BRC calls on Osborne to boost the high street

ossyThe British Retail Consortium (BRC) has laid down the gauntlet to George Osborne, urging him to use the budget to save the flagging high street.

The organisation has said that changes such as freezing business rates and cutting bureaucracy could go some way to helping the high street recover, after a tough couple of years.

Yesterday, a separate report by the Local Data Company (LDC) found that the percentage of empty shops in the country’s 650 most popular high streets nationally hit 14.2 percent – roughly 35,500 vacant properties – in December.

Analysts also warned that this number could rise as a result of big brands such as HMV and Jessops going into administration.

Now the BRC has waded into the ongoing crisis demanding that something is done. It said in a report, written in partnership with Oxford Economics, that the retail industry made an “essential contribution” to investment, jobs and growth.

However, operating costs within this industry have risen by a fifth since 2006 and it is centrally-driven costs that have risen most rapidly.

Costs of doing business are claimed to have increased by 21 percent to £20 billion since 2006, while annual operating costs have shot up by from £96 billion to £116 billion, the BRC said.

However, it pointed out that over the same period retailers sales values increased by just 12 percent meaning that the industry faced job losses and store closures.

In its submission, ahead of next month’s budget, the BRC has now said the Chancellor must intervene to support jobs and growth. It wants to see business rates frozen in April 2013 as well as utility bills cut, which the company said will help businesses stay on premesis.

A ‘One in, Two Out’ regulation, which is said to ensure any regulations being scrapped in one sector are replaced with new rules is also being pushed.

The organisation also wants to see a central coordination on implementation of the Portas Review recommendations.

HP’s Whitman brings cheers to its channel

Meg Whitman, photo by Mike MageeMeg Whitman, president and CEO of HP opened up her keynoting at the global partner event here in Las Vegas by stressing the importance of the channel. “I love the channel,” she said. “You are a huge part of our success and a huge part of our future.  “I want to provide an update to HP’s strategy and growth, demonstrate our commitment to the channel and to make it more profitable for the channel to do business with Hewlett Packard.”

“The last couple of years at Hewlett Packard haven’t been easy,” she said. But HP is turning itself round. “We know what needs to get done and we’re doing it.”  Last year she laid out a four year plan for Hewlett Packard. “My management team needed to come together with a realistic view of what we needed to do and what we needed to change.”

2014 will mean a recovery and the basis for future expansion, she said. “You won’t have to wait until 2015 to see progress. You will see the results this year. In 2013 we are on a very strong financial footing. Last year HP generated $10.6 billion of cash flow from operations. That’s more operating cash flow than Coca Cola, Disney and Fedex. A company with $10.6 billion in cash flow is a force to be reckoned wth.”

One of the biggest problems HP has had in the last few years has been churn in top management, she admitted.  HP has taken some of its old HR systems and revised them. Last year HP invested more in R&D, it launched a new advertising campain, and revised its entire communications and PR strategy.  HP has put an increased focus on the channel, she said.  HP created a party advisory board and surveyed 6,000 channel partners.

That showed HP was too complex to do business with, there are too mny complicated programmes and HP’s tools and processes were hard to navigate, Whitman said. It has implemented a single channel programme.  HP now has a very clear policy about taking business away from the channel and going direct. “This will simply not be tolerated,” she said, raising heavy applause from the channel audience.

“Partners are part of the DNA of Hewlett Packard and are an essential part of our future,” she said.  HP will make it simpler and more consistent to do business with its partners and strengthen trust and loyalty. HP has simplified the management of the channel and will work hand in hand in business growth.  “A fast no is far better than a slow no. A long yes isn’t satisfying either,” she said.

HP will rationalise sales and technical specifications and will simplify the support profile. There will be one partner programme across the whole of HP, she reiterated. HP will implement a simple compensation model generating rebates from the first sale. It will also remove caps and allow an unlimited pay out.  It will put more focus on making its compensation structure clear. There will be a new HP tool to simplify channel business. HP Financial Services will also chip in on the channel front.

