Published on: 01 Jun 2016
Everyone seems to be on their smartphone or tablet at the moment. After all, when was the last time you read a book? Or let me ask you a slightly different question, when was the last time you coloured in a colouring book?
“Coloured in a colouring book!? I’m not a child”, I hear you say but whilst most people will come to the conclusion that the last time they coloured in a colouring book was when they were a young child, things may be changing.
One of the latest crazes doing the rounds in the UK at the moment is adult colouring books where grown men and women are buying adult colouring books to colour in. A quick Google search of “adult colouring books” will reveal the vast variety of such type of books (as an aside make sure you include the word “colouring” when searching for adult colouring books otherwise you may get an unexpected search result).
It’s been reported that more than 3 million adult colouring books were sold in the UK last year which represented over £20 million worth of revenue for the publishing industry.
Now, whilst certain trendy people may well be rushing to buy colouring books, the tax authorities in the UK are also getting interested in the trend.
The reason behind the tax authorities interest is that colouring books are currently treated as children’s books and as such are zero rated for VAT purposes (in other words VAT is not charged on the books).
The tax authorities are currently in talks with publishers about plans to classify adult colouring books as uncompleted books which would then make them liable to VAT at 20% in the same way that diaries and notepads are.
The net result is that if the tax authorities do reclassify the adult colouring books then either the books will become 20% more expensive for the individual purchasers or if they remain at the same published price, the publishers will have to take the hit.
More expensive adult colouring books? It’s enough to make you throw your toys out of the cot.
Published on: 05 Feb 2016
Picture the scene. You set up a company with two of your university friends. Things are going well but as is often the case with start-ups the work is hard, the hours are long and there is no initial salary.
Chris Hill-Scott was one such entrepreneur who founded a tech start-up business back in 2008 together with fellow Cambridge University graduates Jon Reynolds and Ben Medlock.
After setting up the company and getting it off of the ground, Mr Hill-Scott decided that being an entrepreneur was not for him. He resigned as a director, left the business and transferred his shares in the company to Mr Reynolds and Mr Medlock in exchange for a bicycle.
We’ve all done things that we have regretted but in hindsight Mr Hill-Scott should have stayed in the company. He now works for the Government Digital Service creating websites and it has been reported that the average salary for that type of job is in the region of £55,000.
The two gentlemen he left behind in the company though have faced a different journey. The name of the company the guys set up is SwiftKey and although you may not have heard of the company, you have almost certainly used their technology.
SwiftKey developed the predictive text technology which suggests the next word a user is about to type on their smartphone or tablet. It has been incredibly successful and their software is used on more than 300 million smartphones and tablets around the world.
The company estimates that the software it developed has saved over 10 trillion keystrokes for its users. Let’s just think about that figure for a moment. 10 trillion keystrokes – that amounts to more than 100,000 years of typing time and represents an awful lot of thumb pain which has been avoided.
SwiftKey is an incredibly successful company and yesterday Microsoft purchased the business for £174 million (or in dollar terms, just over one quarter of a billion dollars).
Mr Reynolds and Mr Medlock will both make more than £25 million each whilst Mr Hill Scott will receive nothing from the sale as he transferred his shares in the business in exchange for a bicycle.
It’s not clear how much the bicycle is worth but I don’t think you have to be a technology expert to predict what words that Mr Hill-Scott was probably thinking when he heard the news the business he helped set up had been sold for £174 million and he had received nothing….
Published on: 07 Dec 2015
It’s never a good feeling when you receive a parking ticket. You may only be a few minutes late back to your car but if you’ve been issued with a penalty notice then there’s not a lot you can do apart from pay the fine. Similarly if you park in an illegal place and are issued with a penalty notice then again you’ll have to pay the fine.
So is this fair? Well I guess it is as you can argue that public authorities have an obligation to maintain parking order on the streets and police officers and traffic wardens in most countries have the power to issue fines for inappropriate parking.
But it’s December and the festive season is nearly upon us. Surely therefore there should be some festive spirit and there should be some leeway given on parking fines??
“Letting people off of a parking fine because it’s Christmas!” – well, that’s certainly a debatable point and I can’t see that happening in a lot of places.
Over in America though one Authority is offering a middle ground when it comes to parking tickets.
The City of Lexington Parking Authority in Kentucky has launched a “Food for Fines” scheme.
