LeapZipBlog: Shinji

Shinji's blog

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Retail experts share insights on innovations at Maine business forum

January 24, 2019 by Shinji  

Retail is one of the foundations of Maine’s economy. Three of the top five employers in the state are retailers, and sales tax accounts for 40 percent of the state undedicated revenue stream (second only to income taxes from individuals).

Yet how people buy things is changing, and wholesale birgin hair retailers that want to remain viable are innovating to keep existing customers and attract new ones.

Three retail and product review sites experts shared their insights on how their companies are dealing with challenges and strategizing for new customers:

• Matthew Bray, a Brunswick native, is head of Community Happiness for Grove Collaborative, a San Francisco-based, certified B-Corp that is an e-commerce platform for consumer package goods, which sells exclusively natural products. The company employs 50 people in Greater Portland, but expects to expand to 75 by April.

• Julie Libby is vice president of Fresh, Hannaford Supermarkets. In addition to overseeing departments that include fresh produce, meat/seafood, deli and bakery, she is involved in procurement and replenishment of product, development of merchandising strategies and sales development. Her scope of responsibility is across Hannaford’s 181 stores and numerous competitive marketing areas.

• Greg Elder is vice president of drop shipping shopify, Outdoor Discovery Program and L.L. Bean for Business for L.L. Bean. He oversees L.L.Bean’s 43 retail and 10 outlet stores spread across 18 states with a focus on store operations, visual presentation and customer experience.

Among the panelists’ takeaways:

The goal is to deliver a high-quality wholesale nail supplies and product to a customer with ease

In that vein, all three companies are experimenting with new ways to enhance customer experiences. For instance, L.L., Bean is testing new, smaller concept stores in three different markets. In Park City, Utah, the gateway to the national parks in the West, the 8,000-square-foot store is geared toward tourists headed for outdoor adventures; in its test store in New Haven, Connecticut, home of Yale University, the store’s inventory and programs are geared toward college students; and in the Seaport section of Boston, it is customized for the urban buyer. The idea is to customize shopping in a way that engages customers — wherever you find them — with the outdoors.

At Hannaford, its Forest Avenue store is a learning laboratory. Shoppers there can pick up certain items off a shelf and read a monitor displaying qualities about those products. Video displays on refrigerated cases offer details on products inside. More broadly, a customer can place an order online through the store’s Hannaford To Go program and then pick it up at one of 56 locations.

Reach out to customers in whatever way they prefer

At Grove Collaborative, staff work social media channels, tapping influencers on platforms like Facebook to spread the word about their sustainable products.

“The biggest challenge for us is to get that second purchase,” said Bray.

Elder said as a more than 100-year-old company, L.L. Bean is committed to engaging customers however they prefer — in-store, online, on the phone and even ordering from its historic catalog, which it plans to continue. He said in April of 2020, the company expects to roll out new point-of-sale technology that will allow a customer to shop in whatever way they prefer with equal ease. That will give customers “lots of options,” he said.

Be authentic

As a B-Corp company, Grove Collaborative has to prove that it adheres to the highest sustainability standards. That means in addition to selling only natural and sustainably-sourced products, it does things like buy carbon offsets to compensate for the fossil fuels it consumes delivering packages to customers.

It tries to bring that awareness to all its customers.

“Conscientious choices are not just for the few,” Bray said, echoing Grove’s corporate mantra.

Keep the customer at the center of every decision

Libby said Hannaford will continue to invest in gathering customer feedback, since that information informs product selection, store locations, services etc. The company already uses customer surveys, digital data, rewards programs, but also accompanies shoppers as they browse the aisles to capture reactions and responses.

As the company deals with the physical constraints of bricks and mortar, there will likely be smaller stores, she said, heightening the importance of understanding what a customer wants.

The cost of acquiring new customers continues to go up

An example: both Hannaford and L.L. Bean have installed electric vehicle charging stations as a way to attract new customers and accommodate existing ones with electric vehicles.

The retail industry is struggling to understand tech

January 21, 2019 by Shinji  

Tens of thousands of wholesale brands and tech professionals descended on New York this week for the National Retail Federation's Big Show, an annual industry confab where exhibitors show off new innovations and the crowd collectively scoffs at the idea of any kind of looming wholesale patches apocalypse. The great sport of the event is wandering the rows of booths and trying to separate the fanciful from the legitimately useful.

As always, there were some displays that were eye-catching but left me underwhelmed. I'm thinking, for example, of an Intel Corp. and Asics interactive shoe display that incorporated a touchscreen on a pedestal to allow a shopper to get more information about the features of  wholesale childrens clothing.

