You can hardly have failed to miss the snow! From children sledging to cars skidding and from being snowed in from work to being snowed in at work. In the UK, it only happens once in a while and when it does, life practically comes to a standstill. Why is this not the case in countries such as Norway? Well, one way of looking at it as that they’re used to it and have tried and tested methods of dealing with it and the investment to match. As we suffer from these severe conditions only once in a while, any significant investment in improving our ability to deal with it could be considered a waste of money.
However, many businesses affected by the snowy conditions will certainly not see it this way. Transport links have been disrupted: roads closed; trains stopped; airports closed; tunnels blocked and sports fields unplayable. The worst affected city centres have been deserted and retailers have subsequently suffered. Even if shoppers had made it to the shops, they may have found many of them closed, as staff struggled to make it in to work across the country. Office workers were being advised to work from home where possible and off-duty medical staff that could make it in to work were covering for those that couldn’t. Even emergency services were said to be going out only to life threatening situations.
Small businesses are suffering from declining sales, as deliveries cannot be made. Farmers too are facing major problems. Thousands of livestock are being frozen to death and many animals are without food, as farmers simply can’t get to them, suffering from snow drifts that have been up to 4 feet deep across Scotland. These are the worst conditions that some areas in Scotland have experienced in 50 years and they’re expected to continue for some time. Cattle farmers in the UK are also facing wasting thousands of litres of milk, as lorries find they cannot access the farms. This could simply mean pouring all this milk down the drain.
Estimates suggest that this cold winter could cost the UK economy £14.5bn in total from lost business. Daily costs will be about £690 million – certainly something that we don’t need in the current climate – financial that is! The following articles look at some of the problems faced across the UK. Read them and then think about the questions below.
Hundreds stranded as Eurostar train breaks down in channel tunnel again Mail Online, Peter Allen (7/1/10)
UK snow freezes transport links and thousands of schools (including video) Guardian, Peter Walker and Steven Morris (6/1/10)
Snowed in, out of pocket. Store staff face a wage freeze Guardian, Caroline Davis and John Stevens (6/1/10)
Livestock being frozen to death in their thousands Scotsman, Frank Urquhart, Alastair Dalton and Mark Smith (7/1/10)
Heavy snow damages business for hospitality industry Big Hospitality, Becky Paskin (6/1/10)
UK’s snowy winter could cost the economy £14.5bn Metro Reporter (7/1/10)
Business leaders criticise school closures BBC News (7/1/10)
Snow puts business continuity plans to the test Computer Weekly, Warwick Ashford (7/1/10)
Freezing weather will cost Welsh economy £25m a day Western Mail, David James (7/1/10)
Snow brings chaos – and beautiful scenes Cotswold Journal (7/1/10)
Local firms count the cost as the big chill continues Belfast Telegraph (7/1/10)
Is snow actually good for the economy? BBC Magazine, Anthony Reuben (15/1/10)
Businesses affected by bad weather BBC News (8/1/10)
- How have businesses been affected by the snow? Is opportunity cost relevant here?
- How is a cost of £14.5bn calculated? (See the article from Metro Reporter.)
- What are the arguments (a) for and (b) against more investment in techniques and equipment to combat these type of conditions?
- Why are pay freezes a possibility for some staff? Illustrate and explain the likely effects of this policy.
- Some shops have seen record sales in this snowy weather, with their shelves completely empty. Which shops would you expect to be in these circumstances and why? (See news item, A new concept for you – Thermal elasticity of demand)
- Which sector of the economy do you think will be the worst affected and why? Which sector’s losses are likely to have the biggest consequences for the UK economy?
Most businesses have suffered over the past year or so. Profits and sales have fallen, as the UK (and global) economy suffered from a recession that’s seen UK interest rates at 0.5%, unemployment rising and public debt at unprecedented levels. Christmas trading always sees a boost in sales and that’s just what’s happened for many businesses. Shoppers have responded to the doom and gloom of the past year by spending and making up for a hard year. Phrases such as “I decided to treat myself” became common on the news as reporters travelled to shopping centres across the UK. However, shops such as M&S and Next have warned that attempts by the government to reduce the public deficit could derail the consumer recovery.
These positive stories, whilst true, are a useful tool to help boost consumer confidence and keep expectations positive for the coming months. However, there are warnings that these figures shouldn’t be taken out of context. The economy is still in trouble and public debt has reached almost 60% of GDP. With cuts in government spending and rises in taxation expected, how much confidence should be taken from these positive signs in the retail sector? Only time will tell.
