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New WORDS Learned, Retail, FINTECH and missing £ a lot happened last week.

2 new words I learned this weekend…

Doomscrolling – the practice of endlessly scrolling through social media and other information channels while reading dystopian news. … The practice is usually accompanied by glazed eyes and a mind-numbing feeling that you’re not really absorbing the information

CancelCulture One of the weapons of social media, a system of public humiliation which frequently leads to the targets losing their means of income and becoming social pariahs. More often than not, those who are ‘cancelled’ feel obliged to issue a grovelling apology, which rarely succeeds in placating the mob. Once the ‘mob’ have tasted blood, the appetite is insatiable: e.g. JK Rowling.

Retail Regeneration Opportunity

The story about the UK based shopping Mall owner Intu has dominated the financial press this weekend. It has also been the business story that has ‘crossed over’. By that I mean crossed over into the chatter of my non business orientated friends and family. I’ve always been relaxed about this one. Watching from a long way out, it has been a lesson in inappropriate delay and an organisational debt structure that has been such a struggle for Intu to climb out of.

The jewels of Manchester’s Trafford Centre and its fellow large malls [Metro, Lakeside, Braehead] are all being circled by new investors and are as good as sold and at a much reduced price. So I am an relaxed about the job scenario as well as the economies of these economically vulnerable areas [Salford, Gateshead, Clydebank].

In fact, I am more than relaxed I am hopeful of regeneration.

The turbo-charge of online has resulted in online sales are now at the highest proportion on record 33.4% of total spending, [Office for National Statistics]. This creates a Regeneration challenge for the new centre owners.

 Move to EXPERIENCE FOCUS. In the UK and Mainland Europe we’ve seen other shopping centres replacing big units with offices or gyms to become, although centrally present in retail, far less dependent on it. It is surely time for the glossy infrastructure and large out of town units to be repurposed as gathering zones with experience opportunities and the services they need.

I am a LOT less relaxed about Wirecard and its missing billions, potential criminal activity, shock for the FINTECH sector. This took over a week to come full square into the centre of UK business media. I simply do not understand why, but moving on……The concerns I have a primarily these

  • Audit ? What on earth was happening there ?
  • Sectoral Contagion

FINTECH Must surge ahead, and it certainly will. It is in my view inevitable. However, this shock is already having a short term impact on payments not being made and I am concerned there will be an over cautious degree of monitoring in the sector going forward that could impinge on innovation. Balance it will all be about balance.

Note though…there is always someone somewhere making £ out of events. Hedge funds have made profits of over $1 billion betting against Wirecard in the last week. Shares of the company have fallen 98% in 2020. London-based TCI Fund Management is said to have made $217 million in the last week betting against Wirecard. Plus ca Change……..

In one move, Apple have neutered an entire mini industry.

A final thread of a story line that was growing last week and will continue in the next weeks is that of the continuing roll out of increased privacy protection of social media users that the big firms [Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook] are finally owning.

Apple is taking control of the privacy process [iphone user tracking essentially] on its own apps platform and will no doubt launch it with the new IOS 14 update due in Autumn. However this blows out of the water a mini industry that was plugging the gap. An example being AppsFlyer who had snagged a $210m (£170m) cash injection from top Silicon Valley venture capital firms in January. This firm with 900 employees in 18 offices.

 

 

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STOCK market does still defuddle at times.

I recall trying my best to read the FT as an A Level student. I thought someone studying A Level Economics ought to and the tutor was always scanning it so…. I used to have to make a 1.5 hour journey each way to college, so I gave it a good go. I could not make sense of it. Just not experienced enough at 17/18years old and….fathoming out how markets and funds worked was beyond me.

 

Now some 32years later the financial press, the markets and share prices still have the capacity to befuddle me. Look at this crop from the day after solstice 2020.

 

By the Way…I did learn this though…..

 

#Rule 72. If you invest in the market, you can beat bank ROI [not hard] and generate a 4.4% yield from UK based equity in dividends. Apply a compound effect and after 16years, your investment will have doubled. Better than 0.001% roi !!!

 

[1] How Can this Be ?

Wirecard, the troubled FINTECH German payments group, has been unable to account for said €1.9 billion of cash and ADMITTED it probably does not exist. PARDON ? WHAT ? Money is supposed to be held in accounts looked after by a trustee on its behalf

 

Just how can this be ?

