strong demand.”

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Ocado stock market value soared to £21.66bn overtaking Tesco as UK’s most valuable retailer

( via – – Wed, 30th Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Delivery-based supermarket’s value rises to £21bn despite selling 1.7% of UK’s groceries

Ocado has overtaken Tesco to become the UK’s most valuable retailer after its stock market value soared to £21.66bn.

Tesco is worth £21.06bn despite controlling nearly 27% of the UK grocery market. By comparison Ocado, which is already worth more than double the combined value of Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, sells just 1.7% of the UK’s groceries.

Former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy once famously described Ocado as a “charity” due to its track record of losses during the noughties.

Ocado has eclipsed Tesco just as the supermarket’s new chief executive, Ken Murphy, prepares to take charge on Thursday. He replaces Dave Lewis who has been running the UK’s biggest retailer since 2014.

Murphy faces a baptism of fire as Tesco grapples with recession, running supermarkets during a pandemic and a potential no-deal Brexit. He also needs to get the share price, which has gone sideways under Lewis, moving. up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

The Tesco board is painfully aware of the march of the Ocado share price. In the summer the company suffered one of the biggest-ever shareholder revolts over executive pay. Shareholders objected to a late change to part of an executive pay plan, which handed an additional £1.6m to Lewis and £900,000 to finance director Alan Stewart.

The change involved removing online grocer Ocado from a comparator group against which Tesco’s share performance was measured. With Ocado included the two men would not have qualified for the extra payout.

Investors have fallen in love with Ocado on the back of the success of its tech business Ocado Solutions, which sells its grocery-picking expertise to foreign supermarkets. The coronavirus pandemic has also triggered a boom in online shopping. At the height of the pandemic online food sales nearly doubled but, despite the recent slowdown, they now account for 12.5% of total grocery sales versus about 7% pre-crisis.

By Zoe Wood

Nokia wins contract with BT to supply 5G radio equipment

( via — Tue, 29th Sept 2020) London, UK —

STOCKHOLM/HELSINKI (Reuters) – Nokia NOKIA.HE has clinched a deal with Britain's biggest mobile operator BT BT.L to supply 5G radio equipment, the Finnish company said on Tuesday, in one of the first major wins under new CEO Pekka Lundmark.

The deal will make Nokia BT’s largest equipment provider and comes just months after Britain said it would ban China’s Huawei Technologies from next-generation 5G telecom networks.

The size of the contract was not disclosed.

Nokia has won 63% of the BT contract, or about 11,600 radio sites, a source familiar with the matter said.

Nokia currently powers BT’s network in Greater London, the Midlands and rural locations, but the new contract will add multiple towns and cities across the United Kingdom.

BT Group CEO Philip Jansen said the agreement would allow it to continue the rollout of fixed and mobile networks, with digital connectivity critical to the UK’s economic future.

Under the current ban, UK operators will not be able to purchase 5G components from Huawei from the end of this year and must remove all existing Huawei gear from the 5G network by 2027, offering opportunities for for Nokia and Sweden's Ericsson ERICb.ST.

Nokia had a 21% share of the global radio access network (RAN) market in 2019, versus 29% for Ericsson and Huawei’s 31%, according to data from Moody’s.

While Nokia has been winning contracts from operators across the world, it suffered a setback earlier this month when it lost out to Samsung Electronics 005930.KS on a part of a contract to supply new 5G equipment to Verizon VZ.N.

Nokia is under new management with Lundmark taking the top job last month and telecoms veteran Sari Baldauf becoming the chairwoman in May.

Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee and Anne Kauranen

Uber ride-hailing service wins appeal and granted a fresh licence to operate in London

( via – – Mon, 28th Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Uber to get London licence as court rules it ‘no longer poses a risk'

Ride-hailing service wins appeal a year after TfL refused extension over safety concerns

Uber has been granted the right to a fresh licence in London after an appeal found it was a “fit and proper” firm to run private hire car services.

Westminster magistrates court ruled in favour of Uber almost a year after Transport for London refused the ride-hailing firm a licence extension over safety concerns.

The deputy chief magistrate Tan Ikram said he had “sufficient confidence that Uber London Ltd no longer poses a risk to public safety … despite historical failings,” after hearing three days of arguments this month.

