UK Retail Sales Increase to Highest in April Since mid-2015 – CBI


Tim Tabor/Flickr

( via — Thur, 27 Apr 2017) London, UK —

British retailers reported the biggest increase in sales volumes since mid-2015 during April, according to an industry survey on Thursday that may help to allay fears of a worsening consumer-led slowdown.

The Confederation of British Industry's monthly retail sales balance spiked to +38 from +9 in March, confounding expectations for a decline to +6 in a Reuters poll of economists.

The upbeat figure contrasted with official data that showed retail sales posted their biggest quarterly fall in seven years in the first quarter of 2017, reinforcing economists' view that household spending, the main driver of the economy, is now slowing sharply.

The CBI said the strength during April was notable because the survey of 57 retailers did not cover the Easter holidays, one of the most important shopping periods of the year.

However, the CBI's retail balance has been volatile from month to month recently.

“Retailers are still cautious over the outlook, expecting slower growth over the year to May, as higher inflation eats into household spending,” CBI economist Ben Jones said.

“With price competition remaining fierce and rising costs squeezing margins, retailers face mounting pressures in the months ahead.”

The CBI said retailers expected sales growth to slow next month, with the index falling back to +16.

By Andy Bruce

Is Twitter Social Media Platform Enjoying a Trump Fuelled Turnaround?


Twitter – the social media platform beloved by US president Donald Trump – saw its shares surge on Wednesday after we learned it added a lot more users that had been expected in the first three months of this year.

The number of monthly active users was up by six percent compared with the same period last year, reaching 328 million.

Investors had expressed concerns about Twitter's future as user growth stalled last year.

The company credited changes to its timeline function which is now content listed by themes rather than in chronological order.

McDonald’s to Offer 115,000 UK Zero-Hours Workers Fixed Contracts

Mike Mozart/Flickr

( via – – Wed, 26 Apr, 2017) London, Uk –

McDonald’s is to offer 115,000 UK workers on controversial zero-hours contracts the option of moving to fixed contracts with a minimum number of guaranteed hours every week.

The move is a significant development in the debate about employee rights because McDonald’s is one of the biggest users of zero-hours contracts in the country. Sports Direct has also used workers on zero-hour contracts in its shops.

The fast-food chain is to offer fixed hours contracts after staff in its restaurants complained they were struggling to get loans, mortgages and mobile phone contracts because they were not guaranteed employment each week.

Zero-hour contracts are controversial because companies can use them to exploit workers, offering unpredictable working hours and changing shifts at short notice.

The TUC has called for the government to ban zero-hours contracts. It has found that staff on these contracts earns a third less per hour than the average worker.

McDonald’s has been trialling the shift to fixed hours contracts in 23 sites across the country. The company said that about 80% of workers in the trial chose to remain on flexible contracts and it has seen an increase in levels of employee and customer satisfaction after the offer. Staff have been offered contracts in line with the average hours per week they work. This includes contracts of either four, eight, 16, 30 or 35 hours a week.

The company will initially expand fixed contracts to 50 more restaurants before rolling it out nationwide to existing and new employees later this year.

Paul Pomroy, the chief executive of McDonald’s UK, said: “The vast majority of our employees are happy with their flexible contracts, but some have told us that more fixed hours would help them get better access to some financial products.”

Pomroy denied that McDonald’s was reacting to political pressure by making the change. “We are reflecting people’s lives. In a growing business, we need people to come and work for us, it’s a mutually beneficial approach,” he added.

The McDonald’s boss also confirmed that staff who are paid by the hour have had their pay increased by an average of 15% since April 2015.

“The hard work of our restaurant teams has enabled us to deliver 44 consecutive quarters of growth in the UK,” Pomroy said. “It’s right that we continue to invest in our people so they can deliver the experience that our customers want and expect.”

The changes are part of a modernisation drive by McDonald’s that includes the launch of a premium burger, digital touch screens in restaurants and a new delivery service that will be trialled from June alongside a partner such as Deliveroo.

McDonald’s has defended zero-hours contracts in the past, saying they offer flexibility to workers. However, the company has been targeted by protesters over its treatment of staff. Earlier this month, campaigners from Fast Food Rights and Better Than Zero dressed as clowns and demonstrated outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Glasgow over its use of zero-hours contracts.

