Tuesday 2nd September

Royal Mail trials Sunday deliveries

Around 100 Royal Mail offices will open their doors this Sunday while customers in the South East will also be receiving parcels through their doors....

Around 100 Royal Mail offices will open their doors this Sunday while customers in the South East will also be receiving parcels through their doors.

The pilot scheme will take place in London and parts of the South East, with customers able to collect parcels from about 100 offices, while deliveries will be made to addresses within the M25 motorway.

Royal Mail said the scheme would make it easier for working people to pick up parcels. It follows success trials such as the ‘Delivery to Neighbour’ initiative and later hours at distribution hubs.

Nick Landon, managing director of Royal Mail Parcels, said: “We are continuing to be more customer-responsive and provide more options for people to receive items they have ordered online.

"I am delighted to pilot Sunday afternoon opening at around 100 of our delivery offices across the UK with the highest parcel volumes, and Sunday deliveries to addresses within the M25 motorway."

Royal Mail offices will be open for four hours on Sunday afternoon from midday.

David Selinger, CEO of RichRelevance, said the changes would help independent retailers: “Until now, many retailers have struggled to offer home deliveries to complete the last leg of the shopping journey.

“But with Royal Mail’s Sunday deliveries, this opens up a fair battleground for independent retailers to compete with Amazon. Shoppers can now shop anytime, anywhere, and expect a delivery to their homes at a time that suits.”

More on this story
Close article

New VAT rules to hammer app sellers

New tax rules from the EU mean businesses creating and selling apps, video downloads and ebooks to consumers will have to start charging VAT from next year....

New tax rules from the EU mean businesses creating and selling apps, video downloads and ebooks to consumers will have to start charging VAT from next year.

Accountants at James Cowper, a firm based in the Thames Valley, said the changes will go live on 1 January 2015 under ‘Place of Supply’ rules, meaning VAT is charged at the local rate where the purchaser is buying from.

To help businesses comply with the new rules, the UK government has introduced a new system requiring businesses to submit a separate VAT return and pay the tax every quarter.

The return will record the value of supplies to consumers in each EU member state and the amount of VAT due on these supplies at the local VAT rate.

Ruth Corkin at James Cowper said UK businesses selling an app to a customer in Luxembourg will need to charge 15 per cent VAT, but 27 per cent to someone living in Hungary because of the different tax rules in each country.

“There are 28 countries in the EU with 30 different VAT rates; this creates a high administrative burden, plus enormous potential for mistakes,” she said.

Adding to the complexity, the rules affect popular app platforms in different ways. Apple’s app store is defined as a marketplace, meaning Apple is liable for the tax, while Google Play acts as an agent taking commission, making the business liable for payment.

“A business selling the same App from both Apple’s App Store and Google Play will have to account for VAT in completely different ways,” said Ms Corkin.

More on this story
Close article
Monday 1st September

Shops are ‘hardest business to start’

Shops are among the hardest businesses to start, with 72 per cent of independent shop owners describing the experience as a ‘constant challenge’....

Shops are among the hardest businesses to start, with 72 per cent of independent shop owners describing the experience as a ‘constant challenge’.

That’s the main finding from a YouGov poll of small businesses commissioned by First Data Merchant Solutions and published today.

More than one in five small retailers said running the business was “much more challenging” than they had anticipated before starting-up.

According to the figures, the hardest aspects of retail were generating revenue, cited by 45 per cent of respondents, accounting, with 34 per cent of the vote and managing inventory, pointed to by 23 per cent.

Raj Sond, general manager at First Data, said: “Running a small business should be an exciting adventure, not a barrier to leading a normal life.

“Most businesses are born from a spark and a real passion for something. Unfortunately, the reality is that this enthusiasm becomes diluted by the drudgery of time-consuming administrative activities.”

More on this story
Close article

Business calls for UK airport expansion

Britain’s biggest business lobby says creating more airport capacity in the UK is critical to the country’s continued competitiveness....

Britain’s biggest business lobby says creating more airport capacity in the UK is critical to the country’s continued competitiveness.

Despite having some of the biggest and busiest airports in the world, air traffic to and from the UK is becoming stretched and aviation authorities are mulling ways to increase capacity.