It reminded me a bit of a technology experiment I saw out in the shopping wilds on Black Friday at a Macy's store. A touchscreen showed a video that helps you "discover your fit" among various wholesale leggings. But notice how the analog sign right next to it explains the shirts and their different fits perfectly capably? The screen isn't adding enough value to the customer to make it worthwhile.

Macy's is hardly alone. Innovation that isn't actually an improvement is quite common in wholeasle name brand clothing. That is regularly evident at the Big Show and in plenty of other ways, too. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., for instance, is touting a test of digital cooler doors that can serve targeted ads. Great, just what every shopper has always wanted, to be bombarded with ads when trying to grab a soda.

The Big Show did bring my attention to some innovation that wasn't particularly flashy, but seemed really valuable. One was an "internet-of-things" partnership between Microsoft and Starbucks, through which the coffee chain's brewing machines are outfitted with a small device that contains one of the tech giant's Azure Sphere chips. These chips connect the machines to servers so they can automatically receive new recipes.

Consider how new recipes were distributed until now: Twice a year, Starbucks put the formulations on some 8,000 USB drives and then had regional maintenance technicians visit its stores across the country to plug the drives into the machines. That's incredibly inefficient.

This isn't the kind of novelty that's going to get Starbucks a "60 Minutes" segment (cough, Amazon's drones). And it's not going to wow customers like, say, an in-store robot (Ahem, Giant Food Stores). But this is exactly the kind of innovation makeup companies should be prioritizing.

For one, it remedies an obvious problem: It eliminates the need for a technician to zig-zag all over to do a rote task, and gets rid of the risk of having proprietary recipes floating around on easy-to-lose USB devices. Also, it gives Starbucks real-time data about when the brewing machines need to be serviced, so baristas don't have to take time to make that assessment and call it in. In this way, the project is directly connected to a broader strategic goal at Starbucks, which is to free up store workers to spend more time interacting with customers.

Sadly, many efforts to transform retailing with technology don't have similarly clear utility. Scott Emmon, a former Neiman Marcus Group executive who recently left his post as head of its innovation lab, published an op-ed this this week that captured this dynamic. In his piece for trade publication Business of Fashion, which is titled "Why I'm Leaving Neiman Marcus," he wrote:

"Technology must actually solve a real problem or make things easier for the customer. Internal innovation teams, largely pressured to create PR moments, do not think long term and end up investing in short sighted experiences that have no staying power and don't really add value to the consumer."

He's right: Retailers seem to place too much of a premium on showmanship when charting their innovation course. They must learn to be more strategic in how they deploy their technology budgets and talent. They should go for the projects like the Microsoft-Starbucks one, which has a specific, beneficial outcome, even if it doesn't get oohs and aahs from consumers. (If it's working right, consumers won't even know it is exists.) There are many supply-chain investments, for example, that fit this bill.

As for customer-facing tech innovations, retailers shouldn't get starry-eyed over the stuff that looks like it's from The Jetsons. They should prioritize the things that make their stores and websites more engaging - and more of a breeze for shoppers.

Steven Madden's Strategies & Wholesale Business Bode Well

January 9, 2019 by Shinji  

Steven Madden, Ltd. (SHOO - Free Report) is likely to benefit from solid gains in international markets and strong wholesale clothing business. Also, the company’s e-commerce business is improving significantly. In addition to this, its focus on enhancing product portfolio is commendable.

All these factors helped the company to deliver robust third-quarter 2018 results, wherein the company continued with its positive earnings streak. Also, both the top and bottom line grew year over year. Moreover, management provided an encouraging full-year sales and earnings projection.

In a month’s time, this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock has gained approximately 12% compared with its industry’s 3.4% growth. Let’s delve deeper.

Factors Driving Steven Madden’s Performance

Steven Madden is focusing on expanding its business globally. In the third quarter, the company saw 24% revenue growth worldwide. Its directly-owned subsidiaries in Canada and Mexico, SM Europe JV and the distributor business also posted solid results. Backed by strategic investments, the company expects international business to sustain its momentum. The company is optimistic about growth in the Middle East, Italy and India as well. In fact, Steven Madden expects Asia to be a major contributor to net sales.

Further, the company’s wholesale business witnessed sturdy performance during the third quarter, wherein net sales rose 3.1%, reflecting gain from wholesale accessories business. Notably, net sales in wholesale clothes business climbed on the back of Steve Madden handbags and private label accessories business, including contribution from Anne Klein handbags and new license. Also, the company’s Steve Madden handbag and special make up businesses continue to gain traction.

