Analogue Parking

We’ve recently seen some complicated app based crowd sourcing systems which help people to find parking spaces in busy city centres. We don’t tend to bring you ideas like that though. Let’s be honest, few of us have the time, skills or resources to capitalize on things like this. And that’s the problem with a lot of ideas these days – they’re incredibly technical. It’s good then, to see that the same thing (and probably better) can be achieved by old fashioned methods.

The ‘Here’ campaign was created by  an advertising agency in South Korea to promote S-Oil, one of the countries biggest oil companies. Imagine a car park and in each bay is a helium filled balloon, tethered to the ground by a piece of string around ten feet long. The balloon has an arrow pointing downwards with the word ‘Here’ printed on it. When a car drives into a space, it runs over the string and lowers the balloon. When it leaves the space, the balloon pops back up, alerting other drivers to the availability of a space.

I mention this for two reasons:

  1. It’s an idea which could easily be copied in any UK car park. Perhaps you could persuade a local company of the promotional potential of the idea.
  2. As evidence that sometimes we can get too technical for our own good. We don’t need an ‘app for that’. Some string and balloons work equally well.

The Convenient Dog Wash

I live right by the woods and often get ‘attacked’ by dogs that look like they’ve been bathing in mud. As mucky as their paw marks make my clothes, I can’t help wondering what kind of mess they make once they get home. Perhaps their owners would appreciate a German idea I recently came across.

Lars Schutze has located Germany’s first Dog Wash right next to the car wash he already owns. For less than five euros, owners can foam, shower and dry their pets while they’re waiting for their car to be cleaned. Given that bathing a dog usually involves a huge amount of mess and inconvenience that seems like a good deal.

I can see no reason why something like this wouldn’t work here. Taking the dog for a walk and then arriving back home with a pristine car and a spotless dog seems a pretty good combination to me. Time for someone to reach a mutually beneficial deal with a car wash owner.

A Police Tip Off

An Oregon police officer who had a perfect spot to watch for speeders, was puzzled why he wasn’t catching anyone. Then he discovered the problem — a 12-year-old boy was standing up the road with a hand painted sign, which read ‘RADAR TRAP AHEAD.’ The officer also found the boy had an accomplice who was down the road with a sign reading ‘TIPS’ and a bucket full of money.

I’m not suggesting you copy this, but rather that you give some thought to the principle. These boys were providing a service/giving something away for free, and then creating an obligation in the minds of drivers which was paid off via the tips bucket. Is there some way that you could create an obligation in the minds of people in a similar way? Remember the principle – do something for free/give something away and then make sure that recipients of your good deed have an early opportunity to repay you.

Brand Revival!

I can’t pretend to have heard of Choc-ola, but I’m not sure I’d like it. It was a sweet chocolate milk drink, popular in the United States in the 1960’s and 70’s. It hasn’t been available for many years, but that just changed. Two Indianapolis entrepreneurs recently snapped up the trademark for $275, got hold of the recipe, and have relaunched the drink. They hope it will appeal to both old customers who want a taste of their youth, and a new market looking for something different. They already have a production deal with a major dairy and a contract to supply a 21 store chain of supermarkets.

As you might imagine, this got me thinking…How many interesting old brands are laying dormant out there? How cheaply might they be bought up? And might a bit of innovative marketing breath a bit of retro chic into something that is all but forgotten. This has got to be worth giving some thought to.

The Delivery Stop

We’ve covered food delivery services here before, but I just heard a piece on local radio this morning, about two young guys who have started a delivery business with a twist.

The delivery stop only launched in January 2013, but they have already opened two new branches away from their home city of Sheffield. The idea is simple. Fast food companies like Macdonalds, KFC and Nando’s don’t deliver. Delivery Stop take orders over the phone, send a driver to the outlet and deliver the hot Food to a customers door within 45 minutes. Aimed at the student market, the service also includes other local restaurants popular with young people.

Delivery Stop charge a delivery fee and I’d imagine they also get a commission from some of the smaller restaurants they deal with. The two guys on the radio this morning claim the business is booming with over 900 calls taken on their very first day!

Could you copy this business in your area? If you live in a major town or city, the answer is almost certainly yes.

www.thedeliverystop.co.uk

Hydro Magic Update

A few months ago we told you about a unusual (no, unique!) opportunity we have first hand experience of here at Streetwise. Now it’s time for an update.