The TUC has warned that 3.5 million people could be stuck in insecure work such as zero-hours contracts, agency work or low-paid self-employment by 2022 – 290,000 more than at present.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: “MPs aren’t the only ones feeling insecure in their jobs right now. If nothing changes, hundreds of thousands more Brits could be stuck in insecure work, being treated like disposable labour. That’s the same as 13 extra Sports Directs or the entire working population of Sheffield.

“Paying rent and bills can be a nightmare when you don’t know how much you’ve got coming in each month. And planning childcare is impossible when you’re constantly at the beck and call of employers.

“The next government will need to tackle this problem head on. Every party manifesto must have real commitments to crack down on zero-hours contracts and bogus self-employment. And agency workers should always get the going rate for the job.”

By Graham Ruddick


Consumer Group Finds Airport Duty-free Prices Not Always Cheapest

Timo Newton-Syms/

( via – – Wed, 26 Apr, 2017) London, Uk –

Consumer group finds products such as gin, Toblerone and Lego cheaper in supermarkets or online

Bargain airport prices for favourites such as gin and Toblerone are now likely to be cheaper at the supermarket, Which? has found.

A 360g bar of Toblerone cost £4 at Bristol World Duty-Free but £3 at Asda, while a 70cl bottle of Tanqueray gin cost £18 at Heathrow Terminal 2 and £15 at Morrisons, the consumer group found.

Despite a common assumption that airport shopping will cut out VAT, shoppers could save £21 by buying a 100ml bottle of Eternity for Men eau de toilette on Amazon for £25 rather than at Birmingham World Duty-Free for £46.

The Lego Star Wars Millennium Falcon was £20 cheaper at Toys R Us online than at Gatwick South World Duty-Free.

Which? said it was “stunned” to find the SanDisk Extreme Plus 64GB camera memory card selling for £73 more at Glasgow International’s Dixons Travel than at Currys online.

The organisation checked all the prices between 10 and 13 March. They are rounded to the nearest £1 and include the cost of delivery for online orders.

The watchdog also said consumers could find savings at airport shops, noting that it found the iPad mini 2 and Fitbit Flex 2 both for £10 less at Dixons Travel at Glasgow International airport than online at John Lewis.

It urged shoppers to “always do your research before you head to the airport to make sure the ‘deal’ is not actually dearer than you find on the high street or online”.

Lloyds Banking Group Re-pay UK Taxpayers £20.3bn in Fill

Elliott Brown/

( via – – Wed, 26 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – –
The £20.3bn spent bailing out Lloyds Banking Group during the financial crash has been repaid in full, UK chancellor Philip Hammond has said.
Nine years after the government bought 43.4% of Lloyds, the taxpayer has now got slightly more – £20.4bn – back.

The government began selling off its stake to investors in 2013, with the final 2% likely to be sold this year.

Earlier this week, Mr Hammond hinted that the 72% stake in Royal Bank of Scotland may be sold at a loss.

The vast bulk of the money returned to taxpayers has come from selling tranches of Lloyds shares, which began in September 2013 with the offloading of a £3.2bn stake.

However, the government has also received £400m in share dividends from Lloyds as the group returned to health.

In February, Lloyds reported its highest annual profit in a decade, helped by a reduction in payment protection insurance provisions.

‘Private sector'
Mr Hammond, speaking in Washington on Friday, said: “Recovering all of the money taxpayers injected into Lloyds marks a significant milestone in our plan to build an economy that works for everyone.

“While it was right to step in with support during the financial crisis, the government should not be in the business of owning banks in the long term.

“The right place for them is in the private sector and I'm pleased to be able to say we are approaching the point at which we will sell our final shares in Lloyds Bank.”

There were plans to sell off a large tranche of shares to the public rather than institutional investors, but this was scrapped last year, with then chancellor George Osborne blaming turmoil in global financial markets.

‘Elephant in the room'
Hargreaves Lansdown senior analyst Laith Khalaf said that although the share sell-off has taken far longer than expected, the remaining stake “can now be sold off as pure profit for the government”.

He added: “Of the UK banks, Lloyds has cleaned up its act fastest since the financial crisis.

