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Health Care Reform Drives Florida Company’s Rapid Growth
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British Retail Consortium’s three-month average, which irons out distorting effect of Easter, shows growth slowed to 2.6%
Retailers suffered a 2.2% drop in sales last month compared with a year ago, thanks to the timing of Easter and wintry weather, according to industry figures.
The British Retail Consortium’s three-month total growth average, which irons out the distorting effect of Easter falling in April last year and March this year, was 2.6%. That was a slower pace of growth than in the three months to February and March and the BRC said a recovery in consumer spending remained elusive.
“There’s a sense that people are more prepared to spend than they were but chief executives are telling me that’s volatile. A convincing trend towards revival is hard to spot and competitive pricing is still critical to generating sales,” said the BRC’s director general Helen Dickinson.
But April was not all bad, she stressed, noting that for non-food sales it was better than March once the Easter distortion was taken away.
“Wintry weather, followed by the arrival of sun, had a big influence on some retailers,” she said. “Fashion sales were weak early in the month but that was almost entirely made up later when signs of spring arrived. While health and beauty gained both ways with strong sales of cold and flu remedies and then of bronzing and skin care products.”
Last week a panel of experts answered your questions on starting up in the food industry. Here are the highlights
Monique Borst is a food business development expert
How can you check if your food business idea is viable?: In my experience, people often mistake their aptitude for cooking or passion for food as a shoo-in for business success. Rather than write a full business plan, one quick and easy way to determine whether your food business idea is potentially viable is to run through this checklist:
1. Do I have a market for it?
2. Do I know how to reach the people who might want this?
3. Do I have the resources, skills and time to do this?
4. Is this something people will pay for?
5. How sustainable is this business?
6. Is the business marketable?
Paul Bray is an associate director at Smith & Williamson
Be sensible when financing your food business: The key message has to be not to over-stretch yourself in the early periods. Start small and grow at a sensible pace, otherwise you will be running around chasing your tail – get a sound start underway and then progress in time, rather than rush.
Jean Edwards is the managing director at Deli Farm Charcuterie
Farmers’ markets are a good way to test your product when starting up: When I started just over seven years ago my only sales were through a regular weekly farmers’ market; it was a brilliant way of getting to market and meeting people, getting feedback and so on. By the end of our first summer I was too busy to attend the market on a regular basis, but would never look back on the contacts that I made from there.
What sort of environmental health regulations arise when starting a food business from home? A lot depends on what type of business you are thinking of starting and where you see your customer base. All food premises have to be passed by environmental health, so I would suggest you have a preliminary meeting with your local environmental health officer (EHO), explain exactly what you are intending to do and they will advise you. Remember your EHO is a source of free information – use them as a resource and not the enemy!
Miranda Ballard is the co-founder at Muddy Boots, a beef burger company
What to think about in terms of location: You’ll know where you should be by doing research into the market and your demographic. Go where your customers are so that you’re surrounded by them and you can start selling to them. Remember to be where you want to be too – no point living where you’re not happy. There’s no point taking all the risks and stresses of having your own business if you’re not happy with where you’re living. What’s best for the business is also what’s best for you – there’s more chance the company will survive if you’re happy.
You can still be a British brand with ingredients sourced elsewhere: We’re a British food brand, from a marketing and content perspective. Some of our ingredients (tomato puree, garlic, black pepper) are imported. We’ve seen all those prices go up in the past 18 months because of transport, labour and production. The idea that all food produced in Britain will stay in Britain doesn’t acknowledge the foods that can’t be grown or produced here – our taste buds will have to revert after these glory years!
Think carefully about how you use social media: In the past month, I’ve been really thinking about social media for small businesses. I think there’s a danger that the massive national or global platform that it brilliantly provides can actually sometimes be too wide a marketing spread for the small business. What I mean is, we all know that we’re meant to find our demographic and then target them, to the point of excluding everyone else. I worry that small businesses can get distracted with the cross-demographic appeal of social media. It’s important to remember you have to work hard to find and appeal to your own demographic – a like or a retweet from someone in your demographic is much, much more valuable than 100 from those outside it.
