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Association News

Ben Cottam, FSB Head of External Affairs, said…

“We are pleased to hear the news that the Severn Bridge tolls will be scrapped at the end of 2018. The abolition of the Severn Bridge tolls has been a long-term campaign for FSB Wales and we are pleased to see that the UK Government has heard and acted on our representations.


“Before the General Election, we urged all parties to confirm when the tolls would be scrapped in order to provide certainties for business. Businesses will now be able to build in the removal of the tolls into their business planning as we know that for many businesses, this can be a financial hit and will be a disincentive to others.


“Many of our members will see this as providing for new opportunities to work cross-border and attract investment and talent from the South West. The business community with the City Region partners also need to consider how this move boosts opportunities to positively market the region as a place to start and grow a business as well as opportunities to boost tourism and leisure.


“The removal of the tolls is however only one of the measures needed to enable easy trade and movement for businesses. We now need to move to a resolution for congestion problems on the M4 including proper consideration of all the available options for improvements”.


Association News

EW Figures: British Consumers Buy Just Over Third The Veg They…


New data released today (20th July) shows that UK consumers are buying two thirds less veg than the amount recommended by health experts. According to Government guidance on a healthy diet, 20% of our shopping should be made up of vegetables, but in reality we only reach 7.2%. Figures from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show that as many as 20,000 premature deaths annually in the UK could be avoided if we all ate more veg.


The analysis, released by The Food Foundation is based on data from consumer behaviour experts Kantar Worldpanel and shows notable regional variations, with English consumers buying the most veg (7.3%) and Scottish consumers the least (6.6%). Welsh shoppers beat their Scottish counterparts, but lag behind England, with 7.1% of their purchases being veg.


Food Foundation Director Anna Taylor says, “Education programmes designed to get people to eat more veg have had limited success. We need to change tack and look at all parts of the food supply chain and ask ourselves what more we can do to make it easier for consumers to eat more veg.


“Today we are publishing a new online guide, which is packed with practical ideas for retailers, big and small, to increase their fresh, frozen and tinned vegetable sales. International and domestic case studies in our guide show that a strong vegetable offer can boost profits, so we hope they’ll be interested.”


Practical tips used by successful retailers and flagged in the guide include measures such as mid aisle displays (which boosted sales of overlooked veg by 400% in Denmark), using floor stickers and marking space in trolleys for fruit and veg.


The guide is endorsed by British convenience store franchise group Simply Fresh, which is based in the Midlands and has 85 stores. Sukhjit Khera, Director of Simply Fresh said:  “Leading on vegetables, making them a prominent part of our displays and overall offer, has been key to our success. In our Alcester store alone, we were able to double turnover and increase our margin by 2% with the introduction of a more substantive vegetable offer, despite being surrounded by a number of the larger high street supermarkets.”


This is backed by the Association of Convenience Stores, who say that 49% of all convenience store shoppers consider healthy options as important.


James Lowman, Chief Executive of the Association of Convenience Stores agrees. “HIM research shows that only 23% of UK consumers think that their local convenience stores have enough healthy options but shoppers tell us that they would recommend stores to friends based on the quality of their fruit and veg. Providing a full range of fruit and veg not only helps consumers make healthy choices, but makes sound business sense.”


The move by the Food Foundation to help retailers improve their veg offer is part of the think tank’s Peas Please initiative. Peas Please is a ground breaking new initiative to address declining levels of veg consumption. It aims to bring together farmers, retailers, fast food and restaurant chains, caterers, processors and government departments with a common goal of making it easier for everyone to eat veg.


As part of the initiative, the Food Foundation will hold a Vegetable Summit which will take place in London, Cardiff and Glasgow on October 24th 2017.


Association News

UK Card Expenditure Statistics: May 2017…


A third of card payments are now contactless, up to 33 per cent from 18 per cent in May 2016;


A total of £4.5 billion was spent via contactless in May 2017, compared to £3.9 billion in April 2017;


The number of card payments continued to grow to 1.4 billion, an increase of 12 per cent over the past year, likely because of the increased use of contactless;


Card spending grew at an annual rate of 7 per cent in May 2017, the highest rate in 15 months, up from 6.5 per cent in April 2017, possibly due to rising inflation;


The strongest monthly increase in spending was recorded at pest control merchants, followed by chemists. Travel related merchants such as foreign exchange bureaus and airport terminals also recorded an increase;


The number of card purchases continued to grow faster than spending. The number of card payments grew by 12 per cent in the year to May 2016, the highest rate since June 2008, while online purchases increased by 19 per cent and contactless payments by 148 per cent.