From 16 November to 18 December, anyone who receives a parking ticket issued by the Lexington Police Department or parking authority will be able to pay for it using cans of food instead of cash.
The food donated will be passed to the local food bank where it will then be donated to people in need (there are 4 food banks in Lexington and they provide over 120,000 meals a day to people across Kentucky).
For every 10 cans of food donated, $15 will be taken off of the parking fine.
This is the second year the scheme has been in operation and Gary Means, Executive Director of LexPark said “Last year, citizens brought in over 6,200 cans of food as payment for over 600 meter citations”.
That’s an impressive figure and I wonder whether the local shops will be stocking up on very small cans of food in anticipation of a similar number of parking violations…
Published on: 03 Dec 2015
Cash flow can be a real challenge for businesses. Smaller ones especially can find it very tough to get paid on time and bigger organisations can sometimes dominate the relationship.
After all, if for example you’re an individual freelancer and are negotiating with a large company for work you will find it tough to get short settlement terms. Also, if the big company is late in paying it’s very difficult for the smaller party to “force payment”. Going to court for payment of a relatively small amount of money isn’t cost effective as the legal fees would far outweigh the money owed.
Reddit user absando is a freelance web designer and recently posted a great illustration of how he dealt with things when a big company “forgot” to pay him.
He posted that ‘I used to do freelance translating work a few years ago and I finished a 1,200 word technical manual for an Indian client that had good reviews on their industry profile. Normally payment for freelance transitions can range between 30 to 60 days, and under my contract they had 60 days to pay the amount.’
Straight away we can see that absando has a tough time as 60 days isn’t a particularly short payment term.
Things got worse for him though.
He continued explaining ‘Fast forward to the 65th day since I delivered the project and I didn’t hear anything from them. After multiple phone calls, e-mails and Skype messages, I received no word from the client so I decided to give up, write a negative review and move on.’
Whilst a lot of people in that situation would have had to write off the debt, absando was lucky.
Six months later the same company got in touch with him and obviously forgot that they hadn’t paid him last time. This time the project was for some web design work and he played it really well as rather than ask for the money he was owed, he kept quiet about it and got on with the project.
In a stroke of genius though he completed the project on time but didn’t send it all in. Instead, he changed the lock screen to the fine piece of artwork shown above.
He continued: “Surely enough a couple of hours from the deadline the translation company was frantically trying to reach me, sending emails and even trying to call my American number. They were freaking out because the project was due for their client on the very same day, and if they didn’t get it they’d lose their business with them.
I gladly responded, saying: ‘Hey remember that freelancer you stood up 6 months ago, yeah that’s me. I have your project ready to go, but you need to pay me for my previous work PLUS interest.”
Needless to say the cash was deposited into his account within 30 minutes.
Published on: 10 Nov 2015
Before cash came along, people used to barter. Somebody who had grown vegetables would exchange potatoes they’d grown with a baker who’d baked bread. A farmer would exchange a cow with someone who had grown rice. And so on…
This was all very well if you had lots of vegetables or lots of cows but exchanging 1,000 kg of potatoes for the latest Xbox or taking a cow with you to pay for cinema tickets was never going to work.
As a result, along came cash.
The Lydians (now part of Turkey) are widely believed to be the first Western culture to make coins and their first coins came in to existence way back around the time of 700 BC.
Since then things have developed.
Bills of Exchange were introduced in Italy in the 12th century (Bills of Exchange are paper documents which enable traders to buy and sell goods without having to carry cash).
The Bank of England introduced printed cheques in 1717.
The first credit card in the UK was issued in 1966.
Online banking was launched in the late 1990s.
Through all of this cash has remained and there are now 180 currencies recognised as legal tender by the United Nations member states.
Things are changing though and earlier this year Apple and Samsung both launched their contactless payment systems whereby money is loaded onto an app on your phone and payment can be made by scanning your Apple or Samsung phone at a contactless terminal.
The company Ringly are taking things a step further though and have announced a partnership with MasterCard which will enable you to pay for items with the tap of a ring.
The rings that Ringly sell (including the ring shown in the photo above) cost between $195 and $260 and use technology to link the ring to your phone to access the Ringly app. The app will then enable payment to be made. This is pretty impressive given that all the technology has to be fitted onto the surface of the ring.
The end result is that you will be able to purchase items via a contactless terminal by simply tapping your ring without getting your wallet or purse out.
What do you think?