He said Uber had tightened up review processes to tackle document and insurance fraud and it now “seems to be at the forefront of tackling an industry-wide challenge”.

TfL’s safety concerns included the discovery that up to 14,000 trips by Uber passengers had been served by non-licensed drivers fraudulently logging on to the app using other people’s IDs.

Before the hearing, Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager, said: “We have worked hard to address TfL’s concerns over the last few months, rolled out real-time ID checks for drivers, and are committed to keeping people moving safely around the city.”

The firm argued that it had fundamentally changed in the three years since TfL first refused it a licence, in September 2017, when TfL deemed it not “fit or proper” to operate in the capital. On that occasion Uber won a provisional extension on appeal, but it was again refused a licence last November over the identity concerns.

The exact length of Uber’s next licence and any conditions attached are yet to be decided. Uber had been allowed to continue to run services in London pending the appeal.

Steve McNamara, the general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, which represents black-cab drivers, called the decision “a disaster for London”.

He said: “Uber has demonstrated time and time again that it simply can’t be trusted to put the safety of Londoners, its drivers and other road users above profit. Sadly, it seems that Uber is too big to regulate effectively, but too big to fail.”

15 Ways to Invest $1 MILLION

Source: Alux

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Nike sportswear giant expects permanent shift to online sales

( via – – Wed, 23rd Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Sportswear firm Nike has seen a huge rise in online sales as it bounces back from a coronavirus slump.

The US company saw digital sales rocket 82% during the June to August quarter, offsetting falling revenue in its stores.

On Tuesday, Nike posted revenue of $10.6bn (£8.3bn) as many of its key markets recovered including China.

For its previous quarter revenues were down by more than a third as it tackled store closures and lockdowns globally.

Nike chief executive John Donahoe said the shift to online sales could be a permanent trend.

“We know that digital is the new normal. The consumer today is digitally grounded and simply will not revert back,” Mr Donahoe said.

Sales are growing in its major markets including China, Japan, South Korea and the UK, while its core North American market is declining.

Nike's shares rose more than 10% in late trading in the US, as the results were better than Wall Street had expected.

Direct selling

Nike has been using its website and shopping apps to release limited edition footwear.

The sportswear giant has been transforming itself to sell directly to customers over the past few years, reducing its store presence and retail partners.

While many gyms have been closed during the pandemic, sportswear makers have reported strong demand for more casual attire as more people work and exercise at home.

Rival Adidas said last month that it was seeing improving sales trends while yoga pants maker Lululemon posted a 157% jump in its online business.

Like many other retailers, Nike is still limiting the number of people who can come into its stores at once to try to help curb the spread of the virus.

But when people do visit, they're coming with the intent to buy, Nike said.

B&Q and Screwfix to return £23m of furlough pay after reported increase in sales and profits

( via – – Tue, 22nd Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Kingfisher’s shares rise as it reports increase in sales and profits during the pandemic

The DIY group behind B&Q and Screwfix has said it intends to return £23m of furlough pay to the government after sales and profits at its UK business climbed during the pandemic.

Sales rose 3.7% at Kingfisher’s UK business in the six months to 31 July – despite several weeks during which stores were closed or only partially open – as families snapped up garden decking, vegetable seeds, paint and other decorating materials to improve their homes during the national lockdown.

Retail profits in the UK rose more than 47% to £411m as the company benefited from £45m in business rates relief and cut spending on non-essential store maintenance, marketing and IT.

Thierry Garnier, the Kingfisher chief executive, said: “The crisis has prompted more people to rediscover their homes and find pleasure in making them better. It is creating new home improvement needs, as people seek new ways to use space or adjust to working from home. It’s also clear that customers are becoming more comfortable with ordering online.”

Shares jumped 9% after the update on Tuesday morning, making Kingfisher the top riser on the FTSE 100.

The group, which also owns the Castorama and Brico Dépôt DIY chains in France and home improvement stores in Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain and Portugal, said it had made £55m in total furlough claims across all its markets in the first half of the year.

It intends to pay back the £23m received in the UK unless there are any “material changes in the trading environment” and has also said it will not be claiming the £1,000 per staff member bonus for rehiring workers on the furlough scheme.

Kingfisher told shareholders it would not be paying a half-year dividend as it hoards cash to see it through potentially tougher times towards the end of the year.

