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LDP BUSINESS w w w . l d p b u s i n e s s . c o . u k November 2011

What’s in store for Christmas? Six-page special on NW retail sector

GM gears up for growth Car maker’s European head on Ellesmere Port’s key role

● Dynamic trio : Help for Mersey SMEs ● High hopes: Knowsley banks on revival ● Global Vision: Spreading the word1


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INSIDE 4

LDP

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NEWS

BUSINESS

EDITOR Bill Gleeson 0151 472 2319

City college to expand links with Merseyside firms

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bill.gleeson@liverpool.com

DEPUTY BUSINESS EDITOR Tony McDonough 0151 330 4918

BIG FEATURE

How retailers are faring ahead of key Christmas trading period

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tony.mcdonough @liverpool.com

BIG INTERVIEW

BUSINESS WRITERS Alistair Houghton

Nick Reilly, European president of General Motors

alistair.houghton @liverpool.com

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Peter Elson

COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

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Spotlight on Liverpool’s central business district

25 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Focus on Knowsley’s determination to provide the ideal home for booming businesses

peter.elson @liverpool.com

Neil Hodgson neil.hodgson @liverpool.com

HEAD OF IMAGES Barrie Mills

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barrie.mills@liverpool.com

MARKETING EXECUTIVE Cath Reeves 0151 285 8428

30 HOW GREEN IS YOUR BUSINESS?

ADVERTISEMENT DIRECTOR Debbie McGraw

Business park’s bid to get workers on their bikes

ADVERTISEMENT MANAGER Jackie McMahon 0151 330 5077

32 PROFESSIONAL SECTORS Trio of entrepreneurs combine to help small businesses

34 KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY

Liverpool Science Park’s third building set to fill vital gap

35 INTERNATIONAL TRADE

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Liverpool Vision expands city’s reach across the globe

ADVERTISEMENT SALES Neil Johnson 0151 472 2705 Trudie Arlett 0151 472 2476 Julie Cowley 0151 472 2311 PHOTOGRAPHY Trinity Mirror PUBLISHED BY Trinity Mirror NW2, PO Box 48, Old Hall Street, Liverpool, L69 3EB.

36 THE LIST

Key dates for your diary

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TELEPHONE 0151 227 2000

THE NETWORKER

Alistair Houghton takes time to ponder the networking value of beer festivals

FAX 0151 330 4942

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COPYRIGHT

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.

SOCIAL DIARY

Carolyn Hughes goes out on the town

I AM puzzled by the use of the word “magic”, in the title of Richard Dawkins’s latest book. It’s not a word I would normally associate with the Professor, yet there it was on the front cover of The Magic of Reality. It turns out Prof Dawkins doesn’t use the word in the usual way. He isn’t referring to anything supernatural or mysterious. On the contrary, he is referring to his own personal response to rocksolid, rational science. He is staking a claim for the warm, emotional or spiritual ground more normally thought of as belonging to religion and art. It struck me that an alternative word he could have used is “awe”, though that could have been

EDITOR’S LETTER construed as an overt challenge to religion. Perhaps the Professor wanted to use simple language to appeal to children and to avoid the complex language that characterised Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. When it comes to his role promoting the public understanding of science, I have often wondered why Prof Dawkins has concentrated his fire almost entirely on religous

fundamentalists. It is, of course, right to oppose creationism when it is promoted in schools or elsewhere as “fact”, but it is by no means the only threat to science. The Professor should also tackle those who oppose science for political reasons. People on both the left and right of politics often stand in the way of scientific progress. Animal rights activists have curtailed some research and business investment, and GM

foods are banned in Europe because of a successful campaign by the left, despite the fact GM foods are widely used in other parts of the world. George Bush placed constraints on medical research in the US on pro-life grounds, and last month Greenpeace obtained a ruling at the European Court of Justice that prevents the patenting of intellectual property derived from experiments that destroy embryos. Greenpeace sought the ruling to prevent businesses using patents to earn big profits from

monopolistic market conditions affecting new life science technologies. The ECJ judgment is a setback for stem cell research at a time when we are investing considerable academic effort and money. and hope to develop highvalue “knowledge” industries. However, patents don’t just secure returns for investors. The judgment risks frustrating the development of regenerative medicines that could cure or prevent a huge range of currently untreatable diseases such as cancers, some forms of blindness and numerous others. And that would be disastrous.

BILL GLEESON 3


NEWS

Weightmans advises on £200m-worth of deals

Weightmans is moving to The Plaza

THE corporate team of Liverpool law firm Weightmans is reporting it has advised on 28 deals, worth £200m, since its merger with Mace & Jones in May. The firm, which is to move into The Plaza, in Old Hall Street, kicked off its new financial year with a transaction for one of the UK’s largest independent cash machine operators, Cardpoint Services. Weightmans advised on corporate, property and employment issues relating to the company’s acquisition of OmniCash.

