Business

The who? What? Where? of business this week

  • 13 June 2014
  • From the section Business

The week in business: Who's blundered and who's blossomed under the business news spotlight this week?

The Bank of BOGOF?

Let's kick off with banks, not fines or misbehaviour. But then again, this one hasn't opened for business yet.

Tesco - struggling to hang on to its customers - is branching out as a bank. It has previous on this as it began banking services in 1997, running a savings account with RBS. Now it offers 16 million Club Card holders a full current bank account.

Benny Higgins, the chief executive of Tesco Bank, told us this was because of customer demand: "Customers tell us they are very tired of the smoke and mirrors and the need to pay attention to the small print. We are setting out to be very clear and transparent," he added.

I haven't seen smoke in a bank since the 1980s - although some High Street ones may sport mirrors, I guess.

Mr Higgins also said he did not expect a sudden rush of customers. "I don't think it's likely that it's an impulse buy." Nor, no doubt, a buy-one-get-one-free.

Justin King is off

Sainsbury's first-quarter trading update underlined the fight these established supermarkets are having to put up to keep their customers - and profits - high. Boss Justin King said "industry growth [was] the slowest in a decade".

He's leaving the business in a couple of weeks, by the way. But that doesn't mean the chain will stop pursuing our pounds. There are now 200 convenience stores in London, and the former UK favourite is opening two new ones a week around the country.

Sainsbury has been fighting to regain its place as one of middle England's favourite shops.

Mulberry pins its hopes on this little chap

Unlike Mulberry - a perfectly respectable, middle-market British company. It decided a few years back that it was as flash as the likes of uber-pricey Prada and Louis Vuitton.

Having moved its prices up to match theirs (since you ask, well over £1,000 a bag), it has learnt its lesson and now says its aim is to look to the more affordable, "key" £500-700 price point.

Affordable? It plainly is to some. In the past few weeks, Mulberry introduced its new Tessie handbag collection, starting price £495, and says the range is "proving popular".

"I'm warning you"

Finally, once again, the biggest story of the week is housing. The annual Mansion House dinner for top City and business people has rarely served up such a feast - of news.

Bank governor Mark Carney hinted at a rate rise this year. One that the market "was not expecting". Yes? Apart from the housebuilders, there was no sign of surprise whatever from the markets once they opened for business. They may have factored in a 0.25% rise in the coming months. All that data about a strengthening economy could have tipped them off.

But Chancellor George Osborne's talk of mortgage lending caps prompts this thought:

Think on this. The Conservative government of the 1980s deregulated lending practices. If the limits on mortgage lending that applied then, three times salary or twice dual income, still applied, prices would have kept pace with wages.

Slightly old figures, but in 2007, prices would have averaged £60,000, rather than the £202,000 they reached then.

Still, you could always try newcomer bank Tesco for a mortgage. Pity about the smoke and mirrors. Would-be homeowners could doubtless do with them to get past the new mortgage lifestyle quiz.