“For the Treasury, the elephant in the room is, of course, RBS, which required twice as much financial support from the taxpayer as Lloyds.”
The bailout of RBS was worth 502p a share – or £45bn in total. On Friday, RBS shares were trading at about 239.8p.

Mr Hammond said on Wednesday that the government would return RBS to private hands “as soon as we can”, but this might be at a price below what was paid.

“We have to live in the real world,” he said.

By Russell Hotten

Business Rates Relief £300m Fund Put On Hold After Election

UK in Spain/

( via – – Tue, 25 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – –

The government appears to have performed a weekend U-turn on business rates and says a £300m relief fund to help small businesses worst hit by the shakeup is now available for councils to share out.

On Friday the Guardian was told by the Department for Communities and Local Government that although the consultation on how to distribute the money was complete it would require the approval of the new government – signalling a hiatus of several months until after the 8 June general election.

However, speaking in the House of Commons on Monday the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, insisted there would be “absolutely no delay because of the general election”. “It’s going ahead, exactly as planned. Councils are free to start using the scheme and helping local businesses.”

The business rates revaluation triggered a furious political row in February with the government coming under fire from its own MPs over the impact of the changes in their constituencies. Many of the affected businesses are in Conservative heartlands and the pressure saw the chancellor Philip Hammond announce a £435m relief package in the budget.

Half a million shopkeepers, pubs and restaurants saw their rates bills – the commercial equivalent of council tax – increase at the start of this month after a revaluation of property hit parts of the country where prices have surged.

For example, a property boom in the Suffolk coastal town of Southwold forced rateable values up by 152%, with some shop owners saying the resulting hike in their rates bill threatened the viability of their businesses.

Rachael Maskell, the Labour MP for York Central, described the situation created by the revaluation as “totally unfair” as although more small businesses were exempt from rates in her constituency others had seen their rateable value increase by 600%. “No one knows how the new relief funds will be distributed,” she said. “Total chaos.”

The DCLG website was updated over the weekend with the following statement added to the relevant homepage: “The government has considered the responses to the consultation on the scheme announced at spring budget 2017 for discretionary business rates relief and determined that final allocations to local authorities will be made according to the draft allocations published as part of the consultation.”

A DCLG spokeswoman confirmed the relief fund was now being rolled out. “Councils should establish their own schemes to distribute funds to local firms and can claim the funding from DCLG as soon as their schemes are up and running,” she said.

The revaluation, which is revenue neutral for the government, is supposed to make the system fairer by ensuring business rates reflect the property market with rates bills actually coming down in some parts of the country.

A revaluation is supposed to take place every five years but the previous review was controversially delayed by two years with high street campaigners accusing the government of postponing the process as it would be vote loser in Tory-held seats in the south-east ahead of the 2015 general election. The last revaluation, which came into effect in 2010, was based on rental values from 2008 which explains why some firms have seen a sharp rise in their bills.

Hammond’s relief package comprised the £300m discretionary fund, which is spread over four years, and a £1,000 discount on this year’s rates bill for pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000.

It is now up to local councils, who receive funds quarterly, to decide the local businesses that need help. Local authorities have already been developing their schemes with London’s Haringey, for example, where the rates of most high street shops have increased by 20% to 30%, considering giving preference to small, medium and independent firms.

Mark Rigby, chief executive of business rent and rates specialists CVS, said it was important that councils acted quickly as businesses were already paying higher rates. “I would now urge councils across England to expedite the distribution of this relief to those firms hardest hit by the revaluation with business rates bills having already been sent out and the first tax instalment having been collected,” he said.

By Zoe Wood

Household Energy Bills Cap ‘will hit consumers’ : UK Energy Industry

( via – – Mon, 24 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – – 

Plans by the Conservative Party for a cap on household energy bills will lead to fewer benefits for consumers, says one of the UK's biggest providers.
A cabinet minister said the Tories planned to intervene in the energy sector "to make markets work better".
But Scottish Power, one of the "Big Six" energy firms, told the BBC that the move would "stop competition" and "damage customers in the long run".
Shares in energy firms were hit by the proposed price cap.
British Gas owner Centrica fell about 5% and SSE was down more than 3% in early trading.
The energy industry has reacted with scepticism to the plan, saying it could lead to higher prices.
Labour said the proposal should be taken with "a pinch of salt", adding that energy bills had "soared" under a Conservative government.
'Dangerous' energy idea finds its time
Tories to promise cap on energy bills

