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BUSINESS w w w . l d p b u s i n e s s . c o . u k October 2010

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●Manufacturing: What does the future hold? ●Education: Degrees of uncertainty ●Leisure & tourism: How we welcome visitors 1


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Hotelier calls for more events


EDITOR Bill Gleeson 0151 472 2319


Manufacturers spearhead recovery

DEPUTY BUSINESS EDITOR Tony McDonough 0151 330 4918

16 PROFESSIONAL SECTORS Happy 200th to Hill Dickinson



BUSINESS WRITERS Alistair Houghton


Bobby and Simon Arora, B&M


Focus on Warrington


City retail sector bucks the trend


Peter Elson



Neil Hodgson neil.hodgson

Alex Turner




MARKETING EXECUTIVE Cath Reeves 0151 285 8428


‘Dry water’ is the future




Question marks over India growth


ADVERTISEMENT MANAGER Jackie McMahon 0151 330 5077


Firm that slashes printing costs


Celebrating a pioneer


Vocation is all the rage



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Alistair Houghton on the white spirit



LDP Business is printed monthly and distributed with the Liverpool Daily Post. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission of the publisher.


Carolyn Hughes out on the town

THE team at LDP Business has done a lot of work in recent months on the subject of manufacturing, including our Big Feature in this edition of our magazine. I was struck by the implications of one surprising fact contained in this feature. The UK’s share of global manufacturing output is higher today than it was three decades ago. It has risen from 3.5% of the world’s total to 3.8%. The rise in itself doesn’t sound astounding, but taken in the context of global trends it is remarkable. Eastern nations such as China, India and South Korea have predictably seen a rise in their share of output. France and the US have seen a drop, as you

ADVERTISEMENT SALES Julie Cowley 0151 472 2311 Neil Johnson 0151 472 2705

EDITOR’S LETTER would expect from developed countries. So why has the UK grown its share when similar countries have fallen away? As our feature demonstrates, there are some excellent manufacturing businesses located in our region, which are showing a large degree of commercial alacrity to fend off overseas competition. Innovation has undoubtedly

played a part in the process, too, as have more flexible working practices by trade unions in this country, compared to how they behaved three decades ago. The process of researching the article was interesting. We started by asking the obvious question: can British manufacturing withstand the migration eastwards? What remnants will be left in ten years’ time? But, as I think you will agree when you read the piece, the outlook is a little

more optimistic than we originally anticipated. Of course, good market share shouldn’t be confused with job creation. As the feature makes clear, there are far fewer people employed by the sector in this country than there used to be. After all, the late 1970s and early 80s saw a massive clearout of jobs and over-manning in British industry generally. Yet the sense of resilience persists. Take our car industry, for example. Jaguar Land Rover last month commenced the recruitment of 1,000 staff to build Land Rover’s Evoque Halewood. Proximity to

both sales markets and the component supply chain seems to matter greatly. Ten years ago, when Ford was talking about finishing Escort production and closing the factory, nobody would have guessed it had a great future. Similarly, chemicals and pharmaceuticals continue to be robust locally. In the wider region, aerospace remains robust. The conclusion of our investigation into the sector has to be that manufacturing has a much rosier future in this country than many would have predicted.



Jewellery entrepreneur is looking to sparkle

Amy Wood, with Ralph Webster, from East Liverpool Economic Community Trust

A LIVERPOOL entrepreneur is aiming to get her jewellery venture off the ground, following a new business networking event organised by social landlord Riverside. Amy Wood, 23, a self-employed jeweller and silversmith, dropped in to the event at the Meridian Business Village, in Hunts Cross, to find out more about expanding her business enterprise. As part of its regeneration mission, Riverside brought local businesses and support

agencies together, with Merseyside residents, to offer tailored advice for those seeking help with a new enterprise, or looking to develop an existing one. Ms Wood designs and makes bespoke jewellery in silver and gold. She said: “As a creative person, I am not at all businessminded. It was great to speak to people who could advise about how to go about developing a business plan and help with book-keeping.” She hopes to find a workshop premises to work from soon.

‘More visitors must be found for hotels’ HE power of Liverpool’s leisure economy could be compromised by saturating the hotel market, it has been claimed. Hotels and hospitality has been a transformational sector for a decade, said Stephen Roberts, Liverpool Hotels Association chairman and Crowne Plaza Hotel general manager. “But, if we assume our hospitality industry has reached saturation point, then the challenge is to be able to measure the strength of the visitor economy in terms of occupancy and the average rate being achieved, compared to other similar Northern provincial cities,” said Mr Roberts. “Yields are down year-on-year since 2008, and there will be considerable new capacity next year against the demand from regular business. “Occupancy is compromised as the Echo Arena & BT Convention Centre is restricted by a certain size. “Recent statistics paint a picture of reasonable levels of occupancy, but it is below other regional centres, “Yields are down on every hotel, bar one of two close to the Arena. The farther out, the worse it gets.” Crucially, The Mersey Partnership is working hard to find funds to market and promote the city, said Mr Roberts. “The challenge is to build demand with new attractions at the same time as building hotel supply,” he said. “The critics say the winner now is the customer, but, in the long term, owners and shareholders won’t invest in buildings, training and recruitment. “This will damage the quality of our hotel stock when we want to attract new international and leisure visitors. “The Liverpool Boat Show will be fantastic and this is the way forward. “Peel Ports holds the key for Pier Head cruise liner turnarounds.”



Stephen Roberts – warns about hotel supply and demand

Jennifer Atkinson, chief executive of ITC – has turned a vision into reality

Academy dream becomes reality CHESTER bespoke tour operator ITC has launched a travel academy to help young people get into the industry. The academy was a long-held ambition of ITC founder Drew Foster. Mr Foster died last year, but current chief executive Jennifer Atkinson and HR manager Paula Hodkinson have turned the vision into reality. ITC invited applications from students at the University of Chester, West Cheshire College and Knowsley College. Eight were shortlisted and invited for interview, and were asked to give a presentation on their favourite holiday destination. The first two academy trainees have now been

selected – Jennie Carter, 25, who has graduated from the University of Chester with a degree in tourism management and Chloe Jones, 18, from West Cheshire College. They will be trained for 12 months, after which they will be invited to apply for vacancies at Canal Street-based ITC. During the training period, they will spend time working in each of the key departments learning about ITC and the travel business. They will also be required to do a certain amount of self-learning, including attending supplier events, on-line training courses and researching their product knowledge. Jennifer Atkinson said: “ITC is proud to have both Jennie and Chloe with us.”


Building boost for Bootle Stepclever and Triangle Builders join forces to get local construction in shape STEPCLEVER is an initiative to generate an enterprise culture in North Liverpool and South Sefton, by offering free business advice and support, as well as grants and other financial assistance for existing enterprises, start-up companies and individuals. Here we look at an exciting venture which is being helped by Stepclever. THE construction industry is, unsurprisingly, a male-dominated world, but one woman is determined to break down this stereotype and get more women into the business. Alison Perry is director of Triangle Builders Ltd, which is a building organisation that works with social housing landlords across Merseyside to design, build and renovate properties. Not only do they provide a consistent, high-quality service, but they are committed to improving the job prospects of those who live in the Bootle area, so they only employ local people.

The current financial climate has been a challenge for Triangle Builders, but Alison knew that, in order to survive, they had to adapt. “We had to make some very difficult decisions, and unfortunately we had to reduce the number of staff we employed, but we were determined to do as much as we could to promote ourselves and maintain the solid reputation we had earned over the past 35 years.” To add to Alison’s workload, in June she became the first-ever female to be appointed national vice-chair of the National Federation of Builders. This high-profile and prestigious role certainly achieved Alison’s aim of highlighting women in the industry, but she was committed to making sure the organisation she had been dedicated to for 15 years was given every possible opportunity to flourish. This is where Stepclever came in. Alison added: “The changes to the company had meant my confidence was pretty low, but

Stepclever gave me the kick I needed! “I was able to focus on what I had to do to take the company further, and knew that I would be given support and guidance the entire time. “Stepclever gave us fantastic marketing advice and showed how we could sell ourselves and make us an attractive option to potential clients.” Since making the most of what was on offer, Alison is looking at other ways to work with Stepclever, already recommending them to other organisations. “The help given is absolutely vital, especially at this time when a lot of people are struggling to keep their heads above water. I encourage as many people as possible to utilise what could be business-saving funding, help and advice.” ■ FOR more information about Triangle Builders, go to www., call 0151 922 4880 or email

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We knew we had to adapt – Alison Perry, of Triangle Builders Ltd, the vice-chair of the National Federation of Builders

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THE LDP Business team has launched four new dedicated websites, as it bids to expand its coverage of the sectors and regions that are most vital to the local economy. LDP Business is already the must-visit website for businesses in Merseyside and Cheshire, and it has now unveiled new microsites to focus on three key sectors and on business in Knowsley. The key sectors are: ■ The maritime sector: Liverpool is justly proud of its seafaring past, but the maritime sector is still a huge one in Merseyside today. The new website will shine a light on the region’s port-related businesses and their successes. ■ The manufacturing sector: From giants such as Jaguar Land Rover to smaller specialists, manufacturers still play a vital role in the region. The new site will show users that we should still be proud of the manufacturing sector. ■ The commercial property sector: The new website will expand on LDP Business’s already comprehensive coverage of the region’s retail, office and industrial property markets. To visit the three sector sites, log on to sectors The paper has also launched a microsite covering business in Knowsley, ranging from the factories and distribution centres that employ hundreds, to the small and innovative firms shaping the borough’s future. We will speak to some of the key players in the borough and highlight the achievements of its businesses. Visit Knowsley All the new sites feature guest bloggers, sharing their views on the latest news in their sectors. Bloggers include Tony Caldeira, owner of Knowsley cushion manufacturer Caldeira; Lesley Martin-Wright, chief executive at Knowsley Chamber of Commerce; and Jim Teasdale, chief executive of Mersey Maritime. To read their views, visit thebusiness/ The sites will be produced by the six-strong LDP Business team, led by business editor Bill Gleeson. Daily Post editor Mark Thomas said: “These new sites, together with our daily business news coverage and monthly LDP Business magazine, show our commitment to the region’s business community. “What we’re launching is just the start. We aim to focus more and more on successful business sectors and local business communities across the city-region. “Our new sites will give people in these sectors a chance to raise their profile by telling the world what they are doing. But we also want businesses to use these sites to interact with other companies and find new contacts. “Whether you want to tell us about excellence by your staff, or whether you’re looking for business opportunities, these sites will be the places to visit. But we need the help of Merseyside and Cheshire’s business community to make them a success – so log on and tell us your stories.”

Merchant Taylors’ Schools’

Open Events We would be delighted if you could join us for one of our open events. There are two separate dates when all four schools will be open. You will get the chance to meet the teachers, see the facilities and learn about our curriculum and other activities. If you are unable to make an open event then please remember that we welcome visits all year round.

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The size of each flag represents that country’s share of global manufacturing output. The top 10 countries, shown, account for 69% of the total, with the grey area representing the rest of the world. See the panel on the next page for a breakdown of each country’s share


At the cutting edge ▲ ▲

Scratching below the surface shows a manufacturing sector in far better shape than received wisdom suggests, reports Alex Turner



‘Our economy has become more and more unbalanced, with our fortunes hitched to a few industries in one corner of the country, while we let other sectors like manufacturing slide’ PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON

ANUFACTURING is not the dark satanic mill that people imagine,” said Adam Buckley, head of programmes at the Manufacturing Institute. As well as challenging William Blake’s poetical insights, part of Mr Buckley’s role at the Manchester-based organisation, which operates the North West division of the Manufacturing Advisory Service, is to change perceptions of the sector. But he also gets to visit manufacturers across the region and see what they are doing and excelling at – often with little recognition or support. “I get a real bee in my bonnet about the level of support from governments,” he said. “People don’t see manufacturing as the future of our economy. It has become the forgotten son. “Our economy is what we can dig out of the ground, what we can grow and what we can make. “We don’t dig up much or grow that much these days. But we are still very good at making things and very good at innovating. “We need to continue. Both the Government and the media have a role in reflecting a more positive image of manufacturing and its importance to the economy. “Once people see it is a hi-tech sector with a future and not a dirty traditional sector, that will make a big difference.” The common refrain of “we don’t make anything any more” is not just an exaggeration, he argues, but simply wrong. The problem, he argues, is how the size of the sector is measured. “A lot of people assess it around employment rather than output,” he said. “Today, manufacturing is nearly twice as productive as it was in 2002. It’s producing a lot more value with far fewer people. “That’s because of the increase in innovation. “The majority of sectors are very hi-tech with lots of robotics, plus health and safety and environmental rules have changed the industry. “That’s one of the things that the kids in Make It recognise straightaway.” The Manufacturing Institute launched the Make It In Manufacturing programme in 2006, aiming to raise the profile of the sector and promote manufacturing as “an exciting and rewarding career for young people”. It is aimed at challenging the perceptions of teenagers and demonstrating the breadth of opportunity in the sector. Mr Buckley said: “The intake of young people is an issue for manufacturing. That’s because of the image of the sector.