Following the third-quarter performance, the company raised its lower end of expected net sales growth from 5-7% to 6-7% for the full year. The company envisions full-year adjusted earnings in the range of $1.76-$1.78, mirroring an improvement from $1.49 in 2017. Notably, the company’s projection includes a negative impact of 2 cents due to imposition of tariffs on hand bags and other accessories.

Although rising operating expenses, stiff competition and concerns related to trade war remain major concerns. Imposition of tariffs on additional consumer goods imported from China is likely to undermine business prospects of the company. This is because a greater percentage of the company’s handbags are made in China. However, to lower its dependency on China, Steven Madden is contemplating to shift more of its handbag production to Cambodia.

Nevertheless, Steven Madden’s sturdy performance in wholesale business provides visibility for impressive growth in the future and might drive the stock higher. .This is further supported by the company’s long-term earnings growth rate of 10.7%.

3 Stocks to Watch

G-III Apparel Group, Ltd. (GIII - Free Report) outperformed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a wide margin in the trailing four quarters. It has a long-term earnings growth rate of 15% and a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Lululemon Athletica Inc. (LULU - Free Report) delivered average positive earnings surprise of 19.5% in the trailing four quarters. It has a long-term earnings growth rate of 19.3% and a Zacks Rank #2.

Under Armour, Inc. (UAA - Free Report) delivered average positive earnings surprise of 27.1% in the trailing four quarters. It has a long-term earnings growth rate of 22.8% and a Zacks Rank #2.

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Kiwi clothing brand signs deal with retail giant Oakley

December 17, 2018 by Shinji  

Robert Wilson started his brands when he was 21. Fast forward 16 years, he has patented a camouflage print and inked a deal with retail giant Oakley.

What does your business do?

We design hunting and fly fishing equipment and dress materials wholesale it throughout New Zealand and Australia. We have two brands: Hunters Element which is the much bigger side of the business and Riverworks which is fly fishing.

Our product is sold in hunting and fishing shops in New Zealand, and some of the general sporting goods stores in more rural areas. In Australia we are dealing with sporting goods store, and a lot more gun shops. Riverworks came first but they were both done at very similar times. It's a very seasonal business and we've been around 16 years now.

What was the motivation?

When I was 21 I was working at a hunting and fishing retail store in Wellington and I could see a lot of opportunities out there to make gear, what I thought was better, that focused more on advances in technology.

We wanted to make higher-performing, more comfortable gear. Our gear is generally all apparel-based, jackets, clothing and footwear, and I see it as my job to keep people warm and dry and comfortable in their experiences in the outdoors.

How has your business changed in the past 16 years?

Retail has changed a lot. The clothing category in these stores has grown significantly. The retail market that we're in is pretty buoyant and is a growth market. The one thing that we've seen out there and has been very successful for us is the sustainability promise and the moves we've made in that direction.

What are you doing in the sustainability space?

We did a full company-wide audit to review all aspects from production, factories and packaging, and this last season we have removed most of the plastic packaging from all our products. So far, we've removed 59,000 plastic bags which is a pretty significant amount of plastic bags. Because we sell a lot of footwear, we go through a lot of cardboard packaging so we've gone non-recycled not-very-easy-to-recycle-cardboard coated in plastics to recycled packaging that can be composted, and so far we've saved 3.4 tonnes of card.

Fishing seasons have changed, fish don't run at the same time they used to, duck shooting season has changed. We started noticing these changes 12 years ago when the fish changed their running patterns in Taupō and I thought: "We're an outdoors company selling gear and we have no idea of what we're doing [to the environment]." Plastic bags and boxes are easy wins but there were some nasty things we found out that we didn't know if we were doing or not doing so after investigating we decided to clean up and push for our industry to clean up its act.

You're targeting the US for expansion - what are your plans for that market?

The US is the market that we're really keen to move into - it's the biggest hunting market in the world. Ultimately, it is to open up in the US under our own umbrella; we would go in at wholesale items from china level and online. I've been working on it very closely but I just found out my wife's having twins so I'm probably going to push the plan out by a couple of years. I was working on 2020 but it's now going to go out to 2021. We have a camouflage licensing arm of the business and we license that to very large hunting brands in Europe who use the pattern.

You recently signed a deal with Oakley, tell me about that?