She said that HP has a number of products so popular that there is a shortage, such as its storage portfolio and its Elite tablet, aimed at the enterprise market. She said that the leadership across the channel business had the power to do their best now. HP has kept its best and brightest executives but has brought in some new members of the management team.

HP is top on blades, claims HP

hpmanvegasBlades are not expensive, HP said at a briefing here in the amazingly huge Sands Expo centre today.

It has shipped over three million blade systems and vastly outsells Dell and the others, said a man from HP. HP didn’t have very much to say about ARM, so we suspect he is talking about Intel based systems.

HP also claimed at the same press conference it was ahead on the storage front, you’ll be astonished to hear. HP will extend its converged storage portfolio with a couple of new products with a channel exclusive set of stuff called HP Store System and HP Store Virtual. It is all industry standard so basically we are talking about AMD and Intel – not ARM.

Store Virtual is incredibly simple, according to HP. “Because of the power of being HP we can deliver storage with rich data services with ProLiants”.

WLAN is a huge market for HP’s partners, growing 11 percent CAGR. WLAN is worth $4.18 billion, a spokesperson said.  HP claimed to be committed to driving all wireless revenue through its channel partners.  Ninety percent of HPN portfolio goes through the channel. HP Blade systems are worth $37 billion and driven by the channel, it was pointed out.

HP to throw $5.1 billion into the channel

HP, tindall, channel, resellers, sands conference centre, palazzo, venetianAt its Global Partner Conference event here in Sands conference centre in Las Vegas today, HP boldly said it will spend $5.1 billion on the channel, worldwide, in financial year 2013. It will cut out some channel partners.

Dan Tindall, VP of worldwide channel sales (pictured) gave what he described as an overarching account of HP’s Partner One programme on different levels, including alliances and OEM deals.

It will introduce a simplified compensation model with rebates earned from the first units sold, better rewards for specialisations, and rationalised certifications.

“Our compensation model will be easier without gates,” said Tindall. HP will give increased rebates with a “more for more” model.  Expert One is one of HP’s programme – it is cutting own 44 specialisations to 22. HP will cut down the six month model to a three month model for rebates. It will simplify the programme in 2014 fiducial year too.

Tindall said it is improving the software tools for its partners. It will do joint business plans rather than the “ad hoc model” it had before on the MDF (marketing development funds) front. Resellers will be able to close deals faster.

Alliance One is for ISVs and improving it by education, programme certifications and test and development, particularly regarding the cloud, claimed HP. It will build up communities and let ISVs get to HP stuff immediately, online.

HP Autonomy will also simplify, or rather create a partner programme. That will all change. It will have one programme across all partners.  HP is at a point where the next phase of growth is partners, who give it reach into customers. Autonomy programmes were too complicated. HP Autonomy will follow the HP model and move it channel wise before 2018.

The worldwide programme will roll out on the 1st of May. HP sees no distinction between resellers in any territory.

4G adoption rates in UK remain sluggish

EE-4GEE-logoEverything Everywhere launched Britain’s first 4G network in late October last year and it seemed like it was off to a modest start. However, it now appears that the number of early adopters was remarkably low.

EE shed more light on the number of customers in its quarterly earnings report, but it did not break down the figures to distinguish between 3G and 4G users. In spite of that, the numbers look bleak. EE added just 201,000 postpaid 3G/4G customers in Q4 2012, down from 250,000 in Q3 and 313,000 in Q4 2011.

HP rumoured in partner margin strategy, T&C tinkering

HPHP may be hatching plans that will change the the way its resellers operate.

According to sources familiar with HP’s channel, the company could shortly be exerting pressure on resellers to shift towards higher serviced sales for the juicier rewards. There have been whispers elsewhere that the company could be making changes to its licensing terms and conditions.