Teenagers from schools around Chester and Flintshire compete to Make It in Manufacturing, with an aim to see what it takes to run a green manufacturing business. The challenge was held at Chester Racecourse

“Make It in Manufacturing takes children into manufacturing – they didn’t realise it was so diverse, and that the pay was better on average than the service sector. “We are changing the image of manufacturing in the eyes of school children, but also the parents and school teachers. “There are teachers teaching a manufacturing diploma who have never stepped into a manufacturing environment – they aren’t able to explain what it is like.” The North West has a wide range of manufacturing sectors: the aerospace industry, clustered around Preston, and a strong automotive sector, led by Jaguar Landrover at Halewood, along

with Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port and Bentley in Crewe. Chemicals, pharmaceuticals, low carbon and textiles all retain significant presence in the region. “Manufacturing is still a significant sector,” said Mr Buckley. “There are more than 350,000 employees in manufacturing in the North West alone. “We are still heavily reliant on manufacturing.” How reliant is clear from data collected by the engineering employers’ lobby group, EEF, which shows that more than 2.5m are employed in

Adam Buckley

manufacturing in the UK at 130,000 companies. Its sheer size is one reason why the sustained, if not yet strong, improvement in manufacturing output is cause for optimism for the wider economy. The latest Economic Prospects report, published by EEF and accountants BDO this summer, said: “The recovery in UK manufacturing now appears well under way. “Indeed, the sector was faster off the starting blocks than we had anticipated earlier in the year. “Growth of 1.4% and 1.6% in 2010 Q1 and 2010 Q2 respectively has

been considerably stronger than forecast and faster than that across the economy as a whole. “Some of this improvement in the early part of the recovery will be in response to restocking, and the quarter on quarter increase in output looks set to ease through the second half of this year, remaining fairly stable thereafter in 2011. “Greater sectoral variation is also likely to emerge, particularly as public spending cuts start to bite – both domestically and in key markets. Despite the growth forecast, we are not expecting a corresponding turnaround in job numbers.” Mr Buckley is confident that manufacturing is strong enough and experienced enough to come


‘It has been demonstrated historically that manufacturing affordable, desirable products for global markets is a viable way of balancing trade and generating the wealth needed to sustain a nation’s standard of living’ DR JOHN GARSIDE, PRINCIPAL FELLOW, WARWICK MANUFACTURING GROUP

Manufacturing a way out of gloom

Is the sector leading the UK’s recovery?

After the previous two recessio ns, manufacturing output reco vered uncertainly, although already the current recovery shows cause for optimism

out of recession in better shape: “We need to look at history to understand that the manufacturing sector has been through numerous recessions,” he said. “Every time it has come out the other side stronger and more productive. It has been able to evolve and adapt. It is able to ride the recessions. “A lot of that’s down to increasing efficiency – manufacturing today is more productive than its perceived hey-day in the 1970s. “I think manufacturing is going to be the major GVA contributor to the UK economy.” He reflected: “It has to be if we are going to create that balanced economy.”

MANUFACTURING TOP 10 NATIONS 1 United States 17.9% 2 China 17.2% 3 Japan 10.0% 4 Germany 7.3% 5 Italy 3.6% 6 United Kingdom 3.1% 7 France 2.9% 8 Russia 2.5% 9 Brazil 2.3% 10 South Korea 2.2% ■ SOURCE: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Data for 2008

MANUFACTURING output endured six consecutive quarter-on-quarter falls during the recession, but since the end of last year it has shown signs of recovery. After the quarterly falls – which got as low as consecutive falls of 5.1% and 5.4% in winter, 2008-09 – the declines eased before showing three consecutive quarters of growth from the fourth quarter of last year. In recent quarters, manufacturing has grown faster than all other sectors, which include construction, transport and business services. Official data for July showed manufacturing output has maintained a healthy pace of growth. The figures, which were fully in line with

expectations, confirm a picture of a strong rebound in manufacturing after heavy losses in the recession, with the strongest annual growth in more than 15 years. Manufacturing output rose 0.3% on the month, the same pace as the previous two months, lifting the annual rate to 4.9% – the highest since December, 1994. Britain’s economy grew a surprisingly strong 1.2% in the second quarter of this year, but recent surveys suggest that marked the high-water mark for growth in the manufacturing, services and construction sectors. The sector has been boosted so far by customers replacing stockpiles used up in the recession, although this temporary

effect is expected to reduce as the year progresses. Already there is evidence that manufacturing growth has peaked. The threemonth on three-month rate, which smoothes out monthly volatility, nearly halved to 0.9% from 1.6%, its lowest rate since February. Within the manufacturing sector, the main rises were in the machinery and equipment, textiles, and paper, printing and publishing categories. The main faller was transport equipment, particularly the production of motor vehicles, which has suffered since the ending of government incentive schemes. Data last month showed car production fell by an annual 8.9% in July, the first decline since October.



‘We must increase the percentage of the UK economy that relies on manufacturing. We must increase our competitiveness on the world stage. And we must increase foreign direct investment in manufacturing and engineering’ RON DENNIS CBE, MCLAREN GROUP EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN

NW factories striding ahead Footwear fills the shelves at New Balance's factory

New Balance finds a competitive advantage in being able to be quick off the mark SO-CALLED shoe leather costs are an issue for all businesses. The idea of making more trips to the bank to counteract the effects of inflation – essentially by keeping as little money as possible as cash to ensure as much as possible stays in interest-bearing accounts – might be financially astute. But that’s before the cost of wearing out shoe leather. However, New Balance Athletic Shoes has found a model where making more trips can actually reduce costs. It means that, for them and their customers, it makes economic sense to manufacture in the UK. New Balance has 210 people


making 1.2m pairs of shoes a year at its North West factory, which are then sent to retailers across the UK and Europe. Andy Okolowicz, New Balance’s factory manager, said: “In terms of UK and Europe, the workforce is one of the key drivers of being in the North West, but the reason we are in England and not China is the service we can give our customers. “A key advantage is we can receive an order on a Monday, we can ship the order on a Friday and it will be in the customer’s warehouse on the following Monday. So we can replenish stock quickly. That’s impossible to do from China.” Manufacturing close to

retailers also means they can adapt to changing circumstances. “The way the industry works is they will forecast and buy 100% of their product and sell it throughout the year,” he said. “One of the benefits of working with us is we can make a proportion of that forecast in advance – say 60% – and then we can make the rest as the customer requests it. We can level-load our factories more. “The other great thing is that if a customer has forecast a large quantity of product and it doesn’t sell as well as they thought, we can get out of some of the order.” Remaining competitive is “a never-ending journey”. For example, earlier this year, the

factory went onto four 9¾-hour days, with Friday used to accommodate spikes in demand. Mr Okolowicz said: “There’s still the competition from Asia, that doesn’t go away. “We just come in and try to improve what we did the previous day. “We have been doing it a long time but we still make mistakes and we try to get better.” A thorough review of its operations and techniques saw a significant and sustained improvement in its productivity. Mr Okolowicz said: “We work very much in small teams. “Those teams looked at their roles and removed any waste – such as unnecessary movements

with the handling or transport, excess inventory around the plant and extreme levels of work in progress. We were trying to streamline what we do. “The team analysed what we did and increased the productivity per person dramatically. “Within two years, we clocked up a 35% productivity improvement in 35% less space. Output increased from 10 to 14 pairs of shoes per person per hour, while at the same time improved inspections led to a manufacturing improvement in first time quality.” In the constant race to remain competitive, smart manufacturing is helping New Balance to stay one step ahead.


‘Manufacturing needs skilled, capable people entering it in the knowledge that there is a future to be had. Small manufacturers need to benefit from adequate help when it comes to investment in kit and in exporting around the world. All our competitor nations have this much’ LORD DIGBY JONES, FORMER CBI DIRECTOR-GENERAL AND TRADE MINISTER

of international competition HOW CLEVER MARKETING AND UK MANUFACTURING MADE WEST LANCASHIRE SHOE FIRM A HOT PROPERTY STEWART HOULGRAVE can’t hide his pride as he walks round his Skelmersdale shoe factory. Hotter Shoes, the company founded by Mr Houlgrave’s parents, has been transformed into the UK’s biggest footwear manufacturer, thanks to a combination of direct marketing and great product development. Mr Houlgrave is proud that the company is still committed to UK manufacturing, with its West Lancashire factory producing 1.3m pairs of shoes every year. Until the 1990s, the company made shoes for other retailers, but found itself under pressure from rivals overseas with cheaper manufacturing costs. But, rather than ship manufacturing overseas – or even close the company down – Mr Houlgrave decided on a new marketing strategy. He created the Hotter Comfort Concept brand and set to work designing lightweight,

comfortable shoes to appeal to the 50-plus market. Then the company began a direct marketing campaign, selling to customers by mail order and telephone. Today, Hotter has hundreds of thousands of regular customers, who are loyal to the brand – its catalogues and website generate 70% of its sales. The company, which employs around 350 people at its factory and call centre in Skelmersdale, also has a small chain of Hotter stores and sells to independent retailers across the UK. In 2007, Gresham Private Equity bought a stake in the business for £21m. Mr Houlgrave says the company’s decision to sell for itself, and not rely on large retailers, has paid dividends. “If you have a relationship with a retailer that you cannot rely on, it takes away your ability to invest,” he said. “The strength of this business is that we have been heavily

investing in the business. We have quite remarkable machinery. We’re probably one of the most efficient production lines in the world.” Hotter’s design team develops its plastic soles, which are moulded to an accuracy of a fraction of a millimetre before being attached to imported leather uppers. Houlgrave says Hotter customers are proud the company manufactures in the UK – coach parties occasionally visit its Skelmersdale plant – but he says having a UK base has other advantages. “We are not reliant on the pound, which is probably the biggest problem in recent years for importers,” he said. “Our shoes are made specifically for the UK market. We work with English sizes. “We are also more flexible. If we have a hot summer, we can easily make more sandals. If you’re importing with long lead times, you cannot react as fast.”

Stewart Houlgrave, managing director of Skelmersdale’s Hotter Shoes

Has British manufacturing all transferred to China?

The UK and China had similar shares of global manufacturing output in the 1970s and 1980s, but since then Chinese production has pulled massively ahead Source: UNCTAD

THE growth in the manufacturing output of some countries has been phenomenal in the last generation. Data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) shows global output – measured at current prices and current exchange rates – has increased from $1,900bn in 1977 to $9,400bn in 2007. Each country’s market share shows how eastern countries have seen massive growth. Thailand has grown from 0.2% of the global output to 0.9%, India has jumped from 0.9% to 1.9% and South Korea from 0.4% to 2.8%. But it is China that has

seen staggering growth in its share – from 3.8% (when the country was already fifth) to 15.1%, almost doubling in the 20 years to 1997 and then doubling again in the following decade. There have been losers – USSR was at 15% in 1977 but the Russian Federation had just 2.2% in 2007, the United States is down by a fifth, from 24% to 19%, and France fell from 4.4% to 3.1%. As for British manufacturing and its shrinking manufacturing sector – in 1977, it accounted for 3.3% of the global output. In 2007, it accounted for 3.5%.



‘Once, Northerners in flat caps hammered out those whippet flanges, before posing for a Lowry painting on the way home. Now there are armies of you writing code and running workstations that help Rolls-Royce design their single crystal nickel turbine blades for jet engines’ TIM WORSTALL, FELLOW AT THE ADAM SMITH INSTITUTE

Providing the knowledge to Partnerships between academia and industry are at the forefront of developments

PROPELLING hundreds of thousands of kilograms off the ground causes jet engines to generate a huge amount of heat. The engine’s efficiency increases as the temperature of the gas rises, but the extreme temperatures in the hot part of the engine can exceed the melting point of the blade material. This means critical areas of the blades undergo wear and eventually need replacing. One of the research areas at the University of Liverpool’s Laser Group, within the School of Engineering, has been to pioneer techniques that use lasers to deposit fresh material in a way that creates three-dimensional parts for rapid manufacture. The aerospace industry already uses a form of this process to repair the worn turbine blades, which involves removing the blade and building the part up again. The technique, known as laser deposition, is a laser-melting process in which metal powder is injected into the melt pool to build the component back up, layer by layer. “The laser deposition process has to be fault-free for industry to take it up,” said Dr Geoff Dearden, a Reader in Laser Engineering at the University of Liverpool. “But it has the potential to reduce the cost, time and waste material in production, compared to many conventional manufacturing processes such as casting, that can take months for

The University of Liverpool’s Laser Group is pioneering new techniques that use lasers to aid rapid manufacture the complete design to manufacture cycle. “For some applications, though, the control of final machine quality and material properties isn’t quite there yet, which is why we are still doing research on it. “If you scale down from that, we are also depositing metallic-based inks on surfaces and consolidating these with a laser. “This can make very small circuitry, for example on a sensor

or in a biomedical transplant. We're also now working on putting functional electronic device materials onto polymer surfaces for printed electronics.” The experiments by the Laser Group are directed by Dr Dearden and Prof Ken Watkins and is carried out by six post-doctoral researchers and 15 PhD students. The group primarily does research and teaching in lasers, but, since it was formed in 1988, it has also worked on knowledge

exchange, then called technology transfer. This work led to the launch in 1999 of the Lairdside Laser Engineering Centre (LLEC), in Birkenhead, supported by Wirral Council, with the aims of assisting the region’s manufacturers – creating an interface between academic research and the needs of industry – and establishing a national and international presence.

Dr Eamonn Fearon, manager of the LLEC, said: “We introduce industry to the novelty and capability of laser processing and we can either help them if possible or point them to solutions with commercial partners. Or it may lead to further research. “The centre has developed to establish world-class state-of-theart laser facilities for forefront research with industry and academic partners.”