That deal is under our camouflage licensing arm, Dissolve Camouflage. Oakley saw this camouflage pattern that we are doing and they thought it looked pretty cool and they bought a film and dipped their sunglasses in it, so you can buy Oakley sunglasses with our camo pattern on them. It's pretty cool to be dealing with a huge, incredible brand like Oakley. The deal isn't worth a huge amount as they bought the film - it's more a cool win than a big dollar win.

What are your plans for the New Year?

Last year we launched a huge range of gear and this year coming we have a number of new pieces coming up to complement them, and a continued push forward on our urban everyday wear - we have new pieces of those to launch also.

What advice do you give to others wanting to start their own business?

Get out and do it, and make sure you enjoy it.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Public School Empls Retrmt SYS Lowers Holdings in PVH Corp

December 3, 2018 by Shinji  

About PVH

PVH Corp. operates as clothing and fashions dropshippers in North America and internationally. The company operates through six segments: Calvin Klein North America, Calvin Klein International, Tommy Hilfiger North America, Tommy Hilfiger International, Heritage Brands Wholesale, and Heritage Brands Retail. It designs, markets, and retails men's and women's apparel and accessories, including branded dress shirts, dresses, suits, neckwear, sportswear, jeans wear, performance and intimate apparel, underwear, swimwear, swim products, handbags, luggage products, footwear, golf apparel, sleepwear and loungewear, eyewear and fragrances, cosmetics, skincare products and toiletries, socks and tights, jewelry, watches, outerwear, small leather goods, and furnishings, as well as other related products.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Public School Empls Retrmt SYS reduced its holdings in shares of PVH Corp (NYSE:PVH) by 22.0% during the 3rd quarter, according to its most recent 13F filing with the SEC. The fund owned 6,295 shares of the textile maker’s stock after selling 1,772 shares during the period. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Public School Empls Retrmt SYS’s holdings in PVH were worth $909,000 as of its most recent filing with the SEC.

A number of other institutional investors have also modified their holdings of PVH. CIBC Asset Management Inc lifted its stake in shares of PVH by 4.1% in the 2nd quarter. CIBC Asset Management Inc now owns 8,451 shares of the textile maker’s stock worth $1,265,000 after acquiring an additional 333 shares during the period. IFP Advisors Inc lifted its stake in shares of PVH by 9.0% in the 2nd quarter. IFP Advisors Inc now owns 4,760 shares of the textile maker’s stock worth $713,000 after acquiring an additional 395 shares during the period. Penserra Capital Management LLC lifted its stake in shares of PVH by 16.5% in the 3rd quarter. Penserra Capital Management LLC now owns 2,944 shares of the textile maker’s stock worth $425,000 after acquiring an additional 416 shares during the period. Lido Advisors LLC lifted its stake in shares of PVH by 26.8% in the 2nd quarter. Lido Advisors LLC now owns 2,062 shares of the textile maker’s stock worth $308,000 after acquiring an additional 436 shares during the period. Finally, Redpoint Investment Management Pty Ltd lifted its stake in shares of PVH by 4.2% in the 2nd quarter. Redpoint Investment Management Pty Ltd now owns 10,945 shares of the textile maker’s stock worth $1,639,000 after acquiring an additional 439 shares during the period. 97.93% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors.

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Shares of NYSE PVH opened at $110.51 on Friday. The jewelry dropshippers usa have a quick ratio of 0.78, a current ratio of 1.72 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.52. PVH Corp has a 52 week low of $106.63 and a 52 week high of $169.22. The stock has a market capitalization of $8.42 billion, a P/E ratio of 13.92, a P/E/G ratio of 0.94 and a beta of 0.92.

PVH (NYSE:PVH) last announced its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, November 29th. The textile maker reported $3.21 EPS for the quarter, beating the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $3.14 by $0.07. PVH had a net margin of 7.20% and a return on equity of 13.07%. The firm had revenue of $2.52 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $2.53 billion. During the same quarter last year, the business earned $3.02 earnings per share. The business’s revenue for the quarter was up 7.1% compared to the same quarter last year. As a group, research analysts anticipate that PVH Corp will post 9.27 EPS for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Friday, December 21st. Shareholders of record on Wednesday, November 28th will be issued a dividend of $0.0375 per share. The ex-dividend date is Tuesday, November 27th. This represents a $0.15 annualized dividend and a yield of 0.14%. PVH’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is currently 1.89%.

