Cape Verde – An Inspired Investment in an Inspiring Place

Do you find the usual raft of traditional investment products with paltry returns a rather unappealing proposition? If so, you will no doubt be pleased to know there are other options worthy of consideration – an investment property in Cape Verde for instance.

Blessed with stunningly beautiful scenery and an all year round tropical climate, Cape Verde is one of the few holiday destinations that are actually enjoying increasing levels of tourism. Palm trees line the white sandy beaches that reach out to a clear blue ocean. The sunshine is complimented by a soft breeze making for a comfortable and relaxing environment.

A luxury hotel development is in progress with a variety of suites available for investors to purchase. Some are beach front suites, some with gardens and others have their own swim-up pools. The hotel itself offers guests facilities including a spa, gym and a wide range of dining options.

Cape Verde enjoys year round sunshine, temperatures of 25 – 30 degrees centigrade and a stable climate with no hurricanes or monsoons. Consequently there is no low season, and with land value increasing at a rate of 15% per annum investors can benefit from good rental yields as well as strong capital growth.

Positioned an hour south of the Canary Islands, over 60 direct flights per week are available from many European and other cities around the world.

Tourism has grown by 115% since 2000 according to the National Institute of Statistics of Cape Verde. There are however strict regulations in place to prevent overdevelopment – and over supply. Buildings, for example must be low-rise with 2 floors being the maximum allowed. This ensures the islands remain unspoilt and retain their original character.

The islands have a democratically elected government, a growing economy, and are socially and politically stable. They also have solid property ownership rights.

There has also been a considerable investment in infrastructure: roads, energy, water and healthcare, with $240 million from the World Bank alone.

There is of course the risk that the hotel’s suites will not be filled, although currently there is an average occupancy of 80% and the island’s popularity as a tourist destination continues to grow.

Investors have the option of buying a whole suite or a fraction of a suite – as little as a twelfth, bringing this investment within range of a good deal more people than most commercial properties.

SIPP compliant, this is an opportunity to diversify your investment portfolio. Cash investors have the bonus of enjoying the suite themselves for five weeks a year. Cash investors can also opt to manage the property themselves, or have it managed for them by the hotel operator.

It is also possible to release equity in an existing property you may have to fund a suite purchase, or to club together with family, friends or business partners to co-own a property.

Anyone looking for a low risk investment property with the prospect of good returns could certainly do worse than an attractive, modern property in a desirable location in a thriving market.

How Important Are Retail Associates to Your Business

A study recently published by Wharton, University of Pennsylvania and Verde Group discusses the findings of a survey of 1000 randomly selected consumers. The objective of the survey was to discover what problems shoppers were encountering during their shopping experiences at retail stores and which of those problems were most likely to be discussed with others and which actually put customer loyalty at risk.

The findings were, of course, predictable. In the final analysis, sales associates appear to be able to ‘make or break’ the shopping experience. I don’t believe we really need surveys to figure this out but, given the simplicity of the findings, they will likely be of some use in convincing retailers of the reality. DMSRetail.com has always maintained that retailers should pay more, expect more and get more.

The study may also be useful in identifying actual behaviors that retailer’s can address in order to ensure their customer loyalty is not at risk. The bottom line is that the majority of customers take greater issue with sales associate problems than with store problems. So, if you address the behaviors of sales associates and do an adequate job with your store, merchandising, pricing, etc. you should be able to keep your customers satisfied with their shopping experience, encouraging them to speak about your organization only when they have something favorable to say and, of course, to keep coming back.

The most damaging sales associate problems were found to be:

1. Not being able to find a sales associate

2. Being ignored by sales associates and

3. Insensitivity to long check-out lines.

I’m sure that could not come as a surprise to anyone in retail management. Those problems have all been addressed, haven’t they? How is it that they continue to be issues facing consumers in 2007?

To this retail consultant the study provides very interesting reading particularly when you get to the part where the retailer is let off the hook for the problems presumably created by sales associates. It is absolutely unbelievable that this paper would justify the retailers that provide inadequate wages and insufficient staff levels to properly take care of their customers. They say that most of the required sales associate behaviors are trainable and recruiting a certain type of individual in the first place will solve these issues.

It is suggested, in the study, that competition in the retail industry may not permit higher wages or bonuses to be used to recruit better talent. It is also suggested that hiring more workers won’t necessarily help but having staff who are sensitive to the customers needs may. So, having too few associates is acceptable as long as those associates are sensitive?