SMEs to laser in on opportunities through regional collaboration THE creation of The North West Laser Engineering Consortium (NWLEC), in 2005, formalised a developing regional cluster, creating a group of international quality in the field of laser applications in micro and nano technology. It brought together the University of Liverpool’s Laser Group with their counterparts at the University of Manchester for a project backed by the


North West Science Council. However, the consortium’s progress was slowed down by barriers to entry for a number of companies, which lacked the awareness or knowledge to take advantage of the possibilities of the technology. A European Regional Development Fund project, Knowledge Exchange in Laser Engineering (KE-LAS), was therefore set up last April, and will run until 2012,

using specialists to work with North West SMEs to develop commercial opportunities. Prof Ken Watkins said: “We can demonstrate the technology to companies who aren’t familiar with it, and point them to partners they can work with. “The initial investment in high-powered laser technology can be quite expensive, especially for smaller firms, so access to process trials and

demonstration is an essential risk-reducer before making the investment step. “Under KE-LAS, we can carry out projects with them to do some trials in our laboratories, which are subsidised. “We report the results back to the company, and they can then decide whether to move onto the next phase.” This programme is the latest stage in the development of the

relationship between academia and industry. Prof Watkins added: “Nowadays, knowledge exchange is no longer just about knowledge passed on from academics to industry, but it is at least a two-way – but often a multi-way – process. “The life blood of our research is the ideas from our partners. They bring real world problems and we hopefully provide solutions.”

‘Manufacturing is vital to the economic future of the UK. We have to be a country that makes things! Chemicals manufacturing is my love – making the raw materials that all other manufacturing relies on and products that enhance people's everyday lives’ DR JENNY CLUCAS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CHEMICALS NORTHWEST

develop a bright future Skilled workers to be in demand

Semta chief executive Philip Whiteman – says investing in skills will help firms beat the downturn

SKILLS shortages across the North West are costing more than £18m in lost productivity, according to industry research. Data from Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies, revealed that, despite the impact of the recession, companies still have vacancies they are not able to fill because of skills shortages. About one-fifth of North West businesses in Semta’s sectors have skills gaps among staff – a figure that is expected to increase as older skilled workers retire. Semta chief executive Philip Whiteman said: “We know that investing in skills has helped many businesses in our sectors survive the downturn. “While companies in Semta’s sectors have been working hard to fill their skills gaps and beat the effects of the recession, these gaps are costing the North West economy millions of pounds, so there is still work to be done.” The research also reveals that the North West needs almost 25,000 new recruits in these sectors before 2016. Of these, more than 9,000 will be required to have higher level skills, demonstrating the need to ensure that businesses in the region have the right development and training in place for their workforces. The projected demand for higherskilled workers has also been highlighted by ProSkills, an organisation which is focused on skills issues in the process and manufacturing sector. In its sector skills assessment report, it expects a fall in demand for unskilled workers but large increases for people educated to degree level. “Across the whole supply chain, higher level skills focused mainly on STEM subjects such as materials engineering, chemistry, and other physical sciences will be the driving force behind product development and innovation,” it said. “Good links with universities and industry and research associations will continue to be important to continue the tradition of knowledge transfer between academic and industrial environments, and to stimulate innovation and new products.”





With Craig Scott, partner in the corporate team of Hill Dickinson


I WOULD like to plan ahead for a future sale of my company as the economy hopefully improves. What should I be doing to prepare my company for a future sale process, and to keep my management team together until we achieve a sale?


THE process of planning for a sale should ideally start as early as possible with your advisers so that your company can be properly prepared, from an accounting and legal viewpoint, to be shown to the market in its best light. In my experience, owners commonly underestimate the significant financial impact that unresolved legal issues can have on their sale price. Buyers will often base their offer for a company on a multiple of its profits and, accordingly, significant unforeseen legal liabilities can possibly impact on sale value by a multiple of their actual exposure. However, by planning ahead with experienced legal advisers, most potentially damaging legal issues can be flushed out and resolved satisfactorily in advance of your sale. In a legal review, your lawyer will look at your company critically as if through the eyes of a buyer to identify where the value lies, so you can then seek to ensure that those assets are legally protected before you go into your sale process. For example, if your business uses key intellectual property, you need to make sure you have properly protected legal rights to use it. Similarly, if you have key customers or suppliers, you should seek to put in place appropriate contracts to protect those accounts over a reasonable period. Making sure you have standard terms of trading in place that contain appropriate limitations of liability can reassure buyers that your business is not unnecessarily exposed in daily trading. Buyers also like to see that you have properly managed

health and safety, and that robust HR policies are in place. This minimises the risk of employment claims among your workforce, and provides reassurance that you have no unusual exposures in relation to any property that your business is using. If you are involved in litigation, it can sometimes be frustrating deciding to settle it, but, equally, if you are entering a sale process, resolving outstanding litigation on fair terms and presenting a clean bill of health to the market can make the due diligence process smoother. It can also help to avoid part of your sale proceeds being potentially withheld or indemnities being required from you, until such litigation is resolved. Fostering the support of a talented management team can also increase your chances of achieving a sale. Your senior employees will be helping you manage your business towards your sale and, accordingly, properly incentivising them through bonus schemes, taxefficient options or participation in the share capital can sometimes help nurture a common goal between you and drive value towards your exit. Good legal advice can protect you appropriately if your employees seek to leave before a sale by having such bonus rights or options lapse if they depart, or alternatively providing that you have the right to reacquire their shares if they leave. With appropriate protections in place, grooming management for potential ownership can increase your options for a sale by presenting the alternative opportunity for exploring an MBO, in addition to seeking interest from trade buyers. Ultimately, taking early advice from an experienced legal team to prepare your company for sale can help ensure a smoother sale process, reduce your legal distractions, and hopefully protect your sale value from significant price chipping when the buyer’s due diligence starts.

‘A talented team can increase the chances of achieving a sale’

Law firm’s musical anniversary tribute

Composer marks Hill Dickinson’s Titanic connection

LAW firm Hill Dickinson is marking its 200th anniversary with the premiere of a speciallycomposed orchestral work. The firm, which this year took over the Liverpool arm of collapsed rival Halliwells, has already held events worldwide to mark its landmark anniversary. But the biggest event of all will be held in Liverpool next Thursday. The company’s Old Hall Street atrium will host the premiere of a specially-composed piece by Ian Stephens, called Mid-Atlantic. It will be followed by a concert by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at the Philharmonic Hall. The concert will feature a performance of Symphony No.4 by Schumann – who was born in Hill Dickinson’s founding year – and Richard Strauss’s Rosenkavalier Waltz, composed in Hill Dickinson’s centenary year, 1910. Mr Stephens’s piece, which will be performed by members of the Metropolitan Brass Ensemble, was inspired by Hill Dickinson’s rich history. He said: “The event that caught my imagination was the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 – Hill Dickinson represented the Titanic’s owners, the White Star Line, after its sinking. “I decided to build the piece around the hymn tune, Nearer My God Than Thee, which by some accounts was the last tune played by the band of the Titanic before it sank.” Hill Dickinson’s senior partner, Tony Wilson, said staff at the practice were proud of the firm’s long history. “It’s a great honour to be the senior partner at this time,” he said. “It’s a challenge for me as well. We want to make sure the firm continues. “Not many law firms have got to be 200 years old.” Edward Morrall founded the maritime law practice that would become Hill Dickinson in 1810, in Liverpool. John Edward Gray Hill joined the firm in 1865.

Hill Dickinson’s anniversary logo, designed by staff member Louise Quarmby


Hill Dickinson’s senior partner, Tony Wilson Other Hill Dickinson landmarks include the appointment of Edith Berthen, one of the first women in Britain to qualify as a solicitor, in 1927, and the opening of its London office two years later. In April, Hill Dickinson held a party at its Singapore office. “But I couldn’t fly there, because of the ash cloud,” smiled Wilson. Parties have also been held in Chester and Manchester, while last month the firm held an anniversary party at its Piraeus office, in Greece. Also last month, it invited around 300 guests to the Merchant Taylor’s Hall, in London’s Threadneedle Street. “But next week’s event is its most lavish celebration,” said Mr Wilson. “It’s different in Liverpool. It’s where we started. “The city supported us when we moved to our new offices in St Paul’s Square, in 2008, and it’s great to be able to have our event there. We’ve been wowed by the

The Philharmonic Hall

response to it from people in Liverpool.” In July, Hill Dickinson bought Halliwells’ Liverpool office and part of its Sheffield operation, in a deal that it said would add £10m to its annual fee income. More than 100 staff from Halliwells, which had gone into administration, moved to Hill Dickinson. Mr Wilson said he was pleased with how quickly the former Halliwells staff were integrating with the Hill Dickinson business. “The partners are still very busy,” he said. “They appreciate that we have provided much more security for their careers. “We’re now hoping to build on that acquisition.” Mr Wilson said he was convinced Merseyside’s economy was on the way to recovery. “We do a lot better than most, because we are a big litigation firm,” he said. “That has helped us to ride out the troubles of the past couple of years. “The property side is beginning to show some signs of improvement. There are some signs of developer movement, and a bit of confidence coming back into the Liverpool market. “Commercially, there has been some activity – businesses are taking advantage of the situation that other businesses find themselves in. “We are positive, but we’re taking it quietly. The North West will recover, but we’re not saying it will happen quickly.”


The Micawber Principle BY ALISTAIR HOUGHTON

Simon, left, and Bobby Arora, at B&M Bargains’ Speke headquarters

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Responsible for Merseyside’s biggest inward investment so far this year, Simon Arora tells LDP Business how he and his brother, Bobby, have transformed B&M Bargains



CONTINUED FROM PAGE 17 OU don’t have to spend long in B&M Bargains’ new home, in Speke, to see that the company is obsessed by one thing –


price. The brightly coloured walls of its new Speke offices are adorned with slogans trumpeting the power of a low-price policy. One yellow-painted wall in a downstairs meeting room has a definition of value – “the worth of something compared to the price paid or asked for it . . . only available at B&M Bargains”. In the finance department upstairs, joint managing director Simon Arora points out a metre-high rendering of the Micawber Principle, from Charles Dickens’s novel, David Copperfield. It reads: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.” Those slogans are more than just window dressing – they go to the heart of what has made B&M such a fast-growing business. Brothers Bobby and Simon Arora took over parent company B&M Retail in 2004 when it had just 21 stores. Today it has more than 200, and turns over more than £400m. The brothers have taken advantage of the disappearance of retail names such as Kwik Save and Woolworths. They want to appeal to the UK’s bargain-hunting hordes and have muscled their way into the high streets throughout the UK. Over the last two years, B&M has opened, on average, one new store a week. Now B&M has moved to Merseyside, the region that could already lay claim to the title of the UK’s discount retail capital. It has moved its headquarters and national distribution centre from Blackpool to Speke’s Estuary Commerce Park. B&M has taken up residence in The Vault, the 618,000 sq ft warehouse in Speke, where it has already created hundreds of jobs. Its massive warehouse – one of the largest in the UK – swarms with forklift trucks, while the offices to the front have been decorated in bright colours, those pricing slogans and other colourful images promoting B&M’s unashamed love of the cheap and cheerful. In his office upstairs – adorned with bespoke wallpaper showing hundreds of faces representing B&M’s customers – Simon was happy to expand on his company’s pricing culture. “I’d go so far as to say we’re obsessed by price,” he said. “Most businesses will try to drive revenues by charging more for what they sell. We drive revenues by wanting to charge less. “The mantra in the business is if we can’t be the lowest price, we shouldn’t be selling it.” B&M stores stock an eclectic range of goods from food and drink to beauty products to furniture. “The only thing all those products have in common is their price competitiveness,” said Simon. “You wouldn’t invent a business


that sold toothpaste alongside patio furniture. But it works for us because the customer coming in knows it’s better value for money than going to a health and beauty shop or to a garden centre.” With its striking blue and orange logo and unashamed emphasis on cost, B&M is unapologetically bold and brash – words that could not be used to describe Simon. He is always friendly, and keen to share the story of his and his brother’s successes, though his training as a management consultant comes through in his quick and precise answers to every question. Our chat was short, but packed with information. Simon was, it turns out, opening at “B&M speed”.

He said: “What I love is the speed of the business. If something’s working, we have the ability to roll it out quickly. “We have this phrase in the business, which is that everything needs to operate at ‘B&M speed’. “And so whether that’s a lorry being uploaded, or a purchasing decision – whether to buy a container of a particular type of doll through to getting it on the shelves – we just want things to work at ‘B&M speed’.” Simon may act as the frontman, but the Aroras are a team. They hail from Manchester, where they still live today, and business runs in their blood. Their father owned a cash and carry business, while their uncles also owned companies. “Business has been discussed

around the breakfast table for as long as I can remember,” said Simon. He studied law at Cambridge before heading to the City. He became a management consultant, first with McKinsey and then with 3i and Barclays. Bobby, meanwhile, went straight into business, founding the Natural World homewares chain. Simon said: “Bobby, who has been in trading business since the age of 18, is probably one of the best people in the North West at trading with the Far East. He’s been doing it for 21 years.” Simon next moved back to the Lancashire area, to work with his brother. “I wanted to move back to the North West and just saw that

there were huge opportunities in trading with China and discount consumer goods. “Natural World is the business that Bobby founded. I joined and we had it for five years before we sold it. So we were between businesses – we just couldn’t find a business to buy.” But then the brothers discovered the small regional chain, B&M. B&M was founded in Blackpool 30 years ago by market trader Malcolm Billington. By late 2004, the chain – still based in Blackpool – had 21 stores, including outlets in St Helens and Kirkby. Simon says he and his brother immediately saw the chain had great growth potential. “The stores that we went round


B&M’s eye-catching sunburst logo, outside The Vault, in Speke

From left, Liverpool Vision chief executive Max Steinberg; Liverpool City Council leader Cllr Joe Anderson; B&M joint managing director Simon Arora; and Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Hazel Williams, at the official opening of B&M’s Speke base were heaving with people,” he said. “So while they only had 21 shops, those 21 shops were phenomenally busy. They were opening one or two stores a year. “We could see that the opportunity actually was much larger than was being exploited,” he said. The Aroras realised that Britain’s love of bargains meant that there were great opportunities for B&M to grow. “Our view is that the British consumer enjoys – or wants – value for money,” said Simon. “If you go back 20 or 30 years ago, people used to love going to outdoor markets. It's because they were bargain hunting. “If you look at car boot sales, that’s further evidence that people like a bargain.