Online powers Shop Direct sales Financial Times, Esther Bintliff (6/1/10)
Poundland, House of Fraser and Co-op see sales rise BBC News (11/1/10)
Links of London see buoyant festive sales Telegraph, James Hall (5/1/10)
John Lewis reports bumper Christmas trading Retail Week, Jennifer Creevy (5/1/10)
New Look expects to build on strong Christmas London Evening Standard (7/1/10)
Christmas trade booming in City Star News Group, Alex de Vos (7/1/10)
Record trading for Cash Generator Manchester Evening News (7/1/10)
Sainsbury’s hails ‘strong’ Christmas trading BBC News (7/1/10)
Cautious M&S reports strong Christmas trade Times Online, Marcus Leroux and Robert Lindsay (6/1/10)
Asda reports ‘solid’ Christmas trading Guardian (6/1/10)
- Why are expectations important for the future of the British economy? Are the expectations rational or adaptive or a combination of the two?
- Are high Christmas sales really a sign that the economy is recovering? Discuss both sides of the argument. Will high sales now have an adverse effect on future trade in the UK?
- How will expected cuts in government spending affect sales in the retail sector?
- Tax rises are a possibility. How will this affect consumers and sales in the coming year? Think about the circular flow of income.
- If interest rates are increased in the coming months, trace through the likely effects in the goods market.
Life must be very hard for bankers in the UK. Not only are they being partly blamed for the current financial crisis, but they may now have to survive on just their salary. Imagine trying to have a happy Christmas when you’ve only earned £200,000 over the past year: it really will be a cold and hard Christmas for them. Unless of course, the government does call the bluff of the RBS directors who have threatened to quit if an estimated £1.5bn bonus pool for staff at the investment arm of the bank is blocked. Let’s not forget that RBS is largely owned by the public: 70% or an investment of £53.5bn. It’s our taxes that will be used to pay these bonuses giving 20,000 RBS bankers a salary that is at least 3 times greater than the national average.
RBS directors have threatened a mass walkout if the government does withhold the ‘competitive bonus package’. Given that many blame bank directors for plunging us into the credit crunch, some may laugh at their argument that if the bonus package is withheld, then ‘top talent will leave the bank’. However, it is a serious threat: pay out or we leave and you’ll see the profitability of the bank decline, making it less likely that taxpayers will see a ‘return’ on their investment. RBS needs to make profits to repay the taxpayer, but is the taxpayer willing to pay out? RBS directors argue that if its bankers do not receive bonuses, then RBS will lose out in recruiting the best talent. Why would a banker choose to work for a bank that doesn’t pay out bonuses?
Lord Mandelson said: “I understand the point that RBS directors are expressing – they say they have to remain competitive in the market in recruiting senior executives, and this is why it’s important that all the banks are equally restrained, and RBS is not singled out.” One solution here would be a one-off windfall tax on bonuses, or even a permanently higher rate of tax (a ‘supertax’) on bonuses.
Over the past year or so, not a day has gone by when banks are not in the news and the next few days look to be no exception. This is another issue that affects everyone, so read the articles below and make up your mind! The government has an important decision to make, especially given than it’s the taxpayers who will decide on the next government.
‘Bankers need to join the real world’ minister says BBC News (3/12/09)
UK seeks to calm fears of RBS walk-out over bonuses Reuters, (3/12/09)
RBS chief Stephen Hester set to walkout over bonus row Scotsman, Nathalie Thomas (3/12/09)
RBS directors threaten to quit over bonuses Big On News (3/12/09)
Thousands of Bankers paid £1m in bonuses Sky News (3/11/09)
Barclays bankers to get 150pc pay rise Telegraph, Jonathan Sibun and Philip Aldrick (3/12/09)
PM reacts to RBS Director’s threat ITN (3/12/09)
Banks criticise plans for windfall tax on bonuses BBC News (7/12/09)
Will biffing bankers also biff Britain? BBC News, Peston’s Picks, Robert Peston (3/12/09)
Roger Bootle: Bank reform hasn’t gone far enough (video) BBC News (25/12/09)
- How are wages determined in the labour market? Use a diagram to illustrate this.
- Why do bankers receive such a high salary? (Think about elasticity.)