Several analysts have recently commented on the stock. Goldman Sachs Group upgraded shares of PVH from a “sell” rating to a “neutral” rating and reduced their target price for the stock from $142.00 to $130.00 in a research note on Friday, November 9th. Zacks Investment Research cut shares of PVH from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note on Tuesday, August 21st. Credit Suisse Group reduced their target price on shares of PVH from $185.00 to $150.00 and set an “outperform” rating for the company in a research note on Monday, November 19th. Piper Jaffray Companies set a $150.00 target price on shares of PVH and gave the stock a “buy” rating in a research note on Friday. Finally, ValuEngine upgraded shares of PVH from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note on Wednesday, October 17th. Six analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating, fifteen have given a buy rating and one has issued a strong buy rating to the stock. PVH currently has a consensus rating of “Buy” and a consensus price target of $161.10.

B2B E-Commerce Expert Brandon Spear Shares Trends

November 29, 2018 by Shinji  

Today’s business world is one of rampant change. While technology is driving much of this disruption, evolving customer expectations are dramatically altering the face of the financial services, payments and fintech industries.

As we move through the second half of 2018 and into 2019, B2B e-commerce expert Brandon Spear, president of MSTS, a global B2B payment and credit solutions provider, shares with PaymentsJournalreaders several insights and perspectives he believes will impact fintech in the near future.

What do you see as the leading fintech trend this year?

The leading trend is clearly the “Amazon effect”. With 100 million Amazon Prime members, a strong foothold into the smart speaker category and a deservedly solid reputation for customer service, what industry isn’t impacted by the “Amazon effect?” With reports saying the company is talking to banks about Amazon-branded checking accounts, financial services institutions and the payments industry are the newest members of the B2C ecosystem that are worried about Amazon. Millions of people already trust Amazon to facilitate their payments, so it is only natural to wonder whether Amazon is a large enough community that it does not need traditional credit cards at all. Could we see a credit card that works exclusively at Amazon?

How will the B2B market be impacted in the coming months?

You’ll see more “consumerization” of B2B purchasing in the next 6-18 months. Every employee is a consumer, and as many of them – particularly Millennials – hit the workforce, they are wondering why B2B purchasing is so complicated. While it’s true that B2B purchases are more complex than B2C purchases, with more approvals and procedures that need to be followed, this is not an acceptable excuse to not make the experience as frictionless as possible. In 2018, many payment and fintech companies are working hard to meet this challenge, though few have been able to produce a true consumer-like experience for business customers.

What can incumbent companies do to ward off threats from fintech startups and still be relevant in the marketplace?

The go-to answer for many has been to partner with or buy startups, and the financial services and payments

fintech executives said their goal was to partner with established players rather than challenge them.

industries are no different. Every major company now has an innovation lab, or similar structure, that allows for partnerships with up-and-coming tech firms. This seems to be a mutually beneficial arrangement with startups gaining access to capital, customers and potentially new markets and the incumbents gaining experience in the new fintech world. In a recent poll, 75 percent of fintech executives said their goal was to partner with established players rather than challenge them.

Will the move to a cashless society continue to affect the market?

consumer transactions last year were via credit cards

Consumers are continuing to move ever-closer to going totally cashless. In fact, there are places in the world like Scandinavia that already are cashless. It would seem the U.S. is headed in the same direction. Some 80 percent of consumer transactions last year were via credit cards especially spend on dropship phone cases. Among younger consumers, Venmo and Square’s Cash app are gaining traction, although smartphone-based purchases still only account for around 1 percent of the volume. We expect that momentum for a cashless society to build further as we move into 2019.

Is there a technology that you feel threatens or holds tremendous promise for the industry?

Blockchain is a consequential technology that will benefit our industry. As a distributed ledger that is said to be tamper-proof, Blockchain is best known as the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Interestingly, Blockchain’s more lasting impact may be as a means of preserving long-term agreements that don’t change frequently. A prime example is titles or deeds of sale. If you buy a house, you will spend hundreds of dollars for title searches and if you get a mortgage, title insurance too. If your title is stored safely in a blockchain, you can save a lot of money to retrieve it or change it. Currently, Blockchain is a promising technology but its actual use cases are still evolving and it requires wholesale adoption to truly become transformative. However, we do see its use growing in financial services and payments in the coming years.

Overall, where do you see for the future of the fintech, financial services and payments market headed?

The overarching trend for these industries is related to user experience, choice and convenience. Financial services and payments is a means to an end, be it buying a replacement laptop dropshippers at work or buying a new television set. If we as an industry can find a way to remove the barriers, bring the consumer experience to the business world and use technology wisely to earn the trust and meet or exceed consumer expectations – then I see a bright future ahead for the industry.

'Significant' warning for Birmingham's historic markets after Brexit

November 24, 2018 by Shinji  

Birmingham's historic drop shipping wholesalers and markets are set for significant disruption after Brexit, it has been revealed.