Bobby, left, and Simon Arora, in one of B&M’s stores

“You can look at the fashion market – for example, the growth of Primark. So whether the economic climate is benign or adverse, I think there’s a general movement towards value for money. “What the recession has done is increased footfall and customer awareness of the need to be mindful of not wasting a few pennies.” B&M has grown through word of mouth, rather than marketing. As it spreads throughout the country, more people are becoming aware of what it has to offer. “Our advertising budget is zero,” said Simon. “We also keep our business very simple. We don’t go in for elaborate shop window displays.

“We don’t have elaborate point-of-sale marketing materials, and we effectively let our prices do our advertising and our marketing for us. And what we’re finding is that you're just as likely to find somebody with a Volvo or a BMW turning into our car park as somebody with a more modest car.” There is, said Simon, simply less stigma about discount shopping than there used to be. “The products we sell are the key brands,” he said. “So when someone is buying a branded product, they really have to question why they’d want to pay more elsewhere because it’s patently the same product.” As B&M grows, its purchasing power increases. “Our success is down to buying

in deep volumes and being very straight with the supplier,” said Simon. “Some of the larger retailers are accused of being difficult to work with because they ask for rebates, extended payment terms, etc. We keep it really simple. “We buy what we say we will, we pay them on time, and we won’t ask for hidden discounts. “Having done so, we then, with the least overheads and complexity, put it on the shelf and sell it at the lowest possible price.” B&M is particularly popular with older people – half of its customers are over 56 years old. “We’re very popular with pensioners, for two reasons,” said Arora. “Firstly, the obvious financial

reason that if you’re on a pension, you’re penny-wise. “But, secondly, I think pensioners also see browsing for bargains as partly a leisure activity. They take pleasure in the fact they’ve picked up something at a B&M they would otherwise have had to buy from a mainstream retailer or a category specialist.” Simon calls B&M a “variety retailer” – a phrase that immediately brings the late Woolworths chain to mind. When it became clear in late 2008 that Woolworths was on its last legs, the Aroras moved quickly to take advantage. B&M has filled more ex-Woolies stores than any other company apart from Iceland. Simon said: “Those in the industry would say that Woolworths’ heritage was value for money – it was a penny shop to start with – whereas, towards the end, the prices in Woolworths were no more competitive than in a mainstream retailer next door. “As well as losing any sort of emphasis on price, taking away the reason to go in there, I also think that they made the strategic blunder of allowing 30% of their sales to come from entertainment, which has gone online. “We weren’t surprised that the business failed. We were surprised that no-one tried to resurrect it in a similar format.” In the first half of 2009, B&M was opening a new store every three days as it converted dozens of stores. Shopfitting was also carried out at “B&M speed”. “It takes us about four weeks from receiving the keys to opening a B&M,” Simon said. “It’s quick, but what we do to the stores is important. We invest in the lighting, put in brand-new shelving display equipment, and we also try and make the stores more shoppable with wide aisles, sufficient checkouts and that kind of thing – retail basics, really.” B&M’s massive growth meant it had become too big for its Blackpool home, so the company launched a nationwide search for a new headquarters and national distribution centre. It shortlisted sites in Doncaster, Stafford and Liverpool, before announcing last November that it was moving to Speke. “In the end, we selected Liverpool for three reasons,” said Simon. “First of all, the proximity to Liverpool docks. Secondly, the quality of the business environment here on the Estuary Commerce Park, on the basis that it was also going to be our head office, rather than just a distribution centre, and thirdly the premises here are brand new, modern and of a suitable size.” Simon praised The Mersey Partnership and Liverpool Vision, which helped encourage B&M to Liverpool. Vision is giving the company grants of up to £1.75m, depending on the number of jobs created in Liverpool. Simon said: “The disadvantage of the premises here was that they were a complete shell – no lighting, no heating, no offices – whereas some of the competing sites were already fully fitted out. “For example, the site in Doncaster was the ex-MFI warehouse and was fully functioning.



THE BIG INTERVIEW SIMON ARORA CONTINUED FROM PAGE 19 “Liverpool Vision allowed a more level playing field between this site and the competing sites by contributing to some of the fit-out costs. “That said, it’s a grant of £1.75m, as against a total investment of £24m into the site.” B&M joins other discount retailers in Liverpool and the surrounding area, including Home Bargains owner TJ Morris in Gillmoss, Matalan in Skelmersdale and TJ Hughes in Liverpool. “I would say that Merseyside has got a discount retailing heritage,” reflected Simon. “Whether it’s Matalan, TJ Hughes, TJ Morris, or in a slightly different way Littlewoods – perhaps not so much on price but more on time to pay for the goods – there’s an empathy for the consumer who wants to save some money.” B&M may boast similar product ranges to Home Bargains, but Simon insists he does not consider that chain as a direct rival. “As a variety retailer, we’re taking a small slice of the cake in lots of different product markets,” he said. “So we see ourselves as a hypothetical competitor to lots of different people, but not a direct competitor to anyone.” B&M is still largely focused on the North West, but its tentacles are spreading nationwide, with stores as far afield as Hemel Hempstead and Dundee. “There are infill opportunities within our existing regions,” said Simon, “but clearly there is a huge opportunity in the Midlands and the South East for us.” All of those new stores will be served from Liverpool. “We’re happy that this site will meet our requirements for at least the next four years,” said Simon. As if its organic expansion wasn’t enough, in August B&M made a key acquisition to expand its reach into new markets. B&M bought homewares chain Opus and its 36 stores for £48m. Those shops will be rebranded as B&M. “The stores we acquired are on retail parks, rather than in town and district centres,” said Simon. “They also have a greater bias towards homewares and furniture. They significantly extend our reach in Northern Ireland and Scotland.” Simon wants B&M to become a truly national brand within a decade. He says, he and his brother want to stick with the business to make that happen. They may have chosen B&M as an investment, but their work is now a labour of love. Simon said: “What we’ve found over the last couple of years is that we’ve actually almost accidentally fallen in love with the business. “So whereas previously one might have expected to exit within a five-year timeframe, we firmly want to hold onto this business for the next ten years.” Simon lives in south Manchester with his wife Shalni, a qualified accountant who co-founded biotech firm DxS, and their children. Simon and Bobby’s brother, Robin, joined the business 18 months ago after working in the property sector. Simon insists that working closely with his brothers is


B&M Retail’s joint managing director, Simon Arora, in the company’s vast Speke warehouse “remarkably easy because we respect each other’s areas of responsibility and expertise”. Simon focuses on finance and the strategic development of the business, while Bobby focuses on product pricing and marketing, and Robin handles property issues. Simon is clearly full of admiration for Bobby’s retail skills. “The born retailer and the born product person is actually Bobby Arora,” he said. “It’s Bobby who puts together all the ranges and manages the products, pricing and supply chain. “He’s been in consumer goods all his working life.” The three brothers and their young families make a point of going on one joint family holiday

every year. The move to Liverpool puts Bobby still closer to another of his passions. Simon said: “Bobby is a big Liverpool fan, so he and his young lad have got season tickets at Anfield.” More than 400 people are already employed at B&M’s Liverpool complex – a figure that will soon rise to 600, thanks to an ongoing recruitment drive. “Recruitment has been going OK,” said Simon, “but from a standing start it’s a lot of people, which is why we have so many vacancies. “There’s a real opportunity for Liverpool people to join this business. “We are actively recruiting in all departments, but there’s a particular need for forklift truck

drivers and HGV drivers as well as supervisory and management staff within the warehouse function.” As the company grows, more jobs could be created at Speke – though Arora does not expect the figure to rise above 800. But, while the move is good news for Liverpool, it has been bad news for Blackpool. Simon says the Blackpool site, which once employed 700, is now an “overflow warehouse” that will ultimately employ 50 people once the move is complete. While some workers have relocated, many are set to lose their jobs. Asked about the controversy, Simon said the move was “stressful, but that was to be expected”. The Arora brothers have

transformed B&M but one thing they have not changed is that striking blue and orange B&M logo, as seen on hundreds of shops and dozens of lorries going in and out of The Vault every day. Simon smiled: “We recognise that sunburst logo is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly catches the eye.” It’s reminiscent of another of those slogans painted on B&M’s office walls – this time against a Warhol-esque backdrop of multicoloured Marmite jars. It says “B&M – you either love it or you hate it”. The Aroras know their stores aren’t for everyone. But they also know their market – and there are surely enough bargain hunters in the UK to keep their business growing for years to come.





Maintaining a steady pace

Warrington has fared better than some of its local rivals – and is now looking to press ahead ON SUNDAY, about 2,700 people will take to the streets on a tour of south-east Warrington. Leaving Victoria Park at 9am, they will head south skirting the edge of Stockton Heath before turning east towards Grappenhall. A long drag south nears the M6 motorway, before running parallel to the M56, to take in Appleton Thorn, before they will take a sharp turn at Stretton to head north, ambling back to Victoria Park. Those people, the willing participants in the New Balance English Half-marathon, understand better than most that there are some things that cannot be rushed. Much like going out on training

runs in the wind and rain, making preparations during the downturn for a sustained economic recovery will enable a steadier, faster pace when the starting gun is fired. And, after a long period of limbering up, Warrington Council set off on its latest marathon last week when it approved plans for the development of the Bridge Street Quarter. The ambitious plans are for a 17-acre site that will link the town centre and the waterfront. It will also provide a counterweight to Golden Square shopping centre, the modern, dominating mall which was refurbished in 2007. It made a huge improvement in the town centre offer – but

overnight made large parts of the remainder look old and tired. Paul Calderbank and Stewart Brown, of Warrington Council, have analysed the need for the Bridge Street Quarter development. In a report to councillors, they said: “Since the opening of the extension to the Golden Square retail development, the nature of the retail offer in Bridge Street and its environment has been in decline. “This decline has seen a previously prime shopping area in the town become secondary with temporary and secondary occupiers and vacant retail units prevailing. “The proposals for the

regeneration of the Bridge Street Quarter are to create a new mixed leisure scheme incorporating a new market and enhanced public realm creating a link for the town centre and the waterfront. “Proposed uses are to include a cinema, restaurants, foodstore, quality hotel, retail, offices, parking and other town centre uses.” The council increased its land holding in this area last year, purchasing the long leasehold of Time Square with a £6.2m grant from the NWDA. It plans to entice a development partner with a committed anchor tenant – itself. Its lease for its offices in New Town House and Quattro ends in 2017/18, and it

believes that being part of the Bridge Street redevelopment will give the project a much better chance of success. They added: “In order to ensure that the Bridge Street Quarter proposals are delivered, the council should seek to maximise the attractiveness of those proposals. Clearly a significant pre-let to the council would be one way of achieving this. “Anything over 50,000 sq ft of accommodation let to Warrington Borough Council (and other possible public sector partners) would generate a significant financial value and incentive to a development partner to kick-start



ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT WARRINGTON The Golden Square shopping centre, Warrington, typically attracts about 240,000 visitors a week

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 23 the development within the Bridge Street Quarter. “Clearly, any development proposal would need to be a lease commitment for a reasonably long period. This would be 12 to 15 years, enabling the developer to get a return on value, with the council leasing and paying rent, along with potential partners to occupy office accommodation for the 12-15 year period. “Without a clear commitment regarding the council’s office requirement post-2017, the viability of the scheme is weaker and potentially unviable, especially with the commercial property market in its current depressed state.” David Allinson, the general manager of Golden Square shopping centre, believes the development would benefit the


whole town centre: “It’s all positive,” he said. “My view is that whatever positive future developments there are in Warrington will only bring more people in, and that can only be a benefit for Golden Square.” The shopping centre is still feeling the positive after-effects of major investment in 2007, which more than doubled its size to 750,000 sq ft, but the retail sector remains “challenging”. Mr Allinson said: “We have been performing slightly ahead of last year, up about 2%, and the last six weeks have been stronger, up about 4%. “Marks & Spencer has just completed a £4.5m refurbishment of their store which includes more ranges, such as Per Una. “Given the current market, it’s a huge positive for Warrington. “We have had six or seven new openings, including independent

fashion retailers, as well as The Entertainer toy shop and jewellers Pandora. We have also had six units that have had fairly large refurbishments, such as Clintons Cards and O2. “Golden Square is still a centre that people are investing in. We’re quietly optimistic, but it’s still very tough.” There are some encouraging signs within the centre, as it looks to attract retailers into the centre, as well as more caterers to add to Nando and Ask to create a critical mass of restaurants in the Old Marketplace. “Nando’s and Ask are performing really well – that type of offer in Warrington is a little limited,” he added. “We see there are opportunities there and we are talking to a number of caterers about that.” Of the centre’s 145 units, 13 are vacant – ranging from 385 sq ft to

a 21,000 sq ft unit that Primark has long been interested in. He said: “We have got another six deals in solicitors’ hands, which we will look to complete by the end of the year. Primark is still on the table and being discussed, it hasn’t gone away. It’s quite a complicated deal. “We are not big enough to compete with Liverpool and the Trafford Centre but we provide a complementary offer and give people a reason not to visit the Trafford Centre a little less often.” While the competing attractions of Manchester and Liverpool can sometimes overshadow Warrington, two regeneration experts both described the borough’s key strength as “location, location, location”. But Aidan Manley, managing director of sub-regional agency Cheshire and Warrington

Enterprise Commission (CWEC), and Dr Carsten Kressel, managing director of urban regeneration partnership Warrington and Co, also agree that geography tells only part of the story. “Warrington’s location is a great asset,” said Mr Manley. “The West Coast Main Line means there is access to London in less than two hours. “Driving, the east-west route uses the M62 motorway, north-south has the M6. “It’s 30 minutes’ drive to Manchester Airport and to Liverpool Airport, and it’s near the Port of Liverpool. “To capitalise on that, we need a whole host of activities going on. “There are the housing sites and employment sites for job and population growth. “It has the right skill base. Also it has a very responsive and business-focused local authority.




