Queen at Olympic ceremony Photo/Cameron Spencer

2012 has not been the easiest of years. We are still jammed in the middle of a horrible global economic downturn, and in the midst of a period of governmental austerity which is making our hair curl. However, even as we wade through the mire, there is the odd ray of sunshine to keep us going. This year we had something of a golden summer, first with the Diamond Jubilee, and then the Olympics. Then throughout the rest of the year were a series of mini triumphs - if you look hard enough.

So who were the big winners of 2012?



Souvenir manufacturers

It was a big year for the Royal Family, with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and the announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first child. Add in the enormous success of the Olympic Games, and you have a one-off boost to the economy which was hailed as bringing Britain out of the second recessionary dip.

According to the NPD Group, the combined value of trinkets associated with the Jubilee and Olympics hit an astonishing £1 billion. That's an economy built on tea-towels and cuddly mascots - which is something that any country can be proud of.

Tax avoidance experts

We have heard lots of sound and fury from the Politicians about cracking down on tax avoidance. We have had contrition from wealthy individuals like Jimmy Carr (who was using an entirely legal scheme in order to pay less tax) and businesses like Starbucks (which has technically been making a loss in the UK after internal accounting and therefore paid little corporation tax).

However, avoiding tax remains big business. George Osborne may have announced plans for a general anti-avoidance rule in future - but for now it's still a specialty among accountants across the UK, who are enjoying fat Christmas bonuses and toasting the loopholes in tax legislation.

Product placement

This year raised the very real possibility that product placement could be the saviour of the British film industry. None of us particularly enjoyed sitting through endless adverts before Bond's latest blockbuster, Skyfall, neither did we like products being shoehorned into the plot (why were those spies drinking beer in the office?). However, the film could not have got off the ground without it, and clearly we're willing to put up with it: this year Skyfall became the most successful British film of all time - taking over £94 million in its first 40 days on release.

Greggs

The infamous pasty tax was at the heart of the claims of the 'omnishambles' Budget this Spring. The plan to impose VAT on hot food (including pasties) was eventually watered down - so that those served fresh from the oven, or cooling naturally, were exempt. The CEO of Greggs, Ken McMeikan, was the highest-profile campaigner against the tax, and was hailed as victor when the u-turn was announced. Shares increased 9% in a day, and the weeks of public discussion provided the company with the sort of publicity that money can't buy.

Amazon

The rise of Amazon continues, with the huge success of the Kindle HD and the Paperwhite. The latter sold out overnight when it was launched in the UK in October, has seen limits of one-per-customer imposed by some retailers, and is still seeing waiting lists around the country.

The company has a policy of not making any money from its ereaders - and will not profit from this massive success. However, as Amazon points out: Kindle readers buy four times as many books as those without the reader - so it's a sales boom-in-waiting.

It's a mark of how influential the company has become in a number of spheres that its CEO, Jeff Bezos, has recently been named as number 27 in Forbes' list of the most powerful people in the world.

Apple

It has been a tough year for the company, after the death of Steve Jobs in October last year. However, the launch of the iPhone 5, the iPad mini and the new iMac, shows that evolution of the brand continues apace.

Apple products were recently named as the most desirable Christmas gifts of 2012 (top of the wish list for 48% of children in a recent Nielsen poll), so despite stiff competition from Android and Amazon, the company retains its reputation as the leader in user-friendly, beautiful and useful devices.

Celebrity power

Towards the end of this year we have seen a strange manifestation of celebrity power - which goes beyond getting us all to buy a particular pair of shoes - and has branched into politics, law, and how we live our lives.

There have been two striking examples in 2012. The first is the Leveson Report, studded with celebrities calling for more controls on the press. Quite how this eventually manifests itself in law remains to be seen. However, from a movement that started with a handful of celebrities going to court over phone hacking, this has the power to transform the way the British media operates.

Then at the end of the year we saw Lord McAlpine make an astonishing mark on both media and social media. After he was falsely accused of being a paedophile, he turned to the law for recompense. He made the media outlets responsible pay for their mistakes, then in a landmark move, he pledged to prosecute everyone who repeated the claim through Twitter (aside from those with few followers who apologised and made a donation to charity). The full impact of this move is yet to be seen. However, the effects could transform the way people consider social media.

Britain's tourist industry

The UK remains the world's seventh biggest tourist destination, and the duel attractions of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Olympics worked wonders on income for 2012. The latest figures from The Tourism Alliance show that the industry is worth around £125 billion - and this year it was expected to receive a boost of up to 20% from these special events. B&Bs, open-top bus tours, tourist attractions and retailers of small plastic red buses everywhere can rejoice.

British sport

It has been a great year for sports clubs and sports equipment retailers, as Britain caught the sporting bug. From Andy Murray getting so close in the Wimbledon final, to Bradley Wiggins storming home in the Tour de France and the entire Team GB confounding their critics in the Olympics, sport is suddenly cool again.

We have been snapping up new bikes, clothes and kit like no-one's business in our new-found enthusiasm for exercise. It's hard to know whether the demise of a once-proud sporting shop chain, JJB Sports, in the midst of this resurgence is a sign of just how desperate life is on the high street - or how much of the stock in some sports shops now has more to do with fashion than sport.

Netflix

Launched at the beginning of the year in the UK, this has been a huge success story over the last 12 months in this country. Netflix is having a torrid time on the stockmarket, as it is spending a lot of money on expansion, and dealing with enormous churn of households in some markets.

In its home-country, the US, it is showing decelerating growth, which is garnering some poor headlines. However, in the UK it is a fast-growing phenomenon. The country has embraced the idea of signing up to a service offering online steaming of films and TV shows. Netflix has been named as the 6th most popular search this year by Google (after Euro 2012, Olympics tickets, Whitney Houston, Kate Middleton and missing schoolgirl April Jones).