Total sales for the group slid 1.1% to £5.9bn in the half year as growth in the UK, Poland and Romania was offset by continued declines in France, Russia and southern Europe. But pretax profits jumped 62.4% to £398m after cost savings, government bailouts and the cancellation of the dividend.

Online sales rose 164% to account for nearly 20% of total sales – up from 7% a year ago – as the group stepped up its plan to pick and deliver orders from stores.

Fears of a slowdown because of economic hardship caused by the pandemic are yet to be felt at the DIY group. Sales rose nearly 17% between the end of July and 19 September.

The company said availability in its stores had been affected because suppliers were struggling to keep up with “exceptional demand” for paint, decorating materials, outdoor and building materials ranges.

By Sarah Butler

Lockdown fears cause shares to fall sharply in travel, hotel and pubs

( via – – Mon, 21st Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Leading shares across Europe have fallen sharply in morning trading amid fears that a renewed rise in coronavirus cases will blight economic prospects.

In London, the benchmark FTSE 100 share index was down more than 3%, with airlines, travel firms, hotel groups and pubs leading the rout.

Worst hit was British Airways owner IAG, which slumped more than 12%.

Similar falls were seen on markets in Paris, Frankfurt and Madrid.

Banking shares were affected by an extra set of concerns as allegations of money-laundering surfaced in leaked secret files.

HSBC, the bank at the centre of the scandal, saw its share price fall more than 5% in London, but the revelations dragged down the entire sector, with Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest all dropping about the same amount.

The downward trend affected all but a handful of stocks on the UK's 100-share index. Only online delivery service Just Eat, supermarkets Tesco and Morrisons and miner Fresnillo made it into positive territory.

The FTSE 250 index, seen as a better reflection of the health of the UK economy, was down 4% by lunchtime.

One of its biggest fallers was pub and restaurant owner Mitchells & Butlers, which dropped more than 15% as concerns grow that the hospitality industry would have most to lose from a fresh lockdown.

The pound also lost ground against the dollar, falling 0.47% to $1.2863 by lunchtime. It fell marginally against the euro to €1.0910.

Why does all this matter to me?

Many people are more affected by stock market falls than they might think.

There are millions of people with a pension – either private or through work – who will see their savings (in what is known as a defined contribution pension) invested by pension schemes. The value of their savings pot is influenced by the performance of these investments.

Pension savers mostly let experts choose where to invest this money to help it grow and a proportion will be in shares.

Widespread falls in share prices are likely to be bad news for these investments, although pension investors stress these are long-term investments and are designed to ride out bouts of weakness.

Analysis: By Theo Leggett

There has certainly been an element of European unity on the markets today, with the FTSE 100 index in London, the Cac 40 in Paris, the Dax in Frankfurt and the Ibex in Madrid all suffering similar falls.

The reason behind the gloom seems pretty clear. With the number of Covid-19 cases multiplying rapidly here and in many European countries, there's a real prospect of new restrictions on daily life. In some regions – such as Madrid, for example – they're already in place.

The fear is that although these measures are unlikely to be as severe as the lockdowns in spring, they will nonetheless weigh on economic activity and could stifle the post-lockdown recovery.

Shares are down across the board, but inevitably, the companies which rely on people being able to get out and about and mingle are among the worst affected.

Airlines, tourism firms and hospitality businesses have already had a dreadful year – and investors know they can ill afford further setbacks.

‘Bitter pill'

Coronavirus cases have been surging in many European countries, as governments strive to avoid another round of national lockdowns.

In the UK, top scientists are warning that the country is at a “critical point” in the pandemic and “heading in the wrong direction”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is understood to be considering a two-week mini-lockdown in England – being referred to as a “circuit-breaker” – in an effort to stem widespread growth of the virus.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ”The FTSE 100 is worst hit among its European peers with a storm of pessimistic news swirling, affecting sectors across the board.”

She added that concerns for the travel industry had had a “domino effect”, with aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls Royce hit, as investors saw no end to the falling demand for new planes.

At the same time, the prospect of evening coronavirus curfews, after a summer of recovering sales, was “a bitter pill to swallow” for the hospitality industry,

If you add the prospect of a no-deal Brexit into the murky mix, there is little surprise so many investors seem to have caught a severe case of the jitters today.”