Tag: UK

By Jon Porter for The Verge

Huawei’s networking equipment is to be phased out of the UK’s 5G networks, the government has announced. Telecoms operators will not be allowed to buy new 5G telecoms equipment from the Chinese firm from January next year, and they will have seven years to remove its existing technology from their 5G infrastructure at an expected cost of £2 billion. The announcement follows a new report about Huawei’s role in the UK’s national infrastructure from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre.

The decision marks a U-turn from the government’s previous position, announced in January, which allowed Huawei’s equipment to be used in the country’s 5G infrastructure, with certain limitations. Under that position, Huawei would be limited to a 35 percent market share, and its equipment couldn’t be used in core parts of the network or geographically sensitive locations. Now, however, its equipment will be completely removed from the country’s 5G networks.

The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden warned that the decision “will delay our rollout of 5G.” As part of the announcement, the government said that it is also advising full fiber broadband operators to transition away from buying Huawei’s equipment.

In recent months, the British government has seen mounting pressure, both domestically and internationally, to phase out the use of Huawei’s equipment entirely. That pressure has been driven by concern from security experts that Huawei’s equipment poses a national security risk by allowing Beijing to spy on Western countries. Huawei has strenuously denied these allegations.

International pressure has mainly come from the US. Huawei has been on the country’s “entity list” since May 2019, meaning US companies cannot sell technology to the company. However, in May this year, The New York Times reported the US toughened its stance with the announcement of new sanctions against Huawei. Under the new measures, which are due to go into effect in September, Huawei and its suppliers, like chip manufacturer TSMC, cannot use American tech to design or produce Huawei’s products. At the time, US officials characterised the move as “closing a loophole” through which Huawei could effectively have previously used American technology.

These new measures could have a big impact on the products Huawei is able to produce, which critics argue could make its equipment less safe to use. The restrictions “will force the company to use untrusted technology that could increase the risk to the UK,” according to a security report that leaked earlier this month.

For example, Huawei’s own HiSilicon chipsets could be impacted by the measures. BBC News reports that the semiconductor industry relies on electronic design automation (EDA) software to automate the process of designing modern chips like Huawei’s Kirin 990 5G processor. However, the sanctions mean that this software can no longer be used in the design or production of Huawei’s chips since the major EDA developers have ties to the US. It makes it difficult for Huawei to produce its own modern top-of-the-line processors, according to BBC News, pushing it towards third-party chips that, it’s argued, could be harder for UK cybersecurity officials to vet.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also facing pressure from inside his own party. The government suffered the biggest defeat of its current term back in March, when BBC News reports 38 Conservative MPs voted against the government in favor of an amendment calling for an end to the use of Huawei equipment in the country’s 5G networks by 2023. Increasing numbers of Conservative MPs claim that the equipment poses a national security risk, potentially allowing Beijing to spy on the UK, according to the Financial Times. Although the government won the vote, the incident put pressure on Johnson to take a tougher stance.

Responding to the news, a spokesperson from Huawei called the decision “disappointing” and said that the company is “confident” the new US sanctions wouldn’t affect “the resilience or security of the products we supply to the UK.” It claimed that they were driven by US trade policy rather than security and urged the British government to reconsider its decision.

News of a possible ban has proved unpopular with telecom firms, many of which have already started using Huawei’s equipment to build out their 5G networks. In comments later published in The Guardian, BT chief executive Philip Jansen told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that it would be “impossible” to remove Huawei entirely from the country’s telecoms infrastructure in the next decade and that it would take five to seven years to remove it from the 5G network. Jansen warned that forcing the removal of Huawei’s equipment too quickly could create outages and security risks of its own.

Britain leaves the EU tomorrow

By Tom Edgington for BBC News

The UK formally leaves the European Union (EU) at 23:00 on Friday, 31 January. But it will immediately enter an 11-month transition period.

During the transition the UK will continue to obey EU rules and pay money to the EU. Most things will stay the same but there will be some changes:

1. UK MEPs lose their seats
Familiar faces such as Nigel Farage and Ann Widdecombe are among the UK’s 73 MEPs who will automatically lose their seats in the European Parliament.

That’s because, at the moment of Brexit, the UK will leave all of the EU’s political institutions and agencies.

However, in addition to the UK following EU rules during the transition period, the European Court of Justice will continue to have the final say over legal disputes.

2. No more EU summits
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will have to be specially invited if he wants to join other leaders at EU Council summits in the future.

