Why Brits are Shunning the High Streets On Black Friday For Bargins Online

(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.

PRESSURE

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.

“DECEPTIONS”

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

Calling in sick – The best excuses, according to your boss

(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

Fender Musical Instruments Corp challenge customers to commit for life

(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

Heathrow Christmas Holiday Advert

Throughout their 70 years, Heathrow have specialised in reconnecting people with their loved ones, especially at this time of year, because coming home for Christmas is the best gift of all. Among the millions of seasonal passengers, there are some extra-special arrivals that have made it home in time for the big day…

Branson’s daily habit for doubling his productivity

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com via CNBC.com – – Thu, 10 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Daily Habit
dtiet/flickr.com

Billionaire Richard Branson wakes up at 5:00 am everyday to start on the right note: by exercising. He's an avid runner and cyclist. In fact, the Virgin Group co-founder completed a marathon and has his own charitable triathlon .

Branson says that working out helps significantly boosts his productivity and has helped him get to where he is today.

“I definitely can achieve twice as much by keeping fit,” Branson tells FourYourBodyPress. “It keeps the brain functioning well.”
Science shows that exercise can help you out professionally.

If you feel like work is a struggle, but can't pinpoint what is off, working out can help significantly. Working out releases brain chemicals key to better memory, concentration and mental sharpness, according to Harvard Medical School's journal.

When you work out, your brain releases a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which improves brain function.

If stress is a daily part of your life, know that you're one of many nationwide. Seventy percent of adults in the U.S. say they deal with stress or anxiety daily, reports the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Studies demonstrate that physical activity, like a brisk walk, jog, game of basketball, or time spent at the gym, will help you better manage stress by releasing endorphins.

A research team based at Princeton University found that physical activity actually “reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function.”

For Branson, exercising regularly “keeps the endorphins running.”
Even a short walk gets your creative juices flowing.

Stanford researchers found that the act of walking boosted a person's creativity by an average of 60 percent.

So if you're stuck on a work problem, take a few minutes to get moving. You'll be boosting your productivity the way Branson does.

By By Marguerite Ward

Greenland Group set to Build London’s Tallest Tower

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Sun, 6 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

In 2013, the architecture firm HOK was approached by a representative of the Greenland Group, China’s third-largest developer. “They said they were investing in London and that they’d made an offer on a parcel,” said HOK Senior Vice President Larry Malcic, who sat, on a recent afternoon, holding a cup of tea in his firm’s London office. “They’d done their homework.”

The land in question was a run-down warehouse adjacent to Canary Wharf, an area in the far eastern end of the city that grew popular in recent decades for its proximity to London’s financial center. Nothing in the area, however, would match what the Greenland Group hoped to build: an £800 million ($996.9 million), 67-story tower, which, when completed, would be the tallest residential tower in Western Europe. “From the beginning, they saw it as a fundamentally residential tower,” Malcic said. “And they wanted to get value out of the site, so we’ve gone as tall as you can go.” (That’s a literal statement: Any higher and the tower would violate London City Airport’s flight path.)

The building, which is named the Spire, is designed as a three-petal, undulating tower. Its position on a bend of the Thames provides unparalleled views of London in all directions, and its amenities, including a 35th-story lounge with an infinity pool, an entire floor devoted to recreation rooms, and even an outdoor covered track, would place it at the (literal) top of London’s booming luxury real estate.

And then, just as the building broke ground, the U.K. voted to leave the European Union and London’s real estate market, which had already been showing signs of weakness, began to crumble.

The Greenland Group vowed to forge ahead with the building. “The UK’s vote to exit the European Union (“Brexit”) cannot be said to have had no effect on the property market in London, and we are aware that there could be some turbulence in the future,” wrote Wenhao Qian, managing director of Greenland Investment Ltd., in an e-mail. “Developments of note, as well as iconic buildings, are continuing to do well. We feel that the advantages of London—its global cachet, cosmopolitanism and being a centre of world trade—bode well for a positive future for both the property market and the wider economy.”

The question, in turn, is whether Greenland's commitment represents canny long-term planning or something closer to stoicism in the face of adversity.

Hurdles and Payoffs

First, said Faisal Durrani, head of research at the broker, Cluttons, it’s important to consider the overall London housing market, Brexit or no: “We’re probably building less than half the supply of housing that the city needs on an annual basis,” he said. “We’re constructing about 40,000 to 50,000 new units a year, when we really need about 120,000.” In a vacuum, then, the Spire is adding a much needed supply of apartments (861 in total) in the face of cacophonous demand.

