Getting to Know Matt Froggett

Here’s another revealing interview with one of our recent joiners. Matt joined our Web team in August 2012 straight from Hills Road Sixth Form in Cambridge.

Q. How did you get into the software industry?
A. I have always been interested in IT – and I started teaching myself a variety of IT skills from about the age of 12. It’s the only thing I have ever been really keen on.

Q. What do you most enjoy about working here?
A. The free cakes at least once a week!

Q. What have been the biggest challenges at Cromwell?
A. Just getting used to being in a professional workplace. College doesn’t teach you what to expect or how to cope with it.

Q. If you weren’t in your current role what would you choose to do?
A. I’d be at University but, sad to say, I’d didn’t get the grades.

Q. How would you describe yourself?
A. Confident, individualistic, materialistic – and happy all the time.

Q. Who, or what, makes you laugh?
A. The whole of life. It’s all funny, and I don’t have a favourite comedian, film, TV programme, book or music that I turn to when I need a laugh.

Q. Anything about yourself you’d like to change?
A. Quite a lot – starting with my height. I’m too short and dream of being six foot tall. Then there’s the size of my forehead – which is far too big. Oh, and I really wish I could stop biting my fingernails. I guess I have far too many hang-ups!

Q. Favourite food and drink?
A. I don’t have fancy tastes. I really enjoy curry, especially chicken tikka masala, and a nice cup of Typhoo (not necessarily at the same time). Plus anything you can buy at Starbucks.

Q. Biggest regret?
A. Losing interest at College and not getting the grades I needed to get into Uni.

Q. If you ruled the world for a day what would you do?
A. I’d make everyone shorter than me so they could all see what it’s like to be looked down on.

Q. What’s your pet hate?
A. Very little bugs me, but I suppose buses and trains being late are a real pain as I can’t drive and I rely on them.

Q. What’s your greatest achievement to date?
A. Learning all the skills and knowledge I have today – much of it self-taught.

Q. Who has had the biggest influence on your life?
A. My Dad. He’s a very successful businessman and a great role model.

Q. Who or what would you consign to Room 101?
A. Spiders. I find them the weirdest creatures and really can’t stand them.

Q. All-time favourite TV programme?
A. Believe it, or not, I don’t watch TV. There’s always something more interesting or useful to do.

Q. What’s your favourite piece of kit?
A. My iPhone 5.

Q. Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
A. Hopefully in London. I definitely feel the lure of the bright lights.

Q. Surfing or Safari?
A. Neither. My favourite holiday is just lazing around on a beach or beside a pool – zero effort involved.

Q. What surprises you?
A. My alarm clock.

Q. Do you have any hidden talents?
A. I have a freaky finger on my left hand. You really need to see it to understand! Not sure how useful it is, though, so maybe it’s more of an accident of birth than a real talent.

Q. If you were stranded on a desert island who would you most want to land on the beach?
A. Someone – anyone – with a seaworthy boat that could get me out of there.

Retail employment up, stores down

The British Retail Consortium has announced that retail employment in the UK rose by 0.6% in Q4 2012 compared with a year earlier. This is despite a record fall in the number of shops in the period: 3.6%.

Helen Dickinson, BRC director general, said: “The fact that total employment edged up during this quarter, driven by part-time workers, is a shaft of light against an otherwise challenging backdrop. It shows that, despite relentlessly tough times, retailers are continuing to invest in people and support job creation as much as they can. But the record drop in store numbers is stark evidence that this investment should not be taken for granted. We’re by no means out of the woods yet – given the administrations of recent weeks, the next quarter’s figures are likely to make difficult reading. Half our sample intend to decrease staffing levels during the first quarter of this year and only 4% plan to increase them. This trend is to be expected at this time of year due to reductions in temporary seasonal staff, but the rate is higher compared with last year and further highlights testing times still to come.”

Dixons & John Lewis increase sales

Dixons have reported a 2% increase in group sales for the 12 weeks to 05 January 2013. UK & Ireland and like-for-like sales increased by 7% and 8% respectively for the same period.

John Lewis have reported an 18.7% increase in sales (including VAT) for the week to 12 January 2013. Fashion, Electricals & Home Technology and Home sales increased by 7.6%, 34.7% and 12.1% respectively. Sales at johnlewis.com increased by 38.6%.