British ministers will also no longer attend regular EU meetings that decide things such as fishing limits.

3. We will be hearing a lot about trade
The UK will be able to start talking to countries around the world about setting new rules for buying and selling goods and services.

It has not been allowed to hold formal trade negotiations with countries like the US and Australia while it remained an EU member. Brexit supporters argue that having the freedom to set its own trade policy will boost the UK’s economy.

There’s also a lot to be discussed with the EU. Agreeing a UK-EU trade deal is a top priority, so extra charges on goods and other trade barriers aren’t needed when the transition ends.

If any trade deals are reached, they won’t be able to start until the transition period ends.

4. The UK’s passports will change colour
Blue passports will be making a return, more than 30 years after they were replaced by the current burgundy design.

Announcing the change in 2017, then Immigration Minister, Brandon Lewis, praised the return to the “iconic” blue-and-gold design, first used in 1921.

The new colour will be phased in over a number of months, with all new passports issued in blue by the middle of the year.

Existing burgundy passports will continue to be valid.

5. Brexit coins
About three million commemorative 50p Brexit coins bearing the date “31 January” and the inscription: “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”, will enter circulation on Friday.

The coin has received a mixed reaction, with some Remain supporters saying they will refuse to accept it.

The government had planned to introduce a similar coin on 31 October, the date Brexit was previously meant to happen.

However, those coins had to be melted down and recycled after the deadline was extended.

6. The UK’s Brexit department shuts down
The team that handled the UK-EU negotiations and no-deal preparations will disband on Brexit day.

The Department for Exiting the European Union was set up by former Prime Minister Theresa May in 2016.

For the upcoming talks, the UK’s negotiating team will be based in Downing Street.

7. Germany won’t extradite its citizens to the UK
It won’t be possible for some suspected criminals to be brought back to the UK if they flee to Germany. Germany’s constitution does not allow its citizens to be extradited, unless it’s to another EU country.
“This exception cannot apply anymore after the UK has left EU,” a spokesman from the German Federal Ministry of Justice told BBC News.

It’s unclear if the same restrictions will apply to other countries. Slovenia, for example, says the situation is complicated, while the European Commission was unable to provide comment.
The UK Home Office says the European Arrest Warrant will continue to apply during the transition period. (That means Germany will be able to extradite non-German citizens.)
However, it adds that if a country’s laws prevent extradition to the UK it “will be expected to take over the trial or sentence of the person concerned”.

Because the transition period begins immediately after Brexit, the vast majority of other things remain the same – at least until 31 December 2020 including:

1. Travel
Flights, boats and trains will operate as usual.
When it comes to passport control, during the transition period, UK nationals will still be allowed to queue in the areas reserved for EU arrivals only.

2. Driving licences and pet passports
As long as they are valid, these will continue to be accepted.

3. European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
These are the cards that provide UK nationals with state-provided medical treatment in case of illness of accident.
They can be used in any EU country (as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and will continue to be valid during the transition period.

4. Living and working in the EU
Freedom of movement will continue to apply during the transition, so UK nationals will still be able to live and work in the EU as they currently do.
The same applies for EU nationals wanting to live and work in the UK.

5. Pensions
UK nationals living in the EU will continue to receive their state pension and will also receive the annual increase.

6. Budget contributions
The UK will continue to pay into the EU budget during the transition. This means existing schemes, paid for by EU grants, will continue to be funded.

7. Trade
UK-EU trade will continue without any extra charges or checks being introduced.

By Arjun Kharpal for CNBC

For decades, some within Britain and the US have celebrated a “special relationship” — historically, politically, economically and culturally. That bond looks set to be challenged after the U.K.’s decision to allow Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to take part in its next-generation mobile networks.

Known as 5G, those networks promise super-fast data speeds but also provide the technology to underpin critical infrastructure in the future.

Washington has maintained that Huawei represents a national security threat because its networking gear could be used by the Chinese government for espionage. The Trump administration has also raised concerns about the link between Huawei and the Chinese Communist Party. Huawei has denied that its equipment could be compromised and says it has no links with Beijing.

The U.S. piled pressure on the U.K. to block Huawei. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Britain had a “momentous decision ahead on 5G.” But Britain chose to allow Huawei to participate in parts of 5G networks called the Radio Access Network. This is essentially the part of the network that hooks up your devices with the actual 5G signal. Huawei can participate in the RAN, but no more than 35% of a single vendor’s equipment in this part of the network can come from the Chinese vendor.

