Business News (April 2018)

Weatherspoons calls time on social media

Pub chain J D Wetherspoon have taken the decision to drop their social media presence following an announcement on their Twitter page, effectively leaving an audience of over 44,000 followers.  Their decision follows a time of bad publicity around the use of social media that also includes “trolling” incidents involving MPs, the misuse of personal data as well as influences surrounding the “addictive nature of social media”.

It is believed that 900 public houses across the UK will leave Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with ‘immediate effect’. Wetherspoons Chairman, Tim Martin, believes that their move to remove themselves from social media sites will not affect their business.

Martin expressed that although they were heading in the opposite direction of conventional wisdom, he believes that pub managers are distracted from their day to day roles and should concentrate on the customers in front of them rather than behind screens. 90-95% of the pub managers agreed that social media was not necessary in their day to day business.

Although the Wetherspoons chain had put much work into their social media posts, with hundreds of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts being used, the reality shows that many of the mass-produced posts received very few followers and shares across social media platforms.  The management of social media platforms has also been under scrutiny – in ensuring that individual premises are “sticking to company policy”, this becomes an expensive side of the business using many man hours, and was seen by many in the chain as being “more trouble than it is worth.”

Martin has promised to the J D Wetherspoons followers that the company would be as “vocal as ever”, utilising their position in their market with magazine advertisements alongside their website to update customers with news and reviews.  Customers have also been urged to use the knowledge of their local pub managers with good old fashioned face-to-face conversations.

Currently the JD Wetherspoons chain has over 100,000 followers on Facebook, with an additional 6,000 followers on Instagram.  Martin hopes that their move does not start a new trend across the nation. “Currently we’ve got a massive commercial advantage because everyone else is wasting hours of their time.”

Interest rate rise?

Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that UK consumer price inflation was the lowest they had seen for a year at 2.5% in March, falling from February’s 2.7%. Data released shows that we could see the squeeze on households across the United Kingdom coming to an end as we see wages rise. It was reported that in February 2018, wages across the UK rose by 2.8%.

Economists are still expecting the Bank of England to raise their rates in interest in May with a forecast to raise the interest rate to 0.75% from 0.5%. Senior Analyst, Laith Khalaf from Hargreaves Lansdown acknowledged the increases, but firmly believes that the Monetary Policy Committee will take matters slowly. He said in a recent interview “Wage growth remains surprisingly lacklustre in the face of such low levels of unemployment, though it is now heading in the right direction, and the recent political shift on public sector pay suggests there’s some more momentum in the post.”

Reports show that the largest contribution to the inflation figures have come mainly from womens clothing and footwear. Prices were seen to rise by 0.7% during February and March, compared to the 2017 figures during the same period. Inflation pressures had also been eased with the budget changes for alcohol and tobacco, as the rise on these products no longer appear in March.

The market surrounding currencies were a little different, with Sterling falling by 0.74% against the American $ to $1.4183. The cause of this may be an effect of rumours that the Bank of England may be about to raise interest rates to 0.75% next month, with a view to normalisation and in order to provide room to make any future cuts.

Head of Market Analysis, Ranko Berich based at Monex Europe has deemed the inflation news as a “Spanner in the works for the Bank of England”, he said. “Investors are still treating a May rate hike as a done deal, after the Bank of England just about spelled it out in a confident series of statements and inflation projections that may now be revised.”

Kleeneze in danger of being wiped out

The 95-year-old home shopping company Kleeneze has gone into administration, causing concern amongst home workers that their jobs may be put at risk. The company is known for selling useful household items alongside beauty products using a network of home based door-to-door sellers. The business currently employs 69 permanent members of staff in Accrington, Lancashire where their head office is based, and another 71 permanent members of staff at their warehouse in Heywood, Greater Manchester.

