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“There’s no such thing as a free lunch” but will there be such a thing as a free drink or cheap drink in the future?

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Binge drinking in the UK is a major problem. City centres at the weekend can be full of people that are literally trying to drink as much as possible in as short a period of time. Violence and health issues often ensue.

As well as the disturbances to local residents there are also the costs both health-wise to the drinkers and financially to police forces, hospitals and society at large arising as a result of this binge drinking.

As a potential solution to this problem, the government is currently investigating whether to ban free or cheap drink promotions. One of the ideas being discussed is whether to make it illegal to sell alcohol below cost price. In other words to prevent businesses offering “loss leaders” on drinks so as to encourage higher spending at a later date.

If you’re an accountant, and assuming you’re not reading this in the middle of an actual binge drinking session yourself, this raises an interesting discussion on what exactly is meant by “below cost” and in particular the term “cost”.

The major alcoholic drinks manufacturers produce a range of drinks. Diageo for example produce drinks as varied as Smirnoff vodka, Johnnie Walker whisky and the famous Irish stout Guinness.

Identifying the cost of each particular drink would be challenging exercise. Whilst they no doubt have sophisticated management accounts which allocate overheads and indirect costs in certain ways, there would be a clear debate as to which was the “correct” allocation of these costs.

Apportioning overheads such as head office costs, R&D and marketing to individual products would result in a certain amount of flexibility in terms of identifying the cost figure to use for “below cost” purposes.

One solution to this inherent problem of identifying the cost of individual products has been proposed and that is setting the minimum cost of the drinks as equivalent to the duty and VAT that needs to be paid on the particular drinks.

So, the next time you’re out having a quiet drink with some non finance friends feel free to start a discussion about how much each of your drinks cost to make. You can then explain about the various possible methods of allocating indirect costs. Then again, talking about management accounting cost allocation whilst out with your friends may result in your  non finance friends starting a binge drinking session themselves…

Things are getting more expensive in China but is this good news for McDonalds?

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A report issued by Credit Suisse this week highlighted the fact that costs of manufacturing in China are on the increase.

Average salaries for example have increased from $1,000 per annum in 2000 to nearly $4,000 in 2010. This increase, together with the cost of transporting goods to Europe and America, means that the cost base has increased significantly and importantly is likely to continue to increase.

A number of companies have invested in China principally on the basis of their low cost base.  The rising cost base though is causing concern for a number of companies.

Will they be able to switch production to other low cost locations such as Bangladesh or Vietnam? They probably will be able to but it could be costly.

Will they be able to pass on these cost increases to the end consumer by way of price increases? Given that we are only just starting to come out of recession my guess is that this will be challenging to say the least.

But does all of this really come as a surprise? With the explosion of globalisation over the last couple of decades and companies manufacturing in cheaper location or “off shoring” services then surely it’s simply a case of supply and demand.

If companies set up offshore operations in a certain territory which is renowned for having, for example, good quality cheap IT skills then when other companies join them there will be a surge in demand for these individuals and wages will increase.

It will take a number of years or even generations but some people’s view is that eventually there will be very similar wage levels wherever you are in the world.

Back to the increase in wages in China though and whilst this will be bad news for a number of companies there will also be companies that will benefit from the increase in local spending power. McDonalds for example are no doubt licking their lips in anticipation at all the Big Macs that could well be sold in China in the near future.

It’s a rather nice TV and a “bargain” at £6,999 but you’ll have to wait until 1 October to get the most out of it.

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If you are one of those people that keep on losing the TV remote control then you’re going to have fun when you need to keep track of your 3D glasses as well.

We blogged earlier this year about the launch of 3D televisions and their position within the product life cycle.

When it comes to the marketing mix (the 4Ps) there are certain characteristics that are found at the introduction stage.

Witness for example the high prices that are currently being charged for 3D televisions – a Samsung UE55C900 52 inch 3D TV was today for sale at the John Lewis shop in Oxford Street in London for £6,999 plus £139.95 for two pairs of 3D Active Glasses (this in itself provides an interesting example of pricing given that one pair of 3D Active Glasses costs £59.95 – if you need a calculator to spot the significance then maybe a career in finance isn’t for you!).

The lack of 3D content however was always going to be a problem at the initial stages. After all, a top of the range 3D TV isn’t that good if there aren’t a lot of 3D programmes to watch.

Sky TV in the UK though is about to come to the rescue. They announced today that they will be launching a dedicated 3D TV channel on 1 October. Some highlights of the launch weekend include coverage of golf’s Ryder Cup as well as the film Monster vs. Alien.

The good news for Sky subscribers with the latest Sky+ HD set top box is that they won’t need any additional Sky equipment to watch the 3D content. They “only” need one of the latest 3D TVs.

If you’re in the UK you can look forward to a rush of “P – Promotion” for 3D TVs in the autumn. We’ll report back in a years time but expect by then the “P-Price” to have fallen, the “P-Product” to have developed, the “P-Place” for purchasing to have increased and the “P-Promotion” to have…..

It’s 225 years old and has just given birth to a beautiful newly born one pound baby.

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The Times newspaper in the UK is one of the oldest in the world. It was first published in 1785 and for 219 years until 2004 it followed the traditional route of quality journalism delivered via a “broadsheet” newspaper.

In 2004 certain traditionalists were shocked when the newspaper moved to the smaller compact size favoured by the tabloid papers. This move proved to be successful though and the new size appealed to both the younger generation and commuters who no longer had to try to read their paper without upsetting the person next to them.

This was a good example of a successful adjusting of the product component of the marketing mix.

The Times has had one of the better newspaper websites and last week they completed their transition so that their website no longer has any free content. Instead, readers now have to pay £1 to read the online version of the newspaper. The “product” costs the same whether it is a paper version or an electronic version.

From mid June users were asked to register free to read articles but from last week when you clicked through you were greeted with the following:

Reports suggest that since the requirement to register was brought in last month the viewing figures of the website have almost halved.

The requirement to pay for viewing will no doubt cause viewing figures to drop even further.

The paper’s owner, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, will be expecting viewing numbers to fall but importantly for them they believe that charging for content will enable them to continue at the forefront of quality journalism.

There are also reports that the Sun and the News of the World, two other UK titles in the News Corp portfolio, will also disappear behind a website paywall. These papers are more “down-market” than the Times so it will be interesting to see how this will work.

The traditional newspaper street vendor’s call of “Read all about it, read all about it” may soon become “Read all about it either in this newspaper or the online version for the same price”. But then again will there be any paper newspapers being sold in a few years or will it all be electronic?