Britain’s decision has “disappointed” the Trump administration and now U.S. lawmakers are warning about deteriorating relations between the U.K. and U.S.

“Here’s the sad truth: our special relationship is less special now that the U.K. has embraced the surveillance state commies at Huawei,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The Chinese Communist Party has infected Five Eyes with Huawei, right at a time when the U.S. and U.K. must be unified in order to meet the global security challenges of China’s resurgence.”

Five Eyes refers to an intelligence-sharing alliance involving Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab suggested that intelligence sharing was not at risk.

Intelligence-sharing at risk?
“This decision is deeply disappointing for American supporters of the ‘Special Relationship’. I fear London has freed itself from Brussels only to cede sovereignty to Beijing,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., tweeted, referring to Britain’s exit from the European Union.

“The short-term savings aren’t worth the long-term costs. In light of this decision, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence should conduct a thorough review of U.S.-UK intelligence-sharing,” he added.

Earlier this year, Cotton introduced a bill that would stop the U.S. from sharing intelligence with countries that use Huawei equipment for their 5G networks.

But analysts said this was unlikely to happen.

“It is highly unlikely that the U.S. will follow through with threats to cut off or curtail intelligence sharing over the U.K. decision,” Paul Triolo, practice head for geotechnology at Eurasia Group, told CNBC.

“The U.K. has tried to carefully balance the economic and security concerns around Huawei and 5G by raising the bar substantially on vendor and carrier security posture, while restricting high-risk vendors from key portions of the network. It is more likely the U.S. will work with the U.K. government to ensure high security standards are met. Blowing up the Five Eyes intelligence sharing partnership over this is just not on the cards.”

Trade deal complications?
The decision comes as as Britain heads toward Brexit on Friday when it will officially leave the European Union.

The U.K. is working toward striking a trade deal with the EU and the U.S. U.K. Finance Minister Sajid Javid said earlier this month that striking an agreement with the U.S. is “a huge priority for us,” and that the two nations have “already started working closely together (toward that goal).”

But experts said, with Brexit around the corner, that the Huawei deal could complicate trade negotiations.

“I think the tone coming out of Washington is one of unhappiness — but hasn’t totally condemned it, leaving a middle road potentially to do some kind of deal down the road,” said Neil Campling, head of technology, media and telecoms research at Mirabaud Securities.

“However, from Saturday (aka post Brexit) the U.K.’s bargaining position on trade deals with any potential partners is weakened, and so the U.S. may well be waiting to tactically and aggressively ramp up the heat at a later time. Nothing is certain at this juncture,” he told CNBC.

At the same time, Britain has to think about its relationship with China, one of its key partners. In December, Wu Ken, China’s ambassador to Germany, threatened Europe’s largest economy with “consequences” if it blocked Huawei. This could have been in Britain’s mind too.

Campling said there was “never a perfect solution” to Britain’s Huawei decision given the competing interests. And Lew Lukens, former deputy chief of mission of the U.S. Embassy in London, said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to balance the competing sides.

“I think Boris Johnson is laying down a marker in some ways saying, ‘I’m not going to do what Donald Trump says, we are going to forge our own path and balance these competing interest,’” Lukens told CNBC. “I think he’s confident they can keep the U.S. on the same side and these other markets on the same side.”

SA, UK strike post-Brexit deal

Source: Supermarket & Retailer

The ANC’s Minister for Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, has concluded a groundbreaking new trade deal with the UK, ensuring all existing trade arrangements and more have been cemented prior to the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU).

With the prospects of a no-deal Brexit having risen significantly in recent months, the onus has been on the UK to engineer new trade deals with partners across Africa and the rest of the globe in the event of a disorderly exit from the EU and immediate trade on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms.

The spectre of a no-deal Brexit has been the elephant in the room in terms of the financial markets for several months, with the pound looking increasingly weak against both the US dollar and the euro.

However, the pound has also become a forex market of interest among investors option trading in South Africa who are already speculating on the future price of sterling in the event that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new Brexit withdrawal agreement bill is approved by Parliament. Put options are also a useful hedge for those with ‘long’ positions on sterling in case a no-deal Brexit happens out of the blue, causing the pound to crash.

As the UK became South Africa’s fourth-largest export market in 2018, it was imperative for the South African government to have clarity and certainty as a Commonwealth trading partner, regardless of the Brexit outcome. Minister Patel has confirmed that the new trade agreement is effectively a “rollover” of the terms of trade in their existing European Partnership Agreement, which will enable “seamless” and “uninterrupted” trade to continue post-Brexit.