We practice what we preach here, and there’s no better demonstration of that than Ryan Foster. If you’ve called our administration department or customer helpline, you may have spoken to Ryan. He also works on the Streetwise Bulletin you’re reading today. Ryan has started a number of part time ventures (the education you get here is considerably better than the wages!) but has had by far his biggest success over the past 12 months with an idea he discovered in the United States.

Hydrographics is a water-based process for applying a design to three dimensional shapes. It can be used to add a design to just about anything – wheels,  car interior parts, engine parts, guns, fishing tackle, household items, phone cases – the list is almost endless. Ryan and his friend Chris Couldwell, saw the demand for this in the United States and decided to look into doing the same thing over here

After three months of researching the market and forming links with suppliers, and a further couple of months refining the production process, the business went live, first from a garage and then from a small rented unit, before moving to larger premises in January. All of this was done on an absolute shoestring budget – a process made necessary by the notoriously low Streetwise wages!

The business has taken off in a big way. Ryan and Chris are already doing work for architects, car dealers, bespoke motor cycle builders, fishing tackle shops and gun shops, as well as the general public. They even have a couple of major motor manufacturers (who I can’t name at the moment) considering using their work on special edition £30,000+ vehicles.

It shows what can be achieved in your spare time while holding down a full time job. Ryan had absolutely no help of any kind from us at Streetwise in getting this off the ground. In fact we didn’t even know about it until the business was well under way.

If you’d like to find out a bit more about this, go to www.streetwisenews.com/hydromagic where you’ll find examples of the work, a video showing the process in action and details of how you can get involved in the business yourself for next to nothing.

Sterling-Euro Updates

Peter Lavelle at Pure FX writes, is sterling set to be the big loser in 2013? I’ve heard several comments to that effect this week as the pound continues its sharp decline, notably against the euro. This week, sterling fell to its lowest point against the euro since October 2011 as investors place their bets as to what’ll happen this year. The general consensus is that, with the US economy picking up, and the Eurozone debt crisis receding, the UK is one of the worst-placed economies. This reflects the fact that the UK contracted –0.3 per cent in Q4 of 2012, putting us on course for a triple dip recession.

What’s going to affect sterling next? This week, there’s a lot of potential for sterling to keep losing out. First of all, Markit’s releases its monthly PMI of the UK services sector. This tells us whether UK services expanded in January and is important because it accounts for 3/4 of UK output. Alas, a contraction of 49.8 is forecast (figures beneath 50.0 signal shrinkage), which would see sterling fall further. In addition, incoming governor of the Bank of England (BoE) Mark Carney will appear before Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee, to discuss his views of UK monetary policy. Now, in recent speeches, Carney has argued that central banks should orient themselves away from fighting inflation so fixedly and focus instead on generating growth. That suggests he’s likely to ramp up the Bank of England’s printing presses when he takes the helm in July and would be sterling negative.

Meantime, the euro once more enjoyed smashing gains against the pound and US dollar this week, hitting 13-month highs against the pair of them. Funnily enough though, you’d be hard-pressed to find what particular announcement caused these gains. It’s not as if the Eurozone is out of recession or that the currency bloc’s members have taken another step to integration. Instead, this climb reflects a widespread view that the worst of the debt crisis is behind us. No longer is there an existential threat of the euro breaking up. That’s seen confidence increasingly return to the Eurozone, with a corresponding surge in the value of the common currency.

After a straight month of gains, I suspect we might begin to see the euro on the back foot before long. For one, French finance minister Pierre Moscovici told television station France 2 this Sunday that “the euro is strong, perhaps too strong in some regards.” This has sparked speculation that the Eurozone might intervene to weaken its currency, to boost exports, just as the UK, US and Japan are doing. The euro could sink as details of a government-wide corruption scandal emerge from Spain. Last week, leading newspaper El País published ledgers which seemed to show Spanish president Mario Rajoy receiving kickbacks stretching back to 1998. If Rajoy resigns over this, it would threaten Spain’s deficit reduction plan.

