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PRODUCT GALLERY What’s new for the New Year

GEORGE COLE GETS CONNECTED Blu-ray: Is it always as good as it claims to be? DAB: the gloves are off. Leading CE writer George Cole raises some serious issues

BUSINESS MATTERS Snow has struck twice in the UK in 2010. What should employers do when their staff can’t make it to work?

FROM THE BENCH Forty years on. How things have changed from when a TV cost the equivalent of £5,000 and the monster CRT was king. Alan Bennett looks back.

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BACKCHAT A special 2-minute interview from someone who has every reason to be optimistic about 2011

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George Cole Gets Connected


Business Matters

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Editorial comment

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The Word

In and around the industry

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The Product Gallery

The Blu-ray quality question and the DAB war of words examined

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The weather caught us unprepared at the beginning and the end of 2010. What should employers do when staff can’t make it in to work?


From the Bench



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Forty years ago a domestic TV – prone to frequent failure and breakdowns and taking up most of the living room - cost the equivalent of £5,000. Alan Bennett looks back and asks were those really “the good old days”? // / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /


Editorial & Publishing Director: Terry Heath Telephone: 01420 88633 terry@gcmagazine.co.uk

Production and Print: Sparta Press, Blackfen, Kent. www.spartapress.co.uk

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Copyright © 2011 Mud Hut Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the publisher. Get Connected is published by Mud Hut Publishing Ltd., Alresford House, 60 West Street, Farnham, Surrey GU9 7EH.

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XMAS / NY ‘10 / ’11

Editor in Chief: Marlinda Conway Telephone: 01420 88633 marlinda@gcmagazine.co.uk

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A 2-minute interview with someone upon whom our futures may depend in 2011




XMAS / NY ‘10 / ’11



t’s been a bad year for fair play, integrity and the British Way of Life. We’ve seen the first criminal conviction of an MP for fiddling expenses. The specific details of this “false accounting” are shameful, and re-emphasise the blatant, cynical and persistent siphoning off of taxpayers’ money for personal benefit by our parliamentary representatives. A game that went on for so long with a nod and a wink from those appointed to police the expenses system. The National Audit Office has refused, for the first time in history, to sign off the House of Commons’ accounts because a quarter of claims were “lacking in documentation,” £14 million has been paid out in expenses that couldn’t be properly accounted for, and £11.3 million of expenditure was incurred on items that the House could not prove were necessary for parliamentary purposes. I don’t know how your company runs its expenses, but if it’s anything like that, “gissa job.” But a new system will take care of that in the future, surely? Ominously, the Prime Minister now appears to be furiously backpedalling on the new expenses regime because his back-benchers are in revolt at its harshness. In the meantime, MPs’ expenses are still costing us – in addition to the salaries and running costs of our democratic institution some £1 million a month. Mr Cameron’s coalition colleague, Mr Clegg, and other Lib Dems who are tasting power for the first time, are also having to explain why election pledges are irrelevant once you’re in the Cabinet. Whether or not you agree with the Lib Dems’ pre-election stance on student fees, the principle they’ve established is clear: even when a politician makes a promise with a written personal pledge and signatures and everything, and has it filmed and photographed for everyone to see in order to gain votes, that same politician, once in power, will have the brass neck to renege, and to patronise us all by citing the “realities” of state office. In other words, it’s a democratic principle that promises made to people you need to help you on the way up don’t have to be honoured once you’ve reached the top. This is not the first time. And it won’t be the last. What short memories we all have. Do you remember, for instance, how adamant our politicians were that reckless,

greedy and incompetent bankers should not any longer be rewarded with “obscene” bonuses in our post-recession taxpayers’ bailout world? Nevertheless, this year’s bankers’ bonus pot is big enough to fund the workers’ wages of a small country. We’ll huff and puff, but nothing will be done about that, either. It’s sad to see, too, that one of the games Britain gave the world is in dire straits globally. FIFA, allegedly (one might even stick one’s neck out and say “probably”) riddled with corruption, has awarded the World Cup to Russia (recently characterised as a “virtual mafia state”.) The UK was knocked out in the first round of voting, having gained just one vote – and that its own. Clearly, FIFA officials were somewhat miffed that we could allow a programme exposing alleged FIFA corruption to be broadcast just before the voting. The message is plain: even if corruption may exist in a global organisation, a democratic country with principles of free speech should prevent its media from examining the evidence or face the consequences. If we were punished by being denied our bid to host the World Cup, the only way it could have been done was by making deals to ensure that enough officials taking part in the “secret” ballot did not cast their votes for us. Smells a little bit like a conspiracy by a corrupt organisation protecting its own. Even if you don’t like football, that’s a hard one to swallow. But there is nothing to be done about it now, and England, like the other proud footballing nations of the world, will no doubt be sending a team to Russia to represent us at FIFA’s global showcase event. It seems that Edmund Burke’s observation, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” is still ringing true in politics, finance and sport. The good business men of the UK’s private sector may well be too busy in 2011 to do anything except get their heads down, work hard, take up the slack left by public sector cuts and lead the country to economic recovery. They’ll take up the challenge, as they always do, and try to bring prosperity, employment and enterprise back. On behalf of the private sector, we’d just like to say: “We can’t do it all. We’ll do our job, but, for once, could all of you others do your jobs, too? The jobs we pay you to do while we’re busy doing what we do best.” Happy New Year.

Marlinda Conway Editor in Chief

Terry Heath Editorial & Publishing Director

Will Dobson Creative Director

James McIntosh Consultant Home Economist

Lynne Henry Communications Officer, GfK Marketing Services

George Cole Consumer Electronics Consultant

Graham Southern Advertising Sales

Average net circulation for the 12 issues distributed between Jan-Dec 2008 is 6,228

¹ register online at www.gcmagazine.co.uk for your FREE copy of Get Connected Magazine

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OFT launches domestic electrical goods review The OFT has launched a review of competition regulation for the sale of domestic electrical goods and is seeking views as to whether it should conduct a market study into warranties and repairs in the sector. It plans to focus on white and brown goods, but not on IT products.

