Archive October 2018

tax free shopping

Britain’s leading retailers demand Philip Hammond delivers on digitalise tax-free shopping promise

Hundreds of Britain’s leading retailers have written a furious letter to Philip Hammond demanding he delivers on a promise to digitalise tax-free shopping in next week’s Budget.

Tourists who come to the UK from outside the EU to shop still have to apply for VAT refunds using paper forms.

Most other EU countries allow shoppers to apply for the refunds online.

But Britain has yet to implement a digital process five years after first outlining plans to modernise the tax-free shopping system – and has pushed back the delivery date to 2020.

Today 600 leading retailers clubbed together to warn the Chancellor that Britain is losing thousands of international tourist shoppers every year to European rivals.

They want him to speed up plans to modernise tax free shopping – pointing out that the Government’s failure to act threatens the £2.5billion value of retail sales that tax free shopping hands the UK economy every year.

The letter is signed by major department stores such as Harrods, shopping outlets like Bicester Village and groups such as the British Retail Consortium.

It points to research showing the Treasury would boost tax receipts by allowing shoppers to claim for refunds online.

Analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research shows there is a net benefit to the public purse of up to £1.90 for every £1 refunded with additional tax coming from greater visitor numbers and spending on other non-tax refundable goods and services, such as hotels, restaurants and transport.

The letter demands: “As a matter of urgency the government takes action to introduce a digital system at the earliest possible moment.

“We have lost confidence in HMRC’s ability to deliver its preferred option, which we believe is unnecessarily ambitious, will create an inferior product, will introduce additional risks and uncertainty, and will see the UK diverging from the global norms for tax free shopping schemes.

Published by The Sun

Six workplace wellbeing initiatives & trends businesses should look out for in 2018

It’s that time of year when everyone is starting to think about their New Year’s resolutions, most of the time these resolutions tend to about their health and wellness.

Promoting good health and wellness should also be an employer’s goal for 2018 so with this in mind, here is a summary of the six best workplace wellbeing initiatives and trends that businesses should look out for in 2018.

Sit-stand desks

There is no escaping the fact that the majority of employees time in the office is spent sitting at their desks. This lengthy level of sedentary behaviour can have serious downsides to a person’s health and has been associated with various physical and mental conditions including obesity and depression.

To counteract this sit-stand desks can be effective in reducing the amount of time staff sit down and are no longer the obscure recommendation they used to be (however they can be costly). Even if a workplace can offer a regular sit-down desk only, chances are they may have electronic devices such as a laptop or a tablet that can be used to migrate to a different working area.

Finding a table top that’s the right height can be tricky, but if they have one in their workplace it can break up the day and a mixture of sitting and standing can easily become a reality.

Workplace naps

Sleeping on the job is very much a workplace taboo, however, a 20-minute power nap has been proven to reduce stress and increase productivity.

As a result of this in-company sleep pods, resting rooms and snooze friendly policies are becoming increasingly popular, with tech giants like Google and Uber leading the way.

Understandably not everyone has the luxury of being able to step away from their desk for an hours sleep but lunch hours and tea breaks can be a great time for employees to have a quick nap in a quiet dark room.

Digital detox

Many of us work in a culture where we feel we are unable to switch off or put down our phones even when it is the weekend or when we are on holiday.  The need to keep up to date with work emails or make that quick phone call to the office during personal time is something that many of us struggle with.

But not having good boundaries around work and personal time can be counterproductive and leave employees far less effective at work and can lead to an employee burning out.

If businesses want employees to take a digital detox they should consider encouraging employees to get away from their desks and disconnect from all technology at lunchtime. But most importantly employers must create a workplace culture that supports digital detoxing as many employees feel guilty about taking a break when they actually should.

When employees know that taking a break is not only acceptable but necessary for good job performance, they will be more inclined to do it. At a time when many employers expect round-the-clock communication, encouraging employees to take a digital detox is not just good for employees – it’s good for business.

Work burnout, caused by stress levels that affect an employee’s job performance is something that more and more people are suffering from. Being constantly connected to smartphones, laptops, and tablets after work can now also leave people susceptible to digital burnout.

Financial wellness programmes

Research from the CIPD in 2017 revealed that UK adults believe their financial situation will worsen due to economic factors such as driving down wages and rising living costs. This is a worrying time as financial stresses go hand-in-hand with reduced mental health and wellbeing. And while it’s devastating for the people going through it, businesses can also suffer.

If an employee is in trouble, there’s a high chance that they’ll struggle to focus on their work, make mistakes, or miss their targets. To support employees, employers should consider getting an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

It’s a confidential outlet that can help employees out of their financial hole. EAPs combine in-person, online and over-the-phone support services like debt counselling and financial advice.

Businesses should also think about offering lines of credit advice on how to manage money or a workplace financial education, Such as classes focusing on making the most of existing income through better money management and savings plans.

