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Archive for January Thursday, 2014

It's official – the weather has 'no effect on retail sales',

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Analysis by the Office of National Statistics found there is no connection between the weather and retail sales figures.

By Piper Terrett | Yahoo Finance UK – Thu, Jan 16, 2014 16:59 GMT

Like train companies blaming delays on ‘the wrong kind of leaves on the line’, it’s long been a running joke in the City that poorly-performing retailers blame their disappointing sales figures on everything from rain and snow to too much sunshine.

But new data from government boffins suggests that this really is a fallacy. A paper released this week by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) which looks at the relationship between retail sales figures and the weather over the past ten years concludes that there is no real connection between weather patterns and sales.

The ONS compared retail sales data since 2003 with average UK monthly temperatures – periods which included severe weather events such as the flooding in July 2007 and November 2012 and heavy snow in December 2010.

However, statisticians found that in most cases the weather had little or no effect on retail sales.  For example, in June to September 2006, average temperatures were around 1.9°C higher than normal but retail sales remained stable. Yet in July 2013, when temperatures were 2.1°C above average, there was a substantial increase in sales.

Similarly, although heavy rain led to widespread flooding in parts of the UK in 2012, retail sales actually rose while falling in October and December.

“In terms then of the retail sector’s sensitivity to the weather, past periods show a mixed picture with no clear relationship between the two,” said officials.  

Only severe weather events which continued for some time, such as the heavy snowfall in December 2010, were found to have any substantial effect on the UK economy.

“Only sustained extreme weather conditions can have a substantial impact upon the UK economy as a whole,” said the ONS. “The only weather event in recent years to be designated as a statistical special event by ONS was the widespread heavy snow and extremely low temperatures in December 2010.”

However, Sam Hart, retail analyst at Charles Stanley, thinks this doesn’t paint a fair picture of the sector.
“Possibly overall [the weather] doesn’t have a huge impact on retail sales but clothing retailers can be impacted by unseasonable weather,” he told Yahoo Finance UK.

File photo dated 31/03/13 of a cyclist taking a route alongside large snow drifts on the …“They generally like a spell of cold weather in the autumn that gets customers buying. Last autumn was unseasonably warm and that impacted sales.

“You generally find that in good summer weather electrical goods retailers will be affected because, rather than spend time in their stores, people will tend to do things outside.

“Obviously with the the DIY retailers, a lot of their products can be seasonal, such as barbecues and garden plants. Then there’s the food retailers that may have benefited from the good weather in the summer.

“People want to eat fresh produce and a lot of that food tends to be slightly higher margin. But it’s quite difficult to generalise. It’s incredibly company specific.”

 taken from—the-weather-has–no-effect-on-retail-sales—says-government-statisticians-165920987.html wher you can fin a video too to work on your listening skills

Using social media: 9 ways to make your business stand out

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

At their best, social media channels, such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, can be great tools for start-ups, helping you generate buzz about your products and build relationships with new customers. But in the wrong hands it can be used clumsily and even have disastrous effects – as frequently documented in the media. Many people – from business people to celebrities and even MPs – have been caught off-guard, particularly when using Twitter. So, how can you ensure that you use it effectively and get the best out of it for your business? Here are some handy tips and things to think about when using social media to promote your company.
1.    Think about what are you trying to achieve
There are lots of reasons to get your start-up on social media. Maybe you want to:
•    build awareness of the brand
•    generate sales and leads
•    stay in touch with customers
•    keep an eye on your competitors
•    drive traffic to your website
•    build relationships with others in the industry.
It’s not going to happen overnight. So put a plan together outlining your goals for the short term and what you’ll do once your social media presence is fully established.
2.    Check out the competition
Have a good nose about to see what others are doing. How are your competitors and influential people in the industry using social media?
Look at competitors’ social media profiles to see how they run them Some will be doing a brilliant job at building and engaging their audience. Others will be doing it really badly. Take notes and make sure you don’t repeat their mistakes.
Think about:
•    What issues interest their audience?
•    What’s the tone of the conversation?
•    Which updates get the most response?
•    How do they deal with negative comments?
3.    Who are you talking to?
Think about who’s going to be reading your updates. Some people will be passionate about your product and others won’t have any prior knowledge.
Take a start-up like Raspberry Pi, for example. Some people follow them because they are crazy about this new innovation. Some followers like to keep up with the latest trends in tech. But others have no idea what it’s all about – they just like the name.
How much information will be taken as read and how much do you need to explain? Also, take a moment to consider the best time to post for your audience. Got lots of customers in the US? Post after 2pm when they’re actually awake.
Teens will be around after school and at weekends. Sports fans will be highly engaged during and just after the match. New coffee shops should post first thing in the morning when people need their caffeine fix. 
4.    Strike the right tone
Some Twitter followers may just like your company’s name Thinking about your audience will help you get the tone right. Are you going to be friendly and conversational, or an authority on a subject who keeps things strictly professional?
Whoever you’re talking to, if you want to encourage engagement on social media, it’s a good idea to:
•    use lots of punctuation. This breaks sentences up and increases readability
•    check before publishing to spot typos, broken links and awkward phrasing
•    stay positive – no one wants to hear you banging on about how it’s taken all week to fix your internet connection.
5.    Which social media platforms should you use? You need to go where the customers are. Pinterest may be fun but is it going to draw the right visitors to your site? If you’re a food, fashion or lifestyle start-up it could work wonders. But maybe you’ll get best results on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+.It’s better to focus on a small group of social channels rather than spread yourself too thinly, putting out rushed or low-quality content.
Do you need to be on all social media channels or just a few? 6.    How will you measure success?
Get a measuring tool in place from the outset so you can see what’s working and what’s not, and adapt your social strategy to suit.
There are plenty of free and easy-to-use tools out there, like Facebook Insights or Google Analytics. You can also pay for more in-depth reporting tools that suit your budget and the size of your community.
7.    Polish up that profile If you’re a new business trying to stand Look at other Twitter profiles to get ideas of how to present yoursout in a crowded marketplace, it’s really important that people understand at a glance who you are and what you do.So often start-ups make the mistake of putting a pithy, throwaway description in their profile like, “Hear us roar!”
This is fine if you’re a global brand which has spent millions over the years making sure everyone knows who you are – Nike’s Twitter profile simply says “Just do it” for example – but when you’re new, you need to offer some basic facts. 
Take a look at Stereogum, My Fitness Pal and Seedrs for ideas on simple-but-effective profile descriptions.
8.    Pick an eye-catching image for your profile

