All posts by: Iris Lefroy

eBay advertising Christmas spend trends report

Covid-19 has caused Christmas to begin earlier than usual in the UK, with over a quarter (27%) of consumers planning to start Christmas shopping and preparations earlier than they did last year. That’s according to new research published today by eBay Advertising, which reveals the expected impact of the pandemic on this year’s festivities and highlights how new interests adopted during the lockdown could influence shopping lists.

According to a survey of 2,064 UK consumers who celebrate Christmas, over a third (34%) have already bought some Christmas-related items this year, including Christmas cards (17%), wrapping paper (16%) Christmas presents (13%) and Christmas decorations (8%). One in every twenty-five (4%) respondents even admitted to having already forked out on festive clothes and accessories – suggesting that, for some, Christmas spirit is well underway.

This behaviour has been confirmed by eBay insights into the shopping behaviour of the 32m monthly users on, with 44% more searches for ‘Christmas’ or ‘xmas’ made on the site from April to May this year compared to the same period in 2019.

Meanwhile, purchases are predicted to be more passion-driven, with the research revealing that over half (56%) of consumers surveyed have taken up a new hobby or interest during the lockdown, and 31% observed a family member doing the same. Of those who have taken up a new hobby or interest, three quarters (75%) intend to continue with it for at least the rest of the year – meaning these interests are likely to wield influence over Christmas wish lists.

The two most popular new hobbies taken up during the lockdown were gardening and baking – a fifth (20%) of those surveyed said that they’d got into gardening, and the same number said they’d developed an interest in baking. On, searches for ‘gardening’ peaked during week five of the lockdown, up 137% from the week before lockdown began, while searches for ‘baking’ peaked during week six, up 149% compared to the same reference point.

Harmony Murphy, head of advertising UK at eBay, comments: “In a year steeped with uncertainty, the only thing we know for sure is that this year’s Christmas will be an incredibly important retail milestone. And, with so many events, occasions and gatherings cancelled this year, it’s easy to understand why Brits are already excited and planning ahead for a more thoughtful and meaningful celebration.

“However, with so much having changed this year – from plans and priorities to interests and incomes – brands now face a huge challenge as they look to make their Christmas campaigns relevant to a transformed consumer. If they haven’t already, marketers must start planning and putting Christmas strategies into action – and use the freshest insights and smartest technology to reach the right people with the most meaningful messages. Precise, real-time targeting tools, such as the new eBay Advanced Audience Technology (eAAT), have huge potential to help brands to expertly target in-market shoppers this Christmas based on proven passions and interests.”

Unsurprisingly the research also indicated that financial insecurity could lead to shoppers making more thoughtful purchases this Christmas. 37% of respondents said that income or financial security was a top factor that will influence what they decide to buy or how they spend on gifts and celebrations in the run up to Christmas. And, while last year UK consumers spent an average of £551 on Christmas shopping and celebrations, this year almost half (44%) of consumers are planning to spend the same this year, a third (31%) plan to spend less.

As consumers look ahead to Christmas, 57% of respondents said that one of their top priorities is to spend time with loved ones. Meanwhile, 37% intend on putting more thought into the presents they give this year, compared to previous years.

Pauline Robson, managing partner at MediaCom, commented: “Whilst the buzzword as we went into lockdown was ‘unprecedented’, the word as we emerge is ‘flexibility’. The approach to Christmas this year is definitely one of caution, flexibility and adaptability. People’s habits and behaviours have changed and are adapting as restrictions ease and the trajectory of the virus over the coming months is uncertain. Scenario planning is key to ensure that we can adapt to any changes that may happen.

“From an audience perspective it really can’t be one size fits all – there have been many different lived experiences of lockdown and there are many different approaches to coming out of it. These will, to a large extent, shape the kind of Christmas that people will have. Up to date audience data and insight are crucial to ensure that Christmas campaigns can flex to changing consumer needs and will resonate with audiences.”

In a bid to support brands during this time of uncertainty, eBay has launched a new report – Christmas spend trends: the path to profit during a pandemic – outlining insights into consumers’ evolving attitudes and priorities and offering actionable advice to help advertisers ensure this Christmas is a commercial success.

Affirmative Finance – Introducing a unique range of products

FIBA is committed to raising standards in the specialist lending sector and also the development of its Members. To support this, we are pleased to bring you an educational webinar from Affirmative Finance.