Three options include a new runway at Heathrow, a longer runway at Gatwick and an entirely new airport, colloquially known as Boris Island, which would be built in London’s Thames Estuary.

The CBI estimates that just eight new routes to emerging markets would generate £1 billion a year in new trade. It says hub airports, which handle transfers as well as flights to the destination, are the best catalyst for developing these new routes.

It said other countries in the EU were creating connections to destinations to the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as well as links to powerhouses of the future such as Indonesia.

CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall said: “The UK business wants action. There can be no more excuses – we need to see the Airports Commission deliver a strong case for new capacity and a clear schedule for delivery, and politicians to commit to spades in the ground by the end of the next Parliament.

“While no-one can predict the future of air travel, the track record shows that it tends to be hub airports that deliver the new connections to emerging markets that we desperately need.

“With Heathrow full and the UK slipping behind in the race for new connectivity, it is essential that the Airports Commission delivers a solution that addresses the ticking time bomb of our lack of spare hub capacity.”

More on this story
Close article

Two-thirds check smartphones before getting out of bed

More than two-thirds of UK smartphone users check their handsets before getting out of bed in the morning, according to a survey by digital market research outfit Toluna....

More than two-thirds of UK smartphone users check their handsets before getting out of bed in the morning, according to a survey by digital market research outfit Toluna.

The research covered 2,000 adults in the UK and US, and found that 70 per cent of Brits switch on their phones before rising, slightly higher than across the pond where the figure is 65 per cent.

The study was commissioned to assess people’s thoughts on connected technology and its importance in everyday lives.

Increased smartphone use reflects the importance of being connected to the internet at all times and in different places.

A third of UK respondents admitted to checking their devices if they wake up during the night, while 58 per cent said checking their phones was the last thing they did before bed.

Paul Twite, UK managing director at Toluna, said: “With UK consumers active on the internet at all times of the day, and in all locations, it is important for marketers to be able to provide engaging content outside of traditional time frames.

“It is also vital to react quickly to trending themes and stories in order to meet the high expectations of an audience that is always switched on.”

More on this story
Close article
Thursday 28th August

Bank lending to SMEs plummets £435m

Lending to small and medium businesses by high street banks fell £435 million in the second quarter of the year, following a £719 million decline between January and March....

Lending to small and medium businesses by high street banks fell £435 million in the second quarter of the year, following a £719 million decline between January and March.

The Bank of England figures come despite revamped rules for the Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS), which is designed to encourage lending to growing UK businesses.

FLS was launched in 2012 and offers banks cheap credit in return for lending commitments. But lending has dropped by more than £4 billion since. The most recent figures show £3.2 billion was dished out via the scheme in the second quarter.

Lloyds Bank was the most active, drawing £2 billion through the scheme during the period. It also lent the largest amount to small businesses at £384 million. Challenger bank Aldermore and Investec drew £118 million and £136 million respectively.

Anil Kapoor, director at accountancy group BDO, said the news was good for alternative lenders who were gaining popularity while bank lending was slowing.

“The alternative finance sector is doing well in a market where bank business lending has slowed down substantially,” he said.

“Today’s FLS figures show that while the government initiative is well meaning, the big participants in the banking industry are not fulfilling market requirements.

There is clearly more demand from businesses than is being serviced and this is where the alternative lending market is cementing its place as a legitimate solution to the liquidity shortage.

He added: “These lenders must look to the future to ensure their own sustainability in an increasingly volatile environment.”

More on this story
Close article

Burrito business scoops £2m crowdfunding

Mexican restaurant chain Chilango has secured £2.16 million from 749 investors into a ‘burrito bond’ created via the Crowdcube crowdfunding platform....

Mexican restaurant chain Chilango has secured £2.16 million from 749 investors into a ‘burrito bond’ created via the Crowdcube crowdfunding platform.

It is the largest figure to be raised on Crowdcube, the previous biggest amount being £1.97 million ploughed into Hab Housing last year.

On average, investors put £2,900 into the deal, while the largest single cash figure was £50,000. Investors came from places as diverse as Cornwall and Scotland, although 82 per cent hailed from London and the South East.