Frank McKenna is the chairman of Downtown Liverpool In Business

Warrington market and Time Square will be redeveloped in plans for the Bridge Street Quarter

EARLIER this month, Business Link North West announced that it was making 194 people redundant. I am told that more job losses are expected before Christmas from the business support agency, and vacancies are not now being filled. It is difficult to imagine how Business Link will be able to function effectively much beyond this year. Most of the staff will now be looking for alternative employment, as well as being totally de-motivated by the circumstances in which they find themselves. It is a sad, and unnecessarily hasty end for an organisation which, under the leadership of managing director Peter Watson since 2006, had started to win a decent reputation across the business community and has been at the forefront of supporting businesses in distress since the onset of the recession. It is difficult to see how the scrapping of Business Link, and the Northwest Development Agency, its big brother, has been anything other than destabilising and debilitating at absolutely the wrong time. Just as some confidence was returning to the private sector, these sweeping changes that have undermined a whole range of projects and organisations across the region, have persuaded many companies to revert back to their pre-upturn mood of paralysis as they await the outcome of the Government’s autumn spending review. Is it not ironic that the coalition is suggesting that they will be introducing policies that will

encourage people to start their own business, while at the same time “doing in” the very organisation that currently exists to support those who wish to do so? Those of you who are expecting the new Local Economic Partnerships to take up the slack had best think again. As the Leader of Liverpool City Council, Joe Anderson, said to me this week, the budget for regional development across the entire country is a billion pounds – or one premier retail and leisure complex in a city centre! Without doubt, we expected cuts in the budgets of Regional Development Agencies and their related activities, but surely a smoother, less chaotic and quite frankly less brutal transition was both preferable and achievable. Indeed, listening to the increasing number of voices from the financial markets and leading economists who are predicting the dreaded double-dip recession, it may be wise for Chancellor George Osborne to prepare for an alternative approach to reducing the budget deficit than the one currently outlined. Mr Osborne has been quick to use the analogy of a family balancing its budget by living within its means. However, for big ticket expenditure items – a mortgage, for example – a family will consider it prudent to pay off that debt over 20 years. Maybe the Chancellor needs to consider if paying off the huge UK PLC debt in just five years is a little too optimistic, and rethink the extremely ambitious – some would argue, dangerous – public sector cuts that he has outlined.

‘An alternative approach to reducing the deficit may be wise’

After waiting 35 years to win Rugby League’s Challenge Cup, Warrington Wolves retained the trophy in August with a convincing win against Super League champions Leeds Rhinos “It’s got great potential for growth.” The borough has already seen rapid growth, and its population has more than doubled to nearly 200,000 people since it was designated as a new town in 1968. Despite that, Dr Kressel said he “takes issue that Preston and Wigan were Warrington’s peers at one point. “In our perception, we were always the third town in the North West.” He argues that Warrington’s business culture helps it to attract companies to the borough. “It’s the attitude to investment which is traditionally very positive and welcoming in Warrington,” he said. “It’s a place where companies like to invest. They come even now. “The energy sector, nuclear sector, utilities sector – they are

all expanding. We have had companies such as Nuvia, Serco and Rolls-Royce which have come to Warrington. That’s because of the nuclear cluster that we have here. “Another attractor is United Utilities, that attracts high-quality engineering companies like NWH. “What we don’t have – and nowhere has – is speculative development. But, with very few exceptions, what was built before the recession has been filled. “People aren’t rushing out to spend a huge amount of money but generally there’s good confidence.” That confidence is present across much of Cheshire, which Warrington is economicallyaligned with. CWEC set the economic development plan for the sub-region in a report entitled Unleashing the Potential for

Cheshire and Warrington, and has recently submitted a bid for a Local Enterprise Partnership. Mr Manley said: “Within the Enterprise Commission, we know we have to really promote Cheshire and Warrington as a great location. “Within the property sector, it’s acknowledged as having a great offer, and it is in the logistics sector as well, but is it well-known within other sectors? “It’s something that we will be addressing as part of the LEP activity. “We have a diverse economy here which is to our strength. People too often think of rolling green countryside. “We have major players in term of financial and professional services, and we also have large manufacturers. “We have all the building blocks in Cheshire and Warrington.”



City bucking vacancy trend Liverpool’s Church Street continues to be popular with retailers, despite the success of the nearby LIverpool One development

Liverpool defies the tough retail climate to reduce the number of empty shop units LIVERPOOL is bucking the national upward trend in shop vacancy rates, after seeing a fall in the number of empty units over the past six months. The Local Data Company (LDC) analysed 63 large retail centres across the UK to the end of June, and just eight centres showed an improvement over the period. One of those was Liverpool. Is retail vacancy rate stands at 15.11% – a fall in empty units of 1.62% over the half-year. Liverpool stands 20th in the league table for large centres. The higher the placing, the more empty shops a centre has. So Liverpool is faring better than Manchester, with a vacancy rate of 20.39%, Leeds at 19.48% and Preston at 16.68%. The worst performer in the UK is Blackpool, with a vacancy rate of 29.93%.


The LDC report – A Gathering Storm – highlights that regional differences are becoming more apparent than ever. Town centre vacancy rates in the UK have risen from just over 12% at the end of 2009, to 13% at the end of June, 2010. The data shows the weak state of the retail markets in many large northern and Midland cities. There are only three southern centres in the table – Watford at number 17, Bristol at number 23 and Reading at 24. Already, there is a clear North-South divide apparent in shop vacancies. The big centres in London and the South East particularly are holding up well, while, farther north, vacancy rates are much higher.

This survey shows the increase in vacancy rates is slowing down. For those economies anchored by the public sector, this could be only a temporary respite. LDC claims the philosophy underpinning the coalition Government is to shrink the state for good. It adds: “For some big northern and peripheral centres, this could be the perfect storm.” The latest official data on sales volumes show comparison retailers doing significantly better than convenience stores. However, it is the convenience sector taking the lead on openings of new stores. Deeside-based Iceland will continue to expand in its current financial year and has set out plans to open up to 30 stores. The company enjoyed double-

digit growth in sales after opening 74 outlets in the year to end-March – 51 on former Woolworths sites. Asda’s ongoing purchase of 193 Netto stores will help it expand its smaller store formats. Currently, the deal is under scrutiny by the Office of Fair Trading. However, the plan is to convert as many Netto stores as possible to the small format as soon as possible. The average Netto store size is just 8,500 sq ft. The LDC report added: “2010 so far has seen some high-profile closures. “Games retailer GAME has announced in April that it would reduce the number of its stores from 677 to 550 by the end of 2013. This follows the earlier closure of a number of stores, along with 25

Debenhams concessions. The implications of any rebalancing of the economy away from consumer spending is likely to see more emphasis on convenience over comparison spending going forward.” Matthew Hopkinson, business development director at LDC, said: “Our latest report shows the reality of a slowed but still rising increase in shop vacancy rates across the country. “While some centres, particularly central London and the South East, are showing stabilisation or improvement, others in the provinces are not. “The impact of the VAT increase, public sector cuts and fierce competition within the multi-channel retail environment make it increasingly hard for shops on our high streets.”



Picturing the impossible – pouring out a bowl of ‘dry water’

Ideas could flow from dry water

Chemists find an ecologically safe way to move and store harmful gas materials AN INTRIGUING substance tautologically named “dry water”, which looks like powdered sugar, could offer a new means of absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. The powder shows bright promise for several commercial uses, said Professor Andrew Cooper and Dr Ben Carter, of the University of Liverpool’s Chemistry Department. It could, as an example, be a greener and more energy efficient way of jump-starting the chemical reactions used to make hundreds of consumer products. Dry water also could provide a safer way to store and transport potentially harmful industrial materials, which are far easier to move as a solid than as a gas. “There’s nothing else quite like it,” said Dr Carter, researcher for study leader Prof Cooper. “Hopefully, we may see ‘dry water’ making waves in the future,” he quipped. Dr Carter said the substance became known as “dry water” as it consists of 95% water and yet is


a dry powder. Each powder particle contains a water droplet surrounded by modified silica, the same material as beach sand. The silica coating prevents the water droplets from combining and turning back into a liquid. The result is a fine powder that can absorb gases, which chemically combine with the water molecules to form what chemists term a hydrate. Dry water was discovered in 1968 and attracted attention for its potential use in cosmetics. University of Hull scientists rediscovered it in 2006, in order to study its structure. Prof Cooper’s team at The University of Liverpool has since expanded its range of potential applications. One of the most recent involves using dry water as a storage material for gases, including carbon dioxide. In laboratory-scale research, Prof Cooper and his team found that dry water absorbed more than three times as much carbon dioxide as ordinary, uncombined water and silica in the same space of time.

This ability to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide gas as a hydrate could make it useful in helping to reduce global warming, the scientists suggested. Prof Cooper and his colleagues demonstrated in previous studies that dry water is also useful for storing methane, a component of natural gas, and may help expand its use as a future energy source. In particular, they hope that engineers can use the powder to collect and transport “stranded” deposits of natural gas. This also exists on the ocean floor in the form of gas hydrates, a form of frozen methane also known as the “ice that burns.” The powder could also provide a safer, more convenient way to store methane fuel for use in vehicles powered by natural gas. “A great deal of work remains to be done before we could reach that stage,” said Dr Carter. In another potential new application, the Liverpool scientists also showed dry water is a promising means to speed up catalysed reactions between hydrogen gas and maleic acid to produce succinic acid, a feedstock

Dr Ben Carter or raw material widely used to make drugs, food ingredients, and other consumer products. Manufacturers usually have to stir these substances together to get them to react. By developing dry water particles that contain maleic acid, Prof Cooper’s team showed that they could speed up the acid’s reaction with hydrogen without any stirring, resulting in a greener, more energy-efficient process.

Dr Carter said: “If you can remove the need to stir your reactions, then potentially you’re making considerable energy savings.” Prof Cooper’s team also outlined an additional new application in which dry water technology could store liquids, particularly emulsions. Emulsions are mixtures of two or more unblendable liquids, such as the oil and water mixture in mayonnaise. The scientists showed that they could transform a simple emulsion into a dry powder that is similar to dry water. The resulting powder could make it safer and easier for manufacturers to store and transport potentially harmful liquids. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Centre for Materials Discovery provided funding and technical support. Dr Carter said that he and his colleagues are seeking commercial or academic collaboration to further develop the dry water technology.



University receives accolade for new policies promoting women in science and technology STAFF at the University of Liverpool have been awarded a prestigious national prize for the advancement of women in higher education. The Athena Swan Charter is a scheme which recognises career progress for excellence in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) employment in higher education and research. The Liverpool representatives, led by Dr Jan Bogg, attended a special ceremony at The Royal Society, in London, to be admitted to bronze-level membership. Funded by Equality Challenge Unit and the UKRC, the charter aims to encourage education institutions to recruit, retain and promote female scientists, engineers and technologists in higher education and research. Dr Bogg, who is an organisational psychologist at the

Athena Swan winners at The Royal Society, London, from left, rear: Matthew Spencer, Kathryn Young, Uta Klein, Weib van der Hoek, and Diane Taktak; from left, front: Linda Steadman, Zaynaib Hussain, Jan Bogg, and Saskia Woods Faculty of Health and reach its full potential the Russell Group of Life Sciences, said: “It until women benefit universities. is vitally important that equally to men. The “Our idea is to women are adequately further up the higher improve this, and we represented in what is education ladder you are thrilled to have got traditionally a malego, the less women this far, and are aiming dominated area. there are. This seems to get the silver award “Science cannot especially to apply to in three years’ time.”

