Published on: 16 Jun 2017
“Smoothie drinks” have become very fashionable over recent years.
Smoothies are drinks made out of crushed fruit and are seen as a healthy alternative to carbonated drinks such as Coke or Pepsi.
Perhaps the most famous smoothie manufacturer in the UK is Innocent Smoothies. The business was set up in 1999 by three friends who famously gave up their jobs to start the business after they invested £500 on fruit and turned it into smoothies and sold them at a music festival. The business has grown since then and been a true success story.
The brand has a “quirky, playful” image as well as promoting itself to be ethically aware (it donates 10% of its profits to charity).
So, what has Coca-Cola got to do with all of this? Porter’s 5 Forces strategy model is well known to students of professional exams. See our free ExPress notes for more details but one of the forces concerns “substitute products”.
If a 5 forces analysis is done on for example the traditional Coca-Cola carbonated drink then a substitute product would be a smoothie. There is a general trend in a lot of countries towards healthier living and the threat of a substitute product such as a smoothie could be seen as a threat.
In 2009 Coca-Cola bought an 18% stake in Innocent for £30 million and then in the following year increased its shareholding to 58% for a reported £65 million. They then increased their shareholding to over 90% for an undisclosed sum. From a Porter’s 5 forces point of view this is a good move as it means that one of the substitute products is now within the Coke family.
There has been a fair amount of discussion since the aquisition about whether Innocent is still the ethical likeable “under dog” that it was given that it is now part of one of the biggest companies in the world.
One thing is for sure though and whilst it was certainly an Innocent transaction it was also definitely a well thought out strategic acquisition.
Published on: 16 Jun 2017
A good friend of mine collect labels from beer bottles. As he travels around the world on holiday or business he collect labels from bottles of the local beer.
I think it’s a nice idea as it is a unique souvenir of where he’s visited, it’s relatively cheap and perhaps most importantly it gives him a great excuse to try out some local beers.
Things may be about to become more difficult for him though as a number of beer producers seem to be changing their marketing mix to save money and (some would argue) make the bottles look more fashionable.
As a lot of readers will appreciate, the marketing mix is also known as the 4Ps (Product, Price, Place, Promotion). If you look at the product component of the mix then not only does it include the beer itself but it also includes the packaging. This packaging in turn includes bottles (both glass and plastic) as well as cans.
Drinking some bottles of beer during a recent evening out with friends at a restaurant got the accountant in me thinking about what it costs to create the bottle that holds the beer.
Well if you think about it the raw materials that go into the bottle are glass (for the bottle) and metal (for the top) together with paper and glue for the label.
How can you reduce the cost of the packaging?
Can you reduce the quantity or quality of the glass? This would be tricky as the bottle could break.
What about the top? Again, this is awkward as you don’t want the beer to suddenly start leaking from the top of the bottle.
That leaves the paper and glue for the label and what a number of manufacturers now appear to be doing is producing bottles without the main label on it but instead embossing the name of the beer on the bottle itself (no additional material costs) and having the only label as a small paper “collar” around the neck of the bottle. An example of such a bottle can be seen in the image above from the successful Fosters Beer adverts in the UK.
Reducing the label size seems to make sense for bottles of beer that are sold in restaurants. After all, the label on the bottle has little impact on the purchasing decision when a person is looking at the menu or asking the waiter or waitress what beer they have. They may even know what beer they want already or can’t see the bottle anyway so the bottle wouldn’t impact on their decision.
It seems a good idea therefore for the beer companies to save money by removing the labels. Even though the paper used by one label is quite small, if you multiply that by the thousands of bottles which are sold around the world every day it could turn into a very significant saving.
What is interesting though is that if you go into a shop or supermarket that is selling beer, you will see bottles which have larger more “attention grabbing” labels on them. As people are wandering through the supermarket aisles they haven’t necessarily made up their mind whether they want to purchase a bottle of beer or if they have, what particular beer they want so having a big label which will grab their attention is a good thing.
In summary then it appears that two out of three people are happy. The accountant in the beer company is happy as production costs have been reduced due to reducing the labelling on the restaurant bottles. The marketing person is happy as he or she can use their skills on the design and thought process behind the labelling for bottles that are sold in supermarkets.
