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Redundancies in Bread Division Announced by Premier Foods

Hovis BreadPremier Foods to cut 900 jobs in the bread making division

Hovis owner Premier Foods has announced it will close two of its bakeries, putting 900 jobs up for redundancy.

The biggest impact will be in Birmingham, where 511 jobs are to be lost with the closure of a factory and distribution operation.

Another 196 jobs will be lost in Hovis operations at Greenford, west London, as well as another 95 job cuts from distribution sites at Plymouth and Mendlesham, Suffolk.

The job cuts won’t take effect before Christmas, as a consultation process will have to be completed first, but will take place next year.

The news wasn’t a surprise for most, as Premier Foods has spoken regularly about the increased competition Hovis faces in the UK market, and the troubles which have hit the price and production of bread in the past few years, such as poor grain harvests.

Almost half of Premier Foods 10,000 employees work in the bread division.

The loss of a lucrative £75m-a-year contract with a major grocery chain, reported to be the Cooperative according to the Mirror, was revealed earlier this year, after Premier said it had been unable to secure suitable conditions.

According to the Mirror, the deal went instead to Allied Bakeries, which makes Kingsmill and Allinsons and is part of ­Associated British Foods.

The Premier chief executive, Michael Clarke, said: “We recognise the impact these actions will have for our employees at the sites affected.

“Decisions will not be taken lightly, but they are necessary if we are to build a strong and successful future for the bread division and those who remain with our business.”

Premier Foods has also sold a number of its well known pickle brands to Japanese firm Mizkan in the past year, including Branston’s, Haywards and Sarson’s vinegar, as part of its ongoing efforts to reduce company debt.


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Self Checkouts – when do they work?

Seven steps to Self Checkout heaven (or hell?)self-checkout

Most customers have probably been forced into trying them by now and love them or hate them. If you’re thinking of installing one to improve customer flow through the till area than you may want to consider the following:

1.    High flow, low value sales

In these circumstances the self checkout approach can work quite well. For example the lunch time rush hour where people are buying sandwiches and a drink. In large cities such as London it is not uncommon to see ranks of self service checkouts which are being utilised almost at full capacity from 12.00 until 14.00. The rest of the day they may be relatively unused and when installing you should consider how long it will take for a return on investment if the POS only boosts through flow for short periods of the day. You will of course have significant savings in the number of part time staff required to service customers at peak times.

2.    Credit card only

Couple this with a near field reader for low value purchases and things can really begin to speed up in the lunch hour. The down side is you will still need manned tills to handle sales to traditionalists paying cash.

3.    How many customers will walk out?

Some customers will refuse to use self service either from fear of the technology or previous bad experiences. In many cases they will dump and walk if there is a long queue at the single manned till and we all know that means you probably won’t be seeing them again, ever.

4.    Consider the demographics of your customers?

More mature customers are generally resistant to change but often spend proportionally more than their younger counterparts. If you are sited near a retirement village automation may not be the best way forward

5.    Age restricted goods

Alcohol and tobacco are the main items to consider. In the case of alcohol self checkout is possible in most countries but you will need staff on hand to quickly authorise the customer as being old enough to buy the product. As self checkout is being promoted as fast and easy any delay is annoying not just for the customer at the checkout but also those queuing behind.

Tobacco is more complicated as automatic cigarette machines are still commonly available in many countries but in others where restrictions are tighter and sales are either dark (the buyer is protected from seeing the product, for example in Ireland) or plain packaged (being introduced in Australia) the restrictions probably mean a manned tobacco kiosk will always be required.

6.    Are your bar codes clear?

Probably the biggest crime! If the scanner can’t read the bar code it’s unlikely the customer will be able to type the code in instead. This will lead to two problems:

  • They reject the item and you lose the sale of the item
  • It happens more than once and they dump the complete shop

The only way round this is to have enough staff available to help – but then reducing staffing was the reason for installing the self checkout in the first place.

7.    And the most frustrating problem….

The customer has managed to scan in twenty items with some difficulty. A member of staff has had to authorise a bottle of wine and the bar code wouldn’t read on a packet of meat. They come to pay and either the note reader or credit card reader refuses to work. Do you think they will come back tomorrow?


Working well in the right environment self checkouts will boost sales and reduce staffing costs. Get them wrong and you risk losing customers permanently. What you think, any other suggestions?

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Tesco boss Philip Clarke says retailers need to ‘get personal’ with customers

Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke said retailers need to “get personal” with customers if they are to stay ahead in the changing digital landscape and forge closer links with suppliers to deliver innovation.Retail Accounting

Speaking at the IGD Convention in London, Clarke said retailers should rethink their approach to retailing as the digital revolution has changed the way customers shop.

“We need to personalise our entire offer to cater for individual needs and to anticipate what customers want in the future,” he said.

Clarke said one in five online purchases at Christmas will be made via a smartphone and that the recession has increased the importance of digital.

He said digital creates new challenges for retailers, including privacy and the protection of customer data. “All brands should have one seamless relationship with customers both online or in store, the same high standard,” he said.

The development of social media has meant customer tastes are changing even more quickly, Clarke said. As such, retailers need to be more innovative, he added.