Richard Koch, Head of Cards at UK Finance, said: “With one in three card payments now contactless, it is clear consumers value the speed and convenience of this way to pay. Card payments continue to grow at a faster pace than spending generally, a trend we predict is going to continue.”

Retail sector spending increased by £36 million from April, to £26.2 billion in May 2017, while food and drink sector spending rose by £34 million to £10 billion.


There was strong growth in spending at merchants providing pest control services, followed by chemists. Travel-related merchants, such as foreign currency exchange and airport terminals, also recorded strong growth.


The debit and credit card share of total retail sales was 77 per cent in May.


Association News

The ALMR, BBPA and BHA gave evidence to the Low Pay Commission, outlining investment by businesses in staff members and sector job creation, but highlighting increasing costs that threaten to undermine further investment.


ALMR Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “The eating and drinking out sector is one that has been characterised by high levels of growth, strong community and high street investment and record job creation since 2010, with employment up 18% and 1 in 7 jobs created. However, that has slowed markedly over the last year to 18 months, partly as a result of economic and currency pressure but largely due to increased regulatory costs, such as business rates, which are in danger of becoming unsustainable in the current trading environment. The 2017 ALMR Christie & CO Benchmarking Report shows a drop in growth from 3.4% to 1.1% across the entire sector. At same time, wage costs have jumped by 12% and gross wage costs as a proportion of turnover now stand at 28%.


Eighty-five percent of businesses have found ways to absorb some of these increased costs, 40% of which have fully absorbed them, resulting in a drop in operating margin, but the sector is approaching a tipping point. Many businesses do not have a cushion against any significant increases and the LPC must understand that large increases in wage rates will threaten future employment and investment.”


 BBPA Chief Executive Brigid Simmonds said: “Given current economic uncertainties and the big increases in costs the industry is facing this year, we do need a cautious approach. The National Living Wage cost the industry around £34 million per year in 2016, with the increase to £7.50 this year adding a further £52 million – an average of around £1,600 for every pub. We are also facing significant new costs in other areas, such as the four per cent rise in beer duty in the Budget, auto enrolment pensions, business rates, and the apprenticeship levy.  The LPC does need to weight all these factors carefully when setting rates.”


Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association said: “The BHA urged the Commission to be cautious in setting rates for the National Minimum Wage from April 2018. As there is only one compulsory rate for all regions and nations of the UK, particular attention must be paid to those parts of the country which are struggling economically.


“Whilst the cost pressures on businesses have been well documented there are real risks to revenue from a weakening in corporate and consumer confidence. It is important that the industry’s growth – especially in employment – is maintained through a responsible NMW settlement.”


For more information visit


Association News

Making Tax Digital was announced by then-Chancellor George Osborne in the 2015 Autumn Statement. Its aim was to digitise the tax system with the self-employed, small businesses and unincorporated landlords needing to keep digital records and use software to update HMRC quarterly.


Whilst a number of business organisations were supportive of plans to simplify tax and bring it into the 21st century many expressed reservations about certain aspects of the proposals. These included the thresholds for unincorporated businesses; the workability of the software and IT systems; and the availability of financial and educational support. However, MTD proposals were delayed by the election – as the Government had to drop them from the Finance Bill in order for it to be passed before Parliament was dissolved.


With the plans having faced criticism from MPs, the Treasury Select Committee, business and professional bodies (including the National Landlords Association and the FSB), the Government announced a U-turn on the 13th July on the extent of the Making Tax Digital requirements, which has generally been welcomed.


Commenting on the Government’s decision, Richard Lambert, Chief Executive Officer at the National Landlords Association (NLA), said: “We are pleased that the Government has finally listened to the concerns raised by the NLA on behalf of landlords who would have been dragged into a system of tax reporting rushed into being before they or it are ready.


“While we have always supported simplifying the tax system, we were concerned by the issues raised by the Making Tax Digital programme, and welcome the changes announced by the new Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride MP, as they address exactly the points we’ve highlighted since the initial announcement.


“However, rather than being evidence that the Government is willing to work with the industry, this has come about because they no longer have the majority to push through such controversial plans”.


