Jamie Oliver & Philips collaboration

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has co-designed a range of home appliances with Philips which is being launched on Thursday at the IFA technology show in Berlin. In a statement, he said: “I really wanted to create useful, powerful and reliable products with a focus on simplicity, brilliant performance and beautiful design – which I think we’ve achieved.” The new range will be available next month.

Insolvencies fall

Experian has released its insolvency data which shows that fewer firms went to the wall in July. According to their latest Business Insolvency Index, insolvencies in the UK have dropped by 9.5% year-on-year in July, with 1,776 companies failing against 1,962 companies a year earlier. And up in Scotland, the insolvency rate is now the lowest in two years (over 25% fewer businesses failed last month compared to 2011). Of course, some sectors are faring better than others. Broadly ‘non-food retail’ is doing well: the rate of insolvencies is down to 0.1% from 0.2% last year. The exception is the car industry where insolvencies have increased by a shocking 41.7%. The number crunchers at Experian have also found another interesting trend. It turns out that supersized firms (those employing more than 500 staff) and the smallest companies (with between 11 and 25 employees) are the most recession-proof. The ‘squeezed middle’ is back – and this time it means business.

Don’t miss out on the ERT Awards

If you think you qualify for an Award in this year’s ERT Awards, don’t miss out. The deadline for entries is August 31st. Retailer entries can be submitted online and have been simplified this year. The categories up for grabs are:

- Consumer Appliance Retailer of the Year
- Consumer Electronics Retailer of the Year
- Consumer Electronics Showroom of the Year
- Domestic Appliances Showroom of the Year
- Euronics Retailer of the Year

And of course you can also vote for your favourite suppliers! More info at www.ertonline.co.uk

Telecoms race ahead at John Lewis

Leading electrical sales in the week to August 11th at John Lewis was telecommunications, which saw a massive increase of 148.8%. Consumer electronic accessories came in second at a very healthy 40.4% , with large electricals at 16.1%. Overall, electricals saw an increase of 26.6% and John Lewis, across all directorates, was up 18.6%, or £60.75m in sales. According to Darren Barford, director of selling operations, success was down to the London Olympics and last weekend’s celebrations. Online at johnlewis.com, sales were up 40.2%, with electricals up 22.2% on the previous year.

Online retail sales jumped in July

IMRG Capgemini figures reveal that online sales in July saw their highest level growth of this year: a 17% jump on July 2011 and a 9% increase on June 2012. This equates to c. £6.5 billion spent online, up from £5.8 billion in July 2011. Electricals performed very well, increasing 30% on the same time last year, as a result of the wet weather dampening high street shopping and consumers going online to purchase HDTVs on which to watch the Olympics.

retra and Usdaw oppose extended Sunday trading hours

Both retra and shopworkers’ Union Usdaw have opposed any extension to Sunday trading regulations in England and Wales after the Olympic and Paralympic trial period ends on 9th September. Prime Minister David Cameron has announced he will consider a change to the law, although this is opposed by Business Secretary Vince Cable.

Usdaw general secretary John Hannett has stated that longer Sunday hours will not put more money in the pockets of shoppers and there is no evidence it will stimulate jobs or growth. “If the Government really wants to boost retail and the economy as a whole then it would be much better advised to immediately reduce the rate of VAT.” retra Chief executive Bryan Lovewell said: “The potential detrimental impact on the health of employees, and on small retailers, outweigh any potential benefits of further deregulation.”

Talking TV is here

Panasonic has launched speech capability as standard in its Viera 2012 TV range. Aimed primarily at blind and partially-sighted people, it will also benefit those with difficulty reading or operating electrical goods. The Voice Guidance feature announces on-screen information and provides clear instructions on navigating the TV menu. Speed, volume and level of gudance are all adjustable by the user. The RNIB is offering support to blind or partially-sighted people to install their TVs – call the helpline on 0303 123 9999.

www.100ways.org.uk to inspire town centres

The Association of Town Centre Management has introduced an online resource www.100ways.org.uk – an “encyclopaedic” collection of tools and ideas to inpsire town teams, town centre managers, local government, councillors, local retailers and the general public.

Martin Blackwell, chief executive of the ATCM, said: “This on-line resource… is a response to the rise in vacancies caused by the recession and depressed consumer spending and will become a valuable first port of call for high street regeneration.”

“Make or break” time for UK labour force

UK Employers are facing a “make or break” moment as jobs will have to be cut if economic output fails to pick up. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has said that recent falls in unemployment suggest the labour market is on a sound footing, but a closer examination reveals that one in three firms are holding on to more staff than is required by the current level of demand in order to avoid losing skills, and will make redundancies if growth does not return soon.

Gerwyn Davies, Labour Market Adviser at the CIPD, said the labour market is approaching a “game-changing” phase – one that could shape Britain’s capacity to compete for a generation. “This is a make or break moment for employers. Unless growth picks up many will find that they cannot hold on to some workers any longer. The tenacity with which employers are hanging on to skilled labour is a reflection of the high value they place on it and the damage they fear will be done to their businesses if they are forced to start making more redundancies.”

Olympics boost large screen sales at JLP

John Lewis commenced trading in its second fiscal half year with a 22.4% gain in week 1. In the seven-day period to 4th August revenues totalled £63.3 million, with Electricals & Home Technology trading well ahead of other directorates at 31.2% up on the same period last year. Tim Harrison, Head of Commercial Format & Implementation, said the rise was supported by vision sales as larger screen TVs did especially well in the first week of London 2012. Johnlewis.com also traded well, at 44.3% up on last year, with “outstanding” Click & Collect growth continuing to underpin sales.