Although Kleeneze has shown strong success over the years and formed a strong network of independent self-employed homebased sales distributors throughout the UK and Ireland, distributors would receive a cash sum or rewards following a successful sales transaction. Unfortunately due to changes in trading and operations following their move to Heywood during 2017, the knock on effects have caused the business to go into administration.

Kleeneze faced several issues with logistic and IT matters, taking over half a year to resolve these problems – as a result, Kleeneze faced a significant loss of sales. In a bid to protect the jobs of many of Kleeneze workers, Trade Union staff from the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) are holding emergency meetings with administrators. Area Organiser, Annette Bott of USDAW said in a statement, “This is clearly a difficult and upsetting time for the 140-staff based in Accrington and Heywood”.

“We are pressing the administrators to find a buyer for the company who will protect jobs and keep the business going. In the meantime, we are providing our members with the support, advice and representation they need.”

Driving on autopilot

A self-driving car that was involved in a fatal crash in California was on autopilot mode when the impact occurred, according to electric car manufacturer Tesla. The fallout from the incident has now raised many new questions at the safety of self-driving technologies.

It was reported last month that a Tesla Model X, veered into a barrier and caught fire on impact. The vehicle in question was in autopilot mode at the time of the accident, causing the death of the 38-year-old driver. It is understood that the vehicle had not detected the concrete barrier on the road, however, this has not been confirmed.

It is believed that the driver had received several visual warnings throughout the journey along with a audio warning, but according to reports no hands were detected upon the steering wheel for six seconds before the fatal accident. The report also concluded that the driver within the vehicle had “about five seconds and 150m (490ft) of unobstructed view of the concrete divider”…”but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken.”

The autopilot system, designed by Tesla has the facility to completely control an autonomous vehicle, with the ability to brake, accelerate and steer during running. Even so, the system is to be used and has been classified as a ‘Driver Assistance’ facility, and has not been designed to run self-sufficiently, and drivers should ensure that their hands are on the steering wheel at all times when the vehicle is in use.

It was only in 2016, when another driver, also from Tesla was involved in an accident with a lorry. The driver was killed on impact when the vehicle collided with a lorry that it had not been seen in its path. Following this accident, Tesla was forced to introduce and follow new safety guidelines, which also included that the autopilot system was to be automatically switched off and the vehicle to stop should the driver let go of the steering wheel for a given period of time.

Investigations deemed that Tesla showed little understanding of the semi-autonomous limits with their autopilot systems. The accident in California has arrived during a problematic period for self-driving technology. This month, Uber has been forbidden to continue their self-driving tests in Arizona following another fatal incident, hitting a pedestrian crossing a road.

WPP Chief Exec under investigation

The worlds largest advertising agency, WPP has sought independent guidance to conduct a full investigation against its Chief Executive, Sir Martin Sorell following allegations of personal misconduct reported earlier this month by the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal added to their report that investigations ordered by the board at the WPP included concerns regarding Sir Martin’s misuse of company assets. A statement from the WPP did not confirm these allegations, and merely confirmed the investigations into the allegations of misconduct.

Sir Martin has held the position of Chief Executive for over 30 years, and is one of the UK’s largest and well-known leaders in business. WPP is proven to be a market leader within the advertising industry, with over 134,000 members of staff in 100 branches around the globe.

In March 2018, it was reported that 2017 had not been a successful year for WPP, regardless of their profits reading more than £2 billion. Share prices for WPP have taken a dramatic dive during the last year from £17.31 to figures of £11.17 last Tuesday.

Spotify floats at last

The first day of trading on the US stock market saw shares in Spotify fall from $169 to $149.01, not bad considering the estimated price of shares were to be $132 according to the New York Stock exchange.

The launch of the music streaming firm had been long awaited, with the shares opening at $169.50, higher than the predicted guide of $132 given by the New York Stock exchange earlier this month, making the Swedish company now worth in the region of $26 billion, above comparable technology firms like Twitter.