A strong cover image will help new followers ‘get’ you straight away.You can use them to show your product in action, or to show the people behind the business. And if you add a good cover image to your LinkedIn and Google+ pages, you will instantly stand out from the competition – so many businesses don’t bother.

Grazebox, Claire Gaudion and Buzzfeed offer good examples of strong cover images in action.

Use an eye-catching picture or photo on your Twitter profile 9.    What are you going to talk about?
This is a really big question for start-ups. How are you going to fill your new social media channels with interesting content? Here are some ideas:
•    Start a company blog so you have original content to share
•    Use an RSS feed reader like Netvibes or Feedly to gather on-topic content to share about industry developments
•    Spend a moment planning content for the coming week
•    Get handy with scheduling tools to help you fit it around everything else!

taken from

10 steps to business success in 2014

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Looking to succeed and grow your business this year? Here are ten tips from business growth guru Paul Green on everything from how to market your enterprise, to managing your cash.

To work effectively, every product needs a solid foundation to enable it to function in the way it was designed to. Love technology? Then, consider your smartphone, tablet or smart TV for a minute. All of these items need an operating system to ensure they work as well as they were intended to.
Your business is no different. Just like a smartphone or tablet, there are certain things that need to be in place within your operation to ensure that you are as successful as you can be as a business owner – your business’ operating system if you will.
Want to ensure your business’ success in 2014? Here are ten tips and things to think about over the next 12 months which should help give your enterprise a boost.
1: Know your market. Who is your ideal customer – the sort of buyer that you want to attract? Don’t try to be all things to all people, this actually makes your job so much harder when it comes to promoting your business to potential customers.
There are a number of demographics to consider, for example, when thinking about selling to other companies: turnover, number of staff, position in the company, geography, age, sex, etc. The more specific you can be, the more likely you are to attract the perfect match for what you are selling.
2: Think – what is your competitive advantage? Why would someone come and buy what you have to offer rather than purchase it from your nearest rival?

Yahoo/Fotolia: Think carefully about who is your end customer

It is important that you can distinguish your offering from something else that does the same job or solves the same problem, so that prospects are drawn towards you. Ideally you should become seen as the recognised expert or specialist in your field.

3: Get your message right. Ok, so you’ve identified your ideal customer and you’ve established your competitive edge. Now you need to ensure that you focus on the benefits your product or service offers your chosen marketplace and communicate that effectively.
People are motivated to buy emotionally based on the idea that something brings them more wealth, better health, more security, makes them more popular or attractive, maybe increases their level of fun, gives them more free time or even inner peace. Make sure your message speaks to those needs.
4: Get your message out there. There are numerous channels to market that can be summarised as passive and active, online or offline.
Active marketing is where you are engaging directly with your target audience, such as through networking or telemarketing, not just passively advertising or waiting for a response from a website or leaflet. Either way, you should be using multiple channels to market, not just relying on a few.