This new deal is essential for the protection of up to 175,000 jobs that have been created as a consequence of increased trade links between South Africa and the UK. It’s now a marketplace worth an estimated R142 billion to the South African economy.

What does this new trade deal offer for South Africa?

First and foremost, all automobiles assembled in South Africa can continue to be exported to the UK with tariff-free access. The new arrangement also extends the nation’s tariff-free quota for unrefined and refined sugar, canned fruits and wine – the latter extending to a whopping 70 million litres of South African wine. This is very good news for the Western Cape given that wine was its most influential export to the British Isles in 2018, valued at R1.89 billion. The new agreement also extends South Africa’s quota levels for specific duty-free products, whilst safeguarding the agricultural sector’s health and safety standards for all new products.

The nation’s existing trade terms on EU livestock will also remain applicable to British poultry, until March 2022 at the earliest.

This new trade continuity deal doesn’t just benefit South Africa before the Brexit deadline, it also offers certainty to the five other nations on the African continent within the Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique (SACU+M). The preferential trade terms will provide continued access to UK markets for Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini too.

In total, the trading relationship between the UK and the entire SACU+M was worth R184.3 billion in 2018. Consumers in the UK will continue to benefit from greater choice of goods exported from SACU+M, while the SACU+M will also benefit from UK exports of automobiles, machinery, appliances and much more.

By Deborah Williams for Retail Insight 

June 2019 UK retail sales have been the worst on record, with a 1.3% total basis decline, according to a report by the British Retail Consortium (BRC). June UK retail sales saw a 2.3% increase in 2018.

Covering the five weeks from 26 May to 29 June 2019, the report found that the decline brings the three month average into a decline of 0.1% and the 12 month average to an increase of 0.6%, the lowest since its records began in December 1995.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE said: “June sales could not compete with last year’s scorching weather and World Cup, leading to the worst June on record. Sales of TVs, garden furniture and BBQs were all down, with fewer impulse purchases being made. Overall, the picture is bleak. Rising real wages have failed to translate into higher spending as ongoing Brexit uncertainty led consumers to put off non-essential purchases.

“Businesses and the public desperately need clarity on Britain’s future relationship with the EU. The continued risk of a No Deal Brexit is harming consumer confidence and forcing retailers to spend hundreds of millions of pounds putting in place mitigations – this represents time and resources that would be better spent improving customer experience and prices. It is vital that the next Prime Minister can find a solution that avoids a No Deal Brexit on 31st October, just before the busy Black Friday and Christmas periods.”

On a like-for-like basis, June UK retail sales decreased by 1.6% from June 2018. This is lower than the three month and 12 month averages of -0.4% and -0.1% respectively. The report stated that this represents the worst 12 month average since April 2012.

In-store sales of non-food items declined 4.3% on a total basis and 4.1% on a like-for-like basis, over the three months to June. This decline is lower than the 12 month total average decline of 2.8%.

Non-food UK retail sales declined by 2.1% on a total basis and 2% on a like-for-like basis, over the three-months to June. This is also lower than the 12 month total average decrease of 0.8%. The BRC said that this is the worst quarterly decline since February 2009.

KPMG UK head of retail Paul Martin says: “There are few places retailers can hide from the difficult trading conditions that have been hitting the industry for some time. June’s retail performance did little to ease that, with like-for-like sales falling 1.6% compared to last year.

“On the high street, consumers were eager to pull up a pew for the summer’s sporting events, with added interest in the furniture category. Otherwise, consumers largely turned a blind eye to offers in the physical retail space.”

Non-food online sales increased 4% in June 2019, against an increase of 8.5% in June 2018. The three month and 12 month average growths were 3.3% and 5% respectively. Non-food online penetration rate increased to 30.7% last month, from 28.5% in June 2018.

Martin adds: “With 4% online growth, shoppers were thankfully more engaged in this channel, making the most of the added convenience and continued aggressive pricing. Fashion performed particularly well thanks to end-of-season sales and upcoming holidays.

“Pressure on retailers continues to mount and is seemingly coming from all angles: economic, geo-political, environmental and behavioural. Consumer spend is only likely to fall further as things stand, and cost efficiency remains vital. The focus for most in the industry will be preservation and adaptation in order to see them through these tough times.”