Speaking to the BBC, Scottish Power's chief corporate officer, Keith Anderson, said: "If you put a cap on prices, you actually stop competition. That's the danger of price intervention."
When companies do not compete as much, that tends to lead to fewer benefits for customers, he said.
He added that if the Conservatives did intervene, it would be better to abolish standard variable tariffs.
About 800,000 of the poorest pensioners and 1.5 million low-income families with children are on standard variable tariffs, according to Citizens Advice.
These households are paying an average of £141 more a year for a dual-fuel gas and electricity bill than if they were on the cheapest deal, it said.
'Not working'
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon defended the Conservative's intention to impose a cap on energy prices.
"We wanted to see more competition, we wanted to see more people able to switch between energy users," Sir Michael told the BBC.
"That over the last three or four years has not happened. This is a market that is not working perfectly and therefore we are intervening to make markets work better," he added.
Co-leader of the Green Party Jonathan Bartley said the policy did not go far enough and he wanted more local choices of supplier for consumers.
But trade association body Energy UK said a cap could risk "billions in investment and jobs".
British Gas parent firm Centrica and fellow supplier E.On have both said market competition is essential.
Price comparison site said that previous interventions in the energy sector had led to lower switching rates and higher prices.

Jimmy Choo Luxury Shoe Maker Up For Sale


Clotee Allochuku/Flickr

( via – – Mon, 24 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – –

Shares in luxury shoe maker Jimmy Choo surged by 8pc in morning trade after it unveiled plans to put itself up for sale.

The London-listed company – made famous as the brand of choice for Sex & The City character Carrie Bradshaw – is to conduct a review of “the various strategic options open to the company to maximise value for its shareholders”, including a sale.

It has invited interested parties to make themselves known to its bankers, Bank of America Merrill Lynch or Citi.

“There can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which any offer will be made,” the company added.

JAB Luxury GmbH, part of the investment arm of the billionaire Reimann family, owns 67pc of Jimmy Choo and declared itself supportive of the plan.

The fashion brand said it had not received any approaches to buy the company prior to making its announcement.

Shares rose 8pc to 182p in London, above its close price of 168p on Friday and giving the fashion brand a market value of £690m.

Jimmy Choo floated on the stock exchange in October 2014 at a price of 140p a share.

The company has faced challenging conditions in the luxury retail market since its initial public offering, with one broker describing 2015 as “a year to forget” for Jimmy Choo. But it rebounded in 2016, with its share price climbing back over the level at which it floated.

Revenues grew 14.5pc in the year ending December 31, 2016, to £364m, but pre-tax profits slumped 20pc to £17.7m, mainly due to a foreign exchange loss, caused by the fall in sterling.

Jimmy Choo, which was founded in 1996, has in recent years branched out into high-end male footwear, a growing part of the market.

“Globally, retail sales of men’s designer footwear have grown marginally faster than women’s designer footwear over the last three years, so it is easy to see why Jimmy Choo has expanded into this male segment,” said Euromonitor.

Jimmy Choo has also been outpacing its fashion rivals, the analyst added. “For now, everything seems to be going well – with the brand outperforming its rivals and bucking the trend in China.”

By Jon Yeomans



Tony Robbins’s Top 10 Rules For Success


In this Tony Robbins video, we'll take a look back at some of the best footage of him out there, soaking up his advice to improve our lives and increase our success.

Anthony ‘Tony' Robbins is an American motivational speaker, self-help author, philanthropist, and advisor to stars like Oprah, who became well known from his infomercials and self-help books.

He's done interviews with big names like Wayne Dyer, Marie Forleo, and Frank Kern, and as of 2013, Forbes estimated his net worth at $480 million dollars.

He raises people's standards in health, business, and relationships and is a big proponent of rituals that change our state.

The New Google Earth Offers Stunning 3D Imagery


The whole world is now in your browser. Fly through landmarks and cities like London, Tokyo and Rome in stunning 3D, then dive in to experience them first hand with Street View. See the world from a new point of view with Voyager, which brings you stories from the BBC, NASA, Sesame Street and more.