The same month, the firm advised Aspen Number Seven LLP on its £8.5m acquisition of £16m-worth of debt from UK LP (King Street) which owns and manages the mixed use 76-80 King Street building, in Manchester city centre. “Since the beginning of the new financial year, we have been involved in a wide range of corporate transactions; MBOs, acquisitions, share sales, restructuring and investment deals,” said Weightmans’ Paul Raftery.

City college to expand work links with firms

Further education minister John Hayes meets students at Liverpool Community College FURTHER education college in Liverpool is looking to work with more local companies, following the success of its Work Academy project. Liverpool Community College (LCC) set up the project in partnership with Wates Construction. It offers people a training scheme, work placement at Wates and a guaranteed job interview with the firm and other local contractors at the end of the course. Following the success of the pilot, other Work Academies are being rolled out across the country. LCC, which is looking to expand its business partnerships working, has been talking to some of the region’s top employers – such as Merseytravel and Balfour Beatty – to provide vocational training for the city’s young people. Last week, further education minister John Hayes

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visited the College to learn more about its work with local businesses. Elaine Bowker, principal of LCC, said: “We were delighted to welcome the minister and talk him through some of the programmes we have piloted with businesses. “By working closely with local companies, we’ve been able to give students the training and opportunities they need to get into work, and through our partnerships help create a skilled and flexible workforce in the city region.” Mr Hayes said: “The partnerships the College has forged with local businesses are empowering students to develop the vital skills they will need for their future careers. I hope more businesses are inspired to come forward, to work hand in hand with education providers.”

Ben Donnelly, founder of Elixir Foundations

Cash boost will help Elixir grow ONE of Merseyside’s biggest social enterprises is set to expand further, after securing £26,000 in a national enterprise competition. Knowsley-based recycler, Elixir Foundations, was recognised as one of the top 25 social businesses in the UK, in the Big Venture Challenge. It was commended for being among the most ambitious, commercially-driven and sustainable social businesses in the country. The Big Venture Challenge was set up by UnLtd, the national charity that supports social entrepreneurs, in partnership with The Big Lottery Fund. The money received by Elixir will be invested to create more job opportunities and skills training for

vulnerable adults. Thanks to the Big Venture Challenge, Elixir is now able to recycle all PVCu and other plastic piping, expanding its operational capacity as well as increasing the efficiency and frequency of their collection service. Elixir Foundations forecasts that, over the next three years, this investment will help create 80 fulltime permanent positions. Founder Ben Donnelly said: “We are delighted to have won this stage of Big Venture Challenge, as we were competing against some of the best social businesses in the UK. “We were chosen to be among the 25 for our commerciallydriven business model that makes positive changes in society and to the environment.”


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NEWS

BUSINESS MATTERS

All political parties have a responsibility to be pro-business – Jack Stopforth addresses the BITC event, in Liverpool Picture: ANDREW TEEBAY

With Andy Parker, North West corporate finance partner at PwC Rise of cross-border M&A AS THE UK continues to emerge from recession, confidence remains fragile. However, this may present an opportunity for business leaders who are prepared to look beyond our regional and national mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity. During the past two years, many companies have strengthened their balance sheets through a combination of fund raisings, financial and operational restructurings, and careful management of expenditure; to the point where some now have significant cash resources. While shareholders may demand the return of cash, CEOs are naturally driven by a desire for growth. The challenge they face is how to achieve this within a sluggish economic environment.

Foreign investors are increasingly looking to the UK for opportunities. Trade acquirers with strong balance sheets have emerged as serious competition in transactions of all sizes. Corporates are returning to acquisitions to help deliver their growth plans, and by factoring in favourable exchange rates and the opportunity to de-risk by expanding into Western Europe, they are very credible purchasers. Increases in global trade, coupled with the relative weakness of sterling, can make UK companies appear attractively priced. For example, our Corporate Finance team recently advised the Danish group, Hempel, on its acquisition of Crown Paints.

‘Emerging markets will dominate the next M&A cycle’

Strategy for growth Pursuit of an international M&A strategy can generate growth, diversify market risks and consequently stave off demands to return cash. Despite the total number of deals globally falling in the first half of 2011, the number of cross-border deals increased by 11% (Source: Thomson Reuters SDC). This is not surprising – why would a UK corporate choose to acquire within its low growth domestic market, if it can secure alternative targets within the higher growth economies of, say, Asia or South America? This year, for the first time, deals in emerging markets account for in excess of 25% of global M&A activity. Emerging markets look set to dominate the next M&A cycle. Global view Attractive M&A opportunities are not limited to investments abroad.

