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Money Talk: Demand versus supply in the limited labour pool

In late February the Home Office floated its 'Post Brexit immigration plans' and immediately found itself on the receiving end of cries of alarm from employer organisations across the economy: farming, hospitality, healthcare and retailing among them. The major bone of contention is the intention to severely restrict effectively stop the influx of what they describe as 'low-skilled' workers offering cheap labour from abroad. In future, employers are expected to utilise technology and/or somehow to persuade some of the "eight million economically inactive" people already in the country to do the jobs currently performed by migrant workers.

Money Talk: Stay alert, be vigilant - it's a sensitive time for scams

Let's start with a quick update from last month's column, where we mentioned that a well-known High Street fashion retailer had admitted that it may have overstated the value of stock on its balance sheet by "some £25m". Following a preliminary investigation by external auditors, the company issued a statement admitting that the discrepancy is now believed to be around £58m. At the time of writing, retail analysts still don't know whether it's down to a physical loss or a matter of existing inventory being over-valued. All of which reinforces the points we made about the need for any retail business to have regular, preferably external, audits to ensure that the stock values in their accounting systems represent real stock at correct prices.

Money Talk: Stock shock - and what you can do to avoid it

There was a news story last month about a well-known, publicly quoted fashion retailer which announced that it may have overstated the value of stock on its balance sheet by some £25m and the consequent appointment of lawyers and accountants to investigate and determine what happened and just how big a hole there really is in the balance sheet. This was barely a year after Patisserie Valerie went belly-up with what was eventually found to be a £94m 'black hole' in terms of missing cash and over-stated assets. Inevitably the same question gets asked: how in today's high-tech retail world, where everything is supposedly barcoded and scanned at every stage, with all of the data fed in real time into an integrated 'enterprise management system' could any retail business 'lose' significant amounts of stock, especially without anyone noticing until much later?

Money Talk: Getting into the festive spirit - in the right way

Although we're in the middle of an (unseasonal) election campaign, and there's so much else going on news wise, it's here again Christmas a season that raises a few business issues.

Money Talk: Why it's so important to keep an eye on your bank account

There's a common history relating to almost every major IT project especially those undertaken by government departments: they take far longer to implement than planned, cost several times more than they were budgeted for, and usually create havoc when they go live. So with that sort of background the expectations surrounding the introduction of VAT returns into the Making Tax Digital (MTD) programme weren't very high. So credit where it's due: by and large the transition of VAT into the MTD system appears to have worked remarkably well; we're aware of only a few, relatively minor glitches in the first one or two quarterly return submissions, although some of these did seem to affect a number of users.

Money Talk: Preparing for very interesting times ahead

In general, accountants try to stay away from looking at politics and world events. We tend to leave those matters to economists, who like to speculate on the eventual effects of what they call 'macro' events right down to the 'micro' level ie particular business sectors and consumers. However, unless you've made a conscious decision to avoid reading or listening to news reports for the last three or so years, you'll perhaps have noticed that we're living in rather 'interesting' times and that a lot of world events apparently seem to be coming together in the near future, with the distinct possibility that they will have a direct impact on your business.

Money Talk: The big squeeze that's affecting supplies across the board

There's been a common theme emerging over recent months in one conversation after another with independent fuel retailers: the word 'pressure' crops up quite regularly, but one very experienced retailer simply called it 'the squeeze'. He described a slow, inexorable process whereby it seemed that his options in how to run his business were continually narrowing on all sides.

Money Talk: Time for a reality check of your stock and the start of a routine

Money Talk: Can anyone say, with any confidence, what the true price of loyalty is?

With the recent major changes involving fuel brands and their associated loyalty schemes, many consumers might be forgiven for being confused. After the shake-up we now have: Esso associated with Nectar (having dropped Tesco Clubcard); BP offering BPme Rewards (having dropped Nectar); and Shell going with Go+ instead of Drivers Club. Meanwhile, Gulf has something called Oomph, Tesco, of course, continues with Clubcard, and Texaco with Star Rewards although the latter is also now associated with rather appropriately, perhaps.

Money Talk: Family-run businesses have advantages... and disadvantages

It often seems that we live in an age of multinational mega-corporations which control so many familiar trading names, to the extent that it's easy to forget that in reality a large proportion of small/medium businesses are still basically family-owned and run enterprises and this is particularly the case when it comes to petrol retailing. Of course there are the oil companies, and they certainly fall into the 'multinational mega-corporation' bracket; then we have what are still euphemistically described as the 'Indies' in reality now dominated by a dozen or fewer very large companies who between them own a great many forecourts, both in this country and increasingly abroad. But at the grass roots level of petrol retailing, there are still many hundreds of sites operated by families.

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 30 March 2020
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East Midlands119.01131.46114.46
North East116.33131.57110.86
North West117.71131.66113.21
Northern Ireland113.94120.90108.13
South East120.0368.90132.46116.19
South West118.30130.34113.27
West Midlands118.8857.90135.85114.78
Yorkshire & Humber117.69131.84113.09

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