Traders are only just getting used to their new £50m facility in Witton after they were relocated from the city centre Smithfield site earlier this year.

But now they have been warned they could be due for upheaval after the UK leaves the European Union, because of the implications for perishable foods and potential restriction of movement for lorry drivers.

There would likely be knock-on effects for the scores of restaurants, hotels, takeaways and retailers supplied by the market, which was first established in the twelfth century.

It has come following the long-awaited release of the Brexit impact report for Birmingham and the West Midlands.

What does the Brexit report say about Birmingham's markets?

The report reveals that the wholesale websites, which is the largest integrated market in the country, welcomes 400 HGVs a day, of which nearly one in five (19 per cent) are from the EU.

Outside of the UK the market gets most of its fruit and vegetables from the Netherlands as well as Spain and Italy, while fish comes in from France and Belgium supplies meat and animal products.

Traders could be faced with the challenge of having to stockpile food while the drivers may need to jump through hoops just to get into the country.

The impact report states: "With 400 goods vehicles arriving at the Wholesale Market nightly, there could be significant vulnerabilities to disruption after Brexit, with a just in time supply chain operation in the UK, holding between three and five-days stock at one time – as obviously fresh produce has a limited shelf life.

"Disruptions at the border would be a significant issue for fresh produce providers, but also the supply of labour from the EU – both in the UK agricultural industry and the logistics industry."

"Will we need to stockpile perishable foods?'

Lloyd Broad, head of European and international affairs at Birmingham City Council, admitted that the consequences for the market outlined in the report had come as a surprise.

He said: "The case study (for the markets) links to the customs arrangements, it is also linked to the status of EU nationals, whether they are permanent, semi-permanent or have temporary access visas.

"We have 400 vehicles coming into the wholesale markets daily, and one in five (19pc) are from the EU.

"They're bringing in things like foods, so there are issues about their ability to bring that in, the issue around just in time, and the frictionless or not borders.

"Will we need to stockpile perishable foods? It is not that easily done when you get fresh fruit and vegetables coming in to the markets every day.

"That is something local people will resonate with, because it is on their doorstep, they see it, that is one area that was a surprise for us.

"We hadn't quite appreciated something that we see and that is there on our doorstep, would be so dependent on the free-flow of lorries and goods coming over the borders on a daily basis."

Deputy council leader Cllr Brigid Jones (Lab, Bournbrook and Selly Oak) added: "If you think of the people who drive those lorries and their visa situation, at present in order to settle in the UK you need to have an income over a certain threshold and so on.

"You would need a whole new set of arrangements to make sure people who make frequent short trips to the UK, to drive from Dover to Birmingham essentially, are able to do that, let alone what it's in their lorry."

Brexit, Italy, Trade Talks and Policy Meeting Minutes in Focus

November 19, 2018 by Shinji  

On the Macro

For the Dollar . Stats for the week ahead include October housing sector data on Tuesday and Wednesday, along with October durable goods orders numbers, the weekly jobless claims and finalized November consumer sentiment numbers due out on Wednesday, with November's prelim private sector PMI numbers on Friday to also provide direction. Outside of the stats, Trade talks, FOMC member commentary and geo-political risk in Europe will also influence. It's a shortened week with the Thanksgiving holidays. The Dollar Spot Index ended the week down 0.49% to $96.427.

For the EUR , Key stats for the week ahead include prelim consumer confidence figures out of the Eurozone on Thursday and November's prelim private sector PMI numbers due out on Friday, with china wholesale inflation numbers out of Germany unlikely to have a material impact on Tuesday. Outside of the stats, the ECB policy meeting minutes and EU Commission decision on Italy will be of greater influence. The EUR/USD ended the week up 0.70% to $1.1415.

For the Pound , Economic data for the week ahead is limited to November CBI Industrial Trend Order numbers on Tuesday that will have a relatively muted impact on the Pound, with BoE governor Carney and the inflation hearings in the spotlight on Tuesday. While Carney and inflation may provide some direction, it will continue to come down to progress on Brexit and Theresa May's survival through the week. The GBP/USD ended the week down 1.06% to $1.2834.

For the Loonie , it's a busier week ahead with September wholesale sales figures to provide some direction ahead of Friday's October inflation and September retail sales figures that will be the key driver through the week. Outside the stats, we can expect some direction from crude oil prices and general market risk appetite. The Loonie ended the week up 0.48% to C$1.3148 against the U.S Dollar.

Out of Asia , it's a quiet week ahead.

