Live Blog

Camilla Parker-Bowles enjoys a glass of red wine
November 28, 2014, 4:24pm
1. In the future, cats will change colour when they go near radiation (maybe). Someone’s already written a nursery rhyme about it 
 
2. Londoners take “painting the town red” rather more literally than you might think: by a vast majority, they prefer red wine to any other type, reckons Naked Wines 
 
3. Aviva has a new best Friend (-s Life): the  insurer announced plans to buy its rival this week, to a mixed reception 
 
4. Apple’s value rose to $700bn. It’s now worth 1.7m iPad Minis… 
 
5. Twitter executives make the same social media slip-ups the rest of us do 
 
6. Uber’s latest funding round values it at more than Twitter, Netflix and LinkedIn 
 
7. Opec is willing to sacrifice short-term confidence for long-term stability. The effects on UK oil of its decision not to curb production have been pretty dire.
 
8. Scotland is about to get more power over income tax - but Westminster is determined to keep control of VAT 
 
9. People in the UK go as berserk for a good deal as their US cousins. The result ain’t pretty… 
 
10. The UK’s biggest-ever divorce settlement has happened, and it was worth (wait for it) - £373m 
November 28, 2014, 3:50pm

Hedge fund titan Sir Chris Hohn will have to pay his ex-wife £337m, in what is thought to be the largest ever settlement a woman has received in a UK divorce case.

The estranged wife, Jamie Cooper-Hohn, had been seeking around half of Hohn's estimated £700m fortune since the summer, however Hohn offered a quarter. Both parties are thought to be considering an appeal.

It is understood that Hohn has launched a parallel case ag­ainst Cooper-Hohn, alleging bribery and corruption. 

Hedge fund manager and philanthropist Hohn is the son of a Jamaican mechanic of European descent who moved to Britain in 1960. He met Jamie Cooper, a fellow Harvard graduate student from Chicago, at a party during his studies there.

"Divorce capital"

Yesterday's decision will help cement London's reputation as the "divorce capital" of the world. This can be traced back to White v White, a divorce case which took place over ten years ago, where the judge said cash left over after divorcees' needs have been met should be split equally.

Here are some of the agreements they had to beat to take that title. 

Boris Berezovsky and Galina Besharova (2011)

Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and ex-wife Galina Besharova settled out of court for what reports estimate was a total of more than £100m - though some put the actual figure was closer to £220m. The couple obtained a divorce in a ten-minute court hearing that took place in London in 2010. Their total fortune was thought to be around £500m. 

John and Beverley Charman (2006)

London insurance market heavyweight John Charman settled for £48m with his former wife Beverley after a high court judge rejected his appeal against the first ruling. He had initially offered her £6m in cash but this was turned down on the basis it was not a fair settlement. Together the couple's vast fortune had totalled a dizzying £131m.

Phil Collins and Orianne Cevey (2008)

Musician Phil Collins settled with former wife of seven years Orianne Cevey for £25m in 2008. Colins and Cevey initially met on one of his tours in 1994 while she was working as a translator. In 2010 the singer told The Mirror three divorces had landed him with a bill of £42m. 

Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills (2008)

A high court judge awarded Heather Mills £24.3m in her divorce settlement with Paul McCartney in 2008. She had initially wanted £125m when the couple separated after a four-year marriage in 2006. She was granted a £16.5m cash payout and £35,000 a year in maintenance for their daughter Beatrice. The judgement revealed the former Beatle was worth a reported £400m.

Michelle and Scot Young (2013)

Michelle Young was awarded a £20m court settlement after a seven-year legal battle in 2013. She had been seeking half of her then-husbands assets but claimed they had been hidden away in a series of secret investments. Mr Young had initially offered his wife a sum of £300m in 2009 - however a year later he claimed to have become bankrupt.

Asda logo
November 28, 2014, 2:58pm

Asda has pulled in more than two million shoppers on Black Friday making it the busiest day of the year so far for the supermarket. 

That’s more than 8,000 sales every minute, or more than 130 every second since opening its doors at 8am this morning.

The Walmart owned retailer said it sold more than 8,000 TVs within the first hour, as shoppers queued up for bargains across the country at 440 Asda stores.

The sought after deals on TVs caused chaos at Asda’s Wembley branch this morning and at other retail stores, as customers fought to get their hands on the limited items.

Asda said: “Despite our extensive planning and additional security colleagues there was an isolated incident when the store opened. The sale has run smoothly in all our other 440 participating stores.”

It also sold 3,500 Beats headphones and 1,000 BMX bikes by 9am, as well as more than 10,000 tablets in the first two hours, while it sold out of XBox 360 games consoles. The store said it anticipates even more customers throughout the day with deals still to be had.

The Black Friday madness will start all over again tomorrow as the retailer offers additional new deals on Saturday morning on items such as TVs. tablets and XBox One consoles.

The backing of parent company Walmart, a retail giant in the US which is home to the Black Friday deal tradition, helped Asda secure "unbeatable discounts" by leveraging buying power.