Yahoo/Fotolia – If you can’t measure, you can’t manage it

5: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Whatever channels you are using to promote your business, make sure you can measure the return on investment. Why? Because you want to know what’s working and what’s not, so you can respectively turn one up and the other off.

6: Understand price versus value. Being the cheapest in your market is not really a competitive advantage, because there is always the chance a competitor can make something cheaper. Also, customers who tend to buy on price are less loyal than those who recognise the value of what they are investing in.
7: Focus on bottom line profit. You’ve heard the expression, “Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity” – well, it’s true. There is no point turning over millions if you are only left with a few thousand pounds of profit. Focus on the margin you are making.
8: Cash is king. Whatever business you are in, if you run out of cash it’s pretty much over. Make sure you understand how cash flows in and out of your business, look ahead and ensure you are reviewing your numbers on a regular basis. Don’t get caught out by a VAT bill landing on your lap, for example.

Yahoo/Fotolia: If you run out of cash, your business is over

9: You’re not an expert at everything. No one person has the ability or expertise in every aspect of business, therefore, if something is a chore or not a core competence for you, consider outsourcing it or employing someone for that function. This will allow you to focus on the sales and marketing activity for your business.

10: Have a written plan. Whatever the aspirations are for your business, put them on paper and have your business plan be a dynamic, working document that you use to guide your firm to success.
By documenting your goals and objectives, you can measure your performance against them on an ongoing basis and this will enable you to make informed choices about your enterprise’s direction.
While there is no guarantee of success, hopefully at least some of these points will have made you think about how your business can be more successful throughout the year ahead.
Here’s wishing you continued and hopefully increased success in your business.

Fines for non-payment of minimum wage quadruple to £20,000

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

BTS students please read here + VIDEO at the end of the orginal article

A quarter of 20-somethings now live at home

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Thanks to the economic crisis more young people live at home

Yahoo Finance UK

By | Yahoo Finance UK – Tue, Jan 21, 2014 17:42 GMT

  • More yong people are living at home

    Yahoo Finance UK/Rex Features – More yong people are living at home

  • Yahoo Finance UK – Thu, Jan 16, 2014 11:35 GMT

The economic crisis has had a significant and lasting effect on the lives of young people, as more than one in four now live with their parents, according to official data.   The number of 20-34 year-olds in their family home has jumped by 669,000 since 1996, the Office for National Statistics has found.
This is despite the number of people in this section of the population remaining largely the same. There are now 3.3 million living with their parents, up from 2.7 million in 1996.
The highest increase has been among 20-24 year-olds – especially in the last five years. In 2008, 42% of 20 to 24-year-olds lived with their parents, but by last year the percentage had increased to 49%.
It’s thought that the economic crisis is a large underlying factor, as the number of unemployed people aged 18-24 has increased from 13% to 19% during the same five years. 

Young adults aged 20-34 living with parents in the UK, 1996-2013 (ONS)
Economic activity of those aged 20-34, UK, 2013 (ONS)

Young men are far more likely to live with their parents, with one in three staying put, compared with one in five women.
However, this is not because young women have greater economic success, but because they are more likely to be in a relationship and living with their older partner or because they are a lone parent.
In fact, 600,000 more women aged 20-34 were found to be living as part of a couple than men, and on average women are more likely to have a relationship with a man older than themselves, according to the ONS.
There were nearly as many women who were lone parents in their own household. And it was also found that women are more likely to be in higher education, in the process leaving their parent’s home.

Men and women aged 20-34 living with parents, UK, 2013 (ONS)
Young adults aged 20-34 living with parents by region, 2011-2013 (ONS)

In spite of the huge cost of either buying or renting in London, it has the lowest percentage of young adults living with their parents at 22%. Mainly because the capital has a large influx of young people moving from other areas for work or study, said the ONS.
On the other hand, the region with the highest number of young people living with their parents was found to be Northern Ireland.
This is because it’s easier to commute to work or university from the family home. And because cohabitation among couples is much lower – even though the average age for a first marriage in Northern Ireland is lower than in England and Wales.
This suggests a more traditional picture of family life, where the time between leaving home to marry or cohabit is shorter than elsewhere, said the ONS.

+ VIDEO to watch here at the end of the original article

Pay inequality ‘costs firms more money in the long run’, says new study

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Businesses with the biggest gaps between the highest and lowest paid employees’ pay suffer more industrial action and higher staff turnover, according to a new study.