As for my friend that collect the beer bottle labels well my guess is that he may soon be unhappy as instead of trying to peel off the labels from the bottles whilst sat at a restaurant table he’s having to try to do that at the supermarket…
Published on: 28 May 2017
With celebrity clients such as Angelina Jolie and Victoria Beckham, Jimmy Choo is one of the most famous shoe brands in the world.
It is a real success story having been started 21 years ago by Malaysian shoemaker Jimmy Choo, who trained at the renowned Cordwainers Technical College in London, and Tamara Mellon, a former editor at Vogue magazine, with a loan from her father of £150,000.
The pair started the business after Ms. Mellon met Mr Choo during her time with Vogue. Mr Choo used to make a small number of handmade shoes which the magazine used for photo shoots. Ms. Mellon saw the potential in scaling up the business and 21 years later there are now over 150 stores around the world with prices for some shoes being well in excess of £1,000.
So, why has the business been so successful?
Whilst design and quality are obviously key features, the brand arguably took off when famous celebrities such as Julia Roberts and Beyonce started wearing them.
But it’s not just shoes that they sell. They have also expanded into items such as handbags, sunglasses and scarves. In business speak this is referred to as “brand extension”.
The original founders sold their shares in the business a number of years ago and the company is now quoted on the London stock exchange with the main shareholder being JAB Luxury GmbH, owned by the German billionaire Reimann family.
They have recently announced that they were putting the company up for sale. In a statement, they said that “The board of Jimmy Choo announces today that it has decided to conduct a review of the various strategic options open to the company to maximise value for its shareholders and it is seeking offers for the company.”
It’s been reported that the company could be worth in the region of £700 million.
So why is JAB looking at disposing of a very successful fashion brand?
Recent acquisitions made by the company may give a clue.
JAB, the gigantic investment firm backed by the billionaire Reimann family has made a number of significant purchases recently.
They already have controlling interests in food and beverage brands such as Keurig Green Mountain, Douwe Egberts, and doughnut maker Krispy Kreme.
A few weeks ago they purchased the US bakery business, Panera Bread, for $7.5bn (£6bn).
It looks therefore like the owner of Jimmy Choo is more interested in concentrating on building up its food and beverage businesses than growing a high fashion business like Jimmy Choo.
I guess we’re unlikely to see doughnuts and Jimmy Choos in the same shop…
Published on: 22 May 2017
Do you wish you had a better memory? Perhaps you do but you can’t remember whether or not you do.
If this is the case then help may be at hand.
University researchers have recently suggested a simple technique which could improve your memory.
Dr Mark Moss from Northumbria University led a research study which found that students studying in a room with the smell of the herb rosemary (in the form of essential oils) achieved 5% to 7% better memory results than students undertaking similar studying in a room without the smell of rosemary.
Dr Moss reported that the sense of smell in humans is highly sensitive and sends messages to the brain which can set off reactions and responses.
In the case of rosemary, the smell could well result in a better memory.
This view isn’t new though as ancient Greek students used to wear garlands of rosemary in their exams and Ophelia, the young noblewoman in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet said “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.”
So, in conclusion, the next time you are studying hard for an exam it may be an idea to buy some rosemary essential oils to help your memory.
That is of course, if you can remember to buy some in the first place…
(Details of some of the work done by Northumbria University can be found here).
Published on: 15 May 2017
According to the World Health Organisation, worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980 and more than 10% of the world’s population are now classified as obese.
In the UK, NHS obesity statistics suggest that nearly 60% of women and 70% of men are overweight.
The number of hospital admissions in the UK linked to obesity has increased 10 fold from 52,000 in 2006 to 520,000 in 2016.
Now whilst this obviously isn’t good news for the health of the individuals concerned it also raises challenges for businesses which are affected by this increase in weight.
Airlines for example will soon need to be looking at different sized seats or charging people over a certain weight for 2 seats.
Theatres and cinemas will also no doubt be reviewing seat sizes when the venues next come to be refurbished.
Clothing manufacturers will face higher average material costs and in the public sector, hospitals and ambulances will soon need to invest in stronger beds and stretchers to transport the larger patients.
