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Retail » Money talk

Money Talk: Stay alert, be vigilant - it's a sensitive time for scams
10 February, 2020

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
13 January, 2020

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
16 December, 2019

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
15 November, 2019

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
10 October, 2019

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
09 September, 2019

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
06 August, 2019

Money Talk: Can anyone say, with any confidence, what the true price of loyalty is?
09 July, 2019

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
07 June, 2019

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.

Money Talk: Why planning ahead makes good business sense
06 May, 2019

It's very easy to sympathise with the view that planning ahead is basically pointless. Technological and social change seem to happen at an ever-increasing pace and to threaten the basic way in which our industries work, and indeed in how our lives are organised. As if that didn't make it difficult enough, there are all the stresses of the present: rising costs, increasing competition and customers expecting more for less every day. And, of course, the future rarely turns out as predicted anyway. Those of a certain age will have grown up with the notion that by the year 2000, we would have human colonies on the Moon and that we'd be piloting egg-shaped flying cars. But nobody predicted the internet, the iPhone, or that we'd still be crawling along crumbling roads in egg-shaped SUVs burning diesel or carrying half-a ton of batteries.

Has the Government's shock announcement to bring forward the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered vehicles - as well as hybrids - to 2035 or even earlier caused concern and disruption to your future forecourt development plans?