MOT 4 years Wait for First Test Raises Safety Concerns

richard mullany/Flickr

( via – – Fri, 21 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – –

The motor industry is campaigning against changes to the car testing regime, highlighting safety risks that potential changes to the MoT system could cause.

Drivers would collectively save £100m a year under proposals being consulted on by the government to delay when a new car needs its first MoT test to check its roadworthiness from the current three years to four. The requirement for annual tests after that would remain.

Such a change would mean a financial hit to the industry in lost test fees, with about 2.5m cars taking their first test each year at a typical cost of about £45 for the checks which measure cars’ emissions levels, as well as safety and roadworthiness. Other revenue generated from replacement parts and labour would also be delayed.

Changing the first MoT would bring the UK into line with much of Europe – though the proposal is not related to EU regulations.

However, industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT) is calling for the government to give up on the change, citing safety concerns.

SMMT research found eight out of 10 drivers said the test fee is worth the peace of mind of knowing a car is safe and legal. Seven out of 10 raised concerns that delaying a car’s first MOT could put them and other road users in danger.

The results drove the trade group to call for a U-turn on the plans, a reversal it said was backed by eight out 10 drivers.

“MoTs are is an essential check on the safety and roadworthiness of vehicles,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive. “Extending the first test from three to four years is not what consumers or industry want given the serious risk posed to road safety and vehicles’ environmental performance.”

Almost one in five cars fail the checks when they take their first MoT, according to the SMMT, which calculates an extra 500,000 unsafe cars could be on UK roads if the change were to go through.

Keeping the requirement has not found such strong support from motorists’ organisation the AA.

Its research revealed that 44pc of members backed the change, 26pc were against it with the remainder ambivalent.

Modern cars are becoming much more reliable and safer said Luke Bosdet, from the AA’s policy unit, and this could mean that MoTs are not required so soon in a vehicle’s life.

“Cars now have the ability to ‘squawk’ and tell their drivers when there is a problem with the tyres of battery, as well as more fundamental mechanical models,” he said.

“This could be an opportunity for the car industry to extend the warranty on new cars to four years, with drivers getting protection from their car alerting them to problems which need to be fixed.”

By  Alan Tovey

Grandparents to hand down £400bn Property inheritance to Younger Generations

Gareth Williams/

( via – – Thur, 20 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – –

Housing inheritance will benefit younger generations selectively, with less than a quarter of under-45s likely to gain

Property worth more than £400bn is set to cascade down from grandparents to younger generations in the coming decades, though only a minority of those under 45 are likely to benefit.

According to research by the insurers Royal London about 4 million of the 17 million people aged 25 to 44 are in the “fortunate position” of being in line to inherit from grandparents who have bought property.

The firm surveyed more than 5,600 people from the older, middle and younger generation of adults to find out about their plans and expectations for receiving an inheritance.

It found that among the grandparents, all of whom were homeowners, the typical estate expected to be left averaged between £400,000 and £500,000.

Based on just more than 1 million people leaving these amounts in their wills, “this suggests a ‘wealth mountain’ of over £400bn set to be passed on” across the UK, the report said.

The “sandwich generation” of 45- to 64-year-olds were the most likely recipients of this wealth, the research found – but about half of grandparents also plan to pass on wealth directly to their grandchildren.

And many people in the middle sandwich generation either want to pass on the inheritance or feel under pressure to hand it to their own adult children – the millennial generation – the research found.

Two-fifths (40%) of 45 to 64-year-olds feel that there is pressure to pass on wealth. Nearly two-thirds (62%) are concerned about the financial position of the younger generation who have not generally seen their wealth increase, due to surging house prices, in the same way that some people in the older generations have.

A recent report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) suggested the amount of wealth that younger generations will end up with is more likely to hinge on how well off their parents are than was the case for older generations.

The IFS warned that today’s young adults will find it harder to create their own wealth than previous generations, with implications for social mobility.

By Phillip Inman

The International Monetary Fund Raised Global Growth Forecast


The International Monetary Fund has raised its global growth forecast for this year but also warned protectionist policies could undermine a broad-based, but modest, recovery.

It credits improving manufacturing and trade in bigger economies for the 3.5 percent growth it now expects, up from January's 3.4 percent forecast.

IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld said: “This improvement comes primarily from good economic news for Europe and Asia as well as our continuing expectation for higher grow.