Feeling the crunch: The winners and losers
Thursday 07 August 2008
Winner: Campsite owner Joanne Bridgen, 48
Camping is definitely "in" at the moment. It's so expensive to go abroad and no one now has got the money to just splash it about: they think about their summer holiday and realise, crikey, that it's going to cost them £2,500 for a week with the family – but here it's a couple of hundred and everyone has a great time. One client told me that he usually takes his family to Tuscany in August but they're not going this year because diesel alone would cost him £600, so he's coming here and saving himself a fortune. He's rebooked for a fortnight. Business is up 15 per cent on last year despite the bad weather and I think it'll keep improving.
We bought our campsite at South Lytchett Manor 18 months ago and invested heavily in the facilities. Campers these days expect the facilities of a four-star hotel and that's what we give them. Our showers and loos are top of the range and spotless; there are professional hairdryers and even fresh flowers. We also invested in TV hook-ups, which has gone down very well with caravanners. We're three miles from Poole and we get all sorts of people, some with a £20 tent and some with top-of-the-range motorhomes but there's no snobbery.
Winner: Regional managing director of Aldi, Graham Hetherington, 39
Our sales are up by 30 per cent on this time last year, and customer numbers are up by the same amount. Half our customers are now from the affluent ABC1 shopper profile, people you'd typically find in Sainsbury's or Waitrose. It's the biggest customer shift away from the big four supermarkets in almost 20 years. It's massive.
You can see more Audis in the car park. But what brings it home it for me is that Aldi trades at its best in the most affluent areas. Our bestselling frozen line is a lamb shank. That's a reflection of the customers that we've got.
More affluent customers also tend to buy more fresh products, so our fruit and veg sales are up 80 per cent. We have about 400 stores in the UK now, but we're going to open a new store a week for the foreseeable future.
We sell our own-label products at a discount of 20 to 30 per cent on what you'd spend in supermarkets. That can save a family £1,000 to £1,500 a year. The crunch makes us an obvious choice.
Loser: Estate agent Charles Peerless, 40
We've increased our stock by 40 per cent, but buyers are down by 50 per cent, and it was particularly tough between March and June this year. Viewings are back up now, but we're still well down on last year. I'm lucky to be in London. I really wouldn't want to be working in Birmingham, Cardiff or Manchester at the moment. There are buyers here, but they're all bombarded by negative publicity and are told they'd be mad to buy now, which I don't agree with. It's harder for buyers to finance themselves, but you can still get mortgages.
Borrowers should never have been being offered 100 per cent mortgages in the way that they were. The interesting thing is that the last time there was this kind of boom, before a bust, 100 per cent mortgages were being offered. When the bust came, everyone said that they wouldn't let it happen again – and yet here we are. I wouldn't be surprised if the same thing didn't happen all over again in 12 years' time. To anyone who lived through the recession of 1990 or 1991, the situation at the moment isn't that bad. Back then, it was just grim.
Loser: Managing director of house builder Berkeley Group, Tony Pidgley, 61
The short answer is this: the credit crunch is there and if you can't get mortgages of course it is going to affect your ability to sell houses. From my point of view, we won't see a recovery in our business until we see a recovery in mortgage availability. Of course it has affected my business. We had lived in a market for 15 years that had hundreds of mortgage products. At the moment you can get a mortgage, but it takes you three months to sort out. So we have got a bottleneck in the process and until it's finished we are in trouble.
Winner: Insolvency solicitor Richard Curtin, 47
I've just got back from holiday and I printed out my emails and the stack was about a foot high. The fall-out from a credit crunch for someone in my line of work is a lot more mortgage fraud cases and bankruptcies. When there's a lot of credit, as there was 18 months ago, people are tempted to overstate their earnings on their mortgage applications in order to borrow more. Then when you have a downturn and interest rates go up, they can't afford their monthly repayments and that's when they get uncovered.
And then there are those who simply feel that they are entitled to a higher standard of living than they actually are. I've seen cases of amazing levels of credit card indebtedness – between £20,000 and £50,000 is not uncommon. So many people bury their heads in the sand, which is a mistake: creditors are much more likely to listen if you deal with them early. I see a lot of sad cases, but it's difficult to have sympathy with some people.
With hindsight, lenders should probably have been more cautious, but it would have been a brave bank that operated a more conservative lending policy at the time. I don't think all the insolvencies have come through yet – we will see a lot more in the second half of September and in the last quarter of this year. There is going to be a lot of pain. A lot of people are going to have a miserable Christmas.
Winner: Mathew Hendon, 28, product manager for an orthopaedic company
I've been saving since I started working and also got some bonuses from my job. I paid off some uni debts, bought a house, did it up a bit and then I was left with a lump sum that I didn't really know what to do with. I was conscious that interest rates are going up, which is pretty painful if you're borrowing, but if you're saving it's really good news.
I went on to moneysupermarket .com and had a look around and found a Cahoot account with Abbey. I ended up with about £5,000 to save, and the interest rate is just over 7 per cent – anything over 7 per cent is good. I had a look at a few applications and picked the one that was easiest as I'm a little bit lazy. I really enjoy skiing, which is pretty expensive, a bit like setting fire to money and throwing it out of a car window, so I might use it for my next skiing holiday. Or, when I'm 30 next year, I might buy myself a present and have a decent party. And there's always my partner – I'm sure she can think of lots of things to do with the money!
Loser: Animal ambulance worker Suzanne Waller, 45
There's been a sharp increase in the number of abandoned dogs here in Halifax. The rescue centres we work with are choc-a-block. Kennels are full to the brim. People can't take in foster dogs because there's no space, and a lot of them have to stay in the pounds. A lot of people don't even hand the dogs over and say, "Sorry, we can't afford them"; they just open the door and let them go. We found one dog tied to a park bench.
We've had to put our prices up just to cover our fuel bills. In November we were paying about £400 per month for fuel. Now it's £700 a month. We've noticed a drop-off in demand since we put up our prices.
Some breeders have stopped breeding because they're getting no requests for puppies. They have to hand their dogs over to rescues because there's no demand for them, even though they're quality dogs.
A lot of people want younger dogs from the rescue centres, but there are a lot of older dogs out there as well. People have had them for years, and all of a sudden they're out on the street.
Keeping a dog can cost as little as £10 a week, but I've got four German shepherds. What with food and insurance, I spend between £150 to £200 per month on them. But if I was struggling for money, the dogs would still get fed before me – and so would my two kids!
Loser: Debtor, Mark, 35
We bought our house on a 100 per cent mortgage. It seemed like the best thing to do at the time. We had just had another baby.
We were also spending on credit cards. We paid for a new car with the cards and juggled payments between them. Things started going wrong for us late last year, when interest rates started going through the roof and we couldn't afford the mortgage payments, plus the credit cards, plus bills and school fees for the kids. It got out of control and we ended up owing £60,000 with no way of paying it off.
We've had to sell the house and we've learnt our lesson – we won't borrow that much on credit again.
Winner: First-time buyer with large deposit Tim Fuller, 27
I had an offer accepted on a two-bedroom flat in a Victorian conversion house for £245,000 earlier this year. Normally I would have expected to pay a lot more. It was on the market for £260,000. The news about the credit crunch influenced me to go out and get somewhere and to push for something for a better price. At the time I was looking there were lots of places on the market and many of them are still on the market now. I am obviously really happy about how it worked out. But I had £50,000 saved up for the deposit, which allowed me to meet the conditions of the mortgage lender.
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