Snow swamps “super Saturday” A second bout of heavy snowfalls across the UK cut retail footfall on “super Saturday” – the last Saturday before Christmas – by 24.3% compared to the same Saturday last year, according to retail research by Synovate. The day is traditionally the biggest of the year for bricks-and-mortar retail outlets.


XMAS / NY ‘10 / ’11

The Synovate survey, conducted among some 6,000 retailers and excluding supermarkets, showed a mixed picture regionally as footfall patterns followed local weather conditions and the ability of local services and businesses to combat them. The West Midlands suffered most, with a 33.1% reduction in footfall compared to 2009; South East England was down 32%; and the capital’s shoppers stayed away from the high street causing a 28.6% reduction in footfall.


The East Midlands fared better with a 3.1% reduction; in North East England the drop was 3.2%; and in Scotland it was just 4%. Scotland, however, in common with much of the North of England, was suffering its second successive weekend of crippling winter weather. Early signs showed that footfall on Sunday 19th did pick up in some areas where roads, car parks and shopping areas could be sufficiently cleared, but shopping was still reported to be “modest” and unlikely to fully compensate traders for the loss of super Saturday. One independent trader on the high street told Get Connected: “This is a really confusing and difficult time because there are so many factors in play. The weather has played havoc with the last Saturday for so many retailers, and that’s not something that can be recouped before Christmas because time has run out for shoppers. We have a website, as do many retailers, but that’s also been affected by having to say deliveries by Christmas can’t be guaranteed because of the weather. “And then there’s the really patchy regional picture. Some places have been hit really hard, while others have got off lightly. It’s all complicated, too, by how much of the downturn in shopper numbers is due to the weather, and how much is a reaction to the expectation of an austere and difficult 2011? Who can untangle all these factors and make anything like a realistic forecast of what’s going to happen next year?”

Knight Vinke still shopping at Kesa Investor Knight Vinke has continued to raise its stake in Comet parent Kesa Electricals. A further 1% was added on Thursday 16 December, bringing ownership of the electrical retailer’s shares to 11.1%. In June this year GC reported that Knight Vinke had secured a 3% stake in Kesa, but sources said then that the investor’s intent was not clear. It had been

mooted that the electrical chain may simply have been recognised as a “value proposition”. Latest speculation, however, is that Knight Vinke is likely to take an activist role to realise a return on its holding, and may press for the sale of Comet, which recorded increased losses, from £1.5 million to £5.4 million, for the half-year to October 2010.

Steve Dowdle, MD Sony UK & Ireland Sales Co., to retire After 27 years with Sony Europe, Steve Dowdle has decided to take early retirement to pursue family business interests. He will continue to lead the Sony UK Governance Committee until the end of March 2011, and also spend this time supporting his successor, Mohit Parasher. A statement from Sony said: “Steve has made an outstanding contribution to the Sony organisation and the Electronics Industry. He will be missed not only by the employees of Sony UK but also by the many dealers he has worked with over the years, as well as his colleagues in Europe and Japan. “Steve’s flair, energy and passion coupled with his affable personality, are a matter of record and have been consistently demonstrated over his many years with Sony. The industry will also credit him for his campaigning stance on many issues that he felt would affect the long-term well-being of the electronics business in the UK.”

Dixons ousts the Techguys Electrical retailer Dixons, owner of Currys and PC World, is to replace its “Techguys” service which was established in 2006 with a new support service called “Knowhow”. Techguys, which competes with Best Buy’s 24/7 geek Squad technical support, will be axed in stores, online and at call centres to make room for the new, improved Knowhow service.


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Free-to-air satellite TV service Freesat has announced the winners of its first annual Product Awards in which devices in the categories of ‘Hd receiver’, ‘Freesat+’, ‘Hd tV’ and an overall product of the year were recognised. the winners were chosen by a panel of “technology experts” which included the editors of What Satellite & digital tV, Home Cinema Choice and techRadar.com. the Freesat+ Hd recorder Award was presented to Humax for its Foxsat-HdR (runner-up Sagem dtR-94500); the Hd tV Award went to the Panasonic tX-P50Vt20B (runner-up Sony KdL46Z5800); the Hd receiver Award to the technisat HdFS (runner-up Humax Foxsat-Hd), and the Freesat Product of the Year to Panasonic’s dMRBS880 (runner-up technisat HdFS). emma Scott, Freesat Managing director, congratulated the winners on their success and said the Awards recognise the “excellent work of partners in delivering product quality, innovation and choice to Freesat customers.”

Indesit supports Children in Need More than 100 members of staff at Indesit Company UK manned the phones at the firm’s Peterborough-based call centre in support of this year’s BBC Children in Need campaign. Indesit was chosen as the lead centre in Cambridgeshire for the 5th consecutive year and took thousands of donations totalling £69,828 from across the UK.

XMAS / NY ‘10 / ’11

High street sales continued an upward trend in the first half of December as consumers brought purchases forward, ahead of January’s VAT increase. The CBI’s Distributive Trades Survey showed that 67% of retailers experienced higher sales volumes than in the same period in 2009, although growth is expected to weaken at the turn of the year. Just 11% of retailers reported lower sales volumes, giving a balance of 56% – the highest since April 2002 (+57%). The figure is predicted to fall to 35% in January as consumers tighten their purse strings after spending on big-ticket items before the 2.5% VAT rise is implemented. Ian McCafferty, CBI Chief Economic Adviser, said December sales reflected a stronger, crucial Christmas trading period, however: “We remain cautious about prospects for the retail sector further ahead, given ongoing uncertainty over the resilience of consumer spending.” The Forum of Private Business, meanwhile, reports that 30% of members on its ‘Economy Watch’ panel recorded increases in their order books and turnovers, but many also noted a sharp drop in profitability. Almost half of all firms surveyed (46%), said they had seen a recent rise in the cost of doing business. Forum spokesman Phil McCabe said the ever-increasing costs of unavoidable overheads such as gas, electricity and fuel are taking their toll and eating into small companies’ profitability. “This inflationary pressure is a real concern,” he commented. “It basically means more money is being sucked out of small firms and transferred overseas, or over to multi-national businesses in the utility and oil industries. “It’s something the Government really needs to tackle if it wants smaller businesses to drive economic growth JRcreate Xmas Page 1 17/12/10 11:00 Page 1 and jobs in1-4 the months andAd yearsGC:Layout ahead.”