Eric Partaker, co-founder of Chilango, said the benefits went far beyond money. The funding has raised awareness of the brand, he said, and created paths to engagement with a host of new loyal customers.

“The bond has been a massive success; we not only raised the capital we needed to open our next batch of restaurants, but have also created 749 brand ambassadors to support our growth.

He added: “Debt options for SMEs in Britain have expanded in a major way, and it was delight to help spearhead this new and exciting route to funding.”

As well as the 8% interest p.a., investors receive a variety of benefits including two free burrito vouchers to all those that invest and a VIP bondholder party to the first 100 investors.

In addition, the 102 people that invested £10,000 or more will receive Chilango Black Cards entitling them to a free meal per week for the duration of the bond.

More on this story
Close article
Wednesday 27th August

Saying ‘thank you’ could boost productivity

One in five bosses could boost productivity in their businesses simply by saying thank you more often....

One in five bosses could boost productivity in their businesses simply by saying thank you more often.

That’s the main finding from a new report by employee incentives business One4all Rewards, which concludes that being impolite and not thanking staff could undermine a business’ performance.

But it also found that three-quarters of employees think they don’t get enough gratitude from the boss, and that this results in a drop in morale and motivation to do a good job.

UK managing director of One4all Rewards Declan Byrne said: “In a busy working environment it’s easy for bosses to forget to say ‘thank you’ as often as their employees would like them to, but failure to correct this will severely impact on performance and profitability.

“There is evidence that a simple ‘thank you’, delivered in the right way, can boost performance by as much as 44 per cent, save considerable money through better staff retention and avoid the need to pay inflated salaries in order to attract people with the best skills.”

More on this story
Close article

Small businesses looking on the bright side

Business owners are becoming more confident about the future for the first time in a year, with expectations for sales and borrowing applications showing positive signs....

Business owners are becoming more confident about the future for the first time in a year, with expectations for sales and borrowing applications showing positive signs.

The Bank of Cyprus (UK) launched its Owner Managed Business Barometer in April last year. It registered four consecutive negative scores, with more bosses pessimistic than optimistic about their prospects.

But for the first time the barometer has swung into positive territory, with a (still modest) score of 0.09 in the last quarter. Half of respondents expect to see sale increase in the next three months, while six in ten said revenues would increase in the coming year.

Firms were also optimistic about their financial position, with two-thirds claiming to be satisfied with their borrowing commitments, while 39 per cent added that their bank would likely extend or increase lending facilities if required.

Tony Leahy at Bank of Cyprus UK said: “Owner managed businesses have an overall positive outlook about their business prospects as we approach the final quarter of 2014.

“It is especially encouraging to see that most businesses feel that their current borrowing commitments are at the right level for growth and that so many are confident that if they needed to, they would be able to access additional financing”

More on this story
Close article
Tuesday 26th August

Future of Scotland’s small businesses to be debated

Cabinet secretary for finance John Swinney and his Labour equivalent Iain Gray will fight it out for the allegiance of Scotland’s small businesses at a debate in Edinburgh on Wednesday....

Cabinet secretary for finance John Swinney and his Labour equivalent Iain Gray will fight it out for the allegiance of Scotland’s small businesses at a debate in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

Coming hot on the heels of Monday night’s debate between Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond and Better Together chief Alistair Darling, the event will be seen in the context of the upcoming vote on Scotland’s independence.

The event is organised by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland, which has 19,000 members north of the border.

A recent survey of Scottish members by the group revealed that 27 per cent were “very excited” about the prospect of independence, although 54 per cent described themselves as “very concerned” about the potential ramifications of a yes vote.

FSB policy convenor Andy Wilcox said small businesses employ half of the Scottish workforce, meaning the debate had relevance for more than just small business owners.

The Scotsman newspaper reported him as saying: “With finance and the economy so key to the whole independence debate, we’re delighted that the Scottish Parliament’s top money men will be making their case direct to our members.

“They are both hugely experienced politicians and I’m sure we’re going to have a high-quality debate. We know that our members are hungry for facts – two in five say that better referendum information could sway their vote, so there could be plenty of votes up for grabs on the night.”

More on this story
Close article
Load more