Roopa Rawal is the co-founder at Devnaa, a luxury Indian-inspired confectionery company
Know your brand: Be really passionate about your products and do everything you can to build a good reputation for your brand – interact with consumers as much as possible. Customer care is really important especially with food, as even though ingredients are all written down people will want to be assured of the taste, quality of ingredients, allergy information and so on. The best part is that if they like it they will definitely go out and tell everybody they know about it.
Quality of food is paramount at the moment: I think more so than with healthy eating, consumers are becoming more aware of the quality of what they eat and drink. As people have become more health conscious they’ve also realised that the quality of what they consume plays just as big a part in maintaining their health – even if they want a treat.
Philippa Taylor works at Grand Union PR, a food PR company
Think about how you portray yourself online: Make sure that you have a domain name which is unique to you for a hosted website which you can customise yourself, and that your website is set-up to either sell online, act as a brochure or both. Drive traffic to your site by regularly updating it with seasonal and limited edition products, newsletters, competitions, recipes and testimonials and so on. Link all your promotion together on the social media channels you use and push customers towards your website. Set up Google Analytics so that you can see what works and what doesn’t.
Offline, think about taking information and images from your website and using them in leaflets at markets, on pop-up banners at events, and as press releases for journalists.
This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. To receive more like this you can become a member of the Small Business Network here.
Tobacco giant warned of loss of jobs in UK before packaging rules were dropped, and anti-smoking camp also cites possible fear of Ukip
Anti-smoking campaigners have accused the government of caving in to pressure from the tobacco lobby and running scared of Ukip after plans to enforce the sale of cigarettes in plain packs failed to make it into the Queen’s speech.
Minutes released by the Department of Health show that one of the industry’s leading players had told government officials that, if the move went through, it would source its packaging from abroad, resulting in “significant job losses.”
Cancer charities and health experts were expecting a bill to be introduced last week that would ban branded cigarette packaging, following a ban introduced in Australia last December. At least one health minister had been briefing that the bill would be in the Queen’s speech. But the bill was apparently put on hold at the last minute with the government saying it would be a distraction from its main legislative priorities.
Ukip, which enjoyed considerable success in last week’s elections, has positioned itself firmly on the side of smokers and there is a suspicion that the Tories scrapped the plan because they did not want to be seen as anti-smoking.
It has emerged that senior Department of Health officials held four key meetings with the industry’s leading players in January and February, when at least one of the tobacco giants spelled out to the government that its plan would result in thousands of jobs going abroad.
Department of Health minutes released last week reveal that Imperial Tobacco, British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris International and Japan Tobacco International were each invited to make representations to the government, in which they attacked the plan and its impact on the UK economy.
Only the minutes of the meeting with Imperial have been released. They record that Imperial warned if plain packs were introduced it would source packaging from the Far East resulting “in significant job losses in the UK.”
The tobacco giant also outlined how its packaging research and development department supported small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK and argued that standard packs would “result in some of these being put out of business”.
It added that the plan would boost the illicit trade in cigarettes, which already costs the Treasury £3bn in unpaid duty and VAT a year. And it noted that 70,000 UK jobs rely on the tobacco supply chain, implying some of these would be threatened if the illicit market continued to grow.
When asked to hand over its assessment of the impact of the plan, Imperial refused, citing commercial sensitivity.
The decision to delay the introduction of plain packs is a major success for the tobacco lobby, which has run a ferocious campaign against the move. Cigarette makers fear that the loss of their branding will deprive them of their most powerful marketing weapon. The industry has backed a series of front campaign groups to make it appear that there is widespread opposition to the plan, a practice known in lobbying jargon as “astroturfing”. Many of the ideas were imported from Australia, where the tobacco giants fought a bitter but ultimately unsuccessful campaign to resist plain packs. Much of the Australian campaign was masterminded by the lobbying firm Crosby Textor, whose co-founder Lynton Crosby is spearheading the Tories’ 2015 election bid.