Best Freesat devices receive recognition

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High street sales volumes continue to grow in December, but increasing overheads dent small traders’ profits



Business owners doubt Government’s ability to cut red tape A study by the Forum of Private Business has revealed that 40% of SMEs do not believe the Coalition Government will achieve its stated aim to significantly reduce the amount of legislation small firms have to comply with. In the comments submitted by Forum members, the main reason for doubting the new Government’s ability to cut red tape was the historical failure of similar initiatives in the past. Some also claimed that civil servants and other policy-makers would get in

the way of attempts to streamline UK workplace law. The Government’s reliance on the leaders of large corporations for advice on business regulation was also a concern. The survey also showed that an overwhelming 89% of businesses felt that legislators do not understand how regulations affect small employers. One panel member commented: “I don’t think they [policy makers] really think it through. They are paid to create new legislation and need to justify their jobs.”

The Forum’s research manager Thomas Parry said “it would appear that many small firms feel as though we are now past the point of no return with legislation. There is a sense that because there’s so much of it and it’s so deeply embedded in our legal framework, any attempts to tackle it are doomed to failure.” He added: “The level of change required – around a 50% reduction in terms of the time business owners spend on completing forms – is unlikely to be met without a radical rethink of legislation.”

Armour Group consolidates Armour Home and Alphason businesses AV manufacturer and distributor Armour Home (AH), a division of Armour Group plc, has announced the integration of Alphason Designs into its business, with the loss of ten jobs. Alphason has operated as a separate entity since it was acquired by Armour in 2006. The brand is said to account for c. £20 million of the £50+ million Group turnover. The newly structured Armour Home will be headed by Managing Director of the AH Board of Directors Glenn McClelland (pictured), who will also hold responsibility for Research and Development, Marketing and Product Management. Chris Emerson, former Chief Operating Officer of Alphason, joins the new Board as Sales Director responsible for the UK and international markets.

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XMAS / NY ‘10 / ’11

Small businesses feel the chill


Up to 800 or 900 small firms could face bankruptcy as a direct result of business lost because of the recent weather conditions across the UK, according to a number of UK business organisations. Retail has been identified as one of the particularly vulnerable sectors. Organisations including the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) and the Forum for Private Business (FPB) have given various estimates of the commercial cost of the severe weather to the UK economy. Douglas McWilliams, chief executive of the CEBR, said that the cost could be around £1 billion a day, and “quite a lot of small businesses are quite close to the brink now. I think at least a few hundred, maybe as many as 800 or 900, could go bankrupt that otherwise wouldn’t have because this is the straw that breaks the

Commenting on the integration, Glenn McClelland remarked on the “challenging” market conditions across the sector and said the decision to merge the two businesses followed a comprehensive review. “These changes consolidate and perpetuate Armour’s leading market position, ensuring a sound platform for future growth,” he said. McClelland added that the company anticipated the changes would take some months to complete, however, “the starting point is the integration of management functions, which will take place immediately.” Alphason, which will continue to operate from its current production facility in Wigan, will be the major constituent of the new Armour Home division.

Bosch collects three House Beautiful Awards Appliance brand Bosch has received awards in three of the twentyfour categories of the House Beautiful Magazine Awards. The Bosch Premier Power Iron TDA764OGB won a Silver Award for Best Small Appliance; the Bosch Logixx 7 Washer Dryer gained a Silver for the Best Large Appliance, and the Bosch Exxcel Aquastar Dishwasher, which uses just 7 litres of water to wash 13 place settings, was awarded a Gold for Best Eco Product of the Year.

camel’s back.” Businesses that rely on cash are particularly vulnerable. Retail and leisure, for example, could lose out on business that can never be recovered. Chris Gorman at the FPB put a less gloomy estimate of £250 million a day on the cost of the freeze. And the Federation of Small Business said its members were “particularly hard hit,” and that it was

“disappointed that we still haven’t learnt the lessons from previous bad weather” and the country yet again ground to a halt. The FSB did contend, however, that its members were better prepared this time than in previous harsh weather episodes. For example, around 20% had laid in their own supplies of grit to clear shop fronts and the roads outside their premises.

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16/09/2010 09:16


Retailers warned about price offer “tricks”

Electrolux to cut 800 European jobs Electrolux has announced it is to reduce its European workforce within

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has issued a report warning high street and online retailers about special offer pricing “tricks”, which mislead consumers about the final price or the actual discount on sale goods, or which entice customers with specific super-discounts on goods that never seem to be in stock. The OFT report cites a number of already well-known and contentious retail pricing practices, including “bait” pricing, which advertises an outstanding offer on a specific product or model that is rarely available when customers come to the store, and “drip” pricing, in which the advertised price is subject to a number of compulsory additions – such as delivery charges – that bump up the final cost during the buying process. The OFT also drew attention to those other old favourites – the timelimited “offer must end today” enticement and the “£450 off” claim for goods when it’s not clear where and for how long the higher price was in force – and reminded retailers that misleading advertising is illegal under the 2008 unfair trading regulations. As ever, the interpretation of what is or is not “misleading” is the contentious area where lawyers grow rich. OFT chief executive John Fingleton said the organsiation would be keeping a “close eye” on price promotions and would take action against practices that were “serious breaches of the law.” He said: “We are urging businesses to review their pricing practices

in the light of our report and we will, where necessary, take enforcement action against firms that don’t have their house in order. We are concerned that the misleading element of this is growing and we want to stamp it out - even a sophisticated customer can be confused.” British Retail Consortium director of business and regulation Tom Ironside responded robustly on behalf of retailers: “Customers aren’t stupid,” he said. “They make sophisticated judgements about prices and value within stores, between stores and over time and have all the information they need to do that. Discounts and promotions are part of our highly competitive retail market and customers benefit from them, BRC members would have nothing to gain from attempts to mislead, and any extra legislation or overenforcement on this issue would therefore be pointless.” The question for retailers, consumers and the OFT remains: where is the line between good, competitive retail practice and “misleading” the public? One BBC commentator has said that “we will all end up buying something we didn’t intend to buy this Christmas.” Many electrical retailers would see that as a testament to their sales skills, training and promotions strategy, rather than a criticism. Every electrical sales person is encouraged to sell persuasively, and where possible to sell up and to achieve attachment sales.