Yahoo Finance UK – Mon, Jan 20, 2014 11:59 GMT

  •  Firms with the biggest gaps between the lowest and highest paid staff salaries see the highest staff turnover and sickness rates

Paying some staff members substantially more than others may be a false economy in the long run, suggests a new report.
Companies that pay some employees substantially less than other workers experience higher rates of staff sickness and industrial disputes than other firms, according to a study commissioned by the High Pay Centre, a think-tank.
The study of almost 2,000 workplaces found that businesses with the biggest gaps between the salaries of their lowest and highest paid employees also experienced the highest staff turnover.
Researchers at the University of London found that companies where top earners are paid 10 times more than the lowest-earning employees were hit by industrial disputes at least once a year, more than businesses with lower pay differentials.
Workplaces where bosses receive 8 times the pay of junior employees reported at least one case a year of work-related illness, while those with pay differentials of 5 or less reported none.
According to the report, executive pay has increased by 450% in the last 12 years, while on average employee pay has risen by 16%.

“High executive pay is not only frequently unmerited, but has a huge hidden impact on the rest of the organisation and society as a whole,” said Deborah Hargreaves, director of the High Pay Centre.
“Whether it’s through staff turnover, sickness, low morale or industrial action, big pay gaps undermine employees’ loyalty to the company and their managers.
“Employers suffer lost productivity, have to pay more sick pay and legal and recruitment costs as staff left feeling the financial and emotional strain are driven even further into the ground.”
A recent study by the Health and Safety Executive found that work-related stress cost businesses 10.4 million work days in 2012 – an average of 24 days per case. The report also found that workplace illness costs the UK an estimated £8.4bn.

High staff turnover also hits businesses’ bottom line. According to figures from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, employee turnover costs firms an average of £5,800 per worker, and £20,000 per senior staff member.
An interesting alternative to the usual custom of keeping employee salaries private was last year unveiled by San Francisco-based technology start-up Buffer.
The firm took the unusual decision to publish online the pay levels of all of its staff – from the engineers to members of the senior corporate management – in an effort to increase “transparency”.
“We hope this might help other companies think about how to decide salaries, and will open us up to feedback from the community,” CEO Joel Gascoigne said last December in a blog post.  He told reporters that he hoped to generate more commitment from employees by focusing on the company’s “culture”.

I started my own publishing company

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

for BTS students please read  this article

How I became my own boss

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

I worked in pensions for nine years, in two different companies. I loved the people I worked with, but the work was often boring and monotonous.

When I returned to work after maternity leave, I was reliant on tax credits and housing benefit to be there, and I quickly realised that I had no chance of ever improving that situation. There was no chance of a pay rise or promotion, and any raise I did get would be quickly swallowed by the same amount being deducted from my benefit. I realised that if I stayed there, I would not be in a better position financially for quite some time. I was scared to do anything about it though; now that I had a child, I couldn’t afford to just quit my job and have no money.

I began doing some social media work for a friend’s company; I updated her Facebook and Twitter, took photos in her shop and posted them onto her social media accounts. I did this mostly on my days off, and found that actually I enjoyed it more than my “proper” job.

One day she asked me if I would consider leaving my job and doing what I did for her, for several local companies. She knew lots of people who were interested in using me for their social media. I declined, telling her that I couldn’t afford to do something so risky while my daughter was still so young; I needed to stay where I was had job security. The next week, we were all called into a meeting and told we were now in a 30-day consultation period for redundancy. I felt like this was a sign, and spent the entire 30 days praying they would pick me… It worked; they did!

That was at the beginning of October, and I’ve been my own boss since! I love meeting potential new clients and showing them how I can help them. What I do isn’t rocket science; quite often I’m just doing something they don’t have time to do themselves. I also do some book-keeping for my friend’s company, and I write. I love being my own boss; I love being able to choose what I do and when I do it. There’s no dress code, and nobody cares when I take my lunch break! It’s hard work, but it feels easier because I know that when I work hard it will benefit me and my daughter, not a faceless corporation.

At times it can be stressful, but I enjoy my work a lot more than I did before, and working from home makes my life a lot easier; I can put dinner in the oven to cook between sending emails, and put the washing on between Facebook updates. I can also work in the evenings, when my daughter is asleep meaning that I have a lot more flexibility in my working week. And when my daughter’s nursery has a “stay & play” event, I can move my work around so that I can join in; something I would never have had enough holiday allowance to do in a normal job. It can be tough, as I found out last month when my daughter was off nursery ill for a few days and I still had work to do; but on the whole, I’m enjoying being my own boss.

I think the best advice I could give someone considering this sort of move is to ensure you have a strong base of support around you. I’m very lucky to have several people I can call upon when I need advice, help or just a pep talk. You might be going it alone in business, but use all the support you can get!

taken from (plus a video to train for your listening )

'Thou shalt not troll': Church of England issues 'nine Commandments of social media'

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

BTS SIO please read here (+ 2 videos to train for the oral exam)

worst passwords

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

BTS SIO please read here