Toys R Us to close ‘at least’ 26 stores across the UK

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The toys giant makes the announcement after filing for bankruptcy in September.

Around a third of Toys R Us stores across the United Kingdom will shut meaning 800 jobs are at risk following the company’s restructure plans after a bad run-up to Christmas and filing for bankruptcy.

With sales down 10% and profit margins under pressure, Toys R Us’ bankruptcy announcement in September is a result of a $5 billion debt (£3.7 billion) build up.

Other aspects such as the rise of e-commerce and online shopping alongside the rise in competition from the likes of Argos has seen the retail behemoth crash. A number of suppliers also reported stopping their deliveries to Toys R Us ahead of Christmas due to credit insurance issues.

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Thomas Cook is planning the closure of 50 stores

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If the plan was to go ahead, the travel operator would close the Thomas Cook and Cooperative Travel branded stores by March 2018.

The move comes in the wake of a fall in footfall leading to a decline in profits at the travel agency. 400 people are said to be affected but the company will rehouse many of them.

Saying this, online sales are on the increase.

Stores generated 47% of Thomas Cook’s holiday bookings in 2017, but online sales have grown 27% in the UK.

Group taking Google to UK High Court for violating iPhone privacy settings

Google
‘Google You Owe Us’ is taking Google to court for the way it obtained data from people’s iPhones.

The BBC states that Google is being taken to court in the UK for harvesting data from 5.4 million users in the United Kingdom to deliver ad targets.

The group ‘Google You Owe Us’ is led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd. He states that each user could get “several hundred pounds” if the case is won, and according to the BBC, he is supported by law firm Mishcon de Reya.

The group also says that Google placed ad-tracking cookies throughout 2011 and 2012 that can pinpoint which websites users have been to on Safari devices. The Safari browser blocks cookies by default.

The case will reportedly be held in the High Court around spring 2018.

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Bitcoin reaches $10,000 mark

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The cryptocurrency made history and crossed the $10,000 mark for the first time today, reaching $10,044 at 1:45am UTC.

Bitcoin‘s incredible rise continues after the virtual currency was trading at $1,000 at the beginning of 2017. It first reached this number in late 2013, before dipping and rising again.

The total Bitcoins in existence now are valued at over $167 billion with many experts saying it can go much further, while others are sceptical about the rise because of dips along the way.

Bitcoin was first introduced in 2009 and took a few years to be noticed as a viable ‘alternative’ to ‘traditional’ currency.

Bitcoins are created via a process known as ‘mining’ where the connected networks of individuals solving maths problems are awarded coins for their efforts. Security and reliability are huge issues facing the concept with many sceptical on how safe the ‘virtual wallet’ system really is.

With this current position, Bitcoin is up more than 900% on a year-to-date basis, with prices climbing 230% since a low of $3,000 in the middle of September.

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UK lags behind EU economic growth in Q3

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EU economic growth was estimated to have increased by 0.6% in the third quarter as opposed to the UK’s 0.4%.

The Eurostat figures show the differences in fortunes between Britain and the single currency area during Brexit talks. The 19 members grew 0.2% faster in the three months to September this year.

Eurozone GDP growth of 0.7% in the second quarter of 2017 was ahead of the UK’s 0.3% growth, the weakest rate in the G7.

This has been attributed to factors such as weak investment and potential opportunities across the continent post-Brexit.

Inflation in the UK also grew to 3% last month, the highest since 2012.

Confidence in UK housing sector hits half-decade low

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The Halifax bank survey showed 20% of people think house prices will drop because of rising inflation and the potential of an increase in interest rates.

This is the weakest reading since October 2017 and people under the age of 25 and living in London are the least optimistic. Correlated alongside this is the weak growth in wages, rising inflation rates, and for the first time in a decade, the Bank of England being set to increase interest rates.

The survey, which took in 2,000 British adults, saw two-thirds stating obtaining a deposit as the greatest barrier to buying a new house. Job security was also a major worry. £222,293 was the average price of a house in the UK in August.

Not surprisingly London was the only area with an entirely negative outlook to purchasing right now. The ages of 16 to 24 were the most pessimistic about buying; over 65 was the most positive group surveyed.