Affirmative Finance – Introducing a unique range of products

Monday 24th August at 2:00 – 3:00 pm

This webinar is not only full of great real life projects, it also demonstrates the way those who are fully operational in the semi-commercial or full commercial space can open up opportunity to a wide range of customers.

In this latest FIBA webinar, you will be provided with an overview of why it’s never been more important to have an effective engagement strategy in place to grow your service and support for your developer clients and be able to provide them with a range of new products, including single unit development finance.

This session will offer a real life case where a buy-to-let landlord had the ability to increase his portfolio in different stages to make the most out of a surprise purchase. Affirmative Finance is an innovative lender that is well funded and currently looking to release funds for new projects across the UK.

If you want to know more about this sector, this webinar explains how Affirmative Finance operates in a manner that allows introducers, whether fully experienced or new to transact in a simpler manner on behalf of their customers.

Register here

£25m fully affordable housing scheme for Lewisham unveiled by Southern Grove

Plans to provide dozens of affordable homes on a derelict site in Lewisham as part of a £25m housing scheme have been unveiled today by developer Southern Grove.

The 39 apartments in New Cross will all be available at either London Affordable Rent or for purchase through Shared Ownership.

Affordability problems are particularly acute in London, where many key workers, young families and those on lower incomes have been priced out in recent years. In Lewisham, the average price of a flat or maisonette is £353,3391, well above the UK average of £204,849.

Southern Grove’s design-led scheme, called Eckington Yard, is the latest in a series of fully affordable projects announced by the developer as part of its ambition to use intelligently structured land deals to boost the supply of high quality affordable housing in and around the capital.

The project will comprise 18 one-bed, 17 two-bed and four three-bed apartments on the site of a former branch of Plumbase at 52-54 New Cross Road. The buildings have lately been occupied by squatters.

Every unit will boast dual aspect views over London and residents will enjoy a short 10-minute walk to both New Cross Gate and Queens Road Peckham Overground stations.

The scheme, designed by Dowen Farmer Architects, is split into three sections of varying heights, ranging from five to 11 storeys to lessen the impact on surrounding buildings.

The New Cross area is a focus for urban renewal, with the New Cross Gate Trust currently working in partnership with the local community and Lewisham Council to deliver regeneration in the area.

Southern Grove has just exchanged contracts on the site and will be submitting a full planning application this month.

Tom Slingsby, CEO of developer Southern Grove, commented:

“The striking design of this scheme means it will be one of the leading architectural lights of a wider regeneration that is going to grip this area of London over the next few years.

“Families and workers on lower incomes all over the capital are desperately in need of more high-quality affordable housing and these homes will help more of them remain where they want to be, in the heart of London.

“As a fully affordable project targeting key workers, Eckington Yard is going to set a high bar for other developers to follow.

“The lack of affordable homes in London represents a clear danger to the capital’s ability to house, in an inclusive way, huge sections of the workforce who have a hand in its success and resilience.”

Northampton charities set to ramp-up community services

Two Northampton charities are preparing to expand the vital services they provide to local people with support from Lloyds Bank.

The Siri Guru Singh Sabha Northampton and the Sikh Community Centre and Youth Club (SCCYC) say the relocation of the Gurdwara and community centre to a much larger site in the St James area of the town in August will make a ‘huge difference’ to the community.

The charities, which were recently awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the highest accolade a voluntary group can receive in the UK – plan to more than quadruple the number of free meals they provide for vulnerable and homeless people to 700 a week.

Run by a network of 70 part-time volunteers, the organisations will also use their new site at St James’s Road to ramp-up the activities and support services they provide for thousands of local people every year, from language and computer classes, to youth clubs, health checks and housing support.

The new development will include a food bank, a gym with changing room and shower facilities, meeting and conference rooms for local businesses, a larger Gurdwara for the 400 Sikh families in Northampton who will use it as a place of worship and an extended museum to welcome school children from across Northamptonshire to learn about the Sikh faith as part of the Religious Education curriculum.

The charities raised £1.5m through community donations and grants, including the Big Lottery, Sport for England and Garfield Weston, to fund the building work for the new Gurdwara and were further supported with an £800,000 business loan from Lloyds Bank.

The bank also helped The Siri Guru Singh Sabha secure a five-figure Bounce Back Loan Scheme loan to ensure they could continue to deliver services throughout the pandemic.

Amarjit Singh Atwal, Trustee at the Siri Guru Singh Sabha Northampton, said: “Our local area suffers from high levels of deprivation and the new building will enable us to make a huge difference to people of every faith across the community in a tangible way.

