Monday, February 25, 2013

Is Corte Ingles really the Spanish Disneyland?

I have never rated the Spanish retail sector with its poor service, over-priced and uninspiring product lines and old-fashioned stores.  But apparently they are the next big tourist attraction.

According to this article - Spain's retailers reboot to pull tourists from shore to store - a big effort is underway by the likes of Mango, Corte Ingles and others to offset falling local sales by attracting more foreign tourists with translators, discounts and targeted advertising.

I find it unlikely that tourists will take the bait.  I certainly don't recognise the description of El Corte Ingles quoted in the article: "it's like a Disney theme park for us ... we spend a whole day in here".

The shopper said that he was Colombian, which makes me think if I ever visit Colombia not to expect too much of their department stores.

I can't think many British visitors would be so impressed with El Corte Ingles.  It's not awful by any means but seems expensive to me and will feel even more so to tourists getting little more than €1 for their pound.

And Spanish shops seem to rarely offer great discounts, especially the supermarkets which I see as a couple of decades behind the British ones that everyone moans about so much.

I have already had a go at Spain's bargain stores (Spanish pound shops need to raise their game).

Perhaps clothes shops might get some joy.  Spanish fashion chains such as Mango and Zara enjoy strong international reputations and might attract some more business with a concerted push.  At certain times of the year their sales can feature meaningful cuts in prices too.

Beyond that I don't see Spain's shops becoming its next tourist attraction.  To get a sorely needed boost to demand from more tourism the country would be better sprucing up tired looking tourist infrastructure, improving the beaches and prioritising good service (see Spanish tourism feels the heat).

From our website: Employing staff in Spain

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Why the best TV show is not on TV

TV critics are calling House of Cards "seriously addictive" and "as good as Mad Men".  One gushed "I love this series" and confessed to watching all 13 episodes back to back.

And he could because, as the world knows by now, the new US series is being shown exclusively on Netflix, the movie and TV steaming service, rather than TV.  They released the whole first series on 1st Feb all in one go for their £5.99 a month subscribers.

I am sure it will reach TV screens eventually and will certainly be out on DVD box set soon.  But for now it's only online and you could watch it all for free by taking out a free 1 month trial of the service.

I haven't seen House of Cards but I like the quality US drama series generally and Kevin Spacey in particular, so maybe I will give it a go.  I am more interested in the fact that Netflix is investing a reported $100m in a series which is not being distributed in the "normal" way.

Quite a risk.  What if it had been a flop and critics had hated it?  That was unlikely given the stellar cast and super-talented David Fincher (se7en, The Social Network) directing early episodes.  Nevertheless $100m is a lot to recoup in subscriptions and, later on, DVD sales.

For me though it is a brilliant move and has already paid off regardless of the final tally of dollars recouped in subs and sales.  Netflix has already reaped some enormous intangible benefits.

Look at all the free publicity Netflix has received.  More than that, they have made a bold statement about their service - "We are not just about making other people's content available on your laptop.  We are creative, we back talent and we deliver it in the way you want".  In short they are saying "we are more like HBO than an online Blockbuster".

Think about your own perception of Netflix before House of Cards.  If you are like me you probably thought it was a fairly low cost way of getting some modest entertainment (old TV shows and not-that-recent films).

Now you might take a second look and see what else they have got up their sleeve.  For instance, in May all episodes of the new series of comedy show Arrested Development will be released at once.

As for the price tag, $100m is small change versus the company's $10 billion market valuation.  That is about $4 billion higher than it was only three weeks ago.  Thanks Kevin!

From the website: Guide to Spain's Autonomo system

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ryanair gets something right

UPDATE:  I think I might have been a bit premature praising Ryanair's replacement for Captcha.  I was greeted with this when I went on Ryanair totally illegible security screens this morning:

Original post in praise of Ryanair:

I am a bit conflicted about Ryanair.  I fly with them a lot and can't help feeling that, as a passenger, I am just a big nuisance getting in the great money-making machine.  However I recognise that there are pros as well as cons when travelling with The World's Least Friendly Airline - What two years of flying Ryanair will do to you.

But this week they have ditched that awful Captcha security step on their website to replace it with a user-friendly alternative where you just type in a simple and LEGIBLE phrase.

Ryanair bending over backwards to make life easier for their valued customers?  Don't be silly, it's all about money, as everything is with Ryanair.  The inconvenience of Captcha deterred customers and cost them sales from the website, maybe up to €24m as this expert explains - Ryanair and captchas

From our website  What to do if you get a letter from the Spanish tax office
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