But that demand comes with a caveat. “Most domestic [U.K.] demand tends to seek out what we call ‘period property,’ or anything that isn’t new construction,” Durrani said. “So despite a building being brand-new and modern and packed with all sorts of amenities, it’s not a kind of place domestic buyers will aspire to live in.”

Happily for Greenland though, roughly half of all central London buyers are currently international, and many of those buyers “are coming from new-build cities,” Durrani said. “So new buildings appeal to them— they’re used to it.” More good news for the Greenland Group: A recent Cluttons survey of 127 UAE-based high-net-worth individuals listed Canary Wharf as the top neighborhood for residential investment, which Durrani said could be the result of a massive influx of investment into the neighborhood from sovereign wealth funds. Investors “have seen their government has identified a safe space, and they’re going along with it,” he explained.

Still, the recent volatility in the U.K. housing market has caused some international investors to sell (at least, attempt to sell) their London properties. “What's happened, with values softening over most of the city, is that we've seen some international buyers trying to offload their stock,” Durrani said. “There's very little domestic interest in purchasing it because it's perceived to be overpriced.” And, Durrani added, “it often is overpriced.” If economic volatility—not to mention Britain's exit from the E.U.—continues, that could eventually further dampen international interest.

The final factor that could affect the Spire's success? Time. As the U.K.’s domestic buying base grows (and ages), there’s a good chance that they’ll come around to this new, glassy construction. “The cookie-cutter mentality hasn’t arrived yet for domestic buyers, but over time I think that’s likely to change,” Durrani said. “Purely because there aren’t enough homes to go around. It’s as simple as that.”

Planning For the Future

In the short term, the Spire can hope to attract international buyers confident in London's future as a financial center, or at least in its position as a city more stable than those in their home country. In a mid- to long-range outlook, demographic indicators imply that its buyers could come from within the U.K.

Malcic, the architect at HOK, said the building was designed with just this sort of change in mind. “We’re looking to appeal to a whole range of people,” he said. “I think it will be equally appealing to people in the home counties whose children have grown up, who don’t want to spend time cutting the grass anymore.”

Malcic said that HOK accounted for this uncertain future with malleable tech configurations (“What people need is not built-in tech anymore,” he said, “what they need is the flexibility to put in whatever technology is coming”), extra-high ceilings (“which gives a graciousness, but also a degree of flexibility,”) and such amenities as refrigerated storage lockers to stash grocery deliveries. “In the old days, you measured success by how much square feet you had,” he said. “Now it’s how much convenience you have.”

Construction is set to begin in early 2017, with a completion date of 2020. And while the Brexit uncertainty and U.S. elections roiling world markets make it impossible to make even a reasonably cautious prediction about the future, Durrani, the analyst, said that smart investors shouldn't try. “It’s harder than ever to time a building launch with property market cycles,” he said. “Most investors in this market are in it for the long term, and the long-term picture is a lot rosier than the next three to six months.”

By James Tarmy

British electorate would now vote narrowly to stay in the EU – BMG poll

qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 4 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –

Union Jack
Mikey/flickr.com

The British electorate would now vote narrowly to stay in the European Union, according to a BMG poll published on Thursday.

The United Kingdom voted 51.9 percent to leave the bloc in a June 23 referendum while 48.1 percent voted to remain.

A poll by BMG Research, showed that when asked if the United Kingdom should stay or go, 45 percent opted to remain, 43 opted to leave and 12 percent did not know.

“Rather than people switching to Remain, it looks as if people are now less decisive about whether it was the right decision to leave,” Michael Turner, head of research at BMG, told Reuters.

Excluding “don't knows” puts Remain on 51 percent and Leave on 49 percent, according to the poll.

The fieldwork was conducted Oct. 19-24 among 1,546 adult UK residents.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Stephen Addison)

Marks & Spencer to announce plans to shut some stores at home and abroad

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 4 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –

Retail
Simon D/flickr.com

Struggling British retailer Marks & Spencer is expected to announce plans next week to shut some stores at home and abroad, with analysts forecasting a slump in first-half profit and another fall in clothing sales.

Steve Rowe, a 26-year company veteran, took over as chief executive in April and has the tough task of reviving the 132-year-old British institution that has fallen out of fashion over the last decade.