Crosby was federal director of the Liberal party in Australia when it accepted tobacco money. Crosby Textor in Australia was paid a retainer from BAT during the campaign against plain packs. Some anti-smoking campaigners are now questioning whether the decision to drop the plain packs bill was as a result of shifting allegiances at Westminster.
“It looks as if the noxious mix of rightwing Australian populism, as represented by Crosby and his lobbying firm, and English saloon bar reactionaries, as embodied by [Nigel] Farage and Ukip, may succeed in preventing this government from proceeding with standardised cigarette packs, despite their popularity with the public,” said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the health charity Action on Smoking and Health.
The decision to drop the plan will become a divisive issue for the coalition because the Liberal Democrats were strongly in favour of the measure, which will still be introduced in Scotland.
It is also a concern for the government’s own health adviser. “Our view is that plain packaging is one of a range of measures shown to be effective in reducing the amount of people taking up smoking,” said Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, the government agency charged with helping people to live longer and more healthily.
A Department of Health spokeswoman denied that tobacco lobbying had been a factor in the decision to pull the bill. “These minutes simply reflect what the tobacco company said at the meeting, not the government’s view,” she said. “The government has an open mind on this issue, and any decisions to take further action will be taken only after full consideration of the evidence and the consultation responses.”
Earl Howe’s position on advisory committee under threat as doctors claim he ‘mis-sold’ health reforms
A health minister is facing the humiliation of being ousted from a prestigious role within the Royal College of Physicians over claims that he falsely reassured doctors who feared the coalition would privatise of the NHS.
Earl Howe’s position on an advisory committee is being reviewed following a complaint. Six influential members of the professional body that represents doctors wrote to its president, Sir Richard Thompson, claiming that the minister was “not a fit person to fulfil this important role”. Thompson has launched an investigation by the College’s trustees into Howe’s probity.
The senior doctors claim that Howe, a former banker, falsely advised them that reforms under the health and social care bill would not force doctors to use market mechanisms to choose where patients will be treated.
According to the doctors, the regulations will mean that clinical commissioning groups – the bodies to be set up by GPs to organise patients’ care – will have to put services out to tender if there is more than one provider capable of offering particular treatments. This means NHS hospitals and services will have to compete with private health firms for business.
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said there had been a breakdown in trust between health professionals and government, adding: “This whole issue has become a crisis of trust for the department of health. There would be a straight forward breach of trust given that statements ministers have given have not been honoured.
“The medical profession feels the government has mis-sold its NHS reforms. It was sold on the principle that doctors would be in control but in fact it will be the market that will decide.”
A spokeswoman confirmed that Thompson, and “in the interest of probity”, had “referred the issue to the board of trustees and would report back in June”.
She said the Friends of the RCP, the committee on which Howe serves, is an informal advisory group, including past presidents and officers, and figures from finance, industry, and other charities, that plays no role in the governance or management of the RCP but offers advice in areas such as effective fundraising.
The coalition denies the regulations will force doctors to put services out to tender, believing it will give GPs the ability to select a variety of providers and will improve standards.
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Harper Government increases support to global immunization and child health
Read more here: Canada Remains Global Leader in Polio Eradication
The latest poll from the King’s Fund shows how both young and old continue to support the principles of the NHS: that healthcare, funded through taxation, is available to all on the basis of need, rather than the ability to pay. On 24 April the Lords will debate competition regulations made under section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act, which, if implemented, establishes a default position of local commissioning groups having to put services out to tender. It would put profit before patients, quick fixes before quality care and seriously undermine the NHS, leaving many people to suffer under a postcode lottery. Yet experience has shown that the market has already damaged the culture of the NHS. From 1948 onwards the public have helped create, fund and support the principle of healthcare for all. The government has no mandate to end this. Those of us who value the NHS must defend it. Contact a peer and ask them to show their opposition to the competition regulations.
Dot Gibson National Pensioners Convention, Ken Loach Director, Spirit of