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The economies of scale at Google are impressive and in some cases breath-taking. This visual tour provides a rich example of the size and complexity of the data centres that power the world's biggest search engine. If you are looking for some more impressive images of economies of scale in action, here is a picture tour of a Sainsburys distribution centre from a couple of years back
The conventional wisdom is that bus transport in many countries including the UK is an inferior good - demand declines as real incomes fall. Consumer perceptions of bus travel are hard to shift and default choices when it comes to transport are often deep-rooted and tough to change. The total annual number of bus journeys made in the UK experienced a long term decline from the 1950s for nearly forty years although a recent House of Common select Committee report found that, since the mid-1990s, there has been an upturn in total passenger numbers for Great Britain, largely as a result of the introduction of national concessionary travel schemes and passenger growth in London.
Perhaps this rather wonderful video from Denmark does more than most to make bus travel cool once again! What do you think?read more...»
Here is the link to the article
This Financial Times new video looks at the rapid growth of outlet shopping where excess inventory (stocks) of designer brands are sold at heavily discounted prices. A useful video to watch when thinking about income elasticity of demand. The video looks at how premium brand retailers manage this section of the market.read more...»
My A2 students have been researching and writing about the economics of natural resource curses - some of their perspectives are provided below.read more...»
I am a Kindle user.
There, I’ve said it. As the founder member of the Kindle-owners self-help group (KOSH), I’m inviting all fellow addicts to come out and admit likewise – until you admit it to yourself no-one will be able to help you. Until we act collectively, no-one will be able to stop those Amazon dealers from peddling their wares.read more...»
Christmas is coming. Retailers are beginning to push their offers hard. The first page of a search on Google for ‘Christmas Toys 2012’ is full of sites announcing the ones which will be ‘hot’ or ‘top’. In total, there are over 75 million results available to be perused.
Last year it was Mishling Tree Monsters, Doggie Doo, and the like which proved the most popular. Readers of a certain age will recall such stupendous commercial triumphs as Teletubbies, Buzz Lightyear and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Fond though these memories might be, the runaway successes bring tears as well as joy. Every year, the cult toys of the year become hard, or even impossible, to acquire as the great day approaches.read more...»
The speed with which new consumer product technologies are taken up is
of enormous interest for lots of reasons. Emerging products and services
challenge demand, revenues and profits for established products and
bring about - as Schumpeter pointed out - gales of creative
In the United States, fresh data suggests that more than half of US consumers have smartphones and if the information is accurate, this means that smartphones have become one of the most rapidly adopted consumer technologies of all time.
A hat tip to Ed Marsh from Glyn School for spotting this excellent short news video from BBC Midlands. Demand for swimming lessons in Corby and Northampton is running well ahead of the capacity of the pools to offer them - the problem is not a lack of pool capacity, more a shortage of qualified swimming coaches - what are they doing to rectify this?
This is a fantastic teaching idea! This week economics students at Ipswich School have been having a go at living supply and demand diagrams in AS economics. Here are a couple of examples of students getting home and finding wonderful ways of illustrating the price mechanism in action! Can anyone surpass the two examples shown below? If so please send them in or post on a twitter feed using the hash tag #ecbusteach
This new video from the Financial Times is superb on some of the growing pains for the Chilean economy, a country widely praised for good economic management in recent years. Her economy is heavily dependent on copper exports, and a target of developed country status by 2018 looks ambitious. The Chilean government believes that it can be met a year early! But there will be many obstacles to overcome not least in meeting growing demand for reform in a country where income and wealth inequality has widened.
Apple’s iPhone5 has already smashed sales records. The first day on which consumers could make purchases over the web, more than 2 million online orders were placed. Little wonder that JP Morgan has estimated that sales of the iPhone5 could add as much as 0.5 per cent to American GDP. These numbers have attracted criticism. If consumers simply buy iPhones instead of other products, it is hard to see how output could be boosted by such an amount.read more...»
A warm hat tip to Ed Marsh, Head of Economics at Glyn School for spotting this superb example of a sports club using dynamic pricing technology to determine the prices of tickets for their home games.
The BBC news site reports that Derby County are introducing "demand-based" ticketing for the coming season with prices fluctuating according to the opposition, the team's form, kick-off times and even the weather. The system is known as Sports and Entertainment Analytical Ticketing System (SEATS)
Buy in advance and fans will get cheaper prices - but what if a sizeable group decides to start a game of chicken with the club and hold back from buying? As match day gets closer, ticket prices should move higher, but if demand for a game is well below the stadium's capacity will prices drop back?
Hardened cynics might also point out that the Derby County ground has a fundamental design flaw .... the seats face the pitch!
Many lower-income developing nations still relying on specializing in and exporting low value added primary commodities. The prices of these goods can be volatile on world markets. When prices fall, an economy will see a sharp reduction in export incomes, an adverse movement in their terms of trade, risks of a higher trade deficit and a danger that a nation will not be able to finance investment in education, healthcare and core infrastructure.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has announced that it is launching an investigation into prices at the pumps amidst fears that the retail market for petrol and diesel is not operating properly and causing damage to the welfare of fuel buyers including millions of motorists and businesses.