Is this a genuinely useful idea or just a “gimmick”? After all, you’ll still need your phone with you to make a payment.
Either way, it’s a nice excuse if you were thinking of buying a new ring.
Oh, and if you are going to buy one, don’t forget to take your wallet or purse with you…
Published on: 04 Nov 2015
What type of business would you say Adidas and Nike were in?
Are they sportswear brands, fashion brands or both?
I think it’s fair to say that they segment their markets pretty well and have both sports and fashion markets under control.
Last year Adidas spent more than 13% of their annual sales on marketing (the industry average is 10%) and they have just announced a “new signing” who is going to cost them a significant amount of money.
Kayne West, the
world class sportsman renowned rapper will be the face of Adidas’s new Yeezy range of clothing and footwear.
Now, whilst you’re unlikely to see many top sportsmen wearing the Yeezy clothes and shoes whilst playing sport, Adidas are no doubt expecting to sell plenty of the Yeezy branded products to people who will be buying them for their cool factor (I appreciate that the definition of cool is a subjective matter and I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not you consider Kayne West to be cool…).
The amount that Mr West will receive has been kept confidential but it’s clearly not going to be an insignificant amount. He previously was an ambassador with Nike where according to sneakernews he was offered $4million per year to stay with them but he turned them down.
So, Adidas are using Kayne West to help promote their products to the “people who like Kayne West segment” but there’s another segment that is seeing some change.
The woman’s sportswear segment has to a certain extent been neglected by Adidas and Nike over recent years. Despite Adidas linking up with Stella McCartney (the famous designer and daughter of the Beatles singer Paul McCartney), competing brands such as Sweaty Betty and lululemon have experienced significant growth following their focus on the higher quality end of the ladies sportswear market.
To try to get a bigger share of the ladies sportswear market and to counter the threat that Sweaty Betty and lululemon are creating, Nike has announced a collaboration with Japanese fashion label Sacai (a brand I’m led to believe enjoys cult like status amongst certain fashion aficionados and as the images above from the Sacai Facebook page show, have very fashionable outfits).
Going back to Adidas and Nike, one thing is for sure and that is that both companies have changed beyond recognition from when they were set up.
In the 1920s in Germany, brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler set up a shoe making business but soon fell out with each other and went their separate ways.
Adolf (Adi) Dassler kept the original company but renamed it Adidas (named after his first name and part of his surname) whilst Rudolf left and set up the sportswear brand Puma.
Whilst Adidas and Puma were set up by brothers, Nike has an altogether different background.
Nike, was established in 1962 by Phil Knight, who incidentally was an accounting major, and is one of the best companies in the world in terms of getting its marketing just right.
That leads to my final observation and that is the fact that Nike do tend to get their marketing right. Will it necessarily be a bad thing for them that Kayne West has left them and is now with Adidas?
Published on: 01 Sep 2015
Imagine the scene. You want to go to a music Festival but the tickets are expensive.
What do you do?
I know. Why don’t you pay for the tickets with blood rather than money?
Now whilst this statement may sound a bit weird, some creative minds behind the Untold music festival in Romania have come up with an excellent idea which is a classic win – win situation.
In fact, rather than a win – win situation it’s more of a win – win – win situation.
So who are the three winners in this situation?
The organisers of the festival identified the fact that Romania has one of the lowest percentages of people who donate blood (Romania ranks second to last in Europe regarding the number of blood donors with only 1.7% of the population donating blood) and came up with a novel way of helping to increase the amount of blood donations.
They offered free tickets and discounts to people who donated blood.
It was reported that up to 500 people donated blood so all in all a very successful project.
The Blood Transfusion Service was a winner as it received more blood and importantly raised awareness of the need for more blood.
The organisers of the festival were winners as this was a very slick piece of PR for a first-time festival and despite having top DJs such as Avicii and David Guetta headlining the event it was great to have national and global publicity as a result of this.
The third winner were the individuals who gave blood and obtained free tickets.
Mysteriously though, was there a fourth winner?
It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the festival took place in Transylvania which is the home of Bram Stoker’s legendary Dracula.
Dracula survives by drinking fresh human blood.
Was this in fact a ploy to build up the stocks of blood for the mysterious Count Dracula…
Published on: 23 Jul 2015
She’s an interesting lady.