Black Friday 2014
November 28, 2014, 2:56pm

Is it us, or has Black Friday gone crazy this year? There have been reports of punch-ups at supermarkets and even someone breaking their wrist in the clamour to get hold of a cheap telly.

And as if we didn't already need a reminder of the sheer American-ness of it all, Asda has laid on cheerleaders. In fact, all our British favourites have got involved: from Tesco to John Lewis, from Sainsbury's to Currys, it's official - this year, Black Friday has taken the UK by storm. 

How much by storm? Postcode Anywhere, which allows online retailers to "auto-complete" address forms when the customer types in their postcode, has produced this live graph showing just how seriously UK shoppers are taking it. The chart will keep refreshing all day - but it shows that at 11am, 41,000 postcode "look-ups" ran through its systems - more than twice the figure for the same time last year. Keep checking back all day to see how insane today's spending bonanza really is. 

The company also published data showing where the UK's most prolific shoppers are. The answer? Birmingham, apparently. That's followed by Belfast, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle. Perhaps Londoners are too busy and important to waste their time at the shops....

Black Friday crowd
November 28, 2014, 2:02pm

The chief of Greater Manchester Police has blamed retailers after officers were called to seven Tesco stores across Greater Manchester to deal with crowds at Black Friday events.

In a video posted to YouTube, Sir Peter Fahy said three people had been arrested - including one who threatened to "smash" a staff member's face in, while one woman had her wrist broken.

He added that the events had been "totally predictable", and that he was "disappointed that stores did not have sufficient security staff on duty". 

[Retailers] should have planned much more effectively and had the appropriate level of security and stewards to make sure people could go around their stores safely.

Fahy's comments came as the UK's first major "Black Friday" descended into chaos. Crowds were seen pushing and shoving as retailers launched heavy discounts. 

By early afternoon, Asda said it had had two million customers, while John Lewis said traffic to its website had risen 307 per cent. 

The New West End Company reported that footfall on Oxford Street in central London was up 19.5 per cent year-on-year, while sales on the street were expected to hit £150m by the end of the weekend. Retailers on the street marked the occasion with their "longest trading day ever", said the organisation.

Although "Cyber Monday" - the first Monday of December - is traditionally the time when shoppers flock to online retailers, this morning retailers' websites began to buckle under the pressure from the sheer volume of shoppers. While some websites went down entirely, others - such as Currys - introduced a virtual "queueing" system, which controlled the amount of traffic going to the site.

Online voucher site VoucherCodes said the situation is unlikely to improve on Monday, with nine million shoppers expected to take advantage of Cyber Monday deals. 

“For many consumers the last weekend in December also marks the last weekend before the Christmas frenzy begins and retailers respond to this with huge discount offers and promotions," said Anita Nafik, the website's lifestyle editor.

Aldi tweet
November 28, 2014, 1:28pm

Aldi has taken an overt swipe at its supermarket rivals over Black Friday deals with a single tweet.

As shoppers wrestled each other over discount deals in Tesco and Asda, Aldi tweeted: "Hmm, we think we did #BlackFriday last week. Although it was just called 'Friday'. And it's the same every day!"

The US holiday sales import has taken hold in the UK like never before, with analysts and retailers predicting it will be the country's busiest shopping day of the year.

Eager to get customers through the door and splashing their cash on Christmas treats, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda - along with a host of other high street retailers - are betting on big discounts on big items.

Online retailer Amazon has been one of the major harbingers of Black Friday deals to UK shores, but supermarkets have been especially keen on adopting the US tradition in the ever-escalating bid to outperform each other.

Asda has doubled its event in almost every way, with a little help from US parent Walmart, which knows a thing or two about how to do Black Friday. Tesco believes the bonanza will beat Boxing Day sales this year.

While the rivals have been busy battling each other, their true nemeses have been watching these escapades with a raised eyebrow: the discounters are not jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon.

Before today's tweet, over at Aldi, a spokesperson said earlier this week: “Aldi customers enjoy consistent everyday low prices, while shoppers elsewhere face confusing and ever-changing discounts and offers. Our commitment to value means we do not need to price match – we price lead.”

Meanwhile at Lidl: “We offer good deals all year round,” said a spokesperson.

The differences between the supermarkets and the discounters couldn't be more starkly highlighted by Black Friday.

November 28, 2014, 1:13pm

Pandemonium has erupted as Black Friday reached fever pitch in a number of stores across the UK. 

This year the all-American import was bigger than ever with the likes of Sainsbury's, Marks & Spencer, and Tesco getting involved. They slashed prices on everything from electricals like TVs, tablets and other gadgets to designer watches, clothing and toys.

Hundreds of people descended on stores across the UK to queue, push, shove and scrabble over the hefty discounts. But it didn't stop there - there were punch ups in supermarkets and police were called.

Meanwhile, retailers' websites struggled to keep up with demand as customers were unable to access the deals being offered by Tesco, Argos and Currys because their websites returned error messages.

Black Friday kicked off with hundreds of people pouring through the doors of retailers across the UK.

Shop floors started to resemble Hobbs' state of nature, as people scrambled to bag the best deals.

