Next , Britain’s No. 2 clothing retailer, Wm Morrison Supermarkets , the nation’s No. 4 grocer, and Home Retail , its largest household goods retailer, said early indications of a recovery, such as a pick up in lending by banks, were yet to have an impact on consumers’ wallets. “For most people – and we’ve got 12 million customers – at the end of the month there’s no more money in their pocket,” Morrisons Chief Executive Dalton Philips told reporters, noting that higher levels of spending in the London area were not indicative of the rest of the country. Next CEO Simon Wolfson, a prominent supporter of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party who sits in the upper house of Parliament, was similarly downbeat. “While there is some relief in the economy, I think it would be a mistake to characterize that as a full blown recovery because a recovery will require growth in real earnings not just more borrowing,” he told Reuters. He reckons a return to earnings growth ahead of inflation will take at least a year and warned a loosening of the mortgage market alongside government housing market stimulus measures looked likely to result in an “unhelpful house price bubble”, which would be a drag on the economy when interest rates rise. On Monday, British finance minister George Osborne said the UK economy had turned the corner and that its growth vindicated the government’s austerity program. However, on Thursday Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned signs of recovery could prove to be another “false dawn. Morrisons reported a 10 percent drop in first-half profits, hit by its late entry into fast-growing online and convenience store markets. It also cut capital expenditure guidance to reflect a shift in investment to the new channels and away from traditional stores, and kicked-off a review of its 9 billion pounds ($14.2 billion) property portfolio, which could potentially raise some money for shareholders. Though it is budgeting for “no significant change to the challenging economic environment in the near future,” it expects a better second-half performance and a full-year outcome in line with expectations. Morrisons shares rose up to 5 percent. Next posted an 8.2 percent increase in first-half profit but was reliant on a strong performance from its Directory internet business to offset sales falls in traditional stores – a growing theme across Britain’s retail sector. It maintained its guidance for full-year sales growth of 1.5-3.5 percent.
The UK’s oddest days out
Lawmakers and regulators believe a lack of choice has been a factor behind scandals such as the mis-selling of loan insurance and complex interest rate hedging products, which have cost banks over 20 billion pounds in compensation. The government said in June that if 7-day switching did not deliver the expected benefits it would consider more radical options, including “full account portability” – meaning an industry-wide IT platform that would allow customers to keep their account details when they switch banks. Such a move would force banks to abandon their existing IT systems and invest jointly in a system that could be used by the whole industry – including any new competitors, which are also being encouraged by the government. The cross-party Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, which was asked to make recommendations for bank reform, asked the government to initiate an independent study of the technical feasibility, costs and benefits of such a move. Banking bosses are not keen on the idea: Lloyds chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio recently said it would not work and be too difficult to implement. “If they don’t get it right, political pressure will mount for something more formal. It’s in everyone’s interest to make this work,” said a senior executive at one of Britain’s biggest retail banks, referring to 7-day switching. Bank customers are notoriously reluctant to move because of the perceived difficulties involved and a feeling that rival lenders are no different. But 7-day switching could be a game changer, according to surveys. Research by YouGov, commissioned by business services provider SAS, suggested around 5 million UK current account holders will switch banks in the next year as a result of the changes. It found that 2 in 5 customers had not switched in the past because they believed the process to be time-consuming although 1 in 4 said they didn’t think their current bank offered the best customer service. Nick Payne, retail banking consultant at SAS, said the research suggested consumer switching between retail banks could increase significantly from historic levels of 2 to 3 percent. “Now savvy consumers can scour the market for the package that best suits them. Banks will now have to work hard to differentiate their offerings, through enhanced customer service and targeted marketing,” he said.
PSA: the Nokia Lumia 1020 arrives in the UK today (updated)
A philosophy and a moral code – under which circumstances is it permissible not to tip one’s “titfer-tat” at a lady? Do baseball caps fry the brain? All these questions and more can be posed to the staff of the Stockport Hat Museum. 3. Portmeirion North Wales The UK’s most threatening village is the one where ex-spy Patrick McGoohan was imprisoned in the “what the hell was all that about?” 1960s series The Prisoner. The village itself was built from 1925 in a style that seems specifically designed to make you think you’re in some kind of freaky dream where giant balloons will start chasing you into the cold, merciless sea. Imagine a country hamlet built by the love child of Prince Charles and Lady Gaga. It’s worse than that. 4. National Space Centre Leicester The UK is not known for its space exploration programme. Seemingly based primarily on weather balloons and string, if you tell someone from Nasa that you work at Britain’s space centre, there might be a few chuckles. Don’t listen to them.
UK retailers say talk of economic recovery premature
Establishing a new benchmark in smartphone imaging, the Nokia Lumia 1020 boasts a second generation 41 megapixel sensor. Unlike any smartphone in the market today the Nokia Lumia 1020 reinvents zoom, enabling people to discover more detail than the eye can see. With Nokia’s innovative PureView technology, including optical image stabilisation, the device is able to produce some of the sharpest images possible by any digital camera. This is made possible by leading hardware technology combined with a new application called Nokia Pro Camera, which makes it easy for anyone to take professional quality images. Either before a picture is taken or after it has been shot, the zoom capability enables people to discover and then rediscover the personal stories each image can tell. With a beautiful interface that visually demonstrates how settings will affect the final photo or video, Nokia Pro Camera makes it easier than ever to capture, edit and share photos and videos with unrivaled clarity. Using a new feature called dual capture, the Nokia Lumia 1020 simultaneously takes a high resolution 38 megapixel image for endless editing opportunities, and creates a 5 megapixel picture that is easy to share to social networks with Windows Phone 8. The Nokia Lumia 1020’s 41 megapixel sensor features leading ZEISS optics with six physical lenses, plus optical image stabilisation, delivering crystal clear pictures even in low light conditions together with a xenon flash to produce the best possible close up images when taken in the dark. It also captures blur free videos with stereo sound even at the loudest concerts thanks to Nokia Rich Recording, which handles sound pressure levels six times louder than conventional smartphone microphones. “We are delighted with the response we have received from the UK marketplace” said Conor Pierce, VP, Nokia UK and Ireland. “It is clear that there is a strong appetite for a smartphone with such unrivaled image taking capabilities. The ability to express your imaging creativity and then share instantly really does put this phone in a class of its own.” Adding further professional capabilities and additional battery life, Nokia launch the new Nokia Camera Grip.