The Treasury announced that the current threshold for Mandatory Quarterly Tax reporting would be increased to the VAT threshold of £85,000, meaning the exemption of the smallest firms. Responding, Mike Cherry, Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, described the changes as a “real lifeline for small firms already facing a hugely challenging economic climate”.


The government’s decision to make adoption of Making Tax Digital (MTD) voluntary for the UK’s smallest businesses means that there will be a lot of accountants and small business owners out there breathing a huge sigh of relief. Tax consultant Andrew Hubbard said, “It became increasingly obvious that the proposed timetable was unrealistic. In the end, HMRC had little choice to postpone given the level of pressure they were under from the Treasury Select Committee and the accountancy bodies, not to mention the genuine alarm being expressed by affected businesses.”


Association News

TechSmart NFP2017 is a fast-paced day filled with opportunities to meet a wide range of industry experts, digital leaders, solution providers and thought leaders. A lot of thought has gone into the programme, which has been designed specifically for non-profit organisations.


You’ll hear directly from the experts about data and technologies for today and the future, including, but not restricted to:

How to assess the “health” of your organisation; how best to leverage your data; getting your organisation fit for today; and innovative and emerging tech specific to the sector. Also, ‘Measuring Member Engagement’ – what works and what doesn’t; what’s trending in the digital world; and email marketing and social media – how to harness both for success…


Three Main Streams 

In Catching up Then Keeping Up’ sector strategists explain how to plan your technology strategy and ensure it covers all the key areas of your organisation – for now and the future. If you want to know what a strategy for CRM and associated technologies looks like, and how to ensure that it delivers what you need today – but is also future-proofed – this is the strand to attend.


In the ‘Emerging Tech’ stream, industry tech leaders highlight the key future technologies and innovations that non-profit organisations need to be aware of. If you want to know what is coming down the track technology-wise, and how to prepare your organisations for the future, this is the strand to attend.


Finally, ‘Drowning in Data’, lets sector leaders address a common dilemma that many non-profit organisations face – how to harness data to help drive engagement with members, supporters and stakeholders. So, if you want help to understand the value of the data you hold and maximising it for business benefit, this is the strand to attend.

Informed Decision-Making


In addition to the three strands, our programme includes a number of other session formats and exciting activities that you can participate in, including: Supplier ‘Lightning Talks’, in-depth roundtable discussions, and ‘Ask the Experts’ sessions.


Keynotes sessions will include thought leadership, innovation, and the Digital Age. Fundamental to the programme will be the keynote sessions. These sessions will transform complex information into accessible and entertaining insights and provide a ‘crystal ball’ vision that will prepare our NFP audience for what is coming next technology-wise. We have invited real-world sector experts to talk about tech trends and to leverage their knowledge and expertise to provide in-depth insights into the future of technology and entrepreneurship.


We are delighted to announce that Simon Devonshire OBE, entrepreneur, investor, and Non-Executive Director, will be our opening keynote of the day. Rachel Neaman, CEO, Corsham Institute, will be bringing us together again at her keynote after lunch. Dominic Campbell, Founder and MD FutureGov, is back by popular demand.



Association News

Digital conversion rates should be better, and improving them should be a top priority for those who want their website to be a success. When done well, Conversion Rate Optimisation is a fantastic (and fun) process that gleans fascinating results and has a positive impact on any website, simply by finding out what users want and giving it to them. In this article Footprint Digital ( Head of CRO Alex Eade explains why this process is something that more websites should make use of.

I’ll let you into a secret. Sometimes, I really hate websites. That’s not the sort of thing a digital marketer should say. I should be saying that websites are the best thing since sliced bread. I’d be more inclined to say this if more websites actually did what they set out to do, and did it in a user-friendly way.


Far too often, websites are complex, incoherent, and (if I’m honest) a mess. They’re a pain to use, and put people off. There are too many pop ups, superfluous forms, and illogical navigation bars, and it’s infuriating.


I dream of a world where websites just work. Where websites are a pleasure to use, and really are better than sliced bread. The good news is that I think this is an achievable. Through my work as Head of Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) at Footprint Digital I am able to contribute to this utopian vision by working with NFP organisations to make their web experiences more enjoyable and more effective.


Not for Profit organisations tend to want to increase membership sign ups, increase user engagement and improve efficiencies. The key to achieving these objectives is to improve the web experience for their visitors. However, it’s more than that; a good website makes people happy, whereas users often blame themselves if they can’t get a website to work – it makes them feel stupid, and that’s not beneficial for anyone.