“Having Lloyds Bank at our side has been vital throughout our move to St James’s Road. It understands what we’re trying to achieve and stepped in during the worst of the crisis to ensure we could continue to serve the community while the Gurdwara was closed.”

Harjinder Singh Kooner, chairman of the Sikh Community Centre and Youth Club, said: “Our work is not just about providing our community with a place of worship. We support local people with their health and wellbeing and help them access vital social services. We reach out to a growing number of vulnerable and homeless people to provide them with hot meals and for others, we’re a place to meet with friends.

“Our new building will enable us to expand these services significantly. None of this would be possible without the commitment of our network of wonderful volunteers and the support of the team at Lloyds Bank.”

Roger Kitching, relationship manager at Lloyds Bank, said: “This charity truly sits at the heart of the community and has a significant impact on the lives of the local people who rely on its support and services every day. The expansion represents a significant step forward, the effects of which will be keenly felt across the town.

“The vision and commitment of both organisations is humbling, and we look forward to continuing to support them in their journey to change lives for the better in Northampton.”

ThinCats provides CBILS funding via seven figure care home acquisition facility

ThinCats, the leading alternative lender to mid-sized businesses, has provided a CBILS loan to fund the acquisition of a new care home by Devonshire Care Ltd, an operator of over 20 years’ standing, currently with a group of four care homes across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

As part of an ongoing growth plan, Devonshire Care is acquiring a fifth home outside Manchester to augment the portfolio. The business has successful experience in acquiring older style homes in period properties, that offer the potential for investment in the day-to-day running as well as further extension or redevelopment. The target home is a first generation, purpose-built property with the sale driven by the owners’ desire to retire.

The business was introduced to ThinCats by specialist healthcare finance brokers Chandler & Co. Devonshire Care director, Peter Hill, is very experienced in the care home sector, and has had a key role in successfully strengthening the four homes currently under the Devonshire Care umbrella. Funding was sought through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) to support the acquisition and refurbishment, along with the completion of an extension to an existing home.

Since becoming an accredited CBILS lender for term loans in late April, ThinCats has been providing CBILS funding to support existing borrowers. On 13 July ThinCats opened up CBILS lending to new clients, and Devonshire Care is one of the businesses to access this new funding stream.

Peter Hill, director, Devonshire Care: “We are very excited about the acquisition of our fifth home, adding further beds to our existing portfolio. We have been very pleased with the way that ThinCats has dealt with our funding request and appreciate their expertise in this sector and the commitment of their team while dealing with the unprecedented situation presented by the coronavirus pandemic. The Devonshire Care group has been meticulous in ensuring that all measures have been taken to minimise risk to both residents and staff from Covid-19 during this difficult time.

Richard Henshaw, director, National Development Healthcare, ThinCats: “After supporting our existing clients with CBILS loans, it’s great to be able to extend this support to new borrowers. I am delighted that we have been able to help Peter and his team at Devonshire Care with their growth plans during these challenging times. We look forward to providing further support to Peter and the wider healthcare sector in the months and years ahead.”

The market bounces back and prices soar

The UK property market recovery continues, stepping up a gear in response to considerable pent-up demand and delayed sales, according to‘s Asking Price Index for August.

Estate agents had a phenomenally busy month in July, taking on vast amounts of new instructions at the same time as properties were being snapped up. Moreover, new listings are being placed on the market with markedly higher asking prices.

London agents were the busiest with the total of new inventory in July up 45% when compared to July 2019. The East and South East regions were not far behind with totals of new instructions up 29% and 30% respectively, as vendors and agents make up for lost time. Despite an overall uplift in monthly supply of 22%, the UK total of stock for sale remains lower than a year ago, indicating that the market is far from saturated at the national level, at least for the time being, although some regions (e.g. London) may be entering a period of oversupply.

Asking prices are up again for a third consecutive month in all English regions, Scotland and Wales. Notably bullish price hikes are evident in Yorkshire (+2.3%) and Scotland (+3.6%), which has just come out of lockdown, while the most cautious price setting is observed in Greater London and the East of England (up 0.5% and 0.6% respectively). The cumulative rise in the mix-adjusted average asking price for England and Wales over the last three months amounts to just over £10,000.

The annualised mix-adjusted average price growth across England and Wales currently stands at an impressive +3.3%; a vast improvement on Aug 2019, when the annualised rate of increase of home prices was -0.2%.