However,it is unknown to what extent the rumoured changes will be rolled out.

We have heard that HP plans to make very subtle changes that could have a larger impact.

One reseller, speaking under condition of anonymity, told ChannelEye that HP is always quietly changing its T&Cs, and that channel partners have to stay vigilant as most of the time they are hidden in newsletters or buried on the company’s website.

There hasn’t been “any huge clarity on this” or any “huge pieces of information”, the reseller said.

Another said that it would not be an enormous surprise. “Suddenly we’ll see a change in our billing and when we query it we’ll be told that it was made public at this point or that point,” the source said.

While unaware of any specific change in corporate policy, another reseller added that “another change” would not be welcome, however, they would have to “go with it” and “hope there aren’t any more nasty surprises”.

Top-down decision making for the channel could also impact partners’ annual strategies, with one reseller telling ChannelEye that a proposed change would not have been “put into consideration for the year ahead” and, if true, could mean partners “end up earning less than anticipated”.

At the time of going to press, ChannelEye has approached HP for comment. A spokesperson said it is looking into the matter.

Empty stores make themselves known on the highstreet

highstreetEmpty shops still continue to plague the high street and recent administrations could mean an increase in vacant stores, a report has found.

According to the Local Data Company (LDC) the percentage of empty shops in the country’s 650 most popular high streets nationally hit 14.2 percent in December. That is roughly 35,500 vacant properties.

It was a sorrier story in shopping centres with the company claiming the empty shop  figure rose to 15.6 percent.

However, Clive Longbottom, a retail analyst at Quocirca warned that the figure could be much higher than the report said.

“A lot of the occupancy levels over the December period will have been temporary, with Xmas card and trash gift stores taking a one-month tenancy to shift stuff as quickly as they can, ” he told ChannelEye. “You also have new ideas being tried – is the “play a piano” store, where a piano has been put into an empty shop and anyone can go in and play it, an occupied store, or is it an unoccupied store that just happens to be used for something else?”

“Is the move away from the shopping malls to the high street one based on rates on the high street being lower, landlords being hungrier for cash and lowering rents, an artifact of shorter rental periods, or a sign that councils have more control over the high street and trying to do the Mary Portas stuff over a short period of time?”

LDC shared similar concerns claiming that as a result of top chains, including Blockbuster, HMV and Republic, going to high street heaven, this figure could rise to around one in six – or 17 percent – of stores being empty later this year.

Longbottom added: “The only way that we will see a true picture is to take a longer term view. The general view of the retail market at the moment is that we can expect to see a lot more failures over the coming months.

“There is not the capacity to replace all the Comets, Jessops, JJBs, HMVs, Blockbusters and so on that are disappearing,” Longbottom said. “A few will go to others as some of the Blockbusters stores have been taken by Morrisons, but overall, we can expect the longer term view to be more empty premises, more boarded up shops, a less appealing look to the retail centres of the UK.”

LDC said the vacancies had also been brought about by the growth of retail parks and the growth of online shopping. A lack of consumer spending was also blamed for the demise.

However, it seems the loyalties of the public are more on the side of the small shop – with the report suggesting Britain favours independent retailers rather than chains.

Insurers should cash in on tech-obsessed Brits

howardbrownHalifax has unveiled its Insurance Digital Home Index report which claims that a large majority of the UK population would find it tough to revert to a life without smartphones, laptops, and MP3 players – even for one day.

According to the report, 35 million, or 74 percent of the UK checks its emails and social networks before work in the morning. A fifth prefers using the phone or social media rather than face to face interaction, the research claims. Halifax grapped psychologist Dr Aric Sigman, who has previously loudly said in the media that parents should cut kids’ screen time, to say by the age of seven years, the average child will have spent one full year of 24 hour days watching screens.

“By the time they reach 80 they will have spent almost 18 years of 24 hour days watching non-work related screen technology,” Sigman said.