So far, his priority has been trying to turn around Marks & Spencer's (M&S) underperforming clothing and homewares business.

But on Tuesday he is expected to outline a rationalisation of its international operations and say how the company will make better use of its UK estate of more than 900 stores.

Profit at M&S's overseas business, which contributes about 7 percent to the group total, slumped 40 percent in the 2015-16 fiscal year, mainly due to losses at its own – rather than franchised – stores.

The division comprises 468 stores across 58 international markets, including 194 owned by M&S.

Seeking to cut costs, some of these stores in Western European markets, including France, as well as in China are expected to be ditched by Rowe, according to analysts, as he seeks to return the division to profitable growth by reversing the expansion of his predecessor.

Most don't anticipate radical changes to M&S's UK stores as currently all of them still make some profit. But given the growth of e-commerce, they do expect Rowe to signal a small number of store closures and a desire for a smaller estate over time, as well as plans to correct some badly performing shops through re-locations and new layouts.

LOWERING PRICES

Rowe has pledged to revive M&S's clothing by improving ranges and availability, cutting prices and reducing promotions.

However his plan, outlined in May, came with a warning of a short-term dent to sales and profit, and in July the group reported its worst quarterly clothing sales for a decade.

Shares in M&S have fallen 23 percent this year, hammered by the May profit warning and fears a drop in sterling after Britain's vote to leave the European Union will increase sourcing costs.

For the second quarter to Oct. 1, M&S is expected to report a 3.9 percent fall in sales of clothing and homeware at shops open over a year, according to a company compiled consensus of eight analysts' forecasts. That would be an improvement on the first quarter slump of 8.9 percent.

The food business, which contributes over half of group revenue and about a third of profit, is performing better than clothing and outperforming the wider food market. Analysts are on average forecasting flat second-quarter like-for-like sales. They fell 0.9 percent in the previous quarter.

Analysts on average expect a first-half underlying pretax profit of 216 million pounds, down from 284 million pounds a year earlier.

By James Davey | LONDON (Editing by Mark Potter)

British housebuilder Cala in talks with China’s Evergrande property developer – source

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Tue, 1 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –

Chinese Developers
Gareth Williams/www.flickr.com

China Evergrande Group (3333.HK), China's second-largest property developer, is in “early stage” talks to buy Cala Homes, a person familiar with the upmarket British housebuilder told Reuters.

Edinburgh, Scotland-based Cala Homes, which is owned by insurer Legal & General (LGEN.L) and real estate managers Patron Capital, was being advised on the offer by investment bank Lazard, its long-term advisor, the person said.

Sky News, which first reported on the approach, said Evergrande's offer could be worth close to 700 million pounds. (bit.ly/2f8dzLh)

Cala, which builds large, high-end homes across affluent areas of Britain such as around the M25 motorway which circles London, in the Midlands and Scotland, reported revenue of 587.1 million pounds for the year ended June 30, 15 percent higher than a year earlier. Net bank debt stood at 123.9 million pounds at end-June.

In its results statement in October, Cala said it had a contracted land bank with gross development value of 4.7 billion pounds as of end-June and that enquiry levels and reservation rates had risen in the 13 weeks after the EU vote on June 23.

“From time to time we may find ourselves the subject of speculation but from our perspective it is very much business as usual,” a Cala spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Legal & General, Patron Capital and Evergrande declined to comment.

The approach comes as recent mortgage data and statements from housebuilders have indicated that the UK housing market is recovering somewhat from a sharp downturn in activity that followed Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

The Brexit-induced pound slide GBP= has fuelled foreign demand to invest in the sector, especially from Chinese buyers keen to diversify away from a slowing home market.

China Vanke (2202.HK)(000002.SZ) confirmed in September that it had bought a London office property.

For Guangzhou-based Evergrande, one of the most indebted companies in the industry, the purchase of Cala would mean access to the UK housing market as developers benefit from a chronic supply shortage. Britain launched a 5 billion-pound homebuilding stimulus package last month.

Evergrande has been aggressively investing in other companies as it looks to lift some of the pressure of having amassed some $57 billion in debt, almost six times its market value, on land acquisitions and corporate mergers.

