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Lighting Up

By Richard Pickering, Head of Futures Strategy

Disclosures  In the world of commerce, it would be unthinkable to voluntarily publish confidential analyses which undermine one’s own position during negotiations. And yet, that is the request that is being made of David Davis in the name of transparency and democracy. Brexit Minister Steve Baker suggested that the public should ask of those promoting the release of confidential sectoral analyses: ‘whose side are they on?’ Meanwhile, the 1.4TB disclosure this week of the so-called Paradise Papers highlights UK investors’ connectedness with offshore tax havens. This is perhaps no surprise, as firstly, the UK pretty much invented offshore structures to give succour to its island dependencies, and secondly, offshore vehicles are nowadays indirectly integral to many investments including our pension plans. Nevertheless, it is a fair observation by Dr Eelke Heemskerk of the University of Amsterdam that in respect of the UK’s implied threat to become a tax competitive nation if the Brexit deal goes sour, ‘well, they are already doing it’.

Pedestrian precedent  Oxford Street, one of the world’s leading shopping destinations has taken a step forward to being pedestrianised during 2018 in what could be a transformational precedent, as well as changing the value contours of the West End. High volumes of bus traffic and a fragmented ownership have held back the consumer experience to date; whereas the partial pedestrianisation will allow for a much-improved public realm. Rerouting buses, taxis and hence footfall down the rather forgotten Wigmore Street should also drive a value ripple into Marylebone. Open streets with urban vitality are favoured by both planners and consumers but can fail the best ‘machine mall’ efficiency due to uncoordinated public realm and variable public leadership. At c.21m wide (similar to Fifth Avenue) the street will be able to accommodate events or other commercial activities, whilst still being intimate enough to be true two-sided retail (compare with the Champs-Élysées’ 70m width). Other cities across the UK will watch with interest, as will no doubt London’s competing shopping centres.

Last inch logistics  ‘Last mile logistics’ has become a bit of a buzz-phrase in recent years, but with the launch of Amazon Key we now have last inch logistics. Yale locks were invented in 1848, and protecting our home has changed little since then. However, in the modern era of online shopping, missing a parcel or having to send packages through your employer’s postroom is not ideal. Amazon Key removes an obstacle to ordering online by providing third parties (e.g. delivery drivers or cleaners) with temporary digitally controlled access to your home, which is recorded using video cameras. The business case for Amazon is an obvious one and could, over time, replace their lockers. Adoption of this or similar technology by homeowners feels inevitable. However, one can’t help thinking that our homes just got added to the list of assets that could be hacked.

Sumokyu  How much does smoking cost office occupiers? Six days per year according to a Japanese marketing company, which is rewarding its non-smoking employees with that number as additional leave. In today’s high-rise office environment, a fag break can take 15 minutes, factoring in the need to wait for the lift and finding an inconspicuous place around the back of the building. On that basis, a single daily cigarette break would on its own justify the 6 days’ leave, which in today’s productivity focussed climate feels significant. This does, however, assume that the 15 minutes are downtime, whereas smokers the world over would cite bonding with colleagues, sharing thoughts and using their iPhone as integral to the process. Maybe our workplace design should, rather than excluding the 17% of the UK that smoke, find ways to bring them into the fold through providing breakout terraces, and coordinated networking times?

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