For the Aussie Dollar , there are no material stats scheduled for release through the week, leaving the RBA meeting minutes release on Tuesday the main area of focus, though we can U.S - China trade talks and sentiment towards the global economy in general to influence, private sector PMI numbers out of Europe and the U.S to provide some sense of where the economies are heading in the 4 th quarter. The Aussie Dollar ended the week up 1.47% to $0.7332.

For the Japanese yen , key stats through the week are limited to October trade figures on Monday and October inflation figures on Thursday, a trade deficit unlikely to be too alarming following the natural disasters and storms that plagued productivity. The inflation figures are also unlikely to give too many surprises, which should leave the Yen in the hands of risk sentiment. Outside of the numbers, BoJ Governor Kuroda is scheduled to speak at the start of the week. The Japanese Yen ended the week up 0.88% to ¥112.83 against the U.S Dollar.

For the Kiwi Dollar , stats are limited to 3 rd quarter wholesale shoes china inflation numbers due out on Monday that will provide direction, with moves through the rest of the week likely to be hinged on U.S - China trade talks. The Kiwi Dollar ended the week up 2.09% to $0.6878.

Out of China , there are no material stats due out, leaving the markets to focus on trade talks with the U.S.

Geo-Politics

Brexit : The Pound continues to bounce around as Brexit chatter swings from hopes of a deal to no deal, parliament now seeming to be the biggest threat to Britain being able to depart the EU with some form of a deal. We can expect another major move in the Pound in the week ahead. Could the British PM, who took the job that no one wanted, be ousted this week as a threat of a no confidence vote lingers?

U.S - China Trade War : U.S President Trump hints of a possible trade agreement that may well be in everyone's best interest, talks of an agreement likely to boost risk appetite and ease demand for the Greenback, with the recent progress suggesting that the January 2019 tariffs may be put on ice.

Italy : The EU Commission decision on Italy is due on Wednesday and, with the Italian government seemingly unwilling to compromise, could there be sanctions and more that could see yield spreads between German and Italian government bonds break through 400 bps to rock the markets?

Saudi Sanctions : Sanctions on 17 officials linked to Kashoggi's murder were announced last week. It remains to be seen whether that's where it stops, Democrats likely to call for more than a slap on the wrist, particularly if the Crowned Prince is implicated.

Mueller Investigations : Mueller gets the green light from newly appointed acting Attorney General Whitaker to proceed, with the investigation reportedly reaching its final stages, which could give the markets some angst ahead of any final findings release, particularly with the Democrats now running the House.

The Rest

On the monetary policy front , the RBA and ECB monetary policy meeting minutes, due out on Tuesday and Thursday respectively will have an impact on the respective currencies, economic growth prospects for both in question at present, any dovish sentiment and expect a reversal of last week's gains. For the greenback, we can expect some more FOMC member chatter, some dovish comments having crept in of late that has weighed on the Dollar.

Home Business news Sowing the Seeds of Growth: Dundonald Nurseries Unveils £1million Expansion SOWING THE SEEDS OF GROWTH: DUNDONALD NURSERIES UNVEILS £1MILLION EXPANSION

November 15, 2018 by Shinji  

One of Northern Ireland’s largest garden nurseries nestled in the heart of Dundonald has unveiled its newly expanded facilities following a significant investment with support from First Trust Bank.

Dundonald Nurseries’ £1million expansion programme has seen the business increase its garden centre and warehouse capacity, open a new ‘Secret Garden’ gift shop and expand its wholesale sites for nursery offering following investment in industry-leading technology, including automated potting equipment. The company’s ongoing success has seen its workforce expand from three employees in 2013 to 60 employees within the past five years.

Supplying Tesco, the Henderson Group and independent outlets and florists across Northern Ireland, 98% of all the plants sold are grown on-site in Dundonald. Dundonald Nurseries was founded by the McCully family in 1963 as interest in gardening programmes grew. The business quickly diversified into growing plants and cut flowers to keep up with an ever-changing marketplace

The family also run an award winning 125-seat restaurant on site and due to the growing popularity of its gift shop, a 3,000sf expansion was created to facilitate a children’s shop, ladies and gent’s wholesale boutique clothing and an extensive range of gifts, crafts and homewares.

Dundonald Nurseries owner Malcolm McCully explains that their business success is down to diversifying its offering to meet changing customer needs and cultivating long-term relationships with clients and suppliers. He said;

“Having started out with one small van, the wholesale nursery aspect of our business now requires four large lorries to service our wholesale customers across the country, reflecting the focus we have placed on a high-quality service and products.