Free lab space for science firms

Companies challenged to compete for access to Daresbury INNOVATIVE companies which are developing products geared towards making a big impact in the environment, healthcare or energy sectors are being offered the chance to win free access to cutting-edge research and technology facilities to innovate and develop their ideas. The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has launched a challenge that offers any UK company or organisation researching products and services in these sectors the chance to work at the STFC’s Innovations Technology Access Centre (I-TAC) for periods of up to six months, for free. I-TAC is a unique facility offering a suite of flexible laboratories, based on the Daresbury Science and

Innovation Campus, near Runcorn. Winners of the I-TAC Futures Challenge will also have access to the expertise of STFC scientists. Organisations entering simply need to show that they are working in the key areas of energy, healthcare or environment, and how they would benefit from access to lab space and equipment. Companies are strongly advised to visit I-TAC to see the facilities and equipment that are available, to help them prepare their application. I-TAC manager Dr Martin Morlidge said: “Companies can benefit massively from access to I-TAC’s world class facilities. Each prizewinner will be supported by STFC staff to ensure that they get the most

out of their time here. To win the competition could mean the difference between a start-up company with an idea that could help address some of society’s key challenges, to one that really can make a difference.” The launch event took place at the Daresbury Business Breakfast Network, a highly successful monthly event at Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus. The events provide a networking opportunity for regional, national and international businesses. Closing date for entries is November 30, and the winners will be announced on December 10, 2010. All awards will then start early in 2011. ■ FOR more information, contact I-TAC on 01925 603141.

To advertise here contact Julie Cowley. Telephone 0151 472 2311 or email or Neil Johnson, Telephone 0151 472 2705 or email



Construction work continues near the Athletes Village for the Commonwealth Games, in New Delhi

Games fiasco highlights lost trade and investment opportunities in India

Why has nation’s economic rise been so much slower than that of fast-expanding China? THE Commonwealth Games fiasco has served to highlight the relative slowness of India’s economic development, compared to the much faster pace in China. In some senses, China and India are similar. Both have huge populations and substantially agrarian economies. Both are industrialising rapidly and seen as possessing massive economic growth potential. More and more, production that used to take place in the West is migrating to the East. China manufactures a huge amount of the world’s textile and

electrical products, while India hosts many call centres. But there are also some differences. China is an autocratic country that successfully staged a major sports event in the form of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, while India is a democracy that has mishandled the preparations for this year’s Commonwealth Games. The same lack of leadership and governmental control that underpins the problems besetting the Delhi games has also held back the economy, and with it

investment and trading opportunities. Clearly, there are some examples of Indian businesses that have become global players. Tata Motors owns Jaguar Landrover and Surrendra Aperjay owns Typhoo Tea. An Indian property firm now owns what was Pearl House, in Derby Square, but India’s influence in international markets is dwarfed by that of China. The chaos has harmed the already delicate position of India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.

Dissent within his government may slow down economic reforms or hamper dealing with a Kashmir revolt. Singh's Congress Party-led coalition may stay in power to the end of its term in 2014, but a perception of a floundering and out-of touch leadership may bolster the rise of a more leftist inner circle. "Multiple centres of power are emerging," said political analyst Swapan Dasgupta. "They've always existed but this time they are becoming more public and the Games will only

exacerbate that. Succession is always on the back of people's minds." But other commentators say there is still a long way to go before his rule is history. "People have always underestimated Singh," said Jahangir Aziz, chief India economist at JP Morgan, referring to Singh's ability to survive six years in government. "People mistake his softspokenness for weakness. “That weakness is simply not there.”

Southport entrepreneur secures rights to operate rickshaws in Delhi

IRRESPECTIVE of the well-publicised problems afflicting the preparations for the Delhi Commonwealth Games this month, one Southport business is hoping to do well out of it. “It’s like selling ice to the Eskimos or sand to the Arabs,” says


Southport businessman Roger Khanijau. He has secured the rights to operate battery-powered rickshaws he has designed at the games. His Eco Tourist Cabs business has franchised the design to Indian company E-Ricks, with plans to set up similar

operations in other major cities such as Mumbai and Calcutta, capitalising on the Indian government’s drive to drastically cut the huge number of unlicensed and polluting old rickshaws. Khanijau, 39, said it was Southport pier that provided his “Eureka”

moment, in 2003: “We needed to get stock and supplies to the end of the pier, so I came up with an old cycle rickshaw. “But I went back to the drawing board and luckily came into contact with a friend of the family, Naresh Kathuria, who is

involved in one of India’s largest automotive supply companies, Venus Group.” Kathuria has overseen production in Delhi after a trial of the rickshaws in Liverpool’s Albert Dock two years ago proved successful. Four of his new battery-powered

designs were used in the 2008 Mathew Street Festival. “We started to build in fibreglass, then moved to polyethylene, which is totally recyclable.” He needs to succeed in overseas markets, if only because the British climate doesn’t lend itself to rickshaw use.




TeamLogic director John McDonald has big ambitions for the business, and is now making major inroads into the Northern Ireland market

Energy-saving software firm soars

Mersey-based TeamLogic boasts it can slash printing costs by up to 70% A WIRRAL company that sells a “revolutionary” piece of software that slashes the amount of ink used by computer printers is now selling its products in Northern Ireland. Over the last three years, TeamLogic has rapidly grown its presence across Merseyside. Directors John McDonald and Ian Young claim its main product – Preton – can help an organisation slash between 30% and 70% off its printing costs. Preton – which comes in versions for both companies and individuals – allows users to accurately set the print quality on documents. So, if a document was to be sent out externally, then the print

quality would be set quite high, but if it was just for internal use then it could be adjusted accordingly. The software also provides companies with precise information about the printing habits of users within their organisation. Every time a user prints a document, all details and images are logged and indexed. TeamLogic’s client list includes North West Business Link, Wirral Primary Care Trust, Envirolink, the University of Liverpool, Knowsley Community College and a number of schools. Mr McDonald says that the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), a legal requirement on

organisations of a certain size to cut their carbon emissions, has led to an upsurge in demand for Preton. He added: “Prior to CRC, companies and organisations weren’t that bothered about the amount of energy they were using. “Now they need audited proof of their energy savings and Preton can provide exactly that.” TeamLogic now employs 10 people and also offers another piece of software – PC Remote Shutdown. This is a sophisticated programme that can send a PC to sleep when it is not being used, with all work being automatically saved.

Mr Young said: “The sleep function in Windows does not actually turn the PC off and programmes are still running in the background using electricity. “In a school, for example, you might have 30 PCs in a classroom but some classes might only have a handful of students.” Similar to Preton, the software also logs and indexes the usage of each PC on the network, allowing the organisation to accurately monitor and audit energy usage. Now TeamLogic is looking to expand its presence in Northern Ireland. Mr McDonald said: “Belfast City Council has been using Preton for around 18 months and has already achieved substantial

savings and the software paid for itself within about four months. “We are about to get an order from Northern Regional Colleges over there – which comprises around eight colleges – and we are talking to the Northern Ireland government.” TeamLogic has also struck a deal with Belfast-based IT outsourcing firm, Northgate, which will resell Preton across the UK and Northern Ireland. This is as well as an agreement with a body called YPO, which can facilitate contracts with local authorities without the need to go through a formal tender process. Mr McDonald said: “If we hit our targets, we will hopefully turn over around £1.5m this year.”

Cartridge shop uses pedal power for deliveries A LIVERPOOL shop that sells recycled printer cartridges is enhancing its green credentials by making deliveries on a bicycle. The recently-opened Cartridge World outlet, in Moorfields, is part of a national franchise network. It refills and remanufactures inkjet and toner cartridges for businesses in the city centre.


Manager, Malcolm Sibson, said: “We think our business will be particularly welcomed in Liverpool. “Refilled & remanufactured cartridges are 40-50% cheaper than original manufacturers’ cartridges and save consumers and businesses significant amounts of money in these days of the credit crunch. “The carbon footprint of a

refilled laser cartridge is up to a third less than a new cartridge, and avoids sending empties to landfill which then take 450 years to break down. “Every year, millions of printer cartridges needlessly end up in landfill. “We are doing everything we can to reduce that impact.” Three new jobs have been created in the Liverpool city

centre store. Mr Sibson added: “We provide an alternative so that customers can opt for printer cartridges which support sustainable development for our planet’s precious resources. “Every cartridge refilled is one less cartridge going to landfill.” Last year, Cartridge World saved almost 2.5m empty cartridges from landfill.

Malcolm Sibson on his delivery bike



Campaign for renewables Industry body launches fight to save ports plan from Government axe A PLAN that could bring more renewable energy jobs to Merseyside could be under threat from Government cuts. RenewableUK, the country’s leading renewable energy trade association, is warning that the North West could miss out on the chance to create hundreds of new green jobs if a previously promised fund to upgrade the UK port facilities is scrapped. The industry body has launched a campaign to highlight the importance of the fund to the UK economy. The previous Government pledged £60m towards upgrading port infrastructure around ports to enable wind turbine manufacturing in this country, crucial for delivering offshore wind projects. However, the fund could now be scrapped as part of the Coalition’s Spending Review this month, and RenewableUK is warning this could mean the UK loses out on 50,000 new jobs as manufacturers look to base their offshore wind operations outside the UK. A few weeks ago, Birkenhead shipbuilder and repairer Cammell Laird revealed its plans to start building wind turbines. Chief executive John Syvret said: “My ambition is to use the Cammell Laird brand and our reputation of quality and professional services which the brand carries for ships. “We can easily build the wind turbine jackets, which are the steel structures below the water-line.” The Renewable UK campaign has received cross-party support from MPs and has won the backing of Greenpeace. Dr Gordon Edge, director of policy at RenewableUK, said: “This Government has pledged to be the greenest ever, committing itself to re-balancing the economy to create low carbon jobs and tackling the dual challenge of climate change and energy security. “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to become a world-leader in offshore wind but, if we fail to capitalise on the lead we have in this sector, those jobs will be lost to rival countries already competing with us to attract offshore wind manufacturers.”

Birkenhead shipbuilder Cammell Laird is keen to get into the wind turbines market

MTP consults businesses on vehicle charging points

MERSEYSIDE businesses have been attending free information sessions to learn more about plans to provide charging points for electric vehicles. The Liverpool city region and Cheshire West and Chester is shortly submitting an application for government funding to set up a network of electric

vehicle charging points as part of the Government’s Plugged-In Places project. The city region has already successfully submitted an expression of interest to be part of the second phase of the initiative. Interested organisations have been attending information sessions during

September. Sarah Jolly, climate change Officer at Merseyside Transport Partnership (MTP), said: “The electric vehicle charging points can be used for staff or fleet vehicles, and can provide a valuable service to new and existing customers.” The Government funding will allow MTP to cover half

of the installation costs for organisations installing charging points. The funding application is being submitted in late October. Ms Jolly added: “This is a pioneering initiative that has the potential to dramatically improve air quality across Merseyside.”

Sarah Jolly, of MTP



Lee Wasnidge and Louise Ellman MP at the Huskisson naming ceremony, in Liverpool

World passenger railway pioneer celebrates its 180th anniversary

Railway organisations join forces to mark opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway NORTHERN Rail, Merseytravel, GMPTE and Network Rail invited Parliamentary transport chair Louise Ellman MP to celebrate the 180th anniversary of the world’s oldest inter-city passenger railway. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR) opened in 1830. It hugely boosted the Industrial Revolution and led to the development of the world’s modern railway networks. The railway organisations created various joint events to mark this historic occasion. Ms Ellman, Liverpool Riverside MP and chair of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Transport, officially named a Northern Rail train William Huskisson MP. As Member of Parliament for Liverpool, Huskisson was an avid supporter of railways as a force of progress and civilisation.


Tragically, he was also the railway’s first high-profile casualty when he was killed by a train hauled by Stephenson’s Rocket, at Parkside, near Newton-le-Willows, on the opening day of the L&MR. A memorial marks the place. At Newton-le-Willows, Sir William McAlpine, Railway Heritage Trust chair, unveiled a plaque commemorating the death of Huskisson. A storyboard describing the historical significance of the L&MR and the history of the station is now on permanent display for passengers. The station building has recently benefited from a £1m refurbishment, courtesy of Network Rail and more than £300,000 of access and customer information improvements through Merseytravel and the Department for Transport.

At Edge Hill, the world’s oldest operating mainline railway station, arts group Metal hosted an exhibition celebrating railway travel featuring Liverpool and Manchester-based artists. Lee Wasnidge, Northern Trains area director, said: "The Liverpool & Manchester Railway transformed the economy of the North West. “Today it remains an important link between the two cities. “We are proud to serve these great cities and to play our part in strengthening their economies.” Jo Kaye, Network Rail route director, said: “The original memorial to Huskisson is still there alongside the railway line, but these days trains travel considerably faster than the sedate 20mph they did then. “Consequently, you are unlikely to see it unless you know where and when to look.

“To have a replica of the tablet of words permanently located at Newton-le-Willows station means anyone can read what happened on that historic day.” Cllr Mark Dowd, Merseytravel chairman, said: “From its inception to today, this line has been a vital link across the region. “It is well served by Northern Trains and it is to be hoped that they can serve us even better with electrification, something I will continue to lobby long and hard for.” Cllr Keith Whitmore, Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority’s (GMITA) Policy and Resources Committee chairman, said: “The opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway was a seminal moment in this country’s history, linking two of our most important merchant cities.

“It was an accomplishment later repeated by the rest of the country and the rest of the world, and marked the beginning of the Second Industrial Revolution. “It is perhaps fitting that, as we celebrate this anniversary, plans are under way to modernise this historic railway with proposals to electrify the line.” The L&MR, which was a Liverpool-inspired and financed project, not only created the world’s first purpose-built Intercity passenger railway, but was the making of engineer George Stephenson’s reputation. Stephenson achieved a number of world firsts, including the Rainhill A57 skew-bridge, the Sankey Viaduct and “floating” the line across the infamous Chat Moss bog. Given this importance, there have been calls for the line to be listed as a World Heritage Site.



