I’m sorry madam but it’s not in stock. Just press that button though and…

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Luxury fashion house Burberry has just announced a 36% increase in retail sales in the final quarter of last year.

Their shops in Asia Pacific, the Americas and Europe all reported double digit sales growth.

This is pretty impressive given that the economy is still facing turbulent times. So what’s behind the success?

One of the main drivers of this growth is China and in particular the growth in the Chinese luxury market.

Last year, Burberry acquired 50 stores in China from their Chinese franchise partner and seem to have been making the most of having them fully back “within the family”.

One of the key strategic issues facing fashion retailers is “merchandising”. In other words, making sure that the right clothes are in the stores at the right time.

There is always a balance between having money tied up in high inventory levels versus ensuring that shoppers have the item that they want to buy in stock.

Burberry reportedly have had some issues in the past when they were operating with very lean levels of inventory in some of their shops.

This meant that if people went shopping at a Burberry store and saw something they liked but found it wasn’t in stock then the chances were that they wouldn’t come back another day to buy it.

The end result was a lost sale.

The company seems to have better control of their inventory levels now and they have also piloted a new digital store format in Beijing.

If the item isn’t in stock in the shop then the customer can quickly get access to an in-store iPad and purchase the item online for home delivery. A relatively simple but effective way of trying to make sure the customer doesn’t walk out of the shop without making a purchase.

You just can’t be a real banker if you like pickled onions….

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It sounds like the start of a joke:

What’s got onion breath, dirty glasses and a scruffy hair cut?

Well, if the UBS dress code has anything to do with it then it certainly isn’t a UBS banker.

Whilst being professional in both approach and dress style is expected for employees of banks the Swiss bank UBS has got a 44 page dress code which advises employees how they should dress.

It has also attracted a fair amount of mocking on the internet.

They have recently announced however that they will be revising their dress code but some of the highlights of the existing advice in the current code include:

–    Types of perfume and make up that female employees should wear (black nail varnish should be avoided);

–    Men (and I guess women as well for that matter) should avoid unruly beards;

–    Glasses should be kept clean (presumably this will help when reading the dress code)

–    Women are encouraged to wear skin coloured underwear.

It also advises against eating garlic and onions.

They have said however that certain parts of their dress code will stay including the requirement for men to wear a dark suit, white shirt and a red tie.

In summary therefore if you’re thinking of applying for a job as a banker and have a liking for bright green ties, leopard print underwear and just love the taste of pickled onions then maybe UBS isn’t the bank for you.

We wish Steve Jobs a speedy recovery but should we know from what?

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Steve Jobs is the CEO of Apple, one of the largest companies in the world with a market cap of in excess of $300 billion.

He has been credited with turning the company around to become the huge success it is today. He is also one of the most charismatic leaders in the market.

Unfortunately he is also ill.

In an email to Apple employees today he announced that he would be taking medical leave with immediate effect and handing over the day to day running of the business.

His message said that “my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy.”

Whilst we all hope that Mr Jobs gets well soon it does raise an interesting corporate governance debate.

Namely, should the CEO be able to keep his illness private or should shareholders be told of any matters which would influence their decision to buy or sell their shares.

The illness of such a pivotal person in Apple as Steve Jobs arguably requires disclose to the shareholders.

Today’s announcement comes 2 years after Mr Jobs took a 6-month break for a medical problem that at the time of the break was undisclosed. It subsequently transpired that he had had a liver transplant.

Following the announcement Apple’s shares fell 8% in Frankfurt. The US markets, which are currently closed for a holiday, will reopen tomorrow.

A classic corporate governance debate – the right of a CEO to medical privacy vs. the right of shareholders to know whether a charismatic leader will be likely to continue working for the company that they have invested in.

We wish Mr Jobs a speedy recovery.

KPMG have kindly offered to pay the fees…

The UK government has recently announced an increase in university tuition fees.

This raised a number of concerns such as the risk that some of the poorer students would be unable to attend university due to not being able to afford the fees.

Numerous student protests ensued but the fee increase proposals were implemented and university fees will rise in 2012 to up to £9,000 per year.

Accountancy firm KPMG recruits in the region of 400 new trainees each year in the UK alone.

They have just announced an innovative new scheme for supporting school leavers that want a career in accountancy and are offering to pay university tuition fees for some of their annual intake.

From this autumn, KPMG will offer a 6 year programme to 75 school leavers which will include 4 years of study at Durham University. During this time KPMG will pay the university fees for the students as well as a salary of up to £20,000 pa.

If all goes well with their exams, at the end of the programme the students will have both a degree and a professional accounting qualification.

Oliver Tant, UK Head of Audit at KPMG, said:  “We are really excited about this scheme which we think is genuinely ground-breaking and innovative.  For us, one of the key things is to ensure fair access to the profession by ensuring the greatest number of young people possible go to university – and also have the potential to train as an accountant.  We need an accountancy profession that is as diverse and as open as it can be.”

I think that this is a great idea by KPMG.

A friend of mine recently mentioned that the kindergarten fees for her 4 year old daughter have just increased significantly. Could we see a move in the future by one of the accounting firms to sign up 4 year olds for a career in accounting….

Advertising on the move and all for a good cause.

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There are certain things in this world that really should be readily available no matter where you live.

School education for children for example is one such item.

In some countries however it is a sad fact of life that children often have to walk many kilometres to their nearest school. This can understandably result in there being challenges in ensuring attendance at classes.

The advertising industry can be a very creative place and in Africa the  advertising industry is currently growing at an estimated 20% per annum.

French company Instinct’s Socially Intelligent Marketing programme aims to combine this growing advertising market in Ghana with providing a solution to the school transport problem.

Instinct has launched “TriKademiK”.

In effect this is a mobile advertising platform that combines a billboard with a tricycle that can carry up to 6 children to school. When not in use on the school-run the tricycle can be converted to transport other goods for the local community.

The initial pilot versions of TriKademiK were sponsored by mobile phone company Zain Ghana and drinks company Voltic (part of the SAB Miller group of companies).

Instinct’s aim is to roll out the programme to over 1,000 tricycles which can transport 7,000 children to school on a daily basis.

All in all an impressive and creative use of an advertising platform for a very good cause.