According to recent reports for example, ambulance services in the UK are now having to purchase specialised ambulances costing significant amounts of money to transport the most obese patients. The London ambulance service has purchased 3 specialist bariatric ambulances and strechers which can take patients weighing up to 70 stone (444.5kg).
These ambulances aren’t cheap and can cost in excess of £100,000 each. Specialised heavy duty stretchers alone cost between £7,000 and £10,000 each.
These are some pretty significant costs and some people may argue that people should simply lose weight rather than rely on the National Health Service to fund these expenses.
Whether these people will get themselves down to the gym though is a different matter. Whilst there could clearly be an opportunity for businesses such as health clubs to try and target these individuals are they simply too busy to head to the gym and do they literally have too much on their plates to find the time?
Published on: 18 Apr 2017
Picture the scene – you’re the senior auditing partner of KPMG in America with more than 30 years of experience serving some of KPMG’s most prestigious clients. There are over 9,000 KPMG people in the US who look up to you as the boss.
You receive some leaked information about which of your audits the US audit watchdog is going to examine as part of their annual inspection of how well KPMG perform audits.
(a) Disclose this unethical breach immediately, or
(b) Try to keep things quiet and make sure that the audit files of the audits selected are perfect?
Unfortunately for Scott Marcello, the (now ex) head of KPMG’s audit practice in America, he didn’t choose option (a).
The background to the issue is that every year the US audit regulator, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) selects a sample of audits to inspect and ensure they have been performed properly.
A former employee of the PCAOB had joined KPMG. A friend of his who was still working at the PCAOB tipped him off about which audits would be selected for inspection this year.
The confidential information was then passed up the KPMG hierarchy until it reached Mr Marcello.
We can only guess what Mr Marcello and 4 other KPMG partners were planning on doing with the leaked information but one thing was for sure and that was they didn’t disclose the leak.
Whilst the 5 partners clearly weren’t very ethical, KPMG as an organisation acted quickly once they found out about it.
The 5 partners were fired and Lynne Doughtie, the chairwoman and chief executive of KPMG was quoted as saying “KPMG has zero tolerance for such unethical behaviour. Quality and integrity are the cornerstone of all we do and that includes operating with the utmost respect and regard for the regulatory process. We are taking additional steps to ensure that such a situation should not happen again”.
The PCOAB publish the results of their inspections and the previous results of the KPMG inspections perhaps give a reason for why Mr Marcello was keen for any help, whether it was ethical or unethical.
In 2014 and 2015, KPMG had more deficiencies in their audits than any of the other Big 4 in America.
38% of their inspected audits in 2015 were found to be deficient whilst in 2014, 54% were found to be deficient.
Published on: 11 Apr 2017
Professional footballers must have a great life. Playing football and earning significant amounts of money. Oh, and using some very clever tax advisers…
There are serious amounts of money being paid to some of the top footballers. Payments of in excess of £200,000 per week are fairly common (over £10 million per year).
This income doesn’t simply go into the tax return as salary. No, there are far more sneaky/clever [delete as you feel appropriate] ways of minimising the tax liability (or should I say maximising the after-tax income).
One of the methods used to minimise the tax is to make two types of payments to the player.
One would be for playing football whilst the other would be for “image rights”.
“What are image rights?” I hear you say.
Well, the basic idea is that the player would agree to let the football club use his image in any sponsorship or TV deals that the club has.
Without going into too much technical detail, the key difference from a tax point of view is that the payments made to the player for playing football would be classified as employment income and would be taxed at 45%.
Payments for image rights on the other hand would in effect be rental payments for an intangible asset. Players would assign their image rights to a company (where they could be the 100% shareholder) and the company would only pay corporation tax of 19% on the income.
With the globalisation of the Premier League, there are now numerous players who are not tax domiciled in the UK and if their image rights were channelled through a non-UK company they could potentially escape tax altogether.
Given the size of the payments involved there’s a lot of tax at stake. The Treasury in the UK has just initiated a project on players’ image rights and government technical experts will visit all English Premier League, Championship and Scottish Premier league clubs to review matters.
