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DIGITAL SOLUTIONS FOR SMES

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Nathan Jackson

If SMEs are “the new economy,” as an industry we need to help them to get trading online faster,  says Nathan Jackson, VP of Business Development – Europe, at Credorax.

Nathan Jackson

Nathan Jackson

Now more than ever SMEs and independent retailers make up much of the high-streets in many of Europe’s towns and villages. These retailers and small companies significantly contribute to local economies, yet setting up and trading online – a must in order to grow business – has traditionally been extremely difficult for them.

Yes, there is the significant initial financial investment that’s required in order to develop a more sophisticated kind of website that accepts online payments. However, this cost isn’t necessarily the major barrier to e-commerce – the bigger issue for small merchants is the amount of time it takes from set up to being able to accept payments. Liquidity is crucial for these merchants and any delay in accepting payments can wreak havoc on their businesses.

The process begins with a retailer connecting its website to a Payment Gateway in order to securely send online payments for authorisation. Then, in what can traditionally take from weeks to months to complete, the retailer is required to set up a Merchant Account or Acquirer Account – a bank account specifically for the funds accepted online which is completely separate from the normal business bank account.

Although technological developments have opened doors for the financial sector and e-commerce arena, ‘traditional’ acquiring banks are still relatively slow at enrolling merchants onto their platforms (mainly due to legacy and legislation) and have not really adopted a long term multi-channel view. This slow process is a risky time for SMEs and independent retailers that need to start operating as a business to make money quickly.

Thankfully, there are now digital solutions available to SMEs, breaking down this barrier to e-commerce to help them get set up quicker. If legacy issues are stripped away, then merchant acquiring should essentially be a technology-based service, enabling a much speedier process. Today, innovative acquiring solutions have been built from the ground up to transcend the many challenges faced by the ‘traditional’ bank acquirers, who are forced to rely on legacy platforms and systems originally designed (when plastic payment cards were launched some decades ago) for point-of-sale, traditional retail store environments.

Solutions like these are ideal for the small merchants, as the rise of digital technology has enabled the process of getting retailers trading online to be much faster. The real secret ingredient in the entire process is at the onboarding level. In order for small merchants to be able to begin payment processing online quickly, it is critical for them to be onboarded (by an acquirer) in an extremely short timeframe and the only way this is possible is if the onboarding system is completely digital and automated.

A completely technology-driven onboarding system ensures retailers can be online, accepting payments in a matter of days rather than weeks and months, bypassing the ‘traditional’ systems and processes that are ill equipped for today’s multi-channel retail environment. In addition to rapid integration and onboarding that enables online sales and access to increased revenues much faster, robust and flexible solutions are now available that ensure merchants can do business with their customers however they want and whenever they want, providing a safe and secure customer experience – be it on a mobile device via an app, online, or in a traditional shop environment.

Further benefits of modern technology solutions built for this specific purpose include higher approval and conversion rates, a reduction in the number of chargebacks, and online chargeback handling. These are real advantages to all businesses trading online, but for SMEs that are much more susceptible to these fluctuations, it can significantly help to manage cash flow, financial management and ultimately, survival of the business.

An acquirer’s role in ensuring the future looks bright for these retailers is to reduce the amount of time it takes to begin being able to accept payments and this can only be done via a technology vs. legacy acquiring approach!

Business

UK delays review of business rates tax until autumn

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UK delays review of business rates tax until autumn 1

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s finance ministry said it would delay publication of its review of business rates – a tax paid by companies based on the value of the property they occupy – until the autumn when the economic outlook should be clearer.

Many companies are demanding reductions in their business rates to help them compete with online retailers.

“Due to the ongoing and wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic and economic uncertainty, the government said the review’s final report would be released later in the year when there is more clarity on the long-term state of the economy and the public finances,” the ministry said.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak has granted a temporary business rates exemption to companies in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors, costing over 10 billion pounds ($14 billion). Sunak is due to announce his next round of support measures for the economy on March 3.

($1 = 0.7152 pounds)

(Writing by William Schomberg, editing by David Milliken)

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Discounter Pepco has all of Europe in its sights

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Discounter Pepco has all of Europe in its sights 2

By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) – Pepco Group, which owns British discount retailer Poundland, has targeted 400 store openings across Europe in its 2020-21 financial year as it expands its PEPCO brand beyond central and eastern Europe, its boss said on Friday.

The group opened a net 327 new stores in its 2019-20 year, taking the total to 3,021 in 15 countries. The PEPCO brand entered western Europe for the first time with openings in Italy and it plans its first foray into Spain in April or May.

Chief Executive Andy Bond said its five stores in Italy have traded “super well” so far.

“That’s given us a lot of confidence that we can now start building PEPCO into western Europe and that expands our market opportunity from roughly 100 million people (in central and eastern Europe) to roughly 500 million people,” he told Reuters.

To further illustrate the brand’s potential he noted that the group has more than 1,000 PEPCO shops in Poland, which has a significantly smaller population and gross domestic product than Italy or Spain.