For a long time motorists have complained that the prices they pay are quick to rise when the world price of crude increases, but the cost of filling up the tank falls much less quickly when crude oil is available on international markets at lower prices. This BBC news video report provides some background.
Our chart below tracks the weekly average price of petrol and diesel against a benchmark international price for crude oil - is there any evidence here for the wrath of customers?
Admit it, when was the last time you dusted off your skateboard and strolled over to the local skate park? The estimated number of global skateboard participants has fallen by a third in the last ten years and the industry faces big challenges in preventing decline and reinvigorating what once was a craze but now a market with a firmly downward sloping trajectory for sales. Should skateboard manufacturers stick to their core demographic or look for new alliances to change perceptions and - ultimately - sales and profits. This Financial Times video provides some interesting analysis and comment.read more...»
I have always thought that ink jet printers were an expensive and inefficient luxury - the high cost of consumables has always been a source of frustration and annoyance.
It seems now that the demand for ink jets is on a steep downward path as cheaper and frankly better substitutes are chosen. Far fewer people are printing out their photos and choose instead to post onto social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. For those who prefer a hard copy of a photo, laser printers have become a much more cost effective and affordable alternative to ink jet printers.read more...»
How might recession in the natural gas mining industry cause tears for toddlers at birthday parties and pain for organisers of big events? The answer lies in the link between production of gas and the world price for a byproduct - helium. The recession has caused a fall in production in the natural gas industry in the United States and as a result, the supply of helium has fallen too. Fears of a global supply shortage of helium have driven prices sharply higher, the situation has been exaggerated by the possibke closure of the Federal Helium Reserve in Texas - a plant that supplies a third of the world’s crude helium.read more...»
In many production processes, human labour and machines are substitutes. Wages are rising quickly in countries such as China. For some years now the annual increase in wages in manufacturing in China has been above ten cent and this rise in labour costs is causing many businesses to consider investment in robotics to fast-forward the process of automatic in factories.read more...»
This news video from the Economist looks at the impact of the severe drought affecting commercial corn farmers in the United States this year, the drought that plagues most of America has left acres of little more than dry, burnt stalks. July 2012 was hottest US month since records began and the latest forecast is the smallest corn yields for over six years. How will this affect market supply and corn prices in the United States? Which industries rely on corn as a key raw material? How will consumers in the UK be affected?
Remember that the United States is the world’s largest exporter of corn, soybeans and wheat. Ethanol production accounts for about 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop.
More reading here: CNN news: The global impact of the U.S. droughtread more...»
Have a guess at the price tag (measured in US dollars) of a large margarita pizza in the comfortable middle-class environment of San Paulo in Brazil? Would you expect it to be less or more expensive than say a home delivered pizza to your house from leading UK business Dominos?
By 2050, the world’s growing population will use 55% more water in their homes, to grow food, and to produce electricity and manufactured goods. To ensure enough water to meet this demand, we will need to stop wasting it and find new ways to make sure there’s enough to go around.
The world’s demand for water will continue to grow in the years ahead because of a rising global population and changing lifetsyles and wealth. More people using more and increasingly polluted water represents one of the most severe environmental, economic and humanitarian challenges facing the world. Here are some video resources on the issue of water scarcity.read more...»
This six minute news video report from CNN is superb, it focuses on pilot programmes to extend micro-insurance schemes for some of Kenya’s smallest and poorest farmers in a country where the agricultural sector is at high risk from the effects of drought. Kenya is the largest economy in east Africa but less than 4% of Kenyans have access to insurance. Many do not understand the concept of insurance, others cannot afford it or choose not to take it out when there are school fees to pay (opportunity cost writ large).
These pilot schemes offer hope for the future but insurance on its own is no panecea. Savings and access to credit are of equal significance in reducing vulnerability to extreme weather events.
The micro-insurance programmes embed mobile technology - for example the Kilimo Salama programme — Swahili for ‘safe farming’ — launched in 2011 provides small-scale farmers in Kenya with crop insurance by combining mobile phone payment with the data from automated weather stations.Kilimo Salama uses data from these stations to calculate the severity of droughts — or excessive rainfall. Eligible farmers then receive payouts via their mobile phones.
More here: Kenya pastoralists get insured for lossesread more...»
The European Union is bringing in tough new laws covering the collection and recycling of the growing mountain of electrical waste - also known as e-waste. From 2016 - for every hundred tonnes of electrical items put on the market during the previous three years member countries will have to collect and recycle 45 tonnes of e-waste. The EU directive provides an opportunity for businesses that can recycle and reuse electrical products and their many component parts - the high global prices for essential raw materials gives added impetus to the challenge to tackle the e-waste problem. This news video also looks at entrepreneurial activity in recycling waste in India.read more...»
The milk industry is in the news once again with some dairy farmers threatening to go on strike and limit milk supplies in protest at cuts in the wholesale price of milk offered to them by the major milk processing businesses. I have put together some video resources available from different web sources and built them into a Storify slideshow, as more videos are added the slideshow will be updated automatically.
