Optimism, in short, was a characteristic of the day. “It feels like progress is being made. There is not the same sense of angry frustration as was [at the EEF National Conference] last year,” said Craig Naylor managing director of precision tooling company NTR.
The opening presentation from Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, showed that such optimism is not without reason. He carefully laid out evidence to show that the global economic outlook is not as dire as most believe.
Mr O’Neill, who coined the term BRIC in reference to the world’s fastest growing economies, clarified the business imperative of becoming involved in those markets. He also defined a global economic rebalancing of power between the US “which used to consume too much and produced to little,” and China “which used to consume too little and produce too much.” Analysing data on national retail sales and consumer spending shows that we are moving towards an equilibrium says O’Neill.
Glossing over concern in some quarters that China’s growth is slowing, O’Neill stated some stunning facts about its continued expansion – between 2010 and 2012 China’s growth equalled the entire value of India’s economy, worth over $4 trillion.
Countering naysayers who moan that the UK still exports more to Ireland than it does to the lucrative BRIC markets, Mr O’Neill stated that “this is no longer true”. Canny firms are changing the balance and O’Neill revealed that UK exports to the eurozone have in fact declined by 10% since 2000. In the meantime, UK exports to the BRICs have grown to account for 8% of what Britain sends overseas and Goldman Sachs’ guru says this should reach 17% by the end of the decade.
The message to those with a thirst for growth was this – grab your competitive advantage while you can.
Thirst for growth.
But do UK firms really have this thirst, and who is helping them quench it?
An interview with Siemens UK CEO Roland Aurich at the conference touched on the now traditional comparison of UK SMEs with the more mature German Mittelstadt, characterised by professional management despite often being family owned. By comparison, later comments from an expert panel of industry leaders and finance professionals linked family management in the UK with a ‘lifestyle’ approach to business which often dulled aspirations for expansion.
This linked to debate on access to finance. A divide became apparent between those with anecdotal evidence of being turned down for the funding they needed in order to invest and expand, and bank representatives who insisted that they were willing to lend to good business propositions but were experiencing little demand.
What is it we love about the Mittelstadt?
Mark Ridgway, president, the Manufacturing Technologies Association: “I strongly believe that the internationalisation of SMEs is essential in achieving UK growth. But the conference exposed a confused view of SME ambition and competency. We heard family run businesses described as the backbone of the German manufacturing sector with stable long term strategies, but similar ownership in the UK being associated with ‘lifestyle’ operations. It also became clear that understanding of supply chains and the potential position of SMEs within them is weak in some quarters. The possibility of an SME being a capital equipment ‘prime’ was ignored in the supply chain workshop.”
High-End Fashion Startup Material Wrld Makes Its Official Debut.
Material Wrld, the fashion startup seed funded by Warby Parker and Bonobos investor Great Oaks VC, is today making its public debut. The e-commerce site has come a long way since the beta it had running late last year, and to kick off its launch, the company is introducing a number of new features to help its fashion community discover new styles, ideas and people to follow.
The marketplace was founded by Rie Yano and Jie Zheng, who met while in grad school at Harvard. Both had worked in the fashion industry themselves – Yano in digital media marketing at Coach, and Zheng at Ralph Lauren and J Crew.
As the company name hints, the site plans to go after an international audience. And Yano tells us that currently, some 30 percent of the service’s traffic comes from outside the U.S., despite the Material Wrld’s still heavy New York focus.
“We’re aggressive about entering new markets,” explains Yano, “because at the end of the day, a marketplace is only exciting when it’s international. More than half of eBay sales are done internationally,” she adds. “From the beginning, our business model has been about allowing people to discover and purchase from anywhere in the world.”
The service is going after the high-end fashion consumer, allowing them to photograph and share the items in their closet, and then sell those items to other users in a peer-to-peer marketplace setting. It’s a concept that’s been tried before from startups like Poshmark, Threadflip, Twice, and even kids’ clothes marketplace like ThredUp. But Yano notes that Material Wrld isn’t going after “fast fashion,” as she calls it; it’s very brand and quality conscious. Price points for clothes on sites like Poshmark tend to fall in the $20 to $30 range, she remarks, while on Material Wrld, it’s much higher.
“We’re not disclosing our sales figures yet, but our average order price is around $100,” Yano says. “And we’re actually focused on bringing that average order price up. We’re differentiating ourselves from the rest of the resale space, which is much more like ‘thrifting’ than ‘luxury consigning,’”
With today’s official debut, the site is offering its early adopters half a dozen new features, including real-time notifications of site activity, in a style similar to what you would see on Facebook, a personalized “live feed” of the closets and groups you’re following, also reminiscent of Facebook’s News Feed, and more.
Fashion Week: Models dare to bare in cut-away dresses!
The latest line from label Vizyon, showcased at the LFW, picked up on the current trend of cut-away dresses. Photographs: Uttam Ghosh
Called ‘Enlightened Shadows’, the newest line by duo Shradha Murarka and Ninon Palisse of label Vizyon is inspired by modern art and Gothic references and consists of cocktailwear, structured short dresses and sophisticated red carpet gowns.
Unusual silhouettes, complemented by a myriad palette that varies from earthy brown to electric blue, sport geometric and architectural influences, as well as insect inspirations through cobbled web structures and beetle shell embroideries.
And thanks to this theme, the outfits also managed to mirror the 2012 trends of cut-aways and colour-blocking. To know what we’re talking about, take a look at this slinky yellow and sparkling black number.
Kardashians ink new 3-year deal with E! network.
The E! Entertainment network said Tuesday it had reached a deal with its most bankable franchise to make three more seasons of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” Terms were not disclosed.
The sixth season of the show averaged 3 million viewers on Sunday nights, the cable networks’ top series. Five of the 10 most-watched shows in the network’s history, in fact, involved the Kardashians. The 18-episode seventh season begins on May 20.
E! said the entire family is covered by the deal: Kim, Kourtney and Rob Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian Odom, and Bruce, Kris, Kendall and Kylie Jenner. E! will continue to have the first crack at any spinoff projects.
E! has turned the Kardashians into a mini-empire, with spinoff series like “Kourtney and Kim Take New York” and “Khloe and Lamar.” Although E! retains the first right to these spinoffs, Tuesday’s deal does not specify how many more will be made.
The network would also not say whether musician Kanye West would be included in the series. West and Kim Kardashian have been seen together lately amid reports that they are a new couple.
Kim’s elaborate wedding — and brief marriage to — basketball player Kris Humphries was a highlight of E!’s programming last fall. The network had to put out a statement denying rumors that the wedding was orchestrated for TV.