Rent Your Stuff

If you’re willing to let other people use your car, the UK based easyCar Club scheme allows you to rent it out while you’re not using it. Following on from that, US based FlightCar aims to put cars left at airports to use by renting them out while their owners are travelling. People flying into the airport can then rent the cars from those who have just flown out! Customers obtain a 20%-50% discount compared to traditional renting, while the owner receives 65% of the fee. Perhaps that’s something to look at copying here?

I wouldn’t personally want to rent my car out for that purpose (I’m far too precious about it!) but if you feel differently, it could be a valuable source of additional income.

Cars are just one example of what you could rent out for money though. Give some thought to what expensive items you have laying around unused for much of the time. Could they form the basis of a rental business?

S**t Coffee!

I’m conscious of the fact that several ideas we’ve covered in the past few weeks have involved some sort of faeces. It’s not an obsession, honestly. We just bring you what we find.

BlackIvorycoffee.com produce coffee from beans that have been ingested and excreted by Thai Elephants. The company claim that the elephants stomach juices give the beans (which are picked out of the droppings – now there’s a poor job!) their unique flavour. At $500 a pound it’s one of the world’s most expensive coffees.

The key point here is the PR value of the production process, and the curiosity it engenders. Couple that up with a high price and you have something which many will be unable to resist trying – at least once.

Give some thought to your product or service. Is there some newsworthy aspect to the production process, or could you engineer one? Could you produce a special edition, blend or version at a premium price which utilises this newsworthy aspect in the production process. If you can, it could be a licence to print money.

Currency

If you’re planning to transfer currency for a holiday or overseas investment, you’ll probably talk to your high-street bank. Don’t! You’ll save money by going to a specialist currency exchange dealer. Here’s what international property lawyer Peter Esders has to say…

‘Use a specialist currency dealer rather than a bank. We send all our international transfers through currency dealers rather than banks. Why? Because they give us a better exchange rate, lower costs and a speedier service. This is a constant source of annoyance to our bank but frankly they can’t compete with dealers.

An average high-street bank will probably offer spot rate (the real, inter bank, rate of exchange), less 4 per cent. An average currency dealer will offer an ordinary customer spot rate, less 2 per cent. On a £100,000 transfer you save £2,000 on the exchange rate alone!

The dealers will be quicker too. In the days before currency dealers became popular, the money would be send by a UK bank to another country via another bank in the local country who would then eventually send it to the end bank. There were three banks involved but, more crucially, there would be a bank in the middle who didn’t really care how long it took them to send the money!

When it comes to comparing dealers, it is worth remembering that, in addition to exchange rate differences, there are also differences in charges. Currency dealers typically charge less than high-street banks for transferring money abroad. In fact, many of them don’t charge anything at all or, more accurately, they incorporate the fees into the exchange rate.

One example that we saw really brought this home to us. There were two transfers to Turkey done through a well-known high-street bank. The first was for £100,000 and the second was for £200,000. The high street bank charged fees of £535 and £1035 respectively. This is a total of £1,570 just in bank charges!

A currency dealer would have charged either nothing or a nominal amount such as £20 (i.e. a saving of £1,550). And remember that this is in addition to the exchange rate differences (which probably amount to another couple of thousand pounds).

Be wary of recommendations – do your own Google research for the best deals. If an agent or developer recommends a particular currency dealer it is important to bear in mind that this recommendation is not necessarily motivated by what is best for you.

I was at a property exhibition a few years ago and took the opportunity of speaking to all the currency dealers at the exhibition. Several of them told me that the rate that they would offer would depend on how much commission I wanted to receive – i.e. the worse the rate the more money they would pay me for introducing clients to them. Basically what I was being told is that they have a margin which they can either pass to me in terms of a good rate or as commission.

Frankly that is outrageous, but I know plenty of agents and developers who simply see the bottom line and don’t really care whether the client gets a good deal or not. As long as the rate is lower than the banks then they feel that they can justify it.

Always go with a well-established currency dealer. People do get worried about currency dealers. After all they aren’t high street banks. What happens if they go bankrupt? It may seem strange to think like that in the days of bank instability but this is something to think about. It is worth using one of the major currency dealers who have been around for a while as there are so many who are basically a couple of people operating from a back bedroom somewhere and have just set up.

It is also worth asking whether the currency dealer deals with the country that you want to deal with. Malaysia can be a difficult country to deal with in terms of currency. As people look further than just the Eurozone this is becoming more and more important.’