Swanky new base to stay London entrepreneur attempts to lure guests to new hotel concept in Liverpool LIVERPOOL’S “edgy and exciting” ambience made it the perfect location for a new up-market hotel concept which could become a worldwide winner. The newly-opened £14m base2stay hotel, in Seel Street, has four-star accommodation, but no restaurant, bar, gym or spa. The idea is guests using its 106-rooms would rather spend their time and money visiting local restaurants – such as Alma de Cuba and La Lunya – than the hotel one. This is based on research which says only 10-15% of guests use hotel restaurants. Most hotel residents, especially if tourists, want to sample the local fare. The boutique hotel has negotiated discounts at nearby venues on behalf of guests, in the historic Ropewalks Quarter. The Liverpool hotel is a fully-blown development of the Kensington base2stay, in London, which was an adapted property. The Liverpool hotel is an 1850 former industrial property, retaining its period timber beams and brickwork as a feature. Robert Nadler, base2stay chief executive, said: “We didn’t want to over-extend ourselves initially. “I got involved in Kensington base2stay late on, so Liverpool is the first hotel to fully exploit the ideas I had in mind. “While I would like to take this brand across the world, I want to live up to expectations and get it right, here in Liverpool. “Service is critically important and we’re found a great general manager, Gary Lairv, who is inspiring our team of 30-35 people. “They’re dressed in black T-shirts and their attitude is crucial to selling the hotel. “I am passionate about helping to build up Liverpool as a cultural destination for international tourism. I am bowled over by what I see here. ” Mr Nadler wants his hotel to be imbued with a similar character as The Mercer Hotel in Soho, New York, the first there to offer de luxe loft-living style rooms. He walked the Ropewalks streets looking for a suitable property to convert into a 80-120-room hotel. “I eventually found this building which had been derelict for so long that the ‘for sale’ sign was falling off it,” he said. “Base2stay is about people looking for something a bit different, it’s for guests who do not want the standard cookie-cutter hotel offering,” said Mr Nadler. The Liverpool base2stay air-conditioned bedrooms have mini-kitchens so guests can bring their in food or order take-aways. Given the hotel’s standard, prices start at a very competitive £75 for a double bedroom per night during the week. The Secret Garden Suite, which can sleep up to five adults, costs £175 a night during the week, or £250 for a weekend night. Mr Nadler said: “We’re competing with the big chains, but the internet has transformed marketing for hotels like this. “Websites like TripAdvisor are incredibly important and drive a lot of business. “They also make guest experiences totally transparent. If someone has a bad experience at your hotel, the whole world

Hotelier Robert Nadler – says he is bowled over by LIverpool’s tourism potential can immediately know about it. I am very pleased as so far the guests’ comments have been very reassuring. “Because I am not a professional hotelier, I am very guest-centric, and this hotel is all about what works for the guest. “I am very concerned about detail and, for example, at one time became obsessed about the bedrooms’ plugs! “But everything has got to be cost-effective. My wife, Clarissa, designed the interior, my artist son, Ronald, painted the pictures and my other son, Dorian, sourced all the fixtures and fittings. “So we’ve got a far better hotel than we anticipated, thanks to the family discount! “But I should also thank my principal investor, Sir John McTaggart, and his

Western Heritable Investment. He believed in us and took the risk. I am more entrepreneur than investor, but I would like to build this into a major hotel brand if we make it work in Liverpool.” A qualified surveyor who has worked in Paris and London, Mr Nadler took over his family’s fish-processing factory before selling it to Booker McConnell. More recently, he was joint chief executive of property investment company Compco Holdings, which was sold for £150m in 2003. The turnover of both of the existing base2 stay hotels is expected to be £5m this year. The next base2stay is set to open in Soho, London, in late 2012.

The new base2stay, in Liverpool


IN ASSOCIATION WITH MPLOYERS are acknowledging the value of vocational training over a university education and believe more work-related schemes are needed to equip the workforce of the future. Training providers and business leaders are backing work-related schemes, as universities deal with the new post-downturn reality that will cost places and courses, despite an increase in applications. Spending cuts are expected to slash the number of available university places promised by the previous Government this year by at least 10,000. And the number of places awarded through clearing – matching students to spare courses – could be drastically reduced because of a huge rise in applications. It is believed the 47,000 clearing places awarded last year could be cut by a third this summer with as many as seven people competing for every course through clearing, compared with around three last year. The squeeze was exacerbated by the imposition of fines for universities guilty of overrecruiting – institutions faced losing £3,700 for every student recruited beyond strict Government limits, giving them less flexibility to take extra undergraduates than previous years. Meanwhile, worsening employment conditions, particularly in the public sector, could mean many university graduates are unable to find jobs this year. Now, a study by the UK’s main vocational education organisation, City & Guilds, indicates that many employers would prefer candidates with more of a grounding in job-based qualifications and training to graduates. “The Skills Economy – the new framework for prosperity” quizzed employers on their skills requirements and found that 66% of North West companies believe that work-related education and training will play a vital role in the UK’s economic recovery. More than 1,200 employers, covering 26 industry areas, responded to the poll which showed that 92% view vocationally trained staff as key to the success of their business, while 69% of all employers in the region claimed that vocational education delivers the practical skills essential for today’s dynamic economy. Business managers argue that practical work experience is more valuable than academic study, with specialist industry skills offering immediate advantages in the workplace over a university education. In the poll, 63% of employers said the biggest benefit of candidates with vocational qualifications over graduates is that they already have the skills and experience to work for their business from day one. A further 43% of company owners currently without vocationally qualified staff also acknowledge that they are as well qualified for positions at their company as graduates without vocational training. City & Guilds found that there is general recognition that skilled




Vocational training on Apprenticeships can offer young school leavers a credible route into industries desperate to improve their current skills levels

Employers champion workplace education schemes as an alternative

workers give businesses a competitive edge, both on an industry and international level. Three-quarters (76%) of North West employers believe their vocationally qualified employees make them more competitive in their industry, while 74% agree that work-related skills are vital to ensure the UK can compete in the changing global economy. And 71% said they rely on their vocationally trained staff to give them the skills they need for the future. Chris Jones, City & Guilds director general and chief executive, said: “Our research reveals the extent to which UK plc recognises the vital importance of skills through vocational learning for the country’s future economic prosperity and global competitiveness.” City & Guilds has introduced the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) for creating and accrediting qualifications, which aims to deliver the vocational skills employers need

today and tomorrow. Chris Jones added: “As the introduction of QCF puts the spotlight on vocational qualifications, City & Guilds is committed to creating a wide range of high quality qualifications that will equip individuals with the right skills and training needed to support the country’s recovery as well as bring clarity to the changeover for employers, learners and training centres alike.” And he predicted: “Ultimately, vocational qualifications will become even more relevant to employers’ skills needs and the changing face of UK industry, as well as more flexible and transparent for learners’ career progression.” Industry body the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) also backs the need for vocational training and apprenticeships to meet future skills needs compared with graduates. The ECA represents 3,000 member companies which collectively have an annual

turnover of more than £5bn, employ in excess of 30,000 staff and support 8,000 apprentices. And its Northwich-based president, Diane Johnson, goes as far as to say the UK is creating a “graduate underclass” through its excessive focus on academia. She warns of a lost generation as an increasing number of students chase university places, while others are left disappointed in their search for work. She said: “For too long now, gaining a degree has been pushed as the preferred, or default, educational option. “I believe this blinkered approach devalues the alternatives, such as vocational training and the apprenticeship route – it is incredibly shortsighted. “While a university degree can be worthwhile, I truly believe it is not the be-all-and-end-all. “Our country is at a crossroads, and if we don’t act now to shore up the skills deficit in our craft industries we will have little

chance of successfully emerging out of the recession or of meeting the country’s ambitious sustainability targets.” She added: “The previous Government wanted to achieve 50% of all young people attending university, which over time has tarnished the image of vocational training and has seen it become a ‘silver medal’ for school leavers. “The UK needs to invest in a ready supply of professionals with advanced skills to ‘future-proof ’ the economy.” And while she welcomed proposals by the new coalition Government to support vocational education and will hopefully lead to the creation of an additional 50,000 apprenticeship places, she cautions: “To make a meaningful impact, any training or work placement needs to provide proper industry experience to recognised industry qualifications. Anything less will result in an under-qualified workforce, unfit for purpose and, ultimately, unemployable.

City & Guilds director general and chief executive, Chris Jones – our research reveals the extent to which UK plc recognises the vital importance of skills through vocational learning

the rise

to graduates, reports Neil Hodgson

“What worries me is that by continuously promoting university over apprenticeships, and not supporting industry to make the vocational route an attractive reality, we’re heading into a skills crisis. “At the same time, we’re also fostering a disenfranchised graduate class whose skills are being under-utilised. “There are options out there, but these young people are not being given the information to make the right choices.” Liverpool Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Jack Stopforth, also calls for a shake-up in the training system that recognises the value of vocational education and apprenticeships alongside time spent in university education. “There’s a lovely phrase, ‘parity of esteem’, which means we need to get over the thought that a university education is superior to vocational courses. “Until middle-class parents realise there is value to vocational

courses, we will always have this system where university is ‘good’ and college courses are ‘bad’.” The Chamber’s training arm has historically offered apprenticeships in business services and legal services through supervisory courses, which it will maintain. But it is seeking to extend its range of apprenticeships, given the coalition Government’s pledge to fund 16-18-year-old apprenticeships. Mr Stopforth said: “We are looking to move into logistics, such as warehousing and freight forwarding and shipping.” And he believes the UK could learn a valuable lesson from one of its EU partners: “Germany has a dual system, whereby Chambers of Commerce are completely different and have a bigger role to play, working in parallel with employers and the university sector, so that society gets the people it needs. “That is what we need to try and strive for in this country.”

Liverpool JMU working on getting the right mix of work and academia LIVERPOOL John Moores University believes it has achieved the perfect mix of study and work-related programmes to deliver the graduates of tomorrow who are fit for the workplace. Its “WoW” (World of Work) scheme operates hand-in-hand with employers to provide both work and life skills to students, alongside their academic studies, through guaranteed work placements. JMU’s graduate development centre director, Terry Dray, is driving the initiative – which has attracted international interest – which he said is based on JMU’s longestablished links with the world of business.

He said: “JMU has a long tradition of providing vocational courses to the city region’s businesses and beyond, in that we were a polytechnic and now we are a modern business-engaged university. “Our commitment to preparing graduates for the modern world of work is very clear and is illustrated through our ‘world of work’ programme. “We have long links with various professional bodies and large numbers of our courses are accredited by professional bodies.” He added: “It is true of most universities, but students and graduates who have studied for vocational courses are

often the most employable.” “WoW” offers three major themes: To offer all students work-related learning; the acquisition of key graduate skills; and the acquisition of higher world of work skills. Twenty-five students signed up for the first WoW course. The latest has attracted more than 3,000. Mr Dray said: “Those students who engage in work placements are the most successful in finding work at the end of their course. “We are clearly trying to do our very best to meet the needs of the knowledge economy through providing graduates who are fit for purpose.”




BUSINESS LUNCH Tony McDonough meets Rachel Komrskova, of Business in the Community, at the Living Room N TRUTH, it’s probably been a few years since Liverpool’s Living Room bar/restaurant was the city’s “place to be seen”. In recent times, bars and eateries designed to attract the local glitterati have sprung up across the city centre. However, the Victoria Street venue still manages to hold its own and remains a popular destination for both city suits and funky fashionistas. In recent weeks, it has reopened after a facelift to its interior decor and a revamped menu. My guest for lunch was Rachel Komrskova, who heads up the Liverpool office of Business in the Community. As we approached the Living Room, we were momentarily alarmed to see the outer front doors firmly shut. However, just as we reached the entrance, the doors suddenly swung open – as if they were expecting us right at that moment. It was clear the decorators had been in, but the restaurant still felt reassuringly familiar. We were shown to one of the side booths by the window, but then had to swiftly relocate to another table when the air conditioning unit started to drip water onto my head. A smiling waitress quickly appeared to take our drinks order and a quick perusal of the menu revealed the fare to be not dissimilar to what was on offer prior to the relaunch. And I have no problem with that. I’ve always enjoyed the food at the Living Room, and am pleased they haven’t changed things too much. Rachel has been at Business in the Community (BITC) since 2007 and has firmly established herself within the Liverpool business community. She grew up in Slovakia and moved to the UK in 1997. She spent several years working in field sales for movie giant 20th Century Fox, and ended up managing a team of 22 people. However, although she excelled in her role, it left her feeling a little unfulfilled. “I was 24 and I felt I wanted to do more with my life than just look at spreadsheets,” she said. So she left 20th Century Fox and went to work for a charity before



eventually ending up at BITC. “This job allows me to utilise my account-managing skills and also gives me the chance to get involved with helping the community,” added Rachel. According to its own slogan, BITC “works with business to build a sustainable future for people and planet”. On a day-to-day basis, that means organising community and environmental projects that the managers and staff of companies and organisations can get involved in. In Merseyside, BITC works closely with firms such as PwC, law firm DWF, Merseyrail, Liverpool John Moores University and Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Liverpool Daily Post. Sustainability is a real buzzword for the organisation – a term covering things like carbon footprint, the skills and talents of a workforce and how companies manage future risks. Rachel said: “The slogan basically sums up what we do and I think it goes beyond the old model of corporate social responsibility (CSR). “People used to talk a lot about CSR, but it was often something that was ‘over there’ – separate to the core operation of the business. “The community engagement that we get involved in is much more about the core values of a business. “We mobilise businesses and their employees to help the community, and it is often the case that their employees are drawn from that community. “And there is a mutual benefit. “The clever company will see it not just as a way of helping the community but also use it to lift the spirit and morale of their own