- What are the main arguments for paying out bonuses to bankers?
- If bonuses were blocked, and the RBS directors did walk out, what do you think would be the likely repercussions? Who would suffer?
- One argument for paying bonuses is that bankers need an incentive. Excluding monetary benefits, are there any other methods that could be used to increase their productivity?
- When we consider the labour market, we look at economic power. Who do you think has the power in this case and what do you think will be the outcome?
All nations are interdependent and few have escaped the recent economic turmoil that began with the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market in America. Businesses have gone under; interest rates have been cut and then cut again; profits have fallen; unemployment has risen and expectations have remained gloomy.
But, what’s the latest? How is the British economy faring and what about the rest of the world? Some sources suggest that we are already in a recovery, whereas others suggest that the current downturn is not yet over. House prices recovered somewhat in July, but various sources suggest that they experienced their biggest fall in August. The following articles look at recent economic developments.
Job cuts at Vauxhall likely as GM agrees sale to Magna Telegraph (10/9/09)
A look at Economic developments around the globe The Associated Press (10/9/09)
BoE holds QE at 175 bln stg, rates at 0.5 pct Reuters (10/9/09)
Kesa’s UK recovery hit by European slowdown Times Online (10/9/09)
Top US banker criticises bonuses BBC News (9/9/09)
Austrian GDP contraction slowed in Q2 Reuters (10/9/09)
Europe and America’s economies to beat UK, OECD says Telegraph (4/9/09)
Britain will be behind rest of world in emerging from recession Times Online (3/9/09)
Bank of England holds rates at 0.5pc and QE at £175 bn The Telegraph (10/9/09)
- Do you think the evidence suggests that the outlook for the global economy is improving?
- Why will Britain probably take longer to recover from the recession than other major economies?
- What is the theory behind low interest rates helping the economic recovery?
- Which policies have the UK and other governments used to tackle this economic downturn? Would any others have been more successful?
- In what ways and for what reasons are countries economically interdependent?
It’s probably one of the most recognisable names in the world – Disney. Well, as if the company wasn’t already established enough, it’s just got a bit bigger, with a $4bn deal with Marvel Entertainment, Inc. Characters such as Mickey Mouse, Cinderella and Donald Duck have now been joined by some more masculine characters including Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men. Much of Disney’s recent success has come from films appealing to girls, but in-house Disney franchises appealing to boys are fewer and further between. “We would love to attract more boys, and Marvel skews more in the boys’ direction, although there is universal appeal to many of its characters” said Bob Iger, Disney chief executive. “Marvel’s is a treasure trove of characters and stories, and this gives us an opportunity to mine characters that are well known and characters that are not well known.”
This new deal is likely to have major repercussions for Warner Bros and all of the major Hollywood studios, as well as those with a vested interest in Marvel. It is also hoped that this deal will restore some of Disney’s profits, which have been reduced through the current economic downturn. The following articles consider this deal and the likely results.
Weaker sales dent Disney profits BBC News (30/7/09)
Disney to buy Marvel in $4bn deal BBC News (31/8/09)
Walt Disney buys Marvel Entertainment in £2.5billion deal Mirror News (1/9/09)
Disney take-over of Marvel Telegraph, Paul Gent (2/9/09)
Disney’s Marvel Deal Forces DC’s Hand Defamer, Andrew Belonskey (10/9/09)
Disney deal puts Marvel online slots at risk for Cryptologic Online Gambling News (9/9/09)
Disney’s picl-up of Marvel not so super: Citi FP, Trading Desk (4/9/09)
Disney to buy Marvel in $4bn deal (video) BBC News (1/9/09)
Of mouse and X-men Economist (3/9/09)
Disney buys Marvel, Now in Business with every studio in Hollywood Defamer, Brian Moylan (31/8/09)
For Disney’s announcement of the take-over, see:
Disney to acquire Marvel Entertainment Disney Corporate News Release
- Discuss the pros and cons for consumers of the take-over of Marvel Entertainment by Disney.
- Which factors will have had a significant impact on Disney’s profits in the current recession? Explain why.
- What do you think will be the likely impact of the take-over on Marvel’s shareholders?
- Discuss the main ways in which a business can grow and consider their advantages and disadvantages.
- How will Disney’s Marvel deal affect its competitors and those with whom it does business? Is Disney going to be able to control prices and other aspects of business deals?