While Sigman warns that the “over-use” of technology is having an effect on all age groups, he asserts that young people in particular will be going through a change in the way we interact. “We have to remind ourselves that technology should be a tool, not a burden or obstruction,” he said.

A compelling argument for introducing sporting items such as the cricket bat to the family telly, you might think. Martyn Foulds, senior claims manager at Halifax, said such arguments are the reason more people should insure their electronics. According to the report, roughly one in 10 lack insurance for their technology items – creating a “potential £32 billion insurance black hole”.

“It’s surprising that despite high investment and heavy reliance on technology, people are still willing to risk losing their items and digital content by failing to ensure they have adequate insurance cover,” Foulds said. “With almost one in five people not insuring their items, this leaves the UK overwhelming exposed to the tune of £32 billion on gadgets alone”.

Although an anecdotal straw-poll conducted by ChannelEye asserted that there is a pervasive viewpoint of insurance as an extortionate wheeze based on fear, Foulds has a point for insurers who want to diversify their portfolio and bring in new revenue streams.

With, according to the report, 35 million people in the UK placing a daily reliance on technology, that is a large section of the public to sell insurance to. Almost a quarter of the UK, Halifax says, would feel a sense of anxiety without their technology.

An enormous 96 percent of the UK population carry their mobiles with them outside the home, while 9 million take their MP3 players with them, and 20 million use their digital cameras away from the home.

As entrenched as technology is, then, insurers should be fiercely competing for contracts and convincing cash-strapped and anxious Brits that tech is as vital as home insurance. Having said that, the technology industry moves so quickly it is not long before devices depreciate in price – replaced by newer models that cost more. It is also more difficult to value the worth of a gadget depending on a range of factors: how long until it is redundant or worth merely pennies? All of these questions are reasons why insuring gadgets could turn even more dosh for insurers.

Permanent IT rolls down 12 percent

ukflagThe Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has said that despite some relief in unemployment from the Office for National Statistics, in IT, permanent rolls have plunged more than 12 percent while temporary vacancies dropped almost seven percent.

The body said that year on year, to December 2012, there has been a fall of almost ten percent in permanent and temporary vacancies. IT professionals, if they can find the work, are increasingly doing temporary assignments, at 6.5 percent growth year on year.

Chief exec of APSCo, Ann Swain, said in a statement that the wider economic picture isn’t helping. Employers themselves don’t have the cash nor confidence to invest in permanent hires.

“However,” Swain pointed out, “recent data from the PMI Index has revealed that the services sector, which accounts for more than three quarters of economic output, has returned to growth”.

This, Swain said, makes her “bullish” about the first quarter of 2013 “from a hiring perspective”.

A skills shortage has been looming as well, according to a 2012 report from eSkills UK.  Employers were, at the time, looking for ICT managers, strategy, and planning professionals, as well as technical skills in SQL, C, C#, .NET and Java. But APSCo’s point is that with the uncertain economic backdrop, even companies who need permanent workers are worried that they will not be able to afford them.

How Intel’s NUC is the thin end of the wedge

intel-nuc-minipc-designIntel is slowly expanding the distribution of its Next Unit of Computing (NuC) product which first appeared last year.

NUC is essentially a box with a motherboard inside and is designed for resellers who want to create highly customised machine builds for everything from home PCs to digital signage.

There are four basic SKUs built around the Core i3 processor inside a 4” x 4” x 2” box.

Lately Intel dumped them into its New Zealand channel which is tiny in comparison to the UK, but is an indication of how seriously the company is taking the product. Nearly 1,000 of its reseller partners have been hit to sign up to NUC.

The message that Intel wants to send is that NUC is here to stay and the outfit has an impressive roadmap for the programme. We should see Core i5 and Core i7 processor based NUCs coming out later in 2013, and better modulations for different customer segments.

This means that resellers can package them in the business segment or the consumer segment and badge them accordingly.