The newly-refurbished Living Room bar/restaurant, in Victoria Street, Liverpool employees. And what HR departments are doing now is using engagement programmes to enhance the skills of their employees. “We are now being approached by training companies who are really seeing the value of it.” BITC is also keen to get involved in Prime Minister David Cameron’s Big Society, although Rachel admits it isn’t yet fully clear exactly what it will mean. She added: “We do possibly see it as an opportunity for businesses to take a more active role in society. “We also believe that, under Big Society, all the major public sector bodies will be expected to take a major role and become much more proactive in helping their communities.” In keeping with the modern business lunch, Rachel and I restricted ourselves to a single course, and I have to admit that our choices were not the most sophisticated. However, I think a good

Rachel Komrskova

measure of a restaurant is how well it does some of the more basic things. Rachel said: “When I go to a restaurant for the first time, I always look to see if they have a chicken Caesar salad on the menu. “If they do I will order it, and if they do it well then I will come back again and order something else.” So order it she did – and the verdict? “The lettuce was a little bit too wet, but the dressing was really nice. It is not the best one I have eaten but overall it was pretty good. I will come here again.” Just as Rachel made her wet lettuce comment, the restaurant manager happened to be passing by our table. He approached us a few minutes later and gave us an apology and told us that he would talk to the kitchen about it. His intervention was typical of our experience during the hour we were there. Staff were friendly, efficient and attentive, without being fawning or overbearing. The Living Room has always

had a good reputation for its level of service, and it seems they continue to work hard to maintain it. I pondered ordering the slow-roasted shoulder of lamb with mashed potatoes and rosemary, but at the last moment gave into my inner child and ordered the chicken burger and chips (I’m a growing lad). This proved to be a delicious combination of grilled chicken breast, pesto mayonnaise and crisp pancetta on foccacia. Like Rachel with her salad, my litmus of a restaurant is how well it cooks it chips. I’m glad to say the Living Room passed this one with flying colours, and I could have easily eaten several more portions.

DETAILS The Living Room 15, Victoria Street, Liverpool L2 5QS Tel: 0151 236 1999 Bill: £27.90




Thurs, September 30

This free lunchtime lecture explores the concept of Chinese capitalism. The notions of Confucius values, kinship networks and guanxi (personal relationships) have been significant characteristics in explaining the success of Chinese businesses. However, the nature and organisation of Chinese capitalism are also constantly evolving to reflect the modern economic and societal trends. Implications for the future of Chinese capitalism in the face of global capitalism will be discussed. It is from 12pm-1pm, at 126 Mount Pleasant. For details, see


Friday, Oct 1 Corporate culture specialists The Cultureship Practice will present powerful and research-driven techniques on how to energise and transform your organisation. It is the latest event in Liverpool Chamber of Commerce’s 60 really useful minutes series. It is from 9am-10am and is free to members and £5 for nonmembers. Call 0151 227 1234 to book.

Tuesday, October 5 The next 1stuesday breakfast event is at 7.45am, at The Heath Restaurant, The Heath Business and Technical Park. It is £5 for Halton Chamber members and £10 for non-members. To book, contact Nicola Holland on 01928 516142 or email nicolah@halton

Wednesday, October 6 Ubiquity PR’s monthly Fish! networking event for October, sponsored by Morecroft Solicitors, is at Salt House Tapas, Hanover Street, from 5.30pm-8pm. The event is free but invite only, via enquiries to

Studio 2, in Parr Street, will welcome people from across the city for a day of casual co-working TWO networking events for the creative sector are being held in Liverpool. JellyLiverpool is for people to get together to work in a different environment to their usual one, whether it be freelancers,

homeworkers or just people who want a change of scenery. The event is “for anyone who likes the idea of working alongside inspiring, creative people in a warm and welcoming environment”.

Friday, October 8 The West Cheshire and North Wales Chamber of Commerce is

There is no specific criteria to participate in JellyLiverpool, you can visit for the day or just drop in for an hour. It is at Studio2, Parr Street, where there will be free Wifi and free coffee. For details, see

The Wired City Reconnected events are collaborative networking events aimed at the digital, creative and ICT businesses interested in potential collaborations or the chance to share and

help people who want to hold film festivals. Deborah Parker, the agency’s head of audience development, will host the event at the Bluecoat from 10.30am to 1.15pm. Anyone interested in signing up for a 45-minute meeting with her should email deborahp@

being joined by Graham Evans MP for a Question Time event at the Vale Royal Abbey, from 6.45pm-9pm. To book a place, contact the Chamber directly on 01244 669988.

Monday, October 11 Morecrofts LLP and Waves Enterprise are holding a free half-day seminar on subjects including how to exit out of your lease, common pitfalls in a commercial lease, handling redundancies, and more. The event is at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Speke, from 8.30am. To book, e-mail For Fish!, visit Salt House Tapas

exchange ideas. It is from 6pm-8pm and costs £15, which includes liquid refreshment, a buffet and a business introduction and matching service. To book, visit

Friday, October 22

Deborah Parker

Tuesday, October 12 Creative industries support agency Vision + Media is holding a business support surgery to

The Daresbury Business Breakfast brings together around 100 people working for hi-tech companies and their supply and support communities. The breakfast is at Daresbury Innovation Centre, starting from 8am. For more details, see




ALISTAIR HOUGHTON . . . in which a 176-year-old teaches our hero about the wonders of chemistry and the refreshing taste of white spirit F I TOLD you I went to an event hosted by a 176-year-old man, you’d assume I’d have been drinking white spirit. And you’d be right. But I wasn’t lying in a gutter on the Dock Road. Instead, I was in the luxurious surroundings of Liverpool Town Hall for the 150th birthday party of chemicals firm Samuel Banner. Banner is based in Runcorn, but was founded in Liverpool. So when it decided to invite guests from around the world to mark its anniversary, it chose not to host them in the Wimpy, in Runcorn’s Halton Lea Shopping Centre – my Cheshire choice – but instead brought them to Castle Street. And the host was Samuel Banner himself. Or, more strictly “Samuel Banner” – an actor gamely sporting a top hat and a luxurious moustache to summon the spirit of the company’s illustrious founder. Now if Banner had known his company would still be around so many years later, perhaps he would have taken a tip from philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Bentham should be best-known for


his Utilitarian philosophies, but instead he is most famous for the fact that his body is still on public display and has even been known to attend meetings. At the college’s 100th and 150th anniversary celebrations, his body was wheeled in to attend the college’s committee meetings – the minutes say “Jeremiah Bentham, present but not voting”. I’m sure we can all think of meetings that have left us feeling like a dessicated 178-year-old corpse. And I’m sure there are many middle managers who can sympathise with Bentham’s eternal existence of being locked in a cupboard and being let out only to attend committee meetings. And Bentham’s body has also been the victim of many a student prank.You can see what goes through students’ minds – playing keepie-uppie with the mummified head of a philosopher certainly has more intellectual kudos than stealing traffic cones – but it was hardly dignified for poor old Jezza. A wax head now sits atop his skeleton, while his real head has been locked away for safekeeping. So it’s for the best that the real

Actor Paul Green, playing Banner Chemicals founder Samuel Banner, at the company’s 150th birthday bash, tweaks his moustache


Samuel Banner has long been respectfully laid to rest, and that “Samuel Banner” instead hosted this month’s event. He mingled with the crowd as drinks were served before attendees were shepherded into the council chamber for the speeches. “Banner” – and I should here credit the actor Paul Green, who played him – acted as MC as speakers from the Lord Mayor to Banner Chemicals’ current chairman Mottie Kessler lined up to share their thoughts on the sector’s past, present and future. HEMISTS, much like journalists, have an image problem. The chemicals sector is worth billions to the North West economy, it’s greener than ever, and its researchers are working hard to concoct chemicals that will make our lives healthier and better. Yet industrial chemists seem to think that everyone else regards them as Dr Evil figures, fiendishly plotting ways to pollute anything and everything. It was a topic touched on by all speakers – most pointedly by local industry legend Dr Tony Bastock, group managing director of Contract Chemicals, in Knowsley, and chairman of Chemicals Northwest. “Our reputation is not good,” he said. “A couple of years ago, we were just above the tobacco industry. As chemists and scientists we rank alongside journalists, which isn’t great.” I hunched into my seat and tried to hide my notebook. Later, Weaver Vale MP Graham Evans said he had visited former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – a former chemist – the previous week. She had, he said to appreciative murmurs in the audience, passed on her congratulations to Banner. I felt the ghosts of the previous occupants of my seat stirring – it is, after all, not often that the name of Mrs Thatcher gets a warm reception in Liverpool Town Hall. Speaking of spirits, what about that white spirit I mentioned? Well, before he founded the company that still bears his name 150 years on, Samuel Banner invented white spirit. And so guests at the Town Hall event were offered glasses of iced clear liquid labelled “Samuel Banner’s White Spirit”. It as, I was told, a cocktail of vodka, Cointreau and lemonade. I couldn’t indulge too much – I needed to return to work for you, dear readers – but, with the party continuing all afternoon, I expect that concoction was a catalyst for many a hangover.


NEW LOOK FOR THE CAPTAINS’ TABLE The new season has brought with it a brand new look for The Captains’ Table lounge at Goodison Park. During the 2009/10 season, Everton Football Club consulted Members from across all of its hospitality lounges asking for feedback and suggestions on how matchday packages could be improved. Having taken on-board the replies they received, the Club’s Hospitality team have worked throughout the summer overseeing improvements throughout the stadium’s lounges, resulting in a complete revamp for The Captains’ Table. Among the more major changes is the restructuring of the main entrance, which has been opened up to deliver a more appealing and sociable welcome. The Captains’ Table, which celebrates all of the illustrious names to have led our Club through the decades, has also been completely redecorated, with the faces of more greats adorning the walls than ever before.

In addition, a Roll of Honour board has been installed, charting every Club captain, from 1888/89 skipper Nick Ross right through to the current man in the role, Phil Neville. From a catering perspective, the service area has undergone improvements, while the bar has been extended to help staff get to guests as quickly as possible. Hospitality across Goodison Park’s range of lounges comes at prices to suit all budgets and match-by-match packages in The Captains’ Table this season start from just £110 (+VAT). For that, guests will be treated to a superb carvery menu meal before the game, plus excellent views of the match in enclosed seating in the Park End stand. Like all of Everton’s Executive Lounges, it also provides the ideal atmosphere and setting in which to entertain clients, reward staff or network with others from all walks of business.

To book or to find out more about hospitality in any of Goodison Park’s lounges, contact the corporate sales team on 0151 530 5300, or by visiting

0151 530 5300




Zoe Denison, of Practice Plan Ltd, and Lisa Beskin, of Hillyer McKeown Solicitors, at the Forward Ladies networking lunch, at the Blackhouse Grill

Anne Bowcock, of Total Pamper, Deeside Leisure Centre, and Danielle Platten, of HR Angels Consultancy, at the Ladies Networking Lunch

CAROLYN HUGHES Terri Dwyer, actress and TV presenter, with Peter Price, of Radio City, and Lime Pictures managing director Sean Marley, at the Chester Racecourse charity fundraising event

CALM, the award-winning charity highly active on Merseyside, hosted the first Merseyside and Cheshire Suicide Reduction Summit, at Tate Liverpool, on September 14. Every day, three young men in the UK feel that they have no option but to self-harm or take their own life. The day was hugely successful, resulting in a commitment to creating a charter for suicide reduction for Merseyside and Cheshire. ■ CHESTER’S stylish Blackhouse Grill Restaurant and Bar was the venue for the latest Forward Ladies

networking lunch last week. Founded in 2000, Forward Ladies began as a small group of professional women meeting and sharing experiences, but now has over 12,000 members. ■ MAKERS of Hollyoaks, Lime Pictures, raised over £35,000 at the Hollyoaks Ball at Chester Racecourse last week for Claire House and the Alder Hey Imagine Appeal. Cast provided the musical entertainment and event support, while Capital FM DJ Greg Burns hosted the Ball, which was sponsored by Boodles Chester, Eve and Merseysound.

Alex Jarrett, General Manager, Blackhouse Grill, Chester, with Sue France, of Forward Ladies, at the networking lunch Karen Hassan, who plays Lynsey Nolan, in Hollyoaks, with Tracy Imlach, and Loraine Siggins, both of Boodles Chester, at the Lime Pictures fundraiser

Former Hollyoaks star Jamie Lomas, with his fiancee, Coronation Street actress Kym Marsh, at the Lime Pictures fundraising event


John Hampson, from Mersey Care, with Barrie McGale, suicide liaison officer for Derry, at the suicide reduction summit

Colin Vose, from NHS Knowsley, with Simon Hoses, from CALM, at the Tate Liverpool event

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LDP Business Magazine October 2010  
LDP Business Magazine October 2010  

Read the October edition of LDP Business Magazine.