Forester Business award for Kit & Caboodle
Kit and Caboodle Boutique are feeling pleased with themselves today ( if not a little fragile) as we won the Forester runner's up award for best retail business, last night at Forest Hills Golf Club.
We were delighted to be awarded this as it is a brilliant recognition for all the hard work and effort that we have put into Kit & Caboodle over the last 10 months.
The funny bit is that I completely missed the honour of being awarded this title, as I has just nipped out to the loo. So my poor daughter and part time business partner Natalie had to go on to the stage and collect the award on her own, she hasn't forgiven me yet! Luckily the levels of alcohol I had consumed enabled me to see the funny side of missing my own moment of glory!
Brave New World
Spring Budgets have had little to promise or offer UK savers and investors in recent years, apart from setting out the depth of the economic challenge ahead for the coalition government. Only last year, the mood was subdued, with talk of a potential triple dip into recession and a long and bumpy road to recovery. The UK’s economy, twelve months on, is undergoing a regeneration and a rate of growth that is now the fastest in the Western world. As Britain looks towards a general election in May 2015, the Budget contained far-reaching changes for its savers and investors.
Chancellor George Osborne, in his address on 19 March, said the Budget rewarded “the makers, the doers and the savers” in Britain. And the new pension and tax-efficient saving arrangements certainly offer radical reform of the UK’s personal finance landscape and welcome breaks for savers and investors after four years of austerity. A significant change in pension arrangements has lifted restrictions on access to pension pots and made it more attractive for individuals to invest for their retirement through pensions. And the reform of Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) brings a very welcome increase in the annual allowance to £15,000 from July this year.
The boost that the 2014 Budget has given to investors, however, comes amid continued austerity, with the government only halfway through the fiscal consolidation it embarked on in 2010. Public borrowing levels still remain at £108 billion for 2014 (www.parliament.uk, 21/3/14). When the coalition came to power in 2010, Osborne had planned to balance the budget by 2016. Instead, the aim is 2019 (www.gov.uk, 19/3/14). The recovery also remains prone to wider global risks, whether from China’s economy or Russian military action. Meanwhile, there are widespread concerns that the recovery has been driven by consumers running down their savings, while households are squeezed by living costs as prices rise faster than earnings.
But the good news for business, markets and households is that the UK economic recovery has entrenched. In March, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) revised up its forecast for the pace of the recovery in 2014 to 2.7%, from 1.8% a year ago (when its estimate for 2013 growth was a mere 0.6%). The OBR also expects earnings will grow by 2.5% this year, and inflation by 1.9%. Osborne, in these more secure conditions, packed his Budget with a broad range of pre-election giveaways, including a reduction in the savings tax rate and an increase in the personal tax-free allowance to £10,500 for 2015/16. The Budget also restated that the Inheritance Tax threshold will remain at £325,000 until April 2018.
Investors have done well as growing economic confidence, loose monetary policy and low-interest rates have buoyed equities in the leading financial centres. Although 2014 is unlikely to match last year’s market advances, market returns are expected to reflect the improvement in the global economy and corporate and consumer confidence. In this upbeat environment, the Budget’s ISA allowance increase holds out further investment opportunity, particularly for those that want an alternative to the near-zero returns on offer from cash.
The Budget’s relaxation of ISA rules to allow any combination of stocks and shares and cash rightly gives investors more flexibility to manage their valuable allowance to suit their attitude to risk and their needs. However, the Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, remains adamant that the base rate will remain at a record 0.5% low while the economy recovers; and is widely expected to be held at this level until mid-2015 (www.bbc.co.uk, 20/2/14). It seems unlikely that the government would welcome a rise in interest rates just before it goes to the polls.
Osborne’s move to increase the annual ISA allowance to £15,000 was designed to encourage Britain to set aside more for the future. With mild inflation still eroding the value of cash, the hope must be that investors make the most of the long-term benefits provided by this even more valuable and flexible opportunity.