“Over the past 55 years, the business has expanded steadily because we are continuously innovating to keep up with changing consumer requirements. We are proud of our growth and recently purchased additional land off-site to build a new-state-of the-art glasshouse complex, equipped with the latest growing technology for plants. We also host fashion shows, gardening talks with afternoon tea, and seasonal evenings such as candlelit Christmas suppers – all with a view of making Dundonald Nurseries a destination for a great day out.

“This is just the latest stage in our investment programme and with the support of First Trust Bank, we have additional growth plans in place to renovate the basement of our restaurant into a function room to offer a new private space for hire.”

Speaking about the expansion, Catherine O’Keefe, Business Manager, First Trust Bank added;

“With a focus on quality, provenance and innovation, Dundonald Nurseries continues to thrive, and we are delighted to support Malcolm and his wife Anne through the expansion of the business. The new gift shop and extended garden centre enables the McCully family to offer customers an even greater range of products and services, making the business an asset to the local area – and the perfect destination for Christmas shopping!

“The ongoing expansion programme has led to almost 60 jobs being created in the last five years and it’s great to see a family business become such an inspiring success story. We wish the McCully family the best of luck for the future.”

World’s Largest Wholesale Market Is Shrinking Amid China’s Economic Woes

November 13, 2018 by Shinji  

Yiwu County in Zhejiang Province is part and parcel of China’s reputation as a manufacturing powerhouse.

After all, the small city houses the world’s largest buy wholesale from china market for small commodities, according to official pronouncements by the United Nations and World Bank in 2005.

The Yiwu International Trade City operates like a mega-warehouse, where vendors representing factories from all over China sell their wares—mostly inexpensive household items such as shoes, toys, hardware, and clothing—to customers from around the world.

The 4-million-square-meter (about 43 million square feet) Trade City has room for 75,000 vendors within five shopping districts. But this once hustle-and-bustle hub is now shrinking as more and more merchants exit, vendors told the Chinese-language Epoch Times.

There are various reasons for the decline in business—demonstrated vividly in photos that netizens recently posted online of the Trade City, looking barren and deserted. For one, the Trade City’s second district sent out a notice on Oct. 16 notifying vendors that their rents will be going up.

A jewelry vendor in the Trade City’s fourth district, Ms. Liu, told The Epoch Times that rent is roughly 300,000 yuan (about $43,000) per year for a 20-square-meter (215 square foot) storefront.

“In the jewelry district, for a nice storefront … taxes would be roughly 100,000 yuan [about $14,300]. Business is really hard. It’s been very quiet around here,” she said.

Zhejiang China Commodities City Group Co., the publicly listed company that operates Trade City, released a report in April with the latest numbers: Cash flow from operations declined by 7.5 billion yuan ($1.07 billion) year-on-year.

A business manager in the handicraft industry, who frequently travels to Yiwu for business, told The Epoch Times that a downturn in Yiwu started about three years ago.

“The export volume of small commodities dropped by about 60 percent between 2013 and 2015. It’s mostly because the overall economy wasn’t good. It continued going down. Plus, there were some policies put out by the authorities—and the current trade war, too,” said the business manager, who only identified himself by his surname, Lu.

According to statistics released by Zhejiang China Commodities City Group, the Trade City saw about an average of 1,039 stores close monthly from September 2014 to August 2016, while adding only about 700 new stores during that period.

A former commodities trader, Mr. Chen said business has been lackluster because the Trade City keeps adding vendors who sell similar goods—resulting in overlap.

Meanwhile, a string of government regulations has further restricted business. Last year, Chinese authorities launched a crackdown on environmental pollution by auditing factories across the country.

In August, Zhejiang factories involved in “environmentally impactful” manufacturing activities, such as die-casting, painting, plating, and printing were shuttered in order to comply with government regulations. Because these factories supplied parts to hardware and jewelry vendors, many were forced out of business.

Others believed it was the advent of e-commerce that has rendered the Yiwu Trade City obsolete.

Mr. Ji, who works in the handicraft business, said there were more customers who visited the Yiwu shops to look at goods before e-commerce became a popular platform.

“Now, my old customers all make orders directly through the phone or the computer. It’s no wonder the Trade City is empty these days,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese regime has been pushing policies to upgrade itsmanufacturing sector to produce higher-tech devices, instead of cheap goods.

China wholesale has lost its competitive edge as the “world’s factory” as laborer wages, taxes, property prices, and other production costs increase. Many companies have begun moving their production lines out of China and into Southeast Asia or back home.