In the meantime, most of the readers of this blog are not professional footballers but instead undertake far more interesting finance and accounting activities in an office. Why not suggest to your boss at your next pay review that you’d like image rights instead of a pay rise so that you can receive more tax advantageous rental income from an intangible asset via your personal company…
Published on: 06 Apr 2017
There are clever frauds and there are not so clever frauds.
Both are morally wrong but this gentleman’s attempt at fraud clearly showed that he wasn’t the brightest individual. It’s also resulted in him receiving an 8 year jail sentence.
Mohammed Shareef from Harrow in the UK ran a number of ice-cream shops and thought that an easy way to fraudulently obtain money was via his VAT affairs.
If somebody is registered for VAT they have to charge VAT on their sales but they can offset any VAT on eligible expenses. If the VAT on their sales is greater than the VAT on their purchases, they pay the balance to the tax authorities. If VAT on their sales is less than the VAT on their purchases, they can reclaim the excess VAT suffered from the tax authorities.
This is where Mr Shareef’s grand plan originated.
His plan was to submit false VAT repayment claims and to do so he needed some false VAT expenses.
Mr Shareef’s plan went to his head though as instead of small amounts, he submitted false VAT repayment claims amounting to £1,669,463 over a number of years.
These claims came to the attention of the authorities and they investigated the expenses. They found that Mr Shareef clearly didn’t have the greatest criminal mind in history.
Ignoring the shops he actually owned, he instead submitted invoices for shops that didn’t even exist.
He also claimed he had no knowledge of certain documents but they were all found on his computer and investigators proved he was the author of the documents.
He also created fake bank statements but these statements were obviously fake as they had spelling errors in them. He also had fake 2012 statements where he had mistakenly put transactions in with a date of 2011.
He was found guilty of cheating the public revenue and sentenced to 8 years in jail.
Published on: 18 Mar 2017
That’s an interesting question and unless you’re a modelling agency then the answer for most jobs should be that looks aren’t important and it’s the ability to do the job that counts.
Research from Aarhus University in Denmark though has raised some interesting observations which could have an impact on fast food restaurants.
The study found that women were more likely to order healthy options such as salad instead of unhealthy options such as chips when they were in the company of a good-looking man. The research found that a woman was more likely to go for low calorie items when they were with a handsome man.
This healthy eating wasn’t present though when a women was eating with a good-looking woman.
Men on the other hand, tended to spend more on expensive food and drink when they were with an attractive woman.
Whilst we can probably guess that a woman doesn’t want to be seen as somebody who could eat a whole restaurant on a date and a man wants to be seen as wealthy and able to afford expensive food, Tobias Otterbring, the author of the study puts it nicely when he says “this research reveals how, why, and when appearance induced mate attraction leads to sex-specific consumption preferences for various food and beverages.”
He went on to say that “the most valued characteristics men seek in a female mate are beauty and health, whereas status and wealth are the top priorities for women.”
He also said that the study findings suggested that fast food chains should consider whether to employ good-looking men in case it encouraged women to look elsewhere for healthy options.
Somehow though, I can’t see many fast food restaurants saying that “good-looking men should not apply” in their job adverts.
Published on: 11 Mar 2017
We’ve all done it. Pressed the wrong key on the keyboard and before you know it you’ve sent an email or report with a typo in it.
Most of the time these are fairly harmless. This, together with spellcheck facilities means that normally it’s not a major problem if there’s the odd typo.
Unfortunately though, if you’re a software coder then a typo can have a major impact.
Cloud services are where companies store their data on remote servers held by companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
Last week, numerous websites which use Amazon’s cloud servers went down. These were major websites such as quora.com and soundcloud.com. Amazon subsequently revealed the problems were down to an employee who was trying to fix a software bug in a billing system but typed in the wrong string of characters.
Amazon said that “the command was intended to remove a small number of servers. Unfortunately, one of the inputs was entered incorrectly and a larger set of servers was removed than intended.”
Amazon quickly resolved the issue though and stated that they had “added safeguards to prevent capacity from being removed when it will take any subsystem below its minimum required capacity level. This will prevent an incorrect input from triggering a similar event in the future.”
There are lots of advantages of using cloud servers but as this illustration highlights there are also disadvantages.