It was all too much for some shoppers, who found themselves getting into punch-ups at supermarkets.

One man barged other shoppers out of the way before launching himself into a stack of sale items.

Black Friday could now be the worst day of the year to work in retail (trumping Boxing Day).

And if Black Friday wasn't bizarre enough already, one Asda store marked the occasion by enlisting a group of dancing cheerleaders. 

John Lewis store with customers
November 28, 2014, 12:51pm

High street favourite John Lewis is predicting a record breaking day of online sales as web traffic jumped in the first six hours of Black Friday trading.

The John Lewis website struggled with the volume of visitors with some customers reporting error pages when looking for deals, however web traffic between midnight and 6am was up 307 per cent compared to Black Friday last year.

The retailer’s peak traffic came as soon as the deals kicked off between midnight and 1am this morning and the fastest selling item was the Apple iPad Mini, reduced by £50 to £149.

The retailer is offering deals on 100 technology products online and in store and matching the deal prices of other retailers as part of its year-round “never knowingly undersold” pledge.

In addition to the Apple iPad, deals include £100 off Apple’s iMac and Macbook computers, £400 off John Lewis and LG's 3D TV as well as reductions on other TV brands, deals on tablets and 25 per cent off Beats headphones.

John Lewis added that it was currently selling a Nutribullet juicer every 30 seconds.

Tesco, Argos and Currys also experienced huge amounts of online traffic, preventing people from making purchases for a brief period this morning as shoppers sought out Black Friday savings, while Currys is still operating an online queuing system for visitors.

US shoppers at a Black Friday sale
November 28, 2014, 12:41pm
 
When I’m president of the world, I will ban all pigeons from inner cities, the use of the word ‘brainstorm’, and any Christmas decorations before December.
 
While I hope the first two are self-explanatory, allow me to elaborate on the third. It’s not that I’m against Christmas or its commercialisation (we all inadvertently signed up for that when we embraced Santa Claus in his jolly red suit), it’s that by the time 25 December arrives, I’m pretty much over it, and one more rendition of Jingle Bells played loudly in an overheated store might actually tip me over the edge.
 
I like to think this isn’t a selfish point of view either - I mean, can you actually imagine having to work in an environment where you’re forced to endure seasonal jingles for two whole months? Although it could be worse, because in the US, where Black Friday originated, most people try to extend the Thanksgiving holidays by taking the day off. Most people, that is, apart from the poor souls working in retail.
 
So to my mind it should, and must be stopped (vote for me). And if you think this sounds old-fashioned, it is, because apparently the original intention behind Black Friday’s name was an attempt by the Philadelphia Authorities, back in the 60’s, to persuade people that the whole thing was a noisy, chaotic mess.
 
However - and here is where my argument starts to fall apart (along with my campaign for presidency), the retailers, buoyed by incredible sales, latched onto the term and subverted its meaning it to mark the day as the point at which their businesses moved out of the red and into the black – although Asda’s extension of Black Friday into Saturday feels a little like swapping your Christmas stocking for a duvet.
 
So here’s the rub: just as I choose not to deck my halls with holly until 1 December, others choose to take much needed advantage of discounted prices, brave the endless renditions of jingle bells, and hit the shops. To them, Black Friday isn’t the kissing cousin of the Black Death, and I’m just a miserable humbug. They might have a point.
Amazon local services
November 28, 2014, 12:14pm
In the midst of this week’s Black Friday madness, Amazon quietly launched a brand new site for service providers.
 
Instead of cut-price plasma screen TVs, Amazon Local Services puts you in touch with those who can put one back together again following a ruckus at Tesco in Edmonton.
 
Amazon Local Services was launched in New York, Seattle and Los Angeles this week, offering consumers the chance to order the skills of a plumber or a mechanic alongside their books and TV boxsets.
 
The business is described as a “new and simple way to buy professional services from pros such as plumbers, auto mechanic and yoga instructors.
 
“We've hand-picked some of the best pros in your neighbourhood and require them all to be licensed, insured and background-checked,” says Amazon.
 
Customers can also peruse Yelp reviews of each serviceman offering either in-store or in-home services, and leave feedback of their own.
 
The site already includes a wide range of professional services, from games console set-up to door knob installation, sports equipment assembly to chandelier installation.
 


(Source: YouTube)

 
Amazon offers professionals the chance to “get in front of customers” by having their services alongside related products: “For example, if you install car audio, your services would be listed alongside car audio components. This expands your reach to customers browsing related products in your area on Amazon.com.”
 
Businesses must pay $50 for a background check before their services are approved by Amazon. The e-commerce site then takes a 20 per cent cut of any sale up to $1,000 and 15 per cent for any higher. 
 
The venture will see Amazon pose a challenge to sites such as Google, Craigslist and Gumtree, which currently serve as go-to destinations for specific professional services. 
 
According to CBS, Amazon will soon introduce the service to a host of other cities including Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Green Bay, Wisconsin and Lexington Kentucky.
 
Amazon did not comment when asked if Local Services would soon be coming to the UK.

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