 

The CEO has been arrested and bailed. The value of shares fell 85%? Huh? Not 100% how bad can it be to stop investing ? The concern in the UK is that our FINTECH sector catches a cold. And, for a sector that currently bedazzles [recall dot com bubble] that is not a welcome outcome.

 

The company said: “Wirecard continues to be in constructive discussions with its lending banks with regard to the continuation of credit lines and the further business relationship, including the continuation of the current drawing coming due at the end of June.”

 

 

[2] Tax Cut Health Warning

 

My A Level economics textbook clearly had the following lesson: to increase spending and therefore economic health cut tax. So, the Chancellor plans a VAT cut from 20% to probably 15%. But it would seem unlikely that it will work as theory anticipated.

I’m not sure people’s reluctance to spend is because things are 5% too expensive. Must be a question over how effective a VAT cut of 5% would be? 2008-2009, 2.5% VAT cut for 1 year raised spending by 1% when shops and hospitality were operating normally.

Also this measure may increase the spread of COVID-19 as has been seen in Germany at Primark alone saw 27% in cash transactions and contagion possibilities. SO the measure to release the economy make conversely close it down.

Each % point reduction in VAT costs £6.85billion over a year. I know we are used to big numbers flying around that the moment but a 5% cut would be very expensive indeed. With household finances stretched, the disposable income of the middle classes firmly lockdown down, who is going to do all the spending ?

[3] Pop, Fizz

 

Great news for a product one would not have even imaged existing 20years ago. Certainly not when I was that A Level student

British Sparkling Wine is likely to have doubled its market by 2030 to 20Million bottles. Not allowed to call their product Champagne as it is well not from Champagne…. This premium product had a bumper year in 2019-20 and it look set for year on year growth. Try @ChapelDown I sure have.

 

 

 

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The metamorphosis of the high street is well underway.

The metamorphosis of the high street is well underway.

As retail opens again this week there have been the predictable media scenes at Primark etc. However, strategically, that is something of a side show. The real event is happening in retail elsewhere.

  • Poor performers that have been badly run or simply had their day have closed. The list too long and sad to read but of its time: e.g. CathKidston Monsoon Hawkshead
  • Other retailers have used the COVID closures to tidy-up their costs and consolidate their footprint: John Lewis, Zara
  • On trend retailers have been turning their high street presence toward an experiential shift e.g. NEXT Beauty Box at the front of store to offer treatments etc and draw shoppers into their experience.
  • Out of town shopping malls that looked on the brink may have had a reprieve: Metro Centre, Trafford Centre, Blue Water etc as they can offer social distance and experiential settings. Their issue being to sort out their dreadful debt positions to last long enough to adapt.

And of course, the sitting behind a lot of the action are Private Equity ‘heros’ or ‘villians’ [you choose] such as the new owners of TM Lewin. This Private Equity firm have told landlords they plan to shut most stores, less than a month after buying the brand. SCP Private Equity is run by James Cox, the founder of Simba Sleep, and backed by Allan Leighton, the former boss of Asda, and Paul Taylor, who previously ran Harrods. They folded TM Lewin into a new vehicle, Torque Brands, as part of a strategy to create a stable of British brands.

Stores will become basic marketing for online sales and therefore can drop to a fraction in their number and more than likely follow a concession based model.

Strategic Change is happening rapidly in this economic space and its journey is worth tracking. Metamorphosis in front of our eyes.

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No Resilience, No Stockpiles, No Cash….UK Hospitality asks for help



Some sectors seem to attract more sympathy than others. I have long been supporting the tourism and hospitality sector on my timelines on Twitter and LinkedIn. It is especially relevant for my local economy here in North Yorkshire.

We are essentially HOSPITALITY & TOURISM and FARMING. Both getting hammered by COVID and then the triple whammy of Pre BREXIT-COVID-NO DEAL BREXIT. Tourism & hospitality in the UK, a £130 billion industry, accounts for:

The employment of 2.2 million people
Is bigger than Aeronautics, pharmaceuticals and Auto Industry COMBINED.

And 1/3 of the businesses in Tourism and Hospitality are at serious risk of failing soon.

Where as Aeronautics, Auto and Pharama have the possibility of keeping healthy cash:debt ratios that will / could see them through till 2021, Hospitality and Tourism is run month to month with minimal cash reserves held. It is little wonder they can not hang on till an unlock / uplift comes.