A tax on plastic bags in Wales has seen the number given away drop by sizeable amounts according to this news report Since 1 October 2011, there has been a minimum charge of 5p on all single use carrier bags.
The Welsh government acted in a bid to encourage re-use of bags and therefore lower demand for single-use free bags. The justification was on economic and environmental grounds:
Dambisa Moyo was on great form when she spoke to the Economics Teacher National Conference in London last week. Her new book Winner Take All investigates the causes and consquences of rising global demand for commodities. In particular Dambisa Moyo predicts increasing geo-political tensions and conflicts as countries scramble to secure ownership and supplies of land, water, energy and minerals. In this blog I have linked to some of Dambisa’s recent media appearances as Winner Take All was launched in the USA and here in the UK.read more...»
A potentially important moment for the contestability of the tablet market. Technology giant Microsoft has unveiled its touchpad tablet computer. The “Surface” will face tough competition from Apple’s iPad and many other devices including those made by Samsung. These video resources provide some background. The Surface tablet computer will not be available until the Autumn on 2012.read more...»
Alcohol-related accidents are the leading cause of death and serious injury for victims of car crashes in France and the government has decided to introduce a strong behavioural nudge by making it compulsory for every car to have a portable breathalyser kit in their vehicles or risk a fine. This applies to every vehicle including those driven by tourists. Vehicle owners will have until November 2012 to get used to it before the fines are imposed.
Having a breathalyser in the glove box or on the front passenger seat might well be an effective reminder for people before they turn on the ignition. Reminders of our mortality and/or our morality can often prime us to make safer, better choices. I applaud the French government for introducing this new law. All motorists must also have with them a high-visibility safety vest and a warning triangle.read more...»
This news report from drought-stricken Eastern Kenya looks at the potential of drought-resistant seeds in maintaining farm yields in a region afflicted by extreme poverty and malnutrition. The seed has been locally produced and distributed to farmers across lower Eastern Kenya at a reasonable price and promises good yield, early maturity and resistance to common diseases. But farmers still face many challenges in making it work.read more...»
The poor summer weather has hit many businesses across the UK and the flash flooding has caused havoc for many communities. This BBC news video looks at some of the businesses damaged by the heavy rain. But can you think of businesses that will have benefitted from the deluge?read more...»
The introduction of a carbon tax in Australia has become one of the most hotly debated political and economic issues for many years in that country. The economy has enjoyed strong growth in recent times buoyed by rising demand for and prices of many of Australia’s huge endowment of natural resources.
Under the new carbon tax, around 300 of the worst-polluting firms to pay a A$23 (£15) levy for every tonne of greenhouse gases they produce.
Will a carbon tax threaten this growth? Or will it prove to be an inspired decision - helping to pave the way for greener growth and a faster pace of innovation not least in renewable energies and low-carbon goods and services?read more...»
Channel 4 news reports here on how CCTV and other technologies are being used to monitor fishing in the north sea in a bid to scale back the horrendous amount of fish discards. This happens when fishing vessels throw back dead fish into the water when a catch exceeds the quota - a terrible waste of an already scarce resource. The average European fishing trawler discards 38 per cent of its catch - for some species of fish 90 per cent are thrown away but with the aid of technology this can be reduced to less than 1 per cent.read more...»
Here is a short 35 slide revision presentation on government intervention in markets designed for AS microeconomics revisionread more...»
A slide share revision presentation on price elasticity of supplyread more...»
A slide share revision presentation on elasticity of demandread more...»
Here is a slide share presentation on the price mechanism in action focused in students taking their AS microeconomics papers.read more...»
A revision blog on developments in international rice pricesread more...»
Revision Blog on Price Elasticity of Supplyread more...»
A revision blog on income elasticity of demandread more...»
A revision blog on recent developments in the international cocoa marketread more...»
Here is a revision presentation which should be useful for AS economists revising for core microeconomics topics
Link below for related articles on global food price volatility and world food price inflationread more...»
Here is a selection of a recent blog resources on topics that appear on the core Unit 1 Syllabus focusing on changing market prices and examples of interventions to address perceived market failuresread more...»
Here is a ten question quiz on elasticity of demand to give you a little extra variety in your revision!read more...»
The campaign for a living wage has gained renewed prominence in the last year or so. Students and teachers wanting to know more about the minimum and the living wage debate might find this background blog from Channel 4 news relevant and useful. More here on the living wage from the Citizens UK web page.
Boasting a steering wheel that doesn’t steer, an in car radio that is an optional extra and acceleration powers that - on a good day - can take you from 0 to 60 in less than three minutes, the Lada has for a long time been a figure of fun in global motoring circles. But production is coming to an end following a collapse in sales. As is often the case, news of the demise of the Lada has prompted increased interest among younger urban consumers whose DNA is to go against the grain and drive something that is sturdy, mercifully free of corporate design features and most of all, tremendously cheap.read more...»
I have put together a unit 1 micro markets and market failure question focusing on the economics of motorway congestion and road tolls. It is available as a pdf download if colleagues would like to take a look. I will post some suggested answers in a few days and link back to this blog.read more...»