See www.gcmagazine.co.uk for the stories behind the news… ` Dixons pulls Toshiba tablet iPad challenger gets off to a bad retail start

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XMAS / NY ‘10 / ’11

` Retail balance sheets could


face a white-out

Prospect of snow raises fears of a festive flop

` Small Business Rate Relief

in jeopardy?

Government move could cost small firms dearly, says FPB

` CI(H) extends invite to brands with clear channel strategy “Support us and we will support you…”

the Major Appliances industrial operations by around 800 in 2011/12 as part of a restructuring programme instigated by the company in 2004. The changes will be implemented gradually and fully finalised in the fourth quarter of 2012. Redundancies will incur a total cost of approximately SEK 400m, which will be taken as a charge against operating income in the fourth quarter of 2010 within items affecting comparability. No European factories will be closed.

BCC downgrades UK growth forecast The British Chambers of Commerce, which represents hundreds of small businesses, has downgraded its UK GDP forecast for 2011 from 2.2% to 1.9%, citing the looming public sector cuts, the weak housing market, the VAT increase due in January and the Euro debt crisis as factors. However, the BCC says the UK economy is “sufficiently robust” to be out of danger of a double-dip recession, and has longer-term confidence that the private sector is capable of driving growth. Its GDP growth forecast for 2012 has been upgraded to 2.1% from 1.8%, and the unemployment forecast for the second half of 2012 has been revised down to 2.6 million, a drop of 50,000. BCC director general David Frost commented: “British business is willing and able to drive the recovery, but it can only do so if the government will back its words with deeds. The government must avoid at all costs new business taxes and measures that damage initiative, enterprise and innovation.” He also forecast that the Bank of England will keep interest rates at historically low levels well into 2011, and that inflation will remain above 3% for all of next year. Mr Frost said he expects more quantitative easing from the Bank of England in 2011 to stimulate growth and counter the effects of public sector unemployment and the VAT rise. £200 billion has already been pumped into the UK economy via quantitative easing.


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CBI downgrades early 2011 growth forecast The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has downgraded its UK economic growth forecast from 0.3% to 0.2% for the first quarter of 2011, and also expects interest rates to begin to climb from the Spring of 2011 following an extended period at a historically low 0.5%. However, “very sluggish” growth in early 2011 will keep the UK clear of the danger of falling back into recession. the downward revision in the growth forecast is put down to that now-familiar cocktail of economic circumstances that will depress consumer spending: public sector cuts; consumer anxiety about unemployment; higher inflation; increased VAt; higher fuel and energy prices. Rising inflation will, says the CBI, push the Bank of england to start “gently” raising interest rates from the current 0.5% in increments through to mid-2012. Looking ahead, CBI chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty said growth into 2012 will remain lower than would normally be expected at that stage in a recovery: “What is striking,” he said, “is how little we see growth accelerating in 2012. typically, by the third year of a recovery, growth would be more robust than we expect for either 2011 or 2012.” Second quarter growth in 2011, forecasts the CBI, will rise to 0.4%, followed by two quarters of 0.5% growth, making the annual growth rate 2% for the full year. Inflation, which has already been running well ahead of the treasury’s 2% target, will continue to “significantly exceed” the target, forcing the Bank of england to begin raising the interest rate in stages.

Loewe seeks Custom Install partners under new commercial agreement Premium AV manufacturer Loewe is to expand its Custom Install network throughout the UK from 40 to 70 partners by the end of 2011. The company, which currently operates display-based retail initiatives under the status of Custom Installer, Partner, Partner Plus and Galerie, is introducing a new level of accreditation entitled Custom Installer Indirect. A new commercial agreement forms part of the recruitment drive.

XMAS / NY ‘10 / ’11

Dixons Retail reported a pre-tax loss of £7.9 million for the 24 weeks to 16 October 2010 – considerably better than the losses of between £8 million and £15 million forecast by some analysts, and an improvement on the £17.6 million loss sustained in the same period last year.

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Euromonitor International has ranked Chinese manufacturer Haier as the world’s number one Major Appliances brand for the second year running, with a retail volume share of 6.1% in 2010. Haier said that its continued expansion, both within China and internationally, reflects a growing confidence in its brand worldwide.

Comet parent Kesa Electricals reported a 4.1% increase in Group revenue to €2.8 billion for the six months to 31 October. Pre-tax profits jumped 52.4% to €25 million. Sales at Comet fell 3.7%, while losses increased to £5.4m from £1.5m.


Custom Installer Indirect status will offer “guaranteed” attractive margins, with no requirement to hold stock, brand induction and installation training and partnership with a Loewe Galerie for the purpose of ordering product. Custom installers interested in joining Loewe’s new programme should call 01294 315 000 or e-mail enquiries@loewe-uk.com.

Indesit Prime washing machine models PWC8128 and PWE8148 have gained ‘Best Buy’ awards from consumer magazine Which?, receiving test scores of 71% and 72% respectively. Linn Products Ltd. posted a pre-tax profit of £1,626,000 (including exceptional items) on a turnover of £17,013,000 for the year ended 30 June 2010. The company said the strong results confirmed that its digital streaming strategy has paid off. BSH Home Appliances has gained an award for its ‘Starting Off’ Apprenticeship Scheme for school leavers. At the ‘Inspiring Achievement Awards’, held at Wellingborough Castle and hosted by Northamptonshire Education and Work Service, the company received ‘The Apprenticeship Award’ for the best apprenticeship scheme in the county.

MDA manufacturers pick up BCG ‘Best’ awards BCG closed its 2010 Big Tour with an ‘Essential Night Out’ that attracted 150 industry personnel to a glitzy, Hollywoodthemed evening hosted by Ulrika Jonsson, with special guests BBC newsreader Nicholas Owen and Radio 2 DJ Ricky Salmon. The event provided the platform for a charity auction in aid of Action for Children and a ‘mini’ awards ceremony, in which GDHA received the Big Tour ‘Best Overall Stand’ (pictured) and Baumatic the ‘Best Kitchen Stand’. The evening concluded BCG’s fourth Big Tour roadshow, which brought forty of the Kitchen, Bathroom & Heating industry’s major brands to five locations around the UK during November. A “considerable” number of orders were said to have been placed at each of the events. Commenting on the tour, BCG MD Chris Honer said “the quality of the retailers attending this year was superb. Everyone that visited Big Tour was treated to an outstanding collection of the industry’s finest brands.” An element of the 2010 roadshow, the Big Challenge – an enterprising project to help refurbish or provide new kitchen or bathroom facilities to fifteen Action for Children homes in the UK – was supported by guests at the dinner and awards event to the tune of £10,000. Monies raised on the night will go towards the installation of five kitchens previously donated.


