Retailers have been the big story of the first full week of 2008. It began with gloomy predictions about Christmas trading, which seemed to be validated on Tuesday when high street bellwether Marks & Spencer reported dismal numbers for its last quarter. However, Sainsbury’s surprised the City by coming in above expectations on Thursday. Others have also done well – notably McDonald’s, which is selling more burgers than ever and is now plotting an assault on the coffee market. Howard Schultz took back the reins at Starbucks in preparation.
Overall, the economic picture looked mixed. A report on Tuesday said house prices had risen again, which nobody was expecting. Scottish & Newcastle and GCap both rejected what looked like generous takeover bids. And news emerged of large-scale redundancies in the offing at the big investment banks. So the Bank of England’s decision to hold interest rates on Thursday was presumably a close-run thing.
January’s always a good month for career moves. The itchy-footed Stephen Carter left Brunswick for No.10. And Tony Blair will be pressing the flesh at power lunches for JP Morgan, after signing up as an advisor for an estimated £500k a year. We’re sure he’s far too sensible to follow the example of the GMTV exec who allegedly returned to his desk slightly ‘over-refreshed’ after a pre-Christmas lunch – because according to a new directors’ pay survey, his new career could be a lucrative one.
We also learned this week that Britons will become richer than Americans for the first time in 100 years – and nowhere is that more true than Aberdeen, now the second richest city in the UK. Of course, everyone knows that money can’t buy happiness – so take some time to put a smile on to the faces of your fellow workers as we enter the new year. We recommend showing them a picture of Bill Gates taking on Slash at Guitar Hero at the Consumer Electronics Show...
And finally, it's a fond goodbye to Sir John Harvey-Jones, one of the great post-war industrialists (and pioneering business TV celeb), who died at the age of 83.