I realise there will be a massive increase in #Staycations, but not if the restaurants, hotels, attractions and pubs have closed their doors for ever.
#Government #Bailout #tourism #JamesMason #WelcometoYorkshire #Yorkshire #Tourism #Hospitiality #UK #stimuluspackage #UKPlc

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No limit to privacy invasion. Once done there in no way back. Probably already isn’t!

Just OMG …… monitoring pee pee……..there is no limit to privacy invasion. Once done there in no way back. Probably already isn’t!

 

From The Times 8th June 2020

 

Amazon, Bournemouth airport and the Premier League are considering the use of thermal imaging cameras at entrances to buildings that can check for signs of fever.

 

Vodafone is offering to set up such cameras for £1,711.

 

 

 

Employees may soon be required to have certain apps on their work phones, or to use wearable tech, including watches, lanyards, and pagers, that can be used by their managers to monitor social distancing rules and check for the spread of coronavirus.

 

Two British companies, Smart Citti and Wrld3D, have created an app for businesses called Safe Distance. The app creates a 3D map of the office on workers’ phones, showing where everyone is, using floorplans that clients provide of their building. The data is anonymous but it enables workers to determine whether it is safe to go to the lavatory, for example.

 

Sensors embedded into the soap dispensers can also relay to the Safe Distance app the proportion of people washing their hands compared with the number of people entering the toilets.

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As we emerge from lockdown and commence re-awakens lessons learned ?

What did Bill Gates say about pandemics in 2015?

Addressing a TED Talk five years ago, Gates, 64, warned the next ‘global catastrophe’ would not be caused by war, but by a virus.

“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war – not missiles, but microbes.’ ‘Part of the reason for this is we have invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrents, but we’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. ‘We’re not ready for the next epidemic.”

The COVID-19 Global Pandemic should not have been a surprise as the World Health Organization [WHO], Epidemiologists, Economists and futurologists all predicting the world was long, long overdue a Pandemic. However, it hit the world like a steam train. We are still living through it.

But as are LEXIT and see our with gradual walk out of lockdown beginning, many major nations have reached their peak of the disease and death rates and are beginning to see a way out.

It is undoubtedly time for us all to cast our eyes toward the horizon, reflect on the reactions of now and the possibilities for the future. The wisdom of nature tells us that growth always follows a cut of the knife and so the possibilities can be seen as brighter if we look through the right lens.

An Observation on Learning Lessons

We say Everything will Change and when This ends We will Learn …..

We could be and in fact probably are wrong on each of the following suppositions:

  • “When this ends”……there wont be an ‘end’ they day when life flips back to BC [before Covid]
  • “Everything will change” In due course many things will quietly slip back into their allocated space in each of our lives and everything will not change
  • How much time and money will bankrupt economies in shock spend to learn and implement lessons and change

So caution; there will be change, that is certain as there already has been. However, the extent is dependent on the stakeholders involved in any change and those who have the most to gain will be the most motivated to adapt.

  • Decision-makers: governmental, corporate, financial, entrepreneurs and innovators
  • Change recipients: you and I

What history provides is a mixed message. Some experience would suggest that given the opportunity, individuals, groups, communities, cultures seek out their normal and quietly slip back into old habits and routines and quickly reestablish that order. This re-establishment could in theory signal a deeper entrenchment into BC norms as the familiar is clung to as a life raft from trauma.

The converse may also be true. In the 20th-century both wars were a catalyst for considerable scientific, socioeconomic and technical change. It just didn’t happen overnight.

Although in the midst of COVID it feels like a total game changer, it may only be a ‘wobble’, a recoverable jolt and the world will continue on its BC trajectory with issues such as environmentalism and technological innovation around artificial intelligence being far more significant in the long term.

There must be lessons learned though, the following are pieces of knowledge that can not be now unknown.

Human history and natural history can no longer be separated – human health and the health of the planet go together

Mother nature is always capable of outpunching all things and humans are so easily on the back foot or completely disabled. It has to be a recognised known that healthy societies and markets depend on the health of the natural environment.

Green and inclusive growth is no longer a nice thing to have: it is a non-negotiable.

Prevention is better than cure – we must learn to listen to science

In September 2019, the World Health Authority [WHO] issued an authoritative report urging governments to better prepare for a pandemic. No one did prepare fully. The USA was seen as the most prepared and stockpiled nation and there, in the 2nd week of April 2020 mass graves were dug in New York and nameless 100s were given their final send off in a medieval burial-pit.

Percentages of national budgets have to be reallocated in future. This being the case, what is cut? Defence, Policing, Education, or as usual, Social Care.