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At the annual Combined Independents (Holdings) Suppliers’ Lunch held early December at the Dorchester in London, chairman Robin Millwood (pictured) reviewed the difficult year of 2010 and outlined some of the achievements of the buying group and reasons to be cheerful looking ahead to what may be another challenging year. In a year described as “probably worse than last year,” Mr Millwood said that CI(H) had maintained its moving annual turnover at almost the same, despite having fewer members, and had managed to reduce the members’ costs as well as maintaining profit in the company. “The current membership drive is proving successful,” he said, “with 11 members having joined since April, several in the pipeline and numerous enquiries coming in every day and, interestingly, a lot of interest from members from a rival buying group. “We have had some great opportunities for the members this year with the launch of Blomberg as an exclusive Euronics agency range, and with over 250 members taking stock, it is an extremely fast selling range and bodes well for the future. “Our Euronics.co.uk website is going from strength to strength and, with the national TV advertising, is creating not only huge hit rates on the site, but also directing the public to our 1200 member retail outlets. Many suppliers have taken the opportunity to have their own supplier information pages on the website and with the new supplier lorry livery, the name Euronics is getting across to even more consumers. “Another new development is our Euronics on-line IT site that will be selling IT equipment to the public online, and these are products that our members do not currently sell and will bring profit back into the company.” Ken White Distribution was announced as the winner of the annual Euronics Business Partner of the Year Trophy. “This company has grown with us

from the first time we had a warehouse and needed a reliable and constant partner that could grow with us,” said Mr Millwood. Winner of the Euronics White Goods Supplier of the Year was Beko/Blomberg, and in announcing this award Mr Millwood said: “We do use certain criteria for awarding this trophy and one of the most important is how that supplier supports us through the year on all fronts. Our major event of the year is our trade show, and one of the two companies that were in contention for the trophy did not attend this year or last year, which is very unfortunate as they are now our largest white goods supplier and have shown good growth this year. The other supplier [Blomberg/Beko] has also shown good growth in their mainstream brand, but has also committed a lot of resources to the launch of our own exclusive white goods range, which has sold extremely well and are having to ramp up production to keep ahead of the demand from the members.” Mr Millwood also pulled no punches in announcing the winner of the Euronics Brown Goods Supplier of the Year. Before presenting the trophy to LG Electronics, he qualified the Award by saying: “In another tough year, we had the same companies as last year vying for this award and both of these companies have done themselves very little credit in what is a very difficult market. When you reach the top as market leader, it is always the most difficult to maintain that position without continually flooding the market and having no sensible marketing or distribution strategy, it only ends up with one result, and that is chaos in the market, and for the majority of our members no profit in selling the equipment. “On the other hand,” he continued, “another supplier has kept at times a lower profile and managed to increase its moving annual total with us by over 50%, which, in a market that overall is down, is pretty good going. Well done to LG Electronics.” Two special presentations were made to senior industry figures who are moving on. Uwe Hannecke, who has headed the BSH Group in the UK for more than 30 years, is retiring. Mr Millwood, presenting him with a certificate to mark the occasion, and wishing him a happy and healthy retirement, recalled: “I can remember having conversations with Uwe Hanneck where he was prepared to forgo sales volumes in the search of not only profit in his own company but stabilisation of his company’s presence in the marketplace, and it would appear that this strategy has paid off.” Clayton Witter, after 18 years with Beko, eight of them as MD, is moving on, and Mr Millwood remarked: “I am sure he will be moving on to better things, but behind he is leaving a legacy that goes to show that with good management and forethought you can change dramatically the fortunes of any company.”

XMAS / NY ‘10 / ’11

CI(H) holds its own in difficult year


Yamaha YSP-2200 digital sound projector Yamaha’s YSP-2200 sound bar is a slim-line 3D-compatible product designed to fit neatly in front of most TVs. It offers true cinema sound, a number of features to give a superior listening experience and comes with a subwoofer that can be placed vertically or horizontally. gg

11 cinema DSP programmes: 3 x movie, 3 x music, 5 x entertainment


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Built-in 132W digital amplifier


IntelliBeam Automated System Calibration


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1400rpm spin speed


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Water consumption 59 litres

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XMAS / NY ‘10 / ’11

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Britannia Fournelle range cooker collection Britannia’s French-inspired Fournelle collection of four cookers in 100cm (Fronsac and Carelle), 120cm (Lafleur) and 150cm (Margaux) widths is said to offer “uncompromising flexibility”. 90cm and 60cm ovens have 9 cooking functions; 40cm ovens have a rotisserie and four functions. All incorporate a fast preheat system for speedy cooking. Additional features include: gg

La Plancha – a high-quality solid stainless steel hotplate


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6-zone induction hob option available on Carelle and Fronsac models


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Philips has introduced a Platinum Edition of its Cinema 21:9 TV. The new 58” screensize model is 3D enabled and sports a brushed aluminium slim-line bezel and a glass tabletop stand that doubles as a selflevelling wall mount. The Platinum Edition has an estimated selling price of £3,999. 3D glasses (ref: PTA03) are optional. gg

LED Pro backlight / Bright Pro system / 10,000,000:1 contrast ratio


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Ambilight Spectra 3


HD Natural Motion system


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2 x woofers on rear of unit / 2 x forward-firing drivers

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De’Longhi Brillante collection The luxurious design of the new Brillante kettle and toaster from De’Longhi is based on Italian artist Varisco’s latest glass sculpture ‘Chimera’. Both products twinkle and glisten in the light, creating the impression of a shimmering jewel, and are available in Jet Black and Ice White finishes. Each appliance retails at a recommended price of £59.99.