Osborne’s decision to champion investor choice has also underpinned the more flexible new pension regime. Perhaps most radically, he has made proposals to free up access to pension pots and change the rules for annuities from April 2015, as well as introducing a new pensioner bond. The proposal to allow anyone over the age of 55 to take their entire pension pot as a lump sum (albeit with 25% tax-free and the remaining amount liable to Income Tax) is a radical innovation that allows individuals to invest, save, spend or give as they see fit. As an interim measure, the guaranteed income required before qualification for flexible drawdown has been cut to £12,000, from £20,000, and this retrospective move will allow anyone in drawdown to benefit from the increased flexibility.
The more liberal regime, too, complements the traditional annuity route and the security it offers for those who want a guaranteed income over their retirement lifetime. Annuity investors will benefit when interest rates start to rise; while drawdown investors can encounter problems in the face of stock market volatility. The new pension regime admirably hands more control to individuals over their long-term financial plans. But, as with all financial planning, each person’s needs and appetite for risk or security are distinct. Retirement planning requires expert, not off-the-shelf, solutions. Osborne’s brave new world for savers and investors creates further nuances and complexities that make wealth management advice as important as ever.
The value of an investment will be directly linked to the performance of the funds selected and may fall as well as rise. You may get back less than the amount invested. Equities do not provide the security of capital associated with a deposit account or a Cash ISA.
The levels and bases of taxation and reliefs from taxation can change at any time and are generally dependent on individual circumstance
To receive a complimentary guide covering Wealth Management, Retirement Planning or Inheritance Tax Planning contact Charlotte Poole-Graham on 07415855071, by email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.charlottepoolegraham.co.uk
SMEs and Broadband
Are you capitalising on broadband connectivity?
It has been revealed in a study by Go ON UK ad Booz & Co that an additional £1.8b can be generated by incorporating digital capabilities, but in a report by The Broadband Stakeholder Group there are many smaller firms who are failing to capitalise on this.
The report has come up with a list of recommendations which could be used to better inform policy makers in SMEs on the benefits of using the internet and better internet connectivity.
So far £1.7b has been invested in the broadband infrastructure and SMEs need to take advantage of this and boost their own productivity.
Wave Accounting in our opinion has really turned the world of web based accounting on its head, this is a truly fantastic application for small businesses that require a complete accounting application.
The internet is awash with invoicing services and trying to find one that fits your needs can be very difficult, do you want to subscribe to a service?, host the application yourself?, do you need to tie it into your banking system? Or do you just need a very basic way of issuing invoices?
In the last few years services such as Xero and Freeagent have made a massive impact on the way small businesses work, and to be honest I didn’t think that this model would change until I saw Wave Accounting.
What’s different about Wave, is that this service is completely Free, no subscription charge, no trial periods, no limits on the amount of invoices or customers you can create per month, it is truly free to use! The service was always designed to be free from the start and paid for by advertising other business services, these adverts are really unobtrusive and do not in any way hinder the use of the service.
Wave Accounting may not have the VAT and other tax advantages that Freeagent has, but it has all the features that small business needs, you can track payments into and out of your accounts, produce great reports that your accountant can work with, the service also links to your bank account and imports all your transactions automatically making reconciliation of your accounts really easy to do.
As the user base grows and people’s confidence in this business model increase then who knows, perhaps in a few months this may be the one that all competing applications and services will have to follow.
Would we recommend this to our customers? Absolutely, the only issue that we can see is the issue of trust!, will this service have the customer base to survive? and if not what happens to all customers data?, but there again this is a question that should be asked of all hosted services free or otherwise.
Kit & Caboodle Boutique facilitate their first ever fashion show
On Monday 31st March Kit & Caboodle Boutique facilitated our first ever fashion show at Lydney Rugby Club, as part of a Ladies Evening. The event was held to raise funds for the Forest Branch of Relay for Life. Other monies raised were donated to great Oaks Hospice in Coleford.