Global threats need global collaboration

Climate change, diseases and terrorism are ‘problems without passports’ [Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary General]. COVID-19 shows us that they cannot be stopped at the border and they can only be addressed cooperatively. The hands of nation-states, the UN, the WHO has been forced toward not just good national stewardship but international.

War on health not wealth.

The forces for change in this are not just a philosophy of ‘the other’ not the self [which would seem unrealisable], but also mechanisms such as coordination and mobilization. If these latter two are all that changes, they too will cost resource and require sustained and determined political will long after the world has been vaccinated against COVID -19.

Nations will of course always be nations, and as then race for a vaccine for COVID heats up, so does cyber crime allegedly from China, Iran and Russia.

The inevitability of Nationhood Suggests the obvious channel that is expert in both borderless coordination and mobilization that is free of a particular philosophy is commerce.

Although the public sectors of economies around the world have come to the forefront of the crisis management of COVID-19, commerce will continue to be the bridge-builder between nations.

Commerce can connect cultures and people, not through military power, but by spreading knowledge, mutual understanding and economic benefits. And in that commercial sector good corporate citizenship will become more important than it has ever been.

Environmental and Social Governance [ESG]: sustainable business management and sustainable investment could offer remarkable opportunities for growth, they just require a major pivot of goals, agendas, KPIs and other commercial ‘taken for granteds’.

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SURVELIENCE AND PRODUCTIVITY TRACKING….Have you thought about what you may be signing up to

A large percentage of UK employees have expressed positive interest in increasing their home working profile after the Pandemic.

Likewise, many firms have released positive statements on the subject.

The control of productivity has long been an issue around home working. Many anxious firms stating it as their reason for not offering this mode of work more fully across their businesses.

Well where there is a problem there is usually a tec-solution: productivity tracking. There are a plethora of software capable of either overt or covert surveillance of remote workers

  • Output
  • Screen time
  • Surfing history
  • Access to keystrokes
  • Access to screen shots
  • Pretty much all activity.

Seemingly this software can be pre-installed on  work hardware with no consent needed in USA or awareness. There is no legal protection at this time.

In Europe, the situation is that if there is such surveillance activity, it must be made transparent but not necessarily require consent.

As people emerge from financial hardship, they are open to agreeing to punitive contractual relationships that may not be able to altered post implementation

Worth thinking about as an employee and employer. For the latter, if you do not intent to use then it is potentially an attractive marketable element of employment brand. If you do intend to use: tread carefully, just cause you can doesn’t mean you should……

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DEEP and SHORT V RECESSION

Equities Rally

Global equities, as measured by the MSCI World Index have seen a whopping 39% recovery since the horrors of late March. The UK Index of UK equities has delivered a total return of 26% the technical definition of a ‘bull market’. The rally had been led by major US tech shares. But recently it has been European, rather than US, shares that have made the most headway.

US Job data

The US employment data released 5th June also showed an impressive bounce back that no economist had predicted

 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is delaying his big stimulus package of tax cuts and spending commitments until the autumn. Space given to perhaps a quietly optimistic V shaped view of recovery.  A move that allows for a taking stock of the economic situation then seeing if when and where further support makes sense.

 

#recovery #recession #UKplc #bullmarket #economy #investing #stimuluspackage #corporatestrategy #dividend #equities

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This social enterprise keeps its business and charity separate

Social Enterprise Models to Mirror: Keeping Business and Social Enterprise Close but not together,

The #kindnesseconomy or new capitalism model is centrally concerned with a turn away from profit generation to value creation. That value creation needs to be about sustainability beyond the organization itself and the clarion call is for a focus on

  • People
  • Product
  • Planet

It would seem that a genuine % of UK industry [both production and investment] will be drawn toward this change; either by choice or by peer group mimickery.

With this in mind, good exemplar practices are helpful to businesses, advocates and commentators alike as the probable and possible begin to work themselves out.

Recycling Lives is a business whose work is the business of recycling and whose employees are prisoners serving full terms in UK jails for a range of offences. The most impressive metric associated with this enterprise is that the re-offending rates among participants is 5% compared with a more general 35%. This alone saved the UK tax payer £7.4million in 2018-19 alone.

  • 500 people employees
  • 10% of prisons
  • This social enterprise keeps its business and charity separate

 

“If you follow our model and apply it to your business, you win the hearts and minds of your clients,” Steve Jackson founder