These shares were sold in a more unconventional method. Spotify chose not to issue new shares; instead early investors sold their current assets, a move that saw early investors taking advantage of cashing in their early investments.

It was reported that traders were seen huddled on the floor on the morning of trading, where interested parties from buyers and sellers were seen to determine the opening price of the shares.  It was announced that over 30 million shares in the music platform had been traded by the close of business.

The valuation of Spotify’s first day share prices have been ranked amongst the top 10 largest for a debuting technology company, its IPO only marginally behind other technology giants Facebook and Alibaba.

Spotify’s success follows their introduction in 2008 as a small music platform. It has rapidly grown and is now available across 65 countries around the globe.  Millions of users have been added to their “free-to-use ad-funded service”, which has seen it becoming a global leader with 71 million paying customers after converting them to a subscription service. This number is still growing and reported to be twice as many subscribers in comparison to the Apple Music app.  The company however has yet to make a profit despite revenues amounting to $4 billion.

Co-op bounces back

With memberships rising by 15% along with food sales up by another 3.4%, the Co-operative Group have returned profits of £72 million for 2017 following, what they have called “a year of progress”.   The group made a loss of £132 million during the previous financial year, as it wrote off the value of its stake in Cooperative Bank.

With 2,500 food stores, the Co-operative Group is the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom.  Other parts of its operation include insurance companies, funeral businesses, as well as now running 12 Academy schools, the number of which are continuing to grow. The schools are state-funded by the Department of Education and not run by local authorities across the UK.

The groups profits rose 25% to £65 million by the removal of ‘one-off items’.  There was little planned for revenue growth, this being part of a larger business plan with the closure of larger stores, meaning that revenue was flat at £9.5 billion.

The group have wider plans to engage with their smaller convenience stores, which have seen sales up by 4.3%, with plans to open a further 100 outlets across the UK.  It is reported that rises were also seen in their wholesale vision with growth of 7% to £1.7 billion.

The Co-op have been also been working alongside other brands, such as the Costcutter Supermarket Group, and also trading under the names of Mace, Simply Fresh and Kwiksave. The group have been   exclusively providing these stores with Co-op own brands being made available. Currently, the Co-op are awaiting agreement from regulators to take over the Nisa convenience store chain.

The continuing growth of life planning and funeral services has seen another 4% increase to £343 million, with the Co-op now providing over a third of the United Kingdom’s pre-planned customer market with their personal funeral plans.

Chief Executive, Steve Murrells has welcomed the rises and is pleased with the Co-operative’s success. He has warned that the markets are still very competitive, and although his business is continuing to thrive, a close eye is still needed on competitors.

In March 2018, it was announced that investigations were being made by the supermarket regulator over the Co-operative Group’s treatment of suppliers.  The Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) reported that suspicions had been raised where the Co-operative Group breached the rules with some of their suppliers. The Co-op have since accepted their findings of these investigations and accepted that breaches had been made with 110 of their suppliers being compensated up to  £500,000.

Like and follow us on Facebook      

Follow us on Twitter

Business News (March 2018)

Subscribe to the Starjammer Bulletin

More about The Starjammer Bulletin

The Starjammer Bulletin is the official newsletter for The Starjammer Group, its customers, clients, affiliates and subscribers. With over ten years under our belt, we are proud of our commitment to our clients, and of our assurance that we provide them with the best level of service and help that they have come to know and respect us for. The Starjammer Group is proud of its track record to date, and strives to improve its products, services and standing on all fronts. Our mantra has always been '21st century thinking'. Why? Simple: we love doing what we do, enjoy our work, and work on the principle that our customers, clients and associates should share in the fun. Business shouldn't be a chore: we spend on average 8 hours per working day in the office, or factory, behind a desk, stall or wheel. We employ people who are not only competent and good at their job, but people who have that something; that little spark that grabs our attention. It can't be defined, and it's not always obvious. Nethertheless, we have been lucky to attract and keep the right people. Something we are proud of.