PURE Twilight DAB radio with dawn simulator PURE has developed a digital radio incorporating a dawn simulator, mood lighting, a touch-sensitive reading light and a range of recorded natural sounds and lullabies. The energy-efficient Twilight simulates sunrise by providing timed light that increases gradually, prior to the alarm being activated. The unit supplies the same light output as a 45W incandescent bulb using just 5.4W when the lamp is on and <1W in standby.


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3kW rapid boil kettle with 3-level safety protection, cord storage, washable scale filter


Toaster with ‘extra lift’ function        

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Caple Sense XL C3400 electric double oven


4 x independent alarm settings


Wake to a standard or specially-created alarm tone, digital or FM radio, or a natural sound such as the dawn chorus


Use nightlight or mood light in conjunction with radio, natural sounds or lullabies


Mood light settings include Rainbow, Ocean, Fire, Wheat field and Party


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Programmable electronic timer


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Caple’s C3400 Sense XL electric double oven is A-rated for energy with two 53-litre ovens offering conventional heat, fan heat, full grill, turbo defrost, turbo grill, turbo conventional heat and top heat plus fan. It is finished in stainless steel with a black glass fascia and push/pull knobs.

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MP3, WMA compatible


HDMI 1.3a / GUI / M-Xport


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The remote-controlled Melody Movie from Marantz is a one-box, highquality Blu-ray player with BD-Live capability, DVD upscaling to 1080p HD resolution and “audiophile level” CD playback. This compact product also provides direct digital iPod, iPod Touch and iPhone replay, stereo FM/AM with RDS, and Bluetooth connectivity via an optional RX101 device.

XMAS / NY ‘10 / ’11

Marantz Melody Movie M-ER803 Blu-ray system



George Cole ” George Cole pinpoints hotspots in the world of consumer electronics. E-mail: georgecole@gcmagazine.co.uk

Blu-ray – thE BEst that you Can GEt?


hen the compact disc was

DVD and compared the results. Which?

Antoinette approach and said that their

launched, a certain consumer

has posted its testing procedure online,

research showed that consumers thought

electronics company claimed

along with a video interview with one of the

Blu-ray offered better image quality. End of

that CDs promised to bring “Perfect sound

testers (www.which.co.uk/technology/tv-

statement. This simply isn’t good enough,

Forever,” but it only took a few poorly

and-dvd/guides/blu-ray-disc-quality) and

especially in a climate where DVD disc

mastered discs to make that message

the tests seem to be pretty fair.

sales are falling (the BVA says DVD sales

sound hollow. Fortunately, CD mastering


fell 5.6% in 2009) and Blu-ray is being seen

technology and techniques improved,

Bravia TVs and Sony Blu-ray players,

as the saviour for the movie and video

and the rest is history (although the odd

watched the titles and rated them for

industries. In 2009, Blu-ray disc sales rose

CD stinker still emerges now and again).

picture quality. The results were that five

123% year-on-year to 8.4 million units. This

Blu-ray is being hailed as the great leap

titles produced outstanding picture quality;

is heartening, but Blu-ray’s success is by no

forward on video quality, so you’d think

four were significantly better than DVD, but

means a done deal, and the format faces the

that the video industry would be doing

eight showed marginal improvement or no

challenge of a harsh economic climate and

all it could to ensure that every Blu-ray

difference. In some cases, the Blu-ray title

the explosive growth of online video.

release knocked the socks off anyone

looked worse than the DVD version. The

With Blu-ray commanding a fair price

viewing it on an hD set.

tests have generated a lot of discussion

premium over DVD, it’s vital that consumers

I have compared Blu-ray titles with their

online and in the national press, and while

get good value for money. Which? surmises

DVD releases and, in most cases, have been

some dispute parts of the Which? findings,

that the disappointing Blu-ray titles were

highly impressed with the superb clarity

it doesn’t get away from the fact that Blu-ray

due to inferior video source material used

offered by the medium. But I have to say

titles do not always live up to the hype when

during the mastering process, as was the

that not every Blu-ray title has blown me

it comes to picture quality.

case with the dodgy-sounding CD titles in

away. You may have seen the reports about


The testers used two identical Sony

I was saddened to read the response

the early days of the format. If the video

a comparison test carried out by Which?

of the British Video Association (BVA),

industry is going to charge a Rolls Royce

magazine. Which? watched 17 titles – some

which represents the UK video industry.

price for a video product, it shouldn’t

recent blockbusters like Avatar, as well as

When asked to comment on the Which?

sometimes be giving consumers the video

classics like Zulu – on both Blu-ray and

results, the BVA seemingly adopted a Marie

equivalent of a Ford Prefect.

DaB – thE knivEs arE out this time of the year should be a good

and the people responsible should be

broadcast the DAB scrappage scheme ads

one for DAB sales, but the broadcasting

hanging their heads in shame. The latest

last summer. What we are seeing is the

industry seems to be doing its best to

Christmas ads are nothing short of the

tension between the BBC, which thanks

undermine the format. The majority of

most appallingly deceitful and misleading

to its licence fee has a vast, guaranteed

commercial radio stations have refused

campaign and the BBC should be utterly

annual income and no commercial

to run the DAB Christmas ads, citing

ashamed of using licence fee money to

pressures, and a commercial sector

that DAB national coverage is patchy.

persuade people to buy a radio that might

that has felt the heat of the economic

William Rogers, chief executive of UKRD,

not even work.” Strong words indeed.

downturn and (so far) seen little return

which runs 15 commercial radio stations,

This isn’t the first time UKRD has refused

for its DAB investment. It doesn’t make a

claims that “DAB is an utter shambles

to run a DAB advertisement – it refused to

pleasant picture.


“Sorry, I can’t make it in today….” Snow and icy weather have brought the UK to a standstill twice in 2010 alone, and with extreme weather events such as heavy snowfalls and floods predicted to become more frequent, what should businesses be doing to address the situation where employees are unable to make it in to work? Gareth Edwards, partner in the employment team at Veale Wasbrough Vizards, looks at some of the questions employers should consider Can employers deduct pay, or force employees to take annual leave, if they can’t get to work because of snow and ice? The starting point is that employees are only entitled to be paid for the work that they do. If employees are unable to get to work, or they cannot carry out their work, an employer does not have an obligation to pay them. Employers should consider the employee’s contract of employment and any work place policies (such as bad weather policy) that apply. If you don’t have a bad weather policy, consider introducing one so everyone knows where they stand. Clearly, discretion and an appropriate response to genuine difficulties should be adopted in the interests of staff relations.