  • The mix-adjusted average asking price for England and Wales leaps a further 1.2% since the July reading, bringing the year-on-year rise to 3.3%.
  • Supply of new sales instructions exceeded normal levels in England, Wales and Scotland in July (as compared to July 2019).
  • Despite surging supply, the overall stock count remains 9.1% lower than in August 2019, as pent-up demand devours the new listings.
  • Vendors’ further upward pricing indicates phenomenal confidence despite the damage inflicted on the wider economy by measures imposed to halt the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Scottish vendors also show extraordinary confidence as they come out of a prolonged lockdown, with a massive hike in the average home price of 3.6% since last month.
  • The best-performing regions are the North West and Yorkshire, both showing year-on-year price growth uptrends of 6.7% and 8.1% respectively.
  • A further monthly rise of 0.6% takes the East of England (the UK’s worst-performing region) back into positive growth year-on-year (+0.7%).
  • 13% fewer properties on the market were reduced in price last month compared to July 2019, suggesting vendors remain both confident and patient.
  • Supply in the rental sector across the UK has mostly recovered but remains 6.8% down year-on-year. Only the Greater London area shows an increase in properties available to rent year-on-year.

New lender accredited to British Business Bank CBILS

Today the British Business Bank has announced that it has approved Simply for accreditation under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

This new CBILS lender will be able to provide finance to smaller businesses with turnover of up to £45m that are suffering disruption to their cashflow due to lost or deferred revenues during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Following its approval, the lender will put in place the operations required to start lending under the scheme and will confirm the dates from which it will be ready to start receiving applications from businesses across the UK.

Government published statistics show over 1.2 million businesses have to date benefitted from loans and guarantees worth £51.77BN through schemes delivered by the British Business Bank. This includes 1,157,296 Bounce Back Loans worth almost £35bn, 59,520 facilities worth over £13.4bn through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and 497 facilities worth £3.4bn through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

The Bank continues to review applications from a wide range of lender types – from PRA-regulated banks, to platform lenders, debt funds, invoice finance lenders, asset finance lenders and responsible finance lenders.

Seven in ten homeowners want to make changes to their homes

New research from Aldermore bank has revealed that, after three months of the lockdown period, seven in ten (69%) homeowners want to make changes to improve their homes, and a further one in twelve (7%) are thinking of selling and moving to a better property. However, after the lockdown experience, nearly two in five (37%) UK homeowners say they value their homes more now, but within this group; almost two thirds (64%) would still like to make improvements.

Redecorating and garden improvements top of mind
Of the seven in ten homeowners seeking to improve their homes nearly half (47%) want to redecorate by repainting or putting down new floors or carpet. Making garden or terrace improvements was also a big priority with two in five (42%) wanting to do this and nearly a third (30%) now planning a new bathroom or kitchen renovation. A further one in seven (15%) are looking at major construction by planning an extension on their property.

Millennials and Generation Z seek more flexible living space
Due to lockdown, many homeowners are now seeking to make their homes more multi-purpose. Of those looking at improvements, one in seven (14%) are looking to add dedicated office space and 13% want a place for exercising, with a further 10% having childcare on their minds and are looking at more room for their children to study and play.

Motivation for home improvements appears particularly strong among Millennials and Generation Z (18 to 34 year olds), with nearly nine in ten (87%) wanting to make upgrades post-lockdown, compared to three quarters (76%) of 35 to 54 year olds and over half of over-55s (56%). Specifically, over a quarter of Millennials and Generation Z want more exercising space and more office space, with an additional one in six (18%) looking at more study and play areas for their children.

The 18 to 34 years old age group show the greatest motivation to sell their property post-lockdown. One in seven (14%) said they want to move, compared to one in ten (11%) among 35 to 54 year olds and just 1% of the over-55s age group.

Working from home impacting Londoners most
Four in five London homeowners (82%) said they want to make improvements to their homes, the highest of all UK regions (UK average 69%). Londoners appear motivated primarily to make their properties more flexible to their needs, with nearly a third (29%) saying adding an appropriate workspace is a top priority, compared to 14% in the UK overall. Additionally, one in five (20%) Londoners are looking for more space to exercise compared to the 13% UK average.

Furthermore, over one in six Londoners (18%) said the lockdown period had motivated them to sell and move properties, the highest proportion out of all the UK regions (UK average 7%).

Jon Cooper, head of mortgage distribution, Aldermore said:
“The lockdown period has redefined what our homes need to be so it is not surprising homeowners are focusing their minds on what changes are required to enhance their living spaces. Among younger people perhaps in their first home and in London where space can be tight, the lockdown period has clearly created challenges for people in finding the right balance in their homes as a place to work, exercise, raise children, and socialise.