So, what’s the answer: What is CRO?


At Footprint Digital, we often get asked ‘what exactly is CRO?’

In a nutshell, Conversion Rate Optimisation is the process of: understanding why people do not convert, and changing your website in ways that will make it user friendly and persuasive enough to get people to do what you want them to do (often through A/B testing).

For example, a common problem that websites have is the ability to persuade people to register. Registering on a website can be a faff. Registration forms are often not very intuitive, and if you make the slightest mistake you’re sent back to the beginning to fill out your mother’s maiden name for the umpteenth time and tell a bunch of strangers that you called your first dog ‘Mr Whooferson’. Conversion Rate Optimisation will analyse your registration process from a user perspective, work out what’s wrong with it, and fix it so that less of your users slam their laptops shut whilst tearing their hair out, and more of them convert.


User Experience & Flow


One concept that I always come back to when performing CRO is that of customer ‘flow’. McDowell et al (2016) discovered that websites with better conversion rates usually have users who are in flow – i.e they are deeply immersed & involved in using the website. A user’s flow is disrupted by common website annoyances- think download delays, a really slow load time, hyperlinks not linking, spelling mistakes, and poorly designed (often mandatory) registrations. Poor user experience and a poor user journey will stop your website from converting because there are too many hurdles and distractions, meaning people simply cannot immerse themselves. Flow is enhanced by things like a smooth checkout processes, a welcoming homepage, and a good visitor greeting. Basically, a good website equals good flow.


What Should CRO Look Like?


There are many ways to approach CRO. The worst (in my humble opinion) is to make assumptions without research.

There are many generic assumptions that can be made about low conversions. For example, you could assume that people aren’t converting because Polly the copywriter doesn’t write lengthy product descriptions. However, consumer research might tell you that poor old Polly’s descriptions are fine and it’s the page layout that’s frustrating people. Without research, your CRO process will be a stab in the dark, and you will waste valuable resources (and upset Polly in the meantime). Skimping on research is lazy, and it’s not how we do things at Footprint Digital!


Our approach to CRO is thus. Start with research. Gather current customer opinions, perform user testing, audit the website for things that impact user flow. Find out why people aren’t converting. Look at what your competitors’ websites do better than you. Then, take this research and create new web page designs to test against the original page. Use the test data to determine whether the original or the test page converts best. Then, carry on testing things and feeding the data back in to really optimise your CRO. Simple.


At Footprint Digital we believe that CRO should be cyclical, with the test results feeding back into the research to expand what we know. Through this ongoing process we are able to consistently improve web experiences and hope that little by little we can make the world of web a better place. 

Alex Eade, Head of CRO, Footprintdigital  


If you’d like to learn more then please visit the Conversion Rate Optimisation ( and check in on the Footprint Digital Blog (



Association News

Independent Brewers: Consumers Deserve to Know Who’s Behind ‘Craft’ Beer


 The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) have highlighted the need for greater clarity for beer drinkers following a number of buyouts of previously independent craft breweries in the UK by global beer companies, including Camden Town, Meantime, Sharp’s, and most recently London Fields brewery.


The London Fields brand and site was recently purchased by Carlsberg. Mike Benner, SIBA Chief Executive, commented, “Buyouts such as that of London Fields by global beer company Carlsberg are made in the hope of capturing the original customers and target market of an established, previously independent craft beer brewery – Customer bases which were built on the back of the brewery being relatively small, independent and brewing quality, flavoursome beer. Consumers deserve to know that what they are buying is a genuine craft-brewed beer as research* clearly shows that most beer drinkers believe craft beer to be produced by relatively small, independent brewers.”


“SIBA want to see far greater clarity in the market place and as such launched the Assured Independent British Craft Brewer campaign, whereby truly independent craft breweries and the beers they brew, can carry a seal highlighting them as such. It’s a simple accreditation which can be instantly recognised by beer drinkers on bottles or cans on supermarket shelves or on pump clips at the bar.”


The campaign will also be a major feature of the Great British Beer Festival in London this summer where all of the beers from independent breweries will be highlighted on bar banners and in the festival programme. The festival attracts over 50,000 people across the four day event and is run by not-for-profit consumer organisation the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).