The company, which also owns the Dealz brand in Europe but does not trade online, has already opened more than 100 of the targeted 400 new stores this financial year.

Pepco Group is part of South African conglomerate Steinhoff, which is still battling the fallout of a 2017 accounting scandal.

Since 2019 Steinhoff and its creditors have been evaluating a range of strategic options for Pepco Group, including a potential public listing, private equity sale or trade sale.

That process was delayed by the pandemic, but Steinhoff said last month that it had resumed.

“The business will be up for sale at the right time. It’s a case of when, rather than if,” said Bond, a former boss of British supermarket chain Asda.

Pepco Group on Friday reported a 31% drop in full-year core earnings, citing temporary coronavirus-related store closures.

Underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were 229 million euros ($277 million) for the year to Sept. 30, against 331 million euros the previous year.

Sales rose 3% to 3.5 billion euros, reflecting new store openings.

($1 = 0.8279 euros)

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by David Goodman)

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Fashion-focused livery launch reveals new colours for Gasly, Tsunoda in 2021

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Fashion-focused livery launch reveals new colours for Gasly, Tsunoda in 2021 3

Scuderia AlphaTauri debuted their colours for the 2021 Formula 1 season as drivers Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda unveiled the team’s new look with the livery for their AT02 racecars. The setting was a fashion-forward launch in the all-new showroom of AlphaTauri, Red Bull’s premium fashion brand.

Salzburg (AUSTRIA) – Formula 1 team Scuderia AlphaTauri served up a stylish preview of the new F1 season with a presentation of its 2021 livery alongside key looks from the upcoming Autumn/Winter 2021 collection of Red Bull’s premium fashion brand, AlphaTauri. The launch – held at AlphaTauri’s new showroom in Salzburg, Austria and presented digitally – marked the first time that drivers Pierre Gasly of France and Yuki Tsunoda of Japan have appeared together as teammates.

After a successful first season racing in AlphaTauri colours, the Italian outfit is looking to challenge the top of the ultra-competitive midfield in 2021, and the two young drivers have been assigned clear-cut roles. Gasly is Team Leader. The 25-year-old, who made his Formula One debut with the team in 2017 under its former name, Scuderia Toro Rosso, has earned two F1 podiums. During the 2020 campaign, Gasly’s maiden win at Monza was a defining moment for him and the team under its new name.

Tsunoda, 20, is the first Japanese driver to race in F1 since 2014, his promotion coming off the back of a fast, four-season trajectory from winning the 2018 F4 Japanese Championship and finishing third in the 2020 FIA F2 Championship to entering the top-level ranks this year. Expectations are high for his rapid style of learning to complement the experience of Gasly.

“The decision to go for Pierre and Yuki in 2021 was taken because Scuderia AlphaTauri’s philosophy is still to give talented young drivers from the Red Bull Junior Program the opportunity to step up to F1 and to educate them – this is why Yuki now gets his chance,” explained Team Principal Franz Tost. “With Pierre on Yuki’s side we have an experienced driver, who can help our Japanese rookie to develop faster, but at the same time we can aim for good results. I think this pair is the best possible scenario to achieve both our targets, and I’m also confident this will be a successful one.”

In 2020, Scuderia AlphaTauri won best livery by a landslide, and the team’s all-new, matte blue and white racecar livery took center stage with the drivers at the fashion event, anticipating the 2021 model that will debut at pre-season testing in Bahrain on 12 March. The test is the precursor to an unprecedented 23-race schedule, and in preparation for the demanding calendar both drivers have spent time at Red Bull’s Athlete Performance Center for intense fitness testing.

“I’m ready to take on the role of team leader. Yuki is a very quick driver, and he will help us move the team forward – we will work together to achieve that,” said Gasly, the team’s all-time top points scorer. “I really believe last year was the team’s best in terms of the way it worked, the development, the performance and the way it managed the race weekends. I’m always hungry for more, and I’m sure we can achieve great things in 2021.”

Tsunoda, who was honored with the Anthoine Hubert Award for best Formula 2 rookie in 2020, added, “I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with Scuderia AlphaTauri ahead of the season, so I’m already developing strong relationships and learning a lot from them – including Pierre, who is an incredible talent. My main goal is to learn quickly and deliver results as soon as possible, and I’m really excited to get started.”

The launch at the AlphaTauri Showroom not only gave Gasly and Tsunoda a preview of the AlphaTauri Autumn/Winter 2021 fashion collection, but the drivers had the chance to select their new off-grid looks ahead of the season start.

Ahmet Mercan, CEO AlphaTauri, summarized: “This is a triple reveal at a unique point of time: a new AlphaTauri Showroom where fashion meets F1, a first look at the AW21 AlphaTauri collection and the unveiling of the new Scuderia AlphaTauri F1 livery and driver pairing.”

Scuderia AlphaTauri fans don’t have long to wait for racing action: The FIA Formula 1 season kicks off at the Bahrain Test on 12-14 March, in preparation for the Bahrain Grand Prix on 28 March.

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