It doesn’t work that way. Having too few associates on the sales floor shows the company’s lack of sensitivity to both the customers and the associates. Even the most sensitive associate will lose their focus on their customers if the tasks involved in maintaining the store are overwhelming or if there are too few sales associates to properly service all of the customers. At some point even the most sensitive associate will feel that the company doesn’t provide enough hours (payroll $) for proper floor coverage and execution of tasks so it can’t really be that important.

It goes without saying that Store Managers should be recruiting associates who are friendly, outgoing, intelligent, well presented, image appropriate, respectful, sensitive, and the list goes on. If all sales associates were model hires, the problems for customers would largely disappear provided the store is sufficiently staffed. But most retailers are not willing to pay higher hourly rates or to compensate based on performance. They cannot attract the model individual so they continue to hire, and attempt to train, unqualified individuals who are willing to accept lower wages. Often these associates cannot be counted on to take care of business the way the retailer expects them to. On top of that, there are usually too few of these individuals on the sales floor. Wages and compensation plans for retail store employees need to be studied again and again until a solution is found. Usually that solution can be found by cost reduction measures being applied to other areas of the business – instead of the store sales floor – and by scientific evaluation of the correlation between sales and payroll.

I can’t begin to explain why this is not being discussed in more boardrooms.

Povoa De Varzim on the Costa Verde of Portugal

Located just 15 miles from Oporto in Northern Portugal, Povoa de Varzim is a major seaside resort on the Costa Verde (Green Coast). Originally a major fishing town in the area, the resort has become a delightful cosmopolitan summer retreat but still with reminders of the towns origins. The town boasts historic churches, museums and a beautiful harbour which is protected by an 18th century fort and is where the local fishing boats land their catch of sardines, hake, sea bream and seaweed which is dried and then sold as fertilizer. Povoa de Varzim is an attractive, sophisticated town with traditional black and white mosaic pavements, beautiful gardens and a town hall where a monument to the town’s most famous resident, the 19th century novelist Eca de Queiros, stands.

About 20 miles inland you will find the intriguing town of Braga (the Portuguese Rome) which is famous for its superb Italianate churches, 18th century houses and wonderfully landscaped gardens. The town also holds spectacular torchlight processions during Easter Holy Week which are not to be missed if you are lucky enough to take one of the travel deals available at this time of the year.

Not to be missed is a visit to Oporto, home to the famous port wine, Romanesque cathedral and the Ribeira. Explore the heart of the city which is a UNESCO Heritage Site. Wander along the narrow cobbled lanes lined with traditional houses, restaurants and bars. There is a choice of ways to explore the town, on foot, by boat on the River Douro or by the tram (electrico) which runs along the coast. Take a leisurely stroll across the Dom Luis Bridge and view the Ribeira on one bank and the Vila Nova de Gaia where the famous port cellars are located on the other bank.

Explore the Douro Valley which is another UNESCO Heritage Site. With an absolutely stunning backdrop of old terraced vineyards and towns, the valley can be explored by boat from the River Douro, by steam train, road or by hiking along the many trails.

Povoa de Varzim has over a mile and a half of beautiful sandy beach where visitors can relax in the sun, take a dip in the crystal clear waters and even try their hand at surfing. At the northern end of the beach there are hotels, restaurants, bars, beach bars, a casino, water sports facilities, water slides and tennis courts. The resorts’ busy harbour stands at the south end of the beach. Outside the town there are two excellent surfing beaches, Salgueira and Agucadoura. The quieter Rio Alto Beach is where naturists go to laze in the sun between the sand dunes.

A visit to the neighbouring fishing port of Vila do Conde is a must on your direct holidays to Povoa de Varzim. The town is famous for its beautiful lacework and scrumptious pastries, including its sweet cakes, pasteis de Santa Clara. This quiet town also has a lace-making school and museum which are well worth a visit. Nearby Guimaraes was Portugal’s first capital and is a World Heritage Site. Here you will find a well preserved medieval quarter with some amazing Gothic, Baroque and Romanesque architecture. In the town of Rates there is the interesting 12th century church of Sao Pedro.

The resort has a vibrant nightlife with lively clubs and discos along the beachfront. Evenings in Povoa de Varzim can be spent dancing the night away in the clubs, having a flutter at the popular casino which is the biggest in Northern Portugal or just relaxing over a meal at one of the resorts restaurants. Delicious locally caught fish and seafood dishes are served at the towns restaurants, don’t forget to sample the tasty traditional fish stew, Caldeirada a Povoa.