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The Friday SMB wrap-up

The end of the week has rolled around again, so it’s time to catch up on the week’s most important small business headlines. This week, PayPal warned the strengthening dollar will mean local shoppers turn their attention to UK retailers, we revealed news about our first webinar of 2012, business confidence continued to slide and Sir. Richard Branson used his business lessons as an example in a call for illicit drugs to be decriminalised.

Hangovers costing local business $5.6 billion every year

The 183 million litres of alcohol consumed in Australia each year isn’t just giving employees a headache, it’s also costing local businesses $5.6 billion in lost productivity, and this year’s Australia Day celebrations look set to deliver their fair share of hung over employees.

With Australia Day falling on a Thursday this year, businesses are being warned Friday January 27 could be a black day for productivity.

As many Australians gear up to celebrate on Thursday, businesses are expecting a loss of productivity courtesy of employees who call in sick or show up too hung over to work effectively.

Warning: local shoppers to shift focus to UK sites

Consumers will spend more of their online dollars with UK retailers over the next month, PayPal says, as the local dollar continues to strengthen against the British pound.

The Australian dollar has hit a 27-year high against the pound, which PayPal expects will lead to a traffic spike between Australia and the UK over the next month, as shoppers take advantage of the rising dollar.

Over the past 12 months, UK retailers such as ASOS, TopShop, Oasis and the Book Depository have improved their offering for Australian consumers, delivering reduced or free shipping, local pricing and simplified returns policies. Though Australian consumers have been on capitalising on the weak US dollar for much of that time, these better offerings along with the weaker pound, mean many are shifting focus over to the UK.

Want to appear bigger than you are? Learn how, at our first webinar of 2012

Want to learn the tricks for making your small business appear bigger than it is? Join Dynamic Business and five-time entrepreneur Roger Courville for the first must-attend webinar of 2012.

As an SMB owner, you probably know how hard it can be when you have too little time to get everything done and too little money to hire more help and marketing, and you need to make a good impression. Fortunately the world is smaller than it’s ever been, and it’s easier than ever to level the playing field by being smart and using technology.

Rate cuts make no difference to business bank satisfaction

Businesses are no more satisfied with the major banks now than they were in October, despite two interest rate cuts in November and December.

According to DBM Consultants’ Business Financial Services Monitor, business customer satisfaction in the four major banks hasn’t changed since October last year.

This is thanks largely to the worsening economic climate and the fact that just one in six businesses have loans of any significance, which means lower rates directly impact a fraction of all businesses.

Branson weighs in on war on drugs

Sir Richard Branson has called the war on drugs a global failure, and is asking governments around the world to experiment with policies that would see the decriminalisation of illicit drugs.

The entrepreneur made the comments on the eve of his appearance at the UK Home Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into drug policy, in an article written for London’s Daily Telegraph.

Branson said over $1 trillion has been spent fighting the losing battle against drugs over the past 50 years, and it’s time leaders around the world have the courage to make important reforms to illicit drug policies.

Nokia fined for spamming customers via SMS

Nokia has been fined $55,000 after customers weren’t easily able opt-out of an SMS marketing campaign, and the ACMA is warning all businesses to check their SMS marketing follows rules set out by the Spam Act.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) began investigating Nokia after customers complained they couldn’t unsubscribe from SMS messages containing ‘tips’ from the mobile phone manufacturer.

The ACMA found Nokia to be in contravention of the Spam Act 2003 for not including details in the messages about how it could be contacted. It also found some of the text messages amounted to promotion of Nokia’s products and services, so they should have incorporated an unsubscribe facility.

Business confidence continues to slide

Businesses are pessimistic about trading conditions and their performance for the first quarter of 2012, as concerns about the European debt crisis and the slowing Chinese economy pulled down the majority of indicators in the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (ACCI) Survey of Investor Confidence.

Apart from the ‘Expected Unemployment Rate’, all indicators in the ACCI survey fell below five-year averages in the three months to December 31 2011.

Apple doubles profits, as iPad and iPhone sales soar

Apple has announced yet another record-breaking quarter, doubling revenue and profits on the back of strong iPad and iPhone sales.

First quarter revenue totalled US$46.33 billion, up from US$26.74 billion in the same quarter a year ago. Net profit hit US$13.06 billion or US$13.87 per share, more than doubling the US$6 billion reported a year previous.

Apple’s gross margin also smashed analyst expectations, hitting 44.7 percent for the quarter.

99Designs prepares for year of accelerated growth

99Designs is preparing for another year of significant growth by doubling staff numbers and with the hire of two key executives.

The four-year-old crowdsourced graphic design business has held over 115,000 design contests to date and doubled the run rate of new contests in the past 12 months. It expects to surpass 200,000 design contests by the end of 2012 and pay out $25 million to its designer community by year-end.

To meet this growing demand for its services, 99Designs has doubled its staff numbers to over 50 and employed Jeff Titterton as chief marketing officer and Caroline Moon as chief financial officer. According to CEO Patrick Llewellyn, 2012 is shaping up as another “stand-out year for 99Designs.”