XMAS / NY ‘10 / ’11

What if employers suspect some employees are using the bad weather as an excuse not to come to work?


One of the most effective ways of reducing this problem is to tell employees that any further days off work will be deducted from annual leave, or must be taken as unpaid leave. This often quickly distinguishes genuine difficulty from “taking advantage.” An overall assessment of local and national conditions will ensure this policy is applied fairly, and it is likely to be most effective in situations where local conditions are not reported as being severe.

Should employers allow employees to work from home in circumstances where snow makes travel difficult? For retailers, this may not be an option for their shopfloor sales staff, but it is a contingency that should be considered for office, administrative and warehouse staff, for example. Employers should look at the contract of employment and any internal policies, the type of work a particular employee is required to carry out, and the

facilities needed to enable a particular employee to work from home. Importantly, allowing employees to work from home when there is widespread disruption, and advising them to avoid travelling, can help employers avoid any potential health and safety issues. Encouraging an employee to get to work is fine, but employers should distinguish between encouragement and undue pressure. Employers have a duty of care towards their employees and it is not necessarily in an employer’s best interests to pressurise staff, especially where the advice from authorities is to avoid travelling.

Can employers tell employees not to come to work and subsequently penalise them? Although there is no concrete answer, such an approach is not likely to be well received. Members of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, who work on the London Underground, were told not to go to work because the buses and most of the tubes were not operating. They were told that the time away from work must be taken as unpaid leave, or deducted from annual leave. Unions have criticised the “hypocritical” decision and have expressed their anger at the way in which loyal staff have been treated.

Are employers under a duty to pay expenses to employees resulting from the bad weather? No. There is no duty on employers to pay expenses to employees that occur as a result of the bad weather (such as overnight accommodation if an employee becomes stranded) unless the contract stipulates otherwise.

What if employees with children are unable to get to work because the schools are closed? The most important thing is for employers to consider individual requests, but to act consistently and apply the same policy to all employees.

Where schools are closed, affected employees may be entitled to time off work for dependents. An employee is legally entitled to take a “reasonable” amount of time off work to deal with emergencies involving a dependent. “Dependent” includes: an employee’s spouse or civil partner; children; parents; anyone who lives in the same household (excluding tenants and lodgers) as the employee; and those who reasonably depend on the employee to make arrangements for the provision of care. An employee is only entitled to time off for dependents in certain situations. During harsh weather, these could include:  unexpected disruptions or termination of

arrangements for the care of a dependant (for example, school or child care facility being closed or in-home carers being unable to travel)  an incident which involves a child of the employee

and which occurs unexpectedly in a period during school hours (or hours of any educational establishment). There is no comprehensive definition of “emergency.” Recently tribunals have made clear that one factor is the amount of time between an employee knowing that there is a risk of disruption and the risk becoming fact. For example, if an employee knew on Monday that there was a significant chance of heavy snow on Tuesday and that the school might be shut, a tribunal might decide that that was sufficient time for the employee to make childcare arrangements. Where a school is shut at short notice, it is advisable for employers to treat the employee’s absence from work as an emergency, at least until the employee has made suitable childcare arrangements. All employees are entitled to time off work for dependants regardless of length of service and whether or not they are employed on a full or part-time basis. The self-employed are excluded from the right to time off for dependents. If an employer suspects that this right is being abused, the employee should be dealt with in accordance with the contractual or workplace disciplinary procedure. Employers are not under a duty to pay employees for time off work for dependents and may therefore need to ensure that any policy dealing with absences caused by adverse weather dovetails with a policy dealing with time off for emergencies.


E-mail: fromthebench@gcmagazine.co.uk

Christmas 1970 Alan Bennett looks back forty years to more certain and prosperous times

The TV sets of Christmas 1970 were huge

today’s equivalent price of a 26”

and heavy monsters with deep glass picture

colour screen bought in December 1970.

The shop

HMV ColourMASter Model 2700, CourteSY of SoutH WeSt eNglANd ViNtAge tV MuSeuM

tubes and heavy breathing, energy-hungry

boxes to pick up service calls as they came

electronic circuitry. Most of them contained

into the workshop. Later we went over to

glass valves whose lives were limited, and

radio-telephones, which we still have today.

At that time few people could afford to buy

all of them were subject to failure because

a colour TV set outright, and about 80%

of dry soldered joints and breakdown of

those days it would not have been practical

of those that went out the shop door were

passive components, much of it due to high

to bring many sets into the workshop for

rented. Provided you could raise the capital

operating temperatures, unreliable parts and

repair, so most service work was done on

to finance the operation, TV rental was a

poor design. Typically, a colour set broke

site: easy if it involved swapping valves

very fine thing indeed in 1970, though the

down every five months and a call from a

or modules, or cleaning tuner, switch

service commitment was huge, as we shall

service technician was required. Some 1970

or valve holder contacts; more difficult

see. People were frightened of breakdown

colour TVs had 900 components.

where component-level diagnosis and

and the cost of repair, scared by the

Manufacturer Kolster-Brandes produced

With the frequency of breakdown in

replacement was required. Every field

prospect of the picture-tube failing. They

hand-wired colour TVs with all their

technician carried a full complement

seldom did; in fact the failures were usually

parts soldered to tags, and they became

of service manuals and a huge box of

elsewhere in the set.

notorious for bad joints. There were three

components; some generic, many specific

solid-state (no valves) chassis, Thorn 2000

to a particular chassis. We got to know the

different in those days, with no internet or

and 3000, and the Rank-Bush-Murphy A823.