Food sales experiences ‘above total average growth’ for June 2019 UK retail sales
Over the three months to June, food sales increased 2.4% on a total basis and 1.5% on a like-for-like basis – an increase above the 12 month total average growth of 2.2%.

IGD CEO Susan Barratt said: “A late start to the summer weather in June compared unfavourably with consistently drier and warmer conditions in 2018, so while year-on-year growth in food and grocery sales last month was small, it is still encouraging.

“If the recent pick up in temperatures is sustained, there’s hope for stronger figures in July. Shoppers feel slightly more positive at the moment, with the percentage expecting to become worse off financially in the year ahead falling from 32% in February to 27% today.”

A growing group of South Africans are increasingly eyeing obtaining the UK’s £200 000 Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa as political and economic woes continue to pummel their homeland.

This is according to Gary Kockott, MD for SA at Sable International, who says he’s seen an uptick in local demand for the visa. The visa offers a way for entrepreneurs to invest their way to citizenship in the UK for themselves and their families.

Q: Gary, SA is going through a turbulent time at the moment. Have you noticed an increase in clients coming to Sable International to enquire and seek UK business visas?

A: Absolutely. I think there’s a lot of individuals who are disillusioned at where we will be in the next few years. I think that with the rampant corruption, state capture, further downgrades, and our imminent recession, people are very disillusioned. So we’ve seen a big increase in client interest.

Q: Can you tell me about the UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Investment Program that Sable International offers?

A: Yes. It’s a bespoke UK citizenship by investment program where, through a £200 000 investment into the UK, you can obtain UK residency for you and your family and ultimately citizenship – if all the requirements are met. In short, we match investor skills and experience with a range of pre-approved business investment opportunities whilst meeting the UK Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa qualifying criteria.

Q: You said it costs about £200 000?

A: Yes. That’s the capital investment you have to make into either a new or an existing UK business.

Q: How long is the visa valid for? You can basically qualify for UK citizenship afterwards, so can your whole family then also qualify for that?

A: Yes, absolutely. You can take your entire family, as long as they are dependents, with you. Your initial visa is granted for 3 years and 2 months, at which stage you would extend. If you meet those requirements, that extension is to 5 years. You then get indefinite leave to remain and once you’ve been a permanent resident for 5 years and you’ve held your indefinite leave to remain for 12 months, you’re able to apply for citizenship.

Q: You said that Sable International matches up the applicants with businesses. Can you tell us a little bit more about how that process works?

A: We’ve partnered with a private equity firm and they specialise in obtaining foreign direct investment into the UK. They have a number of businesses – investee businesses – that are actively seeking foreign direct investment. What we then do (together with our partners) is we match an individual’s skills and their experience with those businesses’ needs, because you have to match your skills with the business in order to qualify for the visa.

Q: How easy or difficult is it to get this visa compared to other, similar European visas, for example?

A: My recommendation would be to use a skilled immigration advisor. You do have to jump through some hoops in order to achieve it as it’s not straightforward. You have to apply a genuine test etc., but if you meet the capital amount and you’ve got a decent advisor, you’ll be able to get your visa.

Q: What is the rationale from the UK side to dole out visas like this? What is their main motivation behind it?

A: They’re looking for foreign direct investment into the United Kingdom, so they have a number of different Tier 1 investor visas, of which the entrepreneur visa is one of them.

Q: Is this one way in which the UK brings in a lot of foreign expertise, despite the advent of Brexit?

A: Absolutely, they’re bringing in the investment and they’re bringing in the skills.

Q: What has the reception been like from South African citizens?

A: The interest has been big. This visa has been around for quite some time, since 2008, but in the last few months the last 8 or 9 months, given our political climate and our economic instability, there’s been a huge increase in interest across all our visa categories. Generally, people are looking to emigrate.

Q: Can you maybe tell me about some of your other visa categories as well then?

A: Obviously within the Tier 1 category there’s the entrepreneur visa, there’s also the investment visa or the investor visa, that’s more of a passive opportunity where you invest £2m into the UK, that’s into a UK bank account which you then invest into UK government bonds loan capital or share capital and you are able to go over. The visa is granted for 5 years and you are able to go, live and work in the UK with your family. Then, there are a whole bunch of other categories. e.g. Married partner visas, ancestry visas, and other types of immigration visas.

Q: For our readers out there who are interested in obtaining one of these visas, what kind of advice would you give them, just in terms of going about this process?