The models for the evening were all local volunteers, who put on a splendid show, bringing Kit & Caboodle's hats, clothes and accessories to life. The models all enjoyed the evening so much that they were eager to take part in a similar event soon. We were so impressed with the support for the evening that we are now in discussion with another venue, where we hope to hold a charity evening in aid of some local charities, at the end of May / beginning of June. This will be advertised on the CAP Website Notice Board as soon as I have confirmation of the details. I hope you enjoy the photos.
Google goes further to the dark side?
SEO for Dummies
Anyone wanting to SEO their site 2 years ago, knew that the two key things they needed to do was to build links from other sites to their site and to identify the keywords that searchers found their site with. For the latter Google provided within their free Analytics tool a free and easy way to check how effective they were.
The Penguin algorithm change in April 24th 2012 link-building was dealt a grievous blow to hit all those who had bought spurious and thin links from stray unrelated sites. Penguin focuses on the quality and relevance of those links.
This year Google has removed the easy accessibility of keywords in Analytics so that site owners could see how they were found organically. For any users of Analytics go to Acquisition, then Keywords then Organic. If 80%+ are coming up as unknown then you are already hit. What you might try is to extend the data range to the full year and then download the keywords shown. For some users this allows them to save some of the key words, which are now dark. But for most it doesn’t.
Why have Google done this?
Well because they can. They own the rules of the game and can change what they want in order to achieve their aim. Their aim is to put in front of the searcher the most relevant page from Google’s databases of pages which they believe, from Google’s understanding of the words entered, is most likely to answer it.
Key words and key word phrases have, as the number of web pages increased, also increased in order to be the most relevant page. Keywords will still be used in Adwords and pay per click advertising to trigger adverts and Google will still use and make available data to those purchasing adverts. Is this wrong? No because with everyone focusing on keywords as the way to optimise and then using Analytics to measure, the game has been corrupted. So no it’s not a breach of a tacit contract whereby Google gained the data on keywords via sites using Analytics and in return we got a free tool.
What can I do?
After gnashing your teeth at the loss of an easy to use tool, move on.
· There are a range of tools which measure the competitiveness of your pages on your defined search terms. Most have a limited free service, which may be more limited as they now need to pay more for Google data.
· If you use Analytics to see entry pages, you will have a good idea of the types of topics that interested your viewer. It is this focus on topics which has become more important. Google has just made it harder to cheat.
· Don’t continue to look for quick fixes as these are likely to break the rules or cause the rules to be changed as too many people pile in. The discipline of writing content around keyword phrases still applies. All that has been lost is the easy way to measure it.
The 3P’s of bespoke picture framing
Simply put bespoke framing acts to Present, Protect and Preserve the artwork/subject.
Well-presented imagery is a complete joy, its uniqueness, freshness and identity cannot but help evoke emotion in people.
As Art is not of a standard size, and different media vary in depth, clarity and properties individual tailor made frames are necessary.
A bespoke picture framer will enhance the art work by designing and constructing a creative well proportioned frame using techniques most suited to the project. The choice of mounts and mouldings is enormous and one can always be found to suit the customer and project.
Photos of cat good and bad - see separate photo x 2 (click on pics to enlarge)
Protect and Preserve
The longevity for artwork comes from a combination of proper framing and protection from environmental damage whist on display. Damage will devalue artwork and documents.
Artwork, particularly paper, is primarily under threat from the following:
Ultra violet light
Humidity and damp
Extreme heat and cold
Insects and mould
Air bourne pollutants
The quality of materials and techniques used by the framer.
Fine Art Trade Guild (FATG) framers aim to slow the rate of natural decay and damage from these threats by using best practice techniques and best quality materials, and framing to a conservation level where possible.
Whilst ready made, of the shelf, frames are initially cheaper they often do not aesthetically enhance the artwork, and in the long run often cause irreversible damage.
‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ N Bonaparte, it stands then that ‘The memories framed are priceless’.