foibles and failings of each very well. At

mail-order purchasing. Most customers

We favoured the Thorn models because

Christmas time the field technicians carried

knew the shop staff and many knew the

they could be serviced by swapping

replacement fairy bulbs alongside the

boss (very accessible then), as is still true

modules which we then repaired in the

resistors, transistors, flyback transformers

of many independent dealers today. We

comfort of the workshop. The 3000 type

and mains droppers. Many repairs on site

would decorate the shop at Christmas

employed a world first: an energy-efficient

involved the use of a soldering iron, and a

with a big tree in the showroom or on the

switch-mode power supply, now universally

cardinal sin was to burn customers’ carpets

pavement outside. Profit margins were

used. The earliest colour sets, dating from

with it – easily done!

much greater than they are now, even

1967, had to work on 405-line black and

though there was one cloud in the sky:

white transmissions too, with complex

small rotary-tuned Sony Trinitron jobs with

the proliferation of discount warehouses

internal mechanical switches for the

excellent colour pictures. The investment in

spawned by the abolition of Resale Price

changeover. Colour had started on BBC2 in

these alone, ten at £190 (retail), equates to

Maintenance – a law, incredible in this day

December 1967 and became available on

a five-figure sum today. In fact, those little

and age, which demanded uniform prices

BBC1 and ITV (there were only these three

sets were the forerunners of the invasion

for the sale of consumer durable goods.

channels) in November 1969.

of the industry by Japanese TV equipment,

The retailing atmosphere was quite

Independent dealers had always got a

Every van carried a couple of loan sets:

which was soon to start. Its performance

lower discount than the multiple stores, and

The service

then became undersold as well. As today,

We operated in a rural district in the south-

the equivalent British products. No TVs had

their strength was in the service they could

east of England, about ten miles from the

processor control or software drive of any

offer before, during and after the sale.

nearest large town; our operation covered

sort in those days of course!

In 1970, a 26” colour TV cost about £300,

town and country. We had a fleet of Ford

and reliability was to be streets ahead of

average wages were £30 a week, and a

Escort and Morris Minor vans, four or five of

Forty years

mini-car was priced at £600. It’s interesting

which, manned by skilled technicians, set off

That was my introduction to the world

to see that an average house then cost

before nine each morning, job-cards in hand,

of TV. How different are things now for

some three years’ gross wages – now it’s

to all points of the compass. Each man was

proprietors, for shop floor staff, for such

six-and-a-half years’.

issued with coins for use in red telephone

technicians as remain....

XMAS / NY ‘10 / ’11

The sets

TVs at £5000 apiece? That’s

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ow would you like to be selling



” Small businesses across the UK have come to see bankers as the demons who were responsible for the recession, then took billions in taxpayers’ money to save their skins, refused to lend it back to us, and then awarded themselves personal bonuses that would represent several years’ profits for a “normal” business. But are they really so bad, or have they been unfairly picked out for general opprobrium? At the year’s turning, we have given one of their number the opportunity to redeem his kind and prove that they’re really quite decent chaps after all. Here is a banker’s-eye-view of life in post-recession Britain: Why did you choose to work in banking? It’s a no-brainer, really: get rich without having to be good at anything; no accountability; all mistakes underwritten by the State; bonuses as a reward for incompetence… Brilliant!

Who would you like to spend time with? Peter Mandelson. He has such a fierce reputation, but I love the way he goes all fluffy and puppy-like when he meets seriously rich people

What’s your pet hate? Poor people whingeing about paying for me to be rich

Any bad habits? I used to worry about being sussed, but now I can see there’s no chance so I’m cured!

If you weren’t in your present position, what job would you choose to do? Come on… it doesn’t get any better than this

What’s your favourite TV programme? “The Apprentice.” Massive egos. Boundless self-confidence. Shameless self-praise. Just like a load of Bankers!

What surprises you?

Realising it’s not politicians or dictators or generals who rule the world. It’s The Markets (I was four at the time)

How easy it is to pull the same scam over and over again


Chinese. You take more than you could possibly need, and half an hour later you’re hungry for more

What’s the worst lie you’ve ever told?

XMAS / NY ‘10 / ’11

Krug, Bollinger…. Anything that ordinary people can’t afford to drink

Vince Cable thinking he can do anything about my bonus

Shooting pheasants… and fish in a barrel

geT ConneCTed

name your poison

not something I’ve ever had to think about

What makes you laugh?

What was the greatest turning point in your life?


How do you think others see you?

What’s your favourite cuisine?

“It’s a cast-iron investment” (or is that the best lie I’ve ever told?)

do you have any hidden talents?

greatest regret?

What’s your greatest achievement?

Accidentally meeting my father at a parents’ day at eton

developing an even greater sense of entitlement than I was born with

What historic figure do you identify with most?

Favourite quote

Charles Ponzi. His scheme was so elegant and simple, and I feel that I am carrying on his work in some small – and bizarrely, it appears quite legal - way

How would you describe yourself? Inaccurately

Who needs talent?

“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping” – Bo derek

Who has been the greatest influence in your life? Sir Fred. Bad decisions. Massive pension. no shame. What a role model!

What do you daydream about? Retiring at 50 with a million a year pension for life (oK, that’s not so far-fetched, but I don’t have much imagination)

What’s your favourite holiday destination? Las Vegas. It always renews my faith in the eternal, unfounded optimism of punters. The Bank always wins

What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you? I had to go into therapy when I heard my bonus might be cut. But it was a false alarm

What’s the best kind of punishment…. Paying for my lifestyle

…and who deserves it? Taxpayers

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time? Wherever I feel like being

What’s your greatest fear? That one day every small businessman will wake up and say “hold on, this can’t be right”…. and then actually do something about it

Whom do you most admire? Bernard Madoff (not the jail bit, obviously, but apart from that a brilliant career)

What motto do you live by? You CAn fool all of the people all of the time

Life is……. Bloody fantastic

The Independents’ Choice D.A.D is a major distributor of

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offers and, when available, end of line models at

fantastic prices.

Warming to warranty As the industryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leading warranty specialist we know that the key ingredients for success are in the planning and preparation. With dedicated UK contact centres, an unrivalled repair network and impressive customer service ratings, there has never been a better time to turn up the heat on warranty sales with Domestic & General.


Profile for Get Connected Magazine

Get Connected: Christmas/New Year 2010/11  

Get Connected: The Magazine of the Electrical Industry

Get Connected: Christmas/New Year 2010/11  

Get Connected: The Magazine of the Electrical Industry