A: Well, all of these services you can do yourself but my recommendation is if you are serious about emigrating, you get the right advice. Whether it’s through us or through other emigration advisors. getting the right advice of which category to go through and how to achieve it is the best way forward.

Q: Once an applicant is through to the other side in the UK, do you at Sable International still keep in touch with them? How does that work?

A: Absolutely, so we assist throughout the process. When we do the entrepreneur visa for example, as far as we’re concerned we’re in the process with you for the 6 years, until you get your citizenship. So we’re able to advise you, do all your extensions for you, we’ll ensure that you meet the various requirements in obtaining those extensions so that you’ll eventually get your citizenship.

Q: Gary, and just looking at this year so far, can you maybe give me numbers on how many people have approached you to date or how many you’re expecting to approach you regarding business visas for the UK?

A: Yes, I’m probably getting between 5 and 10 interested clients a week but it’s a long sale cycle, the individuals take a bit of time to make the decision. It’s a very big decision, emigrating, a lot of these guys are having to sell up their assets, if they’re emigrating permanently because of the fee of £200 000, which is about R3.5m in today’s money, so a lot of people are selling up in order to do that. the interest is massive and it’s also massive in terms of individuals looking to take their wealth offshore, and looking for second citizenships.

Q: Talking about second citizenships, so once you’ve perhaps got one of these visas and you get UK citizenship ultimately, can you still hang onto your South African citizenship then? How does that process work?

A: Yes, as long as you do it in the right manner, so you have to notify the South African government that you’re applying for UK citizenship. We (South Africans) are allowed to hold dual citizenship, so you certainly are able to keep your South African citizenship and take on the UK citizenship, as long as you go through the right process beforehand, before you make the application.

Q: Gary, and looking at visas like this. Is it a key strategy of Sable International’s? How does this fit into your broader business strategy?

A: Absolutely, we assist individuals who want to internationalise themselves, their wealth, or their businesses, so we’re constantly looking at ways in which we can assist individuals, who are looking to get second citizenships or emigrate or move, particularly to the United Kingdom or Australia. Putting together this program was just one of those bespoke options in being able to assist our clients better.

Q: Gary, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you today. Thanks very much for giving us more information on this.

A: Not a problem. Thanks very much, Gareth, I appreciate your time.

By Gareth van Zyl for BizNews 

Amazon Business launches in the UK

Amazon is adding a trade counter to its UK Web site to sell equipment such as office supplies and industrial tools to woo business customers that account for around two-fifths of online spending.

Its new service called Amazon Business launched on Monday, and offers a range of business-friendly features like being able to track purchases and set spending limits, as well as an expanded range of products specifically targeted at commercial customers.

Amazon Business will sell more than 100-million products spanning laptops to test tubes to cleaning products, and is targeted at a range of businesses, from small to large, as well as universities and charities.

It marks the latest effort by the e-commerce giant to expand beyond the typical retail business. Jeff Bezos’ firm had already started its business marketplace in the US back in April 2015, racking up $1bn (£800m) of sales in its first year to 400 000 customers, before launching in Germany four months ago.

The UK online market for business-to-business sales was valued at a cool £96.5bn for 2015 by the Office for National Statistics.

Bill Burkland, head of Amazon Business UK, said the new site “combines more than 100m business products with a new set of unique business features – from reporting and analytics to spending limits”.

In February, the online giant said it was creating 5,000 new full-time jobs in the UK this year to fill a range of positions from software developers to warehouse staff.

The recruitment will take Amazon’s UK headcount to more than 24,000 as it opens three new warehouses in Tilbury, Doncaster and Daventry. The extra space will also handle deliveries for third-party retailers who sell through Amazon’s site.

By Rebecca Smith for www.cityam.com

Staples’ 106 UK stores are being renamed Office Outlet by new-owner Hilco Capital, which snapped up the retailer last year for a nominal sum.

The restructuring firm, which also owns entertainment specialist HMV, said the Staples estate would be transformed in “record time”.

The entire rebadging process, along with the installation of a new EPOS system, is due to be completed by the end of this week.

“The reality is we’re kicking everything off very quickly and then we’ll be refining the proposition in the weeks to come with an improved product mix and much better pricing and promotions,” Hilco Capital marketing director Matt Bone told Retail Week.

The fresh branding on the newly named Office Outlet stores – which are largely located in out-of-town retail parks – is in keeping with Staples’ traditional red and white colour scheme.