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UK car manufacturing falters in September

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The fall in UK car manufacturing was predominantly attributed to an overall fall in demand of 14% in the UK market.

UK car output fell 4.1% to 153,224 vehicles last month. The months of April, May, June and August also saw declines.

Domestic demand declined by a large sum to 31,421 units (14.2%) in September. This contributes to the overall year-to-date production decrease of 2.2%. Alongside this, exports dropped by 1.1% to 121,803.

The first nine months of 2017 has seen 1,259,509 cars manufactured, a decline of 2.2% when compared with last year.

With many looking towards more environmentally-friendly modes of transport and the advent of the e-car, the traditional British car manufacturers are unsurprisingly taking a hit. The beginning of this week saw Mayor Sadiq Khan introduce the toxicity charge (T-charge) to encourage people to drive less polluting cars. This will add to the already-existing £11.50 congestion charge.

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UK economy beats 2017 third-quarter expectations

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The British economy grew by 0.4% in the third quarter but difficulties still lie in the current Brexit landscape.

Gross domestic product (GDP) grew 0.4% from the period July to September, which is up from the 0.3% of the last quarter and 0.1% higher than initially expected, according to the Office for National Statistics figures.

This small growth will boost the chances of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee raising interest rates when members meet next week.

However, the economy is growing at a slower pace than it was last year. Manufacturing had a slow second quarter but jumped to boost third-quarter figures even with construction slumping to a second-quarter loss in a row. But the greatest contributor to growth during this period was the service sector, which expanded by 0.4% in itself.

Last quarter’s 0.3% growth was only half that of the 19-member eurozone and the lowest amongst the G7 nations.

The new figures shed light on the potential to a rise in rates which, if to occur, would be the first time a rates rise has happened in the UK since July 2007.

Costa losing out to expensive imports and artisan competitors

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The coffee giant’s pre-tax profits dropped around 10% to £59 million.

Whitbread, Costa’s owner, saw group profits rise by 20% to £316 million thanks to its Premier Inn hotel business and a sales growth of 7% to £1.7 billion.

Coffee imports have become more expensive as the product is priced in dollars. This is also due to the fall in the value of sterling.

In the six months to 31 August, Costa’s revenues increased by 8% but this was largely down to the introduction of 108 new stores.

The Premier Inn Hotel saw profits rise by 27% to £295 million due to the addition of 2,000 rooms. It’s also looking to add eight new hotels in Germany.

Costa hopes that the “third wave of coffee” will help boost sales. With more artisan coffee producers reeling in young consumer, the British coffee giant will look into producing a more sophisticated and high-calibre quality of coffee.

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Virgin Trains to auction first class seats via app

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East Coast train line operator Virgin Trains is to allow passengers to bid for first class tickets via a smartphone app, in a move it describes as a global first.

The Seatfrog app will enable passengers to bid for upgrades up to 30 minutes before departure, with upgrades potentially costing as little as £5, according to the operator.

“We have a strong record of innovating for the benefit of our customers and we are really excited to be partnering with Seatfrog to offer customers more opportunities to experience first class,” said Suzanne Donnelly, commercial director at Virgin Trains on the east coast.

“Our innovative partnership with Seatfrog means passengers can get last minute upgrades to first class seats from as little as £5 and there are real deals to be had. Plus, the live bidding element means you can decide at the last minute if you fancy treating yourself and, if you do, bidding to bag a bargain is great way to go about it.”

Seatfrog is available on Android and iOS, and the company has offices in London, Sydney and Tokyo. Its CEO, Iain Griffin, said that “modern travel is full of rules and regulations that can make getting to our final destination a frustrating experience.

“Everyone loves an upgrade, but the excitement of it and the ability to just change your mind at the last minute is suffering because of the many complicated processes that exist today. Seatfrog is giving passengers the power to upgrade easily and transparently, in the palm of their hand.

“Plus, because we are firm believers that it should never be too late to change your mind, you can upgrade right up to 30 minutes before you go. We’re delighted to be bringing Seatfrog to Virgin Trains’ passengers and to be helping more people than ever to enjoy the perks of First with zero hassle.”