Her full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. She’s 56 years old and has had over 150 different careers including being a lifeguard, a doctor and a Spanish language teacher. Perhaps most impressively of all she travelled into space in 1965, four years before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
She’s managed to do all of this despite being only 29 cm tall.
The Barbie doll is the centrepiece of many a child’s toy cupboard and it’s been estimated that over a billion of them have been sold in more than 150 countries since they were first introduced in 1959.
There have been a number of business issues faced by Barbie recently. Even though there’s an Accountant Barbie, I should in fact clarify that and say that there have been a number of business issues faced by Mattel, the owner of the Barbie brand.
Some of you may have heard of Bratz dolls.
Bratz dolls were a competitor to Barbie dolls back in the early 2000s and they were pretty successful. They were so successful that by 2004 they had taken more than 40% of the UK toy doll market and had in fact also taken the top spot for sales of dolls which had been held by Barbie since records began 10 years earlier.
In 2006 Mattel sued MGA Entertainment, the owners of the Bratz brand as they claimed that the Bratz doll creator Carter Bryant was working for Mattel when he developed the idea behind Bratz.
In essence Mattel argued that as they were paying Mr Bryant to work on Mattel matters and not those of another venture the Bratz doll idea was Mattel’s and not MGAs.
Back in 2008 a Californian judge agreed with Mattel’s claim and told MGA to stop making and selling Bratz dolls and also ordered MGA Entertainment to pay Mattel $100 million in damages.
However, MGA weren’t happy with this decision and the case went back to court in 2011 where a federal jury delivered a verdict supporting MGA.
Now whilst the court cases between Mattel and MGA are all very interesting, if you’re a parent of a young daughter what is probably of more relevance is that the Bratz dolls are being relaunched onto the market this coming weekend.
So, if you’re queuing up with your daughter to buy a Bratz doll this weekend you can impress her with your background knowledge of who owns the brand as well as let her know that the UK doll market is the second largest and second fastest growing segment of the UK toy market and has grown 11% over the last year to reach £288m.
I’m sure she’ll be very impressed with your discussion and won’t at all be interested in the doll she’s about to get….
Published on: 24 May 2015
The Institute for Religious Works, or as it’s more commonly known “the Vatican Bank”, has just released its latest set of accounts and they show a sharp increase in profits.
The bank has just reported net profits of €69.3 million for 2014 which compares very favourably with the corresponding figure of €2.9 million in 2013.
So what has caused the turnaround?
The bank has reported that the improved figures were as a result of a fall in operating expenses together with higher income from trading in securities.
Last year, the management of the bank was replaced as part of a clean up ordered by the Pope to remove corruption in the bank. The reforms also involved the bank bringing in anti-money laundering experts to screen all the accounts to ensure they comply with international laws governing the banking sector and the bank’s new standards for clients. Over 4,000 accounts have now been closed since 2013 and whilst the majority were dormant accounts, 554 accounts were closed because they did not meeting the bank’s new standards.
President of the Board of Superintendence, Jean-Baptiste de Franssu said that “The long-term, strategic plan of the Institute revolves around two key objectives: putting the interests of the clients first by offering appropriate and improved services and by de-risking the activities of the Institute”.
In summary, the bank seems to be doing much better now. If you are interested in opening an account with the bank though it’s worth noting that the use of the bank is limited to clergy, Vatican employees and staff at its embassies. There are now reportedly over 15,000 clients on the banks books.
More details on the Vatican bank’s accounts can be found here.
Published on: 12 Mar 2015
Despite being one of the best known names on the retail market, Marks & Spencer is unusual.
M&S is unusual in that it has got a very high proportion of individual shareholders.
Whilst a lot of other companies have major corporate shareholders such as pension and investment funds, M&S has over 190,000 private investors who between them hold 30% of the shares.
M&S has just announced an extremely novel idea involving these individual shareholders and their next dividend payment. The individual shareholders will be offered the chance to exchange their dividends for M&S vouchers at a 10% discount. In other words, they can exchange a dividend of £900 for M&S vouchers of £1,000.
That’s a very nice idea.
It’s optional and not compulsory so if individual shareholders still want to receive the dividend in cash they can.
Shareholders however who are interested in buying items from M&S get more for their money and from M&S’s point of view, given that their gross profit margin is more than 10%, they will still be making a profit on items that they sell to holders of these vouchers.
All in all a very innovative idea which works well for all parties.
Will we see this idea spreading to other companies when considering their dividend payments?