Giving back to charities and the community

Participating in charitable initiatives help employees feel good about themselves and proud of where they work, which in turn builds loyalty among them. Many employees would love to have time to do charity work, but can’t fit as much of it into their lives as they’d like to because of time spent working. By giving employees several hours per month to do charity work, this can be a perk that benefits not only employees but the local community, too. Giving back is an important part of Health Assured’s culture. We recently worked with a local homeless charity and donated a considerable amount of clothing, food and gifts. The positive response was not only from the charity but also from our employees.

Healthy vending machines

The office vending machine can be a quick and easy way to pick up a snack or drink at work during busy times. One of the negatives of the office vending machine is that they usually only offer processed, sugary foods and heavy carbohydrates.

Thankfully there are innovative businesses popping up across the UK who are creating healthy vending options with no preservatives or sweeteners. These are a great alternative for businesses to use so that they can promote and provide a healthier diet as part of a healthier lifestyle.

Published by Business Matters

market research

Why is marketing research important for your business?

The advancement of technology has given us so many ways of finding out what we need to do to sustain businesses of different kinds.

Regardless of the differences that are unique to each business, one thing remains important – knowing what your customer base wants, and then work on fulfilling their needs in order to survive from the competition.

With the era of monopolies now gone, it makes it very essential to on market research. That is why the major companies in the world employ the services of marketing teams and spend millions of dollars annually in recruiting research firms. Here are some reasons why you need to spend that money on research.

To have a better idea of what you are going to do

This may sound generic as ever, but the thing is – it shows you the importance of conducting research in the first place. The worst mistake you can make as an entrepreneur is shooting in the dark – you simply waste your time and resources without anything to show for it. You may make mistakes along the way even if you have sufficient information, but it is better to be prepared.

Whatever decision you make for the business, it is important to do your homework. From sourcing for suppliers, getting potential clients, and even developing the range of your products and services. It can also help in clearing up any queries that you have while still providing you with sufficient first-hand strategy that helps in progressing the business, also known as SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).

It helps you to stay focused

Let us be honest here – marketing research and marketing in general is not an easy venture to get into, especially with all the multitasking that happens today. Even as a business owner, you might find yourself trying to focus on multiple projects, playing various roles within your organization, while still running the business and trying to help it succeed.

However, when you have done sufficient market research, it should inform you what your consumers want. This helps you make a list of priorities you need to accomplish, which in turn helps you in managing your time as effectively as possible. It also gives you a guide on both the long and short term strategies you need to put in place, which helps you feel more organized, less frazzled and overwhelmed in the long-term.

Gives you better insight on your customers

Regardless of whether your business has been in the game for a long time or is starting out, target customers should always be a priority, as they are either potential or loyal customers. Good market research strategies will clear doubts you may have on the identification of these customers, including their gender, ages, locations, and so on.

The more analysis you do on their spending habits and products they frequently purchase, for instance, the better you can understand what makes them tick. This allows you to focus on manufacturing certain products or giving certain services in order to retain them as loyal customers.

Helps in understanding customer behavior

Aside from getting to know potentially loyal customers, you can use market research to find out some requirements of the customers. The improvement of technology has given us some useful advanced software tools such as Google Analytics, which assist you to understand the behavioral patterns of your customers. Oncetheir spending behavior is understood, you can then refine and customize various products for them.

These software tools can use the data in two forms. One is tracking the spending habits of the customer when they are online, which is a real-time analysis (it particularly works if you have an online shop), and the other is to check their past spending behavior to see if there are any patterns involved.

Helps in analyzing competitors

If you have ever read the book ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu, it states that for you defeat your enemy in battle, it is important to know yourself and know them, and they will never defeat you. This statement is true; not just in war, but also in other aspects of life – especially when it comes to running a business.

Monopolies do not exist anymore in this day and age, so every business has fierce competition all around it. This should motivate you to do adequate research on the market as well as your competitors, and you may learn some strategies from them that can either push you ahead or reduce the growth of your competitors.

Even more important, it will help you to keep your growth consistent through the improvement of your services and products.

Gives you adequate information for selling and forecasting activities

The most important focus of sales forecasts is helping a business keep adequate inventory, an action which regulates the balance of demand and supply. The only way to find this out is through doing research. After doing a sales forecast you can then begin to plan for alternative goods you can sell, or find new methods of selling the goods. In addition, you may have consumer bases in other countries; market research allows you to find them and tailor make strategies for those areas.

Reduces losses and risk on a significant level

The best approach to use would be a contingency approach. At the back of your mind, you remember that the business may not do well due to factors that may be beyond your control, or others may be mistakes you will learn along the way.

Market research proves to be effective at reducing risks that you incur or the losses your business may suffer, as long as it has concrete findings to back it. It helps in avoiding mistakes such as poor pricing methods and poor marketing, so that your business has a fighting chance of thriving.

Final thoughts

Making your business succeed in the face of increasing competition is not an easy thing, and that is why market research exists – to enable you find weaknesses you should improve on. With these tips, investing into proper research is justified, and it will give your company great benefits.

Published by Business Matters