The high street challenge – and opportunity

Official data have confirmed that 2012 was a bleak Christmas for retailers. Seasonally-adjusted figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the amount spent on retail goods in December was 0.1% lower than in November and only 0.7% higher than December 2011. This was significantly less than the 2.7% inflation figure recorded by the consumer prices index. Online retail figures were more positive: ONS figures show that online transactions account for 10.6% of total shop sales. That’s up from 2.7% in January 2007.

However, it is too simplistic to conclude that the rise of online shopping means pain throughout the high street. According to Neil Saunders, MD of retail consultancy Conlumino, the retailers that are succeeding “are taking advantage of online, but they are really moving that into making the stores a success… or they are focusing on value and they are offering something that is really difficult to get online.” Christine Cross, chief retail and consumer adviser to PwC, says the companies that will be winners “need to adapt to all elements of the new normal: economic conditions; the need to stimulate customers to spend through innovation; convenience in channel to market; and service.”

Hughes expands in Cambridge

Cromwell customer Hughes Electrical has opened a new 2,000sq ft branch in Cambridge, double the size of its previous store in Burleigh Street. The expansion follows the company’s acquisition of the Darling & Wood electricals business on Cherry Hinton Road in mid 2012.

The manager of the new Cambridge store, Jack Phelps, said: “This is part of a continuing programme of investment in our branches, designed to give customers a pleasant environment in which to shop and also to choose from the widest product range. This is why we are delighted to have doubled the size of our store in Cherry Hinton Road. Despite reports about the challenges facing the electrical retail industry, we are convinced those companies that continue to invest in providing top-quality customer service combined with an excellent product range will succeed.”

A rare positive development: click & collect

Argos has reported healthy sales growth as it successfully moves to click-and-collect online ordering. It has reported 2.7% like-for-like growth during the peak autumn period, with consumer electronics, notably tablet computers, selling well. The firm’s “check and reserve” ordering service grew its share of sales from 28% to 31% over the last four months. Orders placed online via mobiles and tablets more than doubled. Some 42% of Argos’ business is now done online.

Click-and-collect is as a rare positive development for the High Street. Some analysts have suggested that retailers should turn their shops into showrooms and distribution points for their online operations. Adrian Quine, director of the British Online Retailing Association, said: “The High Street is going to look a very different place in a year’s time… Retailers must realise that now the High Street is here to compliment their online operation and not the other way around.”

Dixons had a merry Christmas

Dixons Retail has reported good sales growth over the Christmas season. Excluding store openings and closures, sales in the 12 weeks to 5th January were up 7% from the same period in 2011. UK and Ireland sales rose 8%. Profit margins had been squeezed, but Dixons stated this was due to a change in the mix of products sold (customers were particularly buying low-margin tablet computers), rather than rising costs or price discounts. Full-year profits will be £75m-£85m.

4K resolution TV – challenges ahead

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was buzzing with talk about ultra-high-definition or “4K”-resolution television technology. Though 4K resolutions represent the next step in high-definition video, standards for the format have not been defined and no one has answered the question of how to efficiently and cost-effectively distribute video, with its massive file footprint. Serious challenges in distribution will have to be overcome if it’s going to take off – and a new optical format to succeed Blu-ray may even be needed. For a detailed evaluation of the technology and distribution issues by Craig Wilson see http://www.techcentral.co.za/the-trouble-with-4k-tv/37344/

BRC call to freeze business rates

The British Retail Consortium is calling on local MPs to support their high streets as a priority in 2013, given that 11.3% of town centre shops are already vacant. The BRC is calling on the MPs to support a freeze in business rates, which are set to rise by 2.6% this year, saying that the 10%+ increase in the last two years has added over half a billion pounds to retailers’ costs.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “The Autumn Statement didn’t include a pledge to freeze business rates next year, but there’s still time for the Government to do the right thing. Another steep rise would pose a serious threat to vulnerable town centres and mean fewer jobs, especially for young people…Two-thirds of MPs have already told us that they support a rates freeze next year – I urge them to keep pushing for change if they want to breathe life back into our town centres and preserve and protect local businesses.”

£1,000 p.a. budget for technology

Research by The Co-operative Electrical has revealed that UK shoppers spent an average of £1,000 each on technology in 2012. 48% bought smartphones, 28% a tablet, 22% mobile phones, and 18% an e-reader.