SIBA’s South East Regional Director Ed Mason, who also runs Five Points Brewing Co in London, also commented, “London’s thriving independent craft beer scene has been built on the passion, investment, sweat and tears of genuine independent brewers and we know that beer drinkers care about the provenance of their beer. The purchase of the ‘London Fields’ brand by Carlsberg raises a number of questions about genuine independence and ethics in the brewing industry. SIBA’s AIBCB ‘Assured Independent Brewers’ seal will help ensure that customers can tell which beers are truly independent”.



Association News

Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers: Report Spotlights Sector Challenges and Opportunities


Increased operating costs and tightening margins have highlighted the importance of support for the sector and the need for clarity over Brexit, according to the latest edition of the ALMR Christie & Co Benchmarking Report, launched today (11.07.2017).


The ALMR Christie & Co Benchmarking Report benchmarks operating costs, market trends and sector performance and is the most comprehensive study of its kind in licensed hospitality. The 2017 edition shows operating costs passing the 50% mark for the first time in the survey’s history, with growth across the sector continuing to slow. Operating costs across all trading styles now stand at 51.5% of turnover, with growth across the entire survey at 1.1%. The survey also highlights areas of positivity, with licensed accommodation, the success story of last year’s Report, growing at 5.1%; and nightclubs experiencing resurgence with 3.6% growth.


Capital expenditure has also returned to the sector and now exceeds the levels observed pre recession. Some of this expenditure is likely to be defensive in nature, although with so many private equity backed pub and restaurant businesses in the UK, there are clearly bigger growth opportunities within the sector.


For the first time the Report includes a confidence survey which highlights that there is confidence within the sector, particularly trading prospects for 2017 in both anticipated like-for-like turnover growth and anticipated profitability. The majority of respondents felt Brexit would have little impact to their business in 2017.


ALMR Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “Employers are looking at the political instability and uncertainty caused by Brexit and the possibility of significant cost increases, as wages rise and rates reliefs expire. There is a risk that additional costs could hit at a time of great instability hitting eating and drinking out businesses that are crucial to the UK economy and have helped restore prosperity to our town and city centres. However, the continuing growth of accommodation in the eating and drinking out market, and the welcome revitalisation of nightclubs, highlights the innovation and dynamism on show in our sector.


“Venues are responding to challenges by adapting and providing customers with new and exciting experiences. It should be remembered though, that this growth could be undermined if the Government does not provide adequate support for businesses and fails to bring about the stability and access to labour that employers are going to need.”


Neil Morgan, Managing Director – Pubs & Restaurants at Christie & Co, adds, “Despite the well-documented decline in pub numbers over the past three decades we are seeing a more lean and competitive sector emerging as operators diversify and respond to the continuing evolution of the UK consumer landscape. There is clearly confidence in the sector, highlighted by the Report’s confidence survey and increasing levels of capital expenditure, however there are a number of political and economic pressures which could threaten some operators, all exacerbated by the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit negotiations. What is clear is that operators must prepare for both the challenges and opportunities; therefore the need for effective business planning is more essential than ever if operators are to not merely weather the storm but seek to thrive in the long term. ”




As of the 3rd July the finance and banking industry operating in the UK is represented by a new trade association, UK Finance.


UK Finance will represent over 300 firms in the UK providing credit, banking, markets and payment-related services. Its members offer a wide range of financial and advisory services across both mutual and corporates, representing regional, national, domestic and international businesses.


According to its website, Its role will be to help its members build customer trust, facilitate industry-wide collaboration and innovation, and work with policy makers and regulators in the UK, EU and at a global level to ensure that the UK retains its position as a global leader in financial services.


UK Finance is led by CEO Stephen Jones who has nearly thirty years financial experience, including with Santander, Barclays, Citigroup and Schroders. Bob Wigley, formerly EMEA Chairman of Merrill Lynch, and a member of the Court of the Bank of England, is the organisation’s Chair.


Wigley will Chair UK Finance’s Board which has been developed to ensure senior and fair representation across the industry, as well as reflecting the previous six associations’ views. It will focus on issues of importance to retail, SME and wholesale customers including ethics, financial inclusion, financial fraud, crime, access to markets and diversity.


UK Finance’s Board will also ensure the consumer voice is represented via the inclusion of a strong, independent consumer champion while significant overlap of board members with the Banking Standards Board will support a close cooperation with its work to promote high standards across the industry.


UK Finance will take on activities previously carried out by:


The Asset Based Finance Association (ABFA)

British Bankers’ Association (BBA)

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML)

Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK)

Payments UK

The UK Cards Association (UKCA)

UK Finance will operate from Angel Court in the City of London