REFLEXOLOGY – PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE
Many moons ago when I was sixteen or seventeen they used to have dances with live bands. That is, bands who played instruments not four or five young hopefuls dancing around doing a karaoke set while the likes of Simon Cowell decide whether to suck them in and spit them out when they have served their usefulness. Anyway, moving on from that hobby horse, there used to be an intimidating but amusing feature of many of these dances in that groups of local misfits used to wonder in looking for trouble. The amusing element was that the smallest one used to walk in front followed in sequence by the others with the biggest one bringing up the rear. The little guy would stare at people trying to illicit a response and reporting any ‘disrespect’ to the biggest gang member who would decide on the appropriate retribution.
I remember that on one occasion I must have smirked or shown some disdain because the little chap who was barely five feet tall approached me and said, “You want a picture mate?” I must have been in a suicidal mood because I responded that I didn’t want one if it was of his ugly mug. He wondered off and came back into the hall with the big guy of the gang, a muscular lad already over six feet tall, and pointed me out. This could have been a bit nasty because I am barely five foot seven and, although I had done a little schoolboy boxing, was not exactly a street fighter and that’s putting it mildly.
Joy of joys, I had played my first game of soccer for a local team the week before and had a blinder providing the pass that allowed our big centre forward to score the winning goal. He was, of course, none other than the biggest gang member. The net result was that the little guy was sent back to apologise to me, grovel even!
There are two lessons that I learnt from this episode. One is that recommendations are a wonderful thing and the other is that prevention is better than cure. I was thankful that I was recommended as a ‘good bloke’ not to be upset but I should have prevented the situation arising by avoiding eye contact and following it up with a smart arse remark.
What has that to do with reflexology? Well not a lot except that reflexology is great as a preventative therapy. It helps build the immune system and helps the body maintain its natural state of wellness. Also, my best form of marketing is essentially gaining recommendations by doing a good job, just as I had done in that football match all those years ago.
High Roaming Charges
How many people turn off their mobile devices when travelling abroad to save on the high roaming charges? I know of someone who actually ended up with a bill for £900 after using his iPhone whilst abroad and continuing to download the same data etc that he downloaded at home – his comment was “never again”. Once, on a trip to the USA, I purchased a US SIM card to use to call the UK as it was cheaper than using my UK one.
The European Commission carried out a survey of 28,000 people from across the European Union and along with other data showed that 47% of the people surveyed refused to use their mobile devices whilst travelling abroad. It was discovered that up to 37% of British residents turn off their mobile devices when outside of the UK.
As a result Neelie Knoes, European Commission Vice President stated “it shows we have to finish the job and eliminate roaming charges”. As a result these high charges end up with no winners and the mobile companies losing out on revenue and businesses losing out on business and profits. More particularly these charges are having a damaging effect on UK businesses that operate outside of the UK and whose personnel frequently travel abroad.
Since February 2013 the EU has been in discussions with the mobile network providers to force them to cut roaming charges with the EU.
There may be some light at the end of this tunnel as the EU has announced that it is hoped that roaming charges will be reduced or dropped by October of this year.
In the modern day we are often given assurances regarding the validity or superiority of a product or service over another. The consumers of today may be convinced by the argument, but others may become rather jaded or even blasé regarding these “promises”.
I believe that when I offer a service to a client (or prospective client) that when I do this, it should always be the best to suit their needs. I never promise that it is the cheapest or the very best on the market – but the best to suit their individual circumstances – and budget.
It is very easy to flippantly promise great things, but with an ever litigious society, be careful what you promise your clients.
Myself and my colleagues at Cass Stephens make a few simple promises which we are happy to abide by, namely:-
· We promise not to “quote you happy”,
· We will not send you a stuffed mammal (meerkat or otherwise)
· We will never send an Opera Singer to serenade you
· We will not send you a dancing telephone
· We will never sit back and grin like a Bulldog, saying “oh yes”
· But we will always do our best for you. Full stop.
If these kind of promises ring true with you and the way you prefer to do business – call in or give us a call.
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