The US-based stationery specialist agreed to sell its UK retail business and operations, which employs 1 100 people, to Hilco Capital last November.

Staples Inc says the decision was taken in order to place greater focus on its North American and mid-market divisions.

Last year, the business was pushed into exploring “strategic alternatives” for its European operations after it was forced to shelve a $6bn (£4.53bn) merger with rival Office Depot by America’s competition authorities.

Staples Inc consequently assessed the future of its European arm as it sought to wipe $300m (£226m) from its annual cost base.

When the deal to sell its British business to Hilco completed last November, its new owners unveiled plans to “phase out” the Staples brand in the UK, but provided no further details as to what that strategy looked like.

At the time, Hilco Capital chairman Paul McGowan said: “While retail in the UK has been challenged recently, a team led by retail veteran Alan Gaynor will work alongside the existing management team to build a plan for success for the business.”

By Emily Hardy and Luke Tugby for www.retail-week.com

The UK stationery market is set to rise by 2,4% in five years, from £2,06-billion in 2016 to around £2,1-billion by 2021, according to new research.

Analyst firm Verdict Retail’s latest report states that this growth will be driven by the rising trend of purchasing stationery as gifts, increased product ranges, and design-led products and innovation.

The firm said new entrants such as Smiggle from Australia and the impending arrival of Typo, another Australian stationery retailer, have made the stationery sector more competitive.

“Low entry barriers have enabled new market entrants to experiment with product design, which has triggered increased interest in stationery, particularly among those aged 16-24,” says associate analyst Sarah Johns.

“Increased product choice of premium stationery and availability of extra services such as personalisation mean shoppers are increasingly opting for stationery products as gifts.

“UK retailers are benefitting from shoppers who purchase stationery for a variety of occasions. For example, stationery is bought for children for the back-to-school period, for seasonal holidays such as Christmas, and for other occasions such as birthdays and Mother’s Day.”

A survey conducted by Verdict Retail found that 57,4% of stationery shoppers were female, while 9,7% of stationery shoppers surveyed bought stationery online.

Meanwhile in the last five years, drawing instruments and accessories became the fastest growing categories and will continue to dominate in the next five.

However, growth of the paper and notepad, storage and other stationery categories slowed in terms of value and volumes in the negative, with expectations it would continue to decline in the next five years.

Verdict Retail says one of the main reasons for this fall in sales is the ongoing digitisation and the rise in ownership and usage of technological devices, meaning stationery is being used less and does not need to be replaced as frequently as it did a decade ago.

By Elias Jahshan for www.retailgazette.co.uk

It continues to be rough going for Staples after its failed merger with Office Depot.

The office supplier is considering shuttering its 107 stores in the United Kingdom as part of a larger evaluation of its European strategy in the wake of the failed merger and the UK.’s decision to leave the European Union, according to a report in the British newspaper The Telegraph.

The company has 259 stores in Europe, including the UK. locations, and as with its stores in the US. has fought challenges in the face of a changing retail world that leads consumers and businesses to shop online. A recent restructuring helped return the company’s UK. operations to being profitable, but the recent turmoil that has resulted from the ‘Brexit’ vote and the uncertainty about the economic fallout raises questions about the turnaround’s sustainability.

Staples was considering shutting its UK. stores even before Brexit, but the vote to leave the EU hurt the case to keep them open. On Tuesday the British pound hit another 31-year low, falling 1.3% to $1.3139, which erodes the profits of US. companies doing business in the country.

According to the report, Staples is considering a sale of its UK. stores, but the poor locations of the stores may make them unappealing to potential buyers.

This comes as the company is trying to reposition itself in the US. after a federal judge in early May blocked Staples’ planned merger with Office Depot. Last month the company announced it would be rolling out a new same-day delivery option to customers in a variety of cities– including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — in a bid to keep up with the new consumer trend spearheaded by Amazon and Google.

“After the proposed acquisition was blocked, on May 10, 2016, Staples announced we are exploring strategic alternatives for our European operations,” Staples spokesman Bill Durling said in a statement. “This will allow the company to sharpen our focus and more aggressively pursue our mid-market growth strategy in North America, while right sizing our retail business. While this process remains on track, we have no additional details to share at this time.”

Staples’ shares were down 3,5% to $8.53.

By Eli Blumenthal for www.usatoday.com

  • 1
  • 2

Follow us on social media: 

               

View our magazine archives: 

                       


My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
Top