A basic unit ships for US$319, and includes Thunderbolt, HDMI and USB ports and options for other processors reported coming out in other markets, which will ship at a lower cost.

From Intel’s perspective this is a clever product which effectively locks in resellers to a standard pattern which it controls. From the resellers’ point of view it makes for a much easier assembly particularly for those at the low and medium end of the market. It also shuts out those motherboard makers who are not key Intel partners.

But there are obvious downsides. Companies will have to start emphasising more nebulous differences like customer service or repairs as a way of hooking customers.

Commodisation of products means that resellers have less ability to swap parts to differentiate their products and any reconfiguration will be a specialised business.

It will require specially trained sales teams who listen to what customers want rather than try and sell them the same sort of box their rivals will be trying to flog them. To do this a sales person will actually need to understand a customer’s business and carry out a lot more detailed site work.

Intel is becoming more interested in the commoditisation of its products. In fact, there is talk of further merging of graphics and CPU chips which has the advantage, for Intel, of making it uneconomic to buy a rival’s graphics card.

This will lead many resellers wondering if it is worthwhile staying an Intel partner, as they can instantly differentiate themselves by going to AMD, or even ARM, combinations.

AMD rallies hacks in Radeon update

amdhq1AMD felt it necessary to get European and American journalists on the blower for a conference call today to clear up what it said were misconceptions about upcoming graphics cards, on the back of delay rumours.

Darren McPhee, director of graphics product marketing for AMD worldwide, told a conference call that there had been a lot of “misconception” and “confusion” about Sea Islands, which he said is a codename for notebook and desktop products this year, with the priority resting with the OEM notebook business side.

He asserted that there will be more Sea Islands products this year including in the Radeon 8000 series. Rumours had been flying around that AMD would be putting off more in that range until perhaps as late as next year.

In terms of performance, AMD said its cards are the fastest on the planet.

McPhee boasted that the 7000 series is still strong and that in the first half of this year, there will be additions to that product family as well.

 

Digital advertising revenues on the up

poundsUK publishers are showing more confidence in the future, with the Association of Online Publishers (AOP)  releasing information from its membership pool.  According to the AOP, digital advertising revenues grew 12 percent in the last quarter of 2012.

Classified, display and online video are all benefiting from the boost, the AOP said. Publishers are expected to concentrate less on cost cutting and more on growing revenues, the organisation said.

Head of research Tim Cain said that while the market is still tough, digital media owners have shown optimism for the past five quarters.

Of those canvassed, 63 percent said that launching new products or entering new markets is a high  priority in the next year.

The survey is jointly produced by the AOP and Deloitte.

Computerlinks becomes B2B Kaspersky distie

kasperskylogoDistributor Computerlinks has won a contract to sell Kaspersky Lab’s portfolio with a view to drive growth in the B2B market.

Kaspersky hopes this strategy will boost the company’s routes to market as well s increasing its presence in the UK. Computerlinks will offer channel partners Kaspersky’s Endpoint Security for Business as a key asset in its security portfolio.

Endpoint Security for Business lets companies both control and protect on site devices as well as cutting resource demands on IT teams, bringing mobile device management, data protection, systems management, and endpoint under one management console.

Director for B2B sales and marketing at Kaspersky Lab, Matthew Robinson, said that Computerlinks’ experience in value-add will prove “invaluable” to customers and channel partners.

He added that Kaspersky’s new strategy, which focuses on a full value model running along with the existing volume business, will keep Kaspersky “at the forefront of the evolving channel landscape”.

Computerlinks’ director of core technologies, David Caughtry, said that the deal is part of Kaspersky’s “exciting stage of growth”.

PayPal and Google to cash in as mobile payments go mainstream

google-walletMobile payments are slowly but surely going mainstream. Mass adoption of smartphones and tablets is making the dream of fully digital wallets a reality and it is opening new possibilities for traditional banks, credit card companies and net-based payment services.