He explained that Clubcard had helped Tesco stay ahead of changing customer tastes but “success in the past doesn’t guarantee future success”.

He said retailers can’t deliver innovation on their own and relationships with suppliers are key. “We need to forge closer links with suppliers,” he said. “The pace of change is so fast, and the customer offer needs to be so personal, that we need to work closer with suppliers.”

Tesco has set up an internal online community for its global suppliers to share data and ideas. Clarke said it offers blogs, discussion forums and insight on customers to share with suppliers.

Clarke said: “If we want suppliers and manufacturers to personalise what we sell, we have to tell them what customers are telling us.”

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Can we buy the Ferrari yet? Five ways to ruin a retail business.

Five ways to ruin a retail businessMany retailers aspire to a certain standard of living; a large house, prestige car and expensive holidays being part of the lifestyle. This may be their image of a wealthy businessman but in most cases this can only be achieved after many years of hard work and several successful businesses (and a few failures) behind you. Here are a few mistakes made by many would be entrepreneurs:

1. I need a new BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, (even a Ferrari or Bentley for the more ambitious…). It’s only a few hundred a month and it all comes off the business. Two problems here:

a. The business may not have a few hundred a month profit to spend.

b. Not all the costs are business related. If you cover 12,000 miles a year driving to various golf clubs and only 1,000 for the business then the cost to the business is only a twelfth of the running costs.

2. All the money in the bank belongs to me! Well I am afraid this isn’t true either, most of it will belong to your creditors and in the case of commercial property rentals, which are often paid quarterly or six monthly in advance, you will need to have the cash available for the next payment or you won’t have a business. (Oh, and don’t forget you need to pay the tax man as well).

3. I can buy a new TV, DVD recorder, washing machine etc. on the business. You can providing that when the tax inspector visits all the equipment is used for the business and hasn’t mysteriously found its way into your living room. Do you really spend all night watching the close circuit TV from the shop and washing your employees’ work clothes?

4. I can let a manager at the shop do all the work, pay him just above minimum wage and I’ll make a fortune while I play golf. This is always a good one to try until you find out that your trusted manager is:

a. Eating, smoking and drinking your stock.

b. Taking cash out of the till.

c. Letting their friends and family have large discounts and/or eat, smoke and drink your stock etc without paying…

Didn’t you ever wonder how they paid for the flashy sports car and foreign holidays out of the amount you paid?

5. Keep taking a monthly “wage” which is far higher than the profit being made by the business. You know your business is a goldmine and there is plenty of profit to pay for the mortgage, pony lessons, football club season ticket and all those other essentials you need as a successful businessman.

If you had only looked regularly at your accounts you would have realised that the business wasn’t making quite as much money as you thought and there would have been no need for all the unpleasantness with the car being repossessed outside your child’s school gate.

And finally the good news…

If you do work hard, minimise costs, look after your staff, and keep a close eye on the accounts, there is a very good chance you will have a successful business and can eventually buy that Ferrari. There’s a very good reason most sports car owners are over fifty, and it’s not just the insurance premium.

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Retail Business intelligence, smart but not comprehensive

Over the past 12 months, we have spoken with many retail businesses which have started to embark on a business intelligence project to collect and analyse data about their business. This can be slightly frustrating as in many cases the CounterBooks system can already provide the information they require without any special customisation.

Now this could be down to our limited marketing expertise, or maybe the recognition of the need to analyse the performance of their business in new ways has not resonated with the retailer, however we felt it was an ideal opportunity to share our thoughts about business intelligence.

So what is business intelligence?

“Business intelligence (BI) mainly refers to computer-based techniques used in identifying, extracting, and analyzing business data, such as sales revenue by product and/or department, or by associated costs and incomes”

In essence, it allows the management team to be more aware of the business’s performance and take the necessary action. However many BI tools and projects we have come across only analyse data from a point of sale (POS) or back office system (BOS) focusing on sales performance and, maybe gross profit, which is the main concern for many of the intended stakeholders. However this does not address the full spectrum of the Profit and Loss and does not take into account the Balance Sheet implications that increasing or declining sales can put on the financial position of the business.

So what are we suggesting? Well firstly, we are not dismissing the value of general purpose business intelligence tools, they are powerful tools but we think they should not be seen as the total solution, there is a subset of business intelligence called “accounting intelligence” which goes deeper and provides a wider view of business performance. Accounting intelligence (AI) is the general name for the set of technologies used to extract, analyse and present information from accounting and ERP applications such as JD Edwards, Oracle E-Business Suite or SAP. In Accounting Intelligence there is no need for a data warehouse, the data is extracted directly from the ERP at the time that a query is run.

CounterBooks is an online retail accounting system using a SQL server database, which allows us to extract data and present it in many different formats. Where business intelligence systems analysing POS/BOS data may tell the user that certain product lines have increasing sales, although interesting, this may not be very important if your landlord has increased the rent by 10%, electricity cost are up 15%, and the overall profit from the business has fallen to almost zero. With the accountancy intelligence reports available in CounterBooks you can review the overall performance and value of your business as well as monitoring sales trends. So maybe we do have a solution, and maybe we are just not good at communicating the benefits to the users.