“As we ease out of lockdown, now is a good time to turn home plans into action, and for those planning major changes, such as moving home or seeking a remortgage, it is important to seek advice on your financial options. The mortgage market is open for business and here to assist people in making their home everything it needs to be.”

Crystal Specialist Finance appoints corporate relationship director

Crystal Specialist Finance (CSF) has further strengthened its sales function with the appointment of Satwant Bhandal to a newly created role as corporate relationship director – Midlands and North.

In this new role, Bhandal takes responsibility for developing long-term relationships with leading firms in the professional services sectors including solicitors, accountants, architects and insolvency practitioners.

Operating remotely but with access to the specialist distributor’s head office in Tamworth, he will report directly to group sales and marketing director, Jason Berry.

Bhandal joins from boutique funder, Fresh Thinking Capital where he held the position of regional sales director – Midlands. Before that he gained extensive experience in the finance markets with NatWest and Yorkshire Bank.

He said: “My challenge is to explore new avenues for Crystal across the professional services sectors with businesses who, up until this point, may not have been aware or truly understood how a specialist distributor can help them deliver financial solutions for their clients’ needs.

“In the current economic and social climate I feel the work we do here will be genuinely game changing. Everyone here is focussed on realising the best client outcome whatever the circumstances, and coming from a high street banking background it is refreshing to see such market leading declarations.”

Berry added: “Creating a corporate sales channel, which is recognised as best-in-class for delivering amazing customer outcomes, is a firm objective for us and I have no doubt that Sat can contribute to our ambitious plans. I look forward to building a framework which allows his undoubted talent to flourish.”

Crystal Specialist Finance works with independent financial advisors, financial intermediaries, networks and professional service sectors across the whole of the UK. The business has access to over 100 lenders which includes exclusive product lines and lenders who have extremely limited distribution.

MBT data sheds light on LTV concerns

Data Analysis by Mortgage Broker Tools (MBT) has found that, while lending options remain restricted at higher LTVs, most brokers using MBT Affordability are still being offered mortgages that meet their clients’ requirements.

MBT analysed enquiry data from the MBT Affordability platform for the first six months of 2020 and found that, while lender appetite contracted in March and April, applicants have been offered close to the LTV they have requested throughout the year.

MBT mortgage applicants have sought an average LTV of 75% in the first half of 2020, with first-time buyers looking for an average of 81% LTV. So, while options at 85% LTV and above have been limited, the majority of clients have been able to achieve the LTV they have requested, or close to that amount, based on affordability sourcing.

However, on average only 38% of lenders have been able to meet the LTV requested on an application, based on the affordability of the client, so carrying out research amongst a large number of lenders has been important for brokers in identifying the most suitable solution.

According to the analysis by MBT, the biggest contraction in the market came in April, when first-time buyers requested an average LTV of 82% but were only offered an average of 76%, leaving an LTV shortfall of 6%. Home movers in April requested an average LTV of 73% and were offered an average of 66%, leaving a shortfall of 7%. On the other hand, remortgage customers have consistently been offered higher LTV mortgages than they have requested throughout the year.

Tanya Toumadj, CEO at Mortgage Broker Tools, said:

“There have been many headlines about the limited availability of high LTV mortgages and the market is likely to remain restrictive for clients with a small deposit for quite some time. But in reality, most mortgage applicants are still able to borrow close to the LTV they request.

“I think there are two takeaways from this. The first is the power of data to understand the full picture of a situation and the second is that there are options available for your clients – if you know where to look.

“On average, only 38% of lenders have been able to meet the LTV requested on an application based on the affordability of the client. This means that a lot of brokers who may have only tried a handful of options could well have come up short. While those who have made use of a powerful research platform like MBT Affordability would have had a much better chance of identifying the right solution. This explains why we have seen such a consistently low LTV shortfall on enquiries being processed through the platform.”

MBT Affordability gives brokers access to the affordability calculations of 65 lenders from a single form and the platform has recently launched a new Buy to Let Affordability calculator with the ability to handle top slicing.

Mortgage Broker Tools launched MBT Affordability in early 2019 and has quickly become an award-winning leader in the sector. Most recently, it was ranked as the Best Affordability Solution for brokers by Smart Money People, an independent financial services review and insight business that carried out research amongst nearly 500 intermediaries.