(Reporting by Esha Vaish in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Clare Jim in Hong Kong; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

 

 

National Audit Office Say Britain Must Identify Best Ways of Taxing The Wealthiest

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Tue, 1 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Wealthy homes
jan buchholtz/flickr.com

A unit set up to claim unpaid tax from the richest people in Britain raised 416 million pounds ($510 million) in the past financial year but must do more to improve its enforcement activities, the National Audit Office said.

By concentrating on the 6,500 taxpayers with assets of more than 20 million pounds, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs High Net Worth Unit exceeded its 2015-16 target of 250 million pounds, the NAO said in a report published in London on Tuesday. To raise more revenue, it must identify what techniques have worked best since it was set up in 2009, the spending watchdog said.

“The tax affairs of the wealthiest in society are complex, making it harder for HMRC to ensure that they are paying the right amount of tax,” NAO head Amyas Morse said in an e-mailed statement. “While the yields from HMRC’s work in this area have increased, it needs to evaluate what approaches are the most effective.”

Individuals with wealth of more than 20 million pounds contributed 4.3 billion pounds in tax in 2014-15 and formal investigations are being carried out into the liabilities of more than 2,000 of them, the NAO said. An initial estimate suggests 1.9 billion pounds in unpaid tax over a number of years may be due as a result of the probes, of which avoidance schemes account for 1.1 billion pounds.
The definition of “high net worth” has been extended to include people with assets of more than 10 million pounds for the financial year that started in April, extending the reach of the unit, which has a staff of 380, to include a further 1,000 taxpayers, the NAO said.

In a move uncommon elsewhere in the world, the U.K. assigns one of 40 “customer relationship managers” to each wealthy individual and they “are responsible for understanding the risks and behaviors of the people assigned to them,” usually through working with their representatives, the audit office said.

By Thomas Penny

Hitachi invests millions of dollars in robots meant to help Japan’s aging citizens

 

Bloomberg's Hello World host Ashlee Vance visited Japanese technology giant Hitachi. The tech conglomerate has invested millions of dollars to invent all manner of robots meant to help Japan’s aging citizens in the years ahead.

 

HSBC : Virtual reality worlds the future of holidays

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Thur, 20 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

The future of transport and tourism may well involve not going anywhere.
Researchers at HSBC have seen the future and it features a lot of virtual reality.

People will be able to use the technology to visit virtual worlds as real as our own, HSBC analysts Davey Jose and Anton Tonev said in a note to clients.

And, while they'll be free to visit, they might be full of ads.
VR could “create a many new avenues for recreation and leisure, and if it follows the ad models of many of the technology giants today, these VR recreation activities could be free,” HSBC said.

“If this is the case, instead of recreation costs going up, costs could decline, even if the number of hours spent in virtual worlds for leisure increases.”

Tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Sony are pushing virtual reality headsets as the next big thing. In a demo last week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed off “Social VR,” using a combination of the Oculus Rift headset and a 360-degree camera to mash together virtual reality and the real world.

The technology has endless applications and the workplace of the future may well only exist in virtual reality, eliminating the need to commute to the office, the HSBC analysts said.

Meanwhile, physical transport will become totally autonomous. With less traffic and more AI-driven vehicles, the era of car collisions and deaths on the road will end sometime around 2040, according to the HSBC report.
Key to this change is the development of “haptics” – technology that engages all the senses in the virtual world, rather than just sight and sound, to make it feel more real.

“With technology rapidly advancing and R&D efforts going into the development of better ‘haptics’, where one will be able to ‘feel’ in the virtual world, we believe that it’s likely that the next generation of ‘VR natives’ may find it preferable to utilise VR to travel virtually rather than physically,” HSBC said.

The investment bank added that this might not be such a big leap as we might think. “The shift from the physical to a digital format, in general, is not a novel concept, it has happened before,” HSBC said, pointing to the communication switch from physical letters to virtual e-mails.
“For example, physical mail in US and China declined from the early 2000s to 2014/15 by about 40%. However, in this time, average emails sent increased fifteen-fold, from 12bn to over 200bn per day,” HSBC said.

Travelling to virtual rather than real places is quicker, cheaper and safer than conventional physical transport, HSBC said.
The rise of the technology could cut commute times and make it more attractive to live out in the countryside rather than the city.
This would solve the problem of rising commuting times and growing work days, freeing up precious time to spend in virtual reality holiday worlds.

While it remains to be seen whether the experience of virtual reality will top the excitement of travelling to new places, it certainly would be more convenient.

By Ben Moshinsky