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Quality for sale Recessions prompt a sharp focus on quality – it is clear to investors which businesses have intrinsic strength and which have ridden the wave of buoyant conditions. Quality businesses that have demonstrated resilience, and even growth, throughout the last recession can command high prices, with transactions being completed at pre-credit crunch levels of earnings multiples – particularly where competitive tension can be created among a pool of international bidders. The increasing importance of international corporates is changing the way businesses are sold. Relationships with a truly global buyer population are essential. More tailored processes, meeting local cultural demands, and a deep understanding of the value an asset creates for the buyer’s business, are critical in maximising value and overcoming the fragility of global confidence. ■ VISIT www.pwc. co.uk/ north – Tel: 0151 227 4242

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Businesses ‘are socially aware’

Liverpool Chamber CEO hits back at Labour leader MERSEYSIDE firms have it “in their DNA” to be communityfocused, the chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce has claimed. Speaking at a Business in the Community (BITC) event, at Liverpool’s BT Convention Centre, Jack Stopforth was scathing about comments made by Labour leader Ed Miliband at the same venue just weeks before. In his party conference speech, seen by some as being anti-business, Mr Miliband attacked what he called “predatory” firms, accusing them of “asset-stripping”. Mr Stopforth was one of those unimpressed by the comments and said that, particularly in times of economic strife, it was vital politicians were firmly behind the private sector. He branded Mr Miliband’s comments “irresponsible”. He added: “All political parties have a responsibility to be pro-business. “It is all about recognising that, if we don’t have successful

businesses, then we don’t have a successful society.” The event – Transforming Business, Transforming Communities – was organised by BITC, in partnership with Liverpool Football Club. Its aim was to highlight the role businesses can play in transforming the communities in which they are based and how “effective community engagement” can also transform their business for the better. Gary Adlen, who heads up Liverpool FC’s community foundation, talked about the many community projects the club is involved in, and Merseytravel chief executive Neil Scales spoke about the transport authority’s apprenticeship programme. Mr Stopforth said businesses across the city region had a proud track record of engaging with their communities. “Most Liverpool businesses are very community-focused – it is in their DNA,” he added. “Business does have a social role to play. Society now expects more

from us than just the simple pursuit of wealth. “What we need to do is challenge the perception that community engagement is just about good PR. “It is not about business going out of its way to benefit society – business is part of society. “Community engagement is about more than just giving money to good causes.” Mr Stopforth also urged organisations in the charity and voluntary sectors to become “more businesslike” in their approach. “The more they engage with businesses and the businesses debate, the better,” he said. He also said that treating staff well and encouraging their development needed to be an integral part of any company’s social engagement strategy. He added: “The way an organisation treats its people is very important. “We pass on a wider social benefit to the community when we help people to develop their skills. “We give them skills that are transferable.”


ADVERTISING FEATURE

Success for software firm Collabco launches specialist Hub product – thanks to support from Stepclever

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 has been supported by Stepclever. COLLABCO Software was founded in 2005, originally as a typical consulting services business, when managing director Brendan Nel's second son was born. “It's been a passion since I graduated to run my own business; it just felt right!” said Brendan, when asked why he started the company. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength as it grew the in-house development

team and turned into a software development house delivering innovative Microsoft solutions, as a certified partner of Microsoft. Collabco Software specialises in development and implementation of Microsoft technologies like Dynamics CRM, SharePoint and mobile applications, and has now launched its Hub & Hub mobile product across the country, delivering to further education colleges and universities. Its plans this academic year include an Academy and primary school version of the application, embracing the changing needs of the education sector. With the Hub, it’s easy for students to connect with their academic institutions and to be productive. Hub Mobile is all about putting the information that students need into the palm of their hand, whenever or wherever they need it, and is designed to solve the problems students encounter every day. Brendan said: “We’re in an

exciting time where students expect more from their institutions. Our products focus on creating a unique customer experience for students and improve the overall learning journey. As it’s based on Microsoft technologies, institutions can benefit from their academic agreements and engage with their students in a way they want to be engaged with.” “With the help of Stepclever and their business advisor, we’ve sky-rocketed over the last two years: we’ve secured two grants worth £40k that have been fundamental in helping us grow the company. I would recommend any business owner to speak to Stepclever as their business knowledge and experience is varied, and their dedication to assisting growing companies in the region is remarkable.” ■ FOR more information about Collabco Software, visit www.collabco.co.uk or call 0845 0507 380.

We’ve sky-rocketed over the last two years – Brendan Nel, the managing director of Collabco Software

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THE BIG FEATURE

Shop to drop

Pinning hopes on a Christmas rush to add some sparkle to a challenging year – the Metquarter, in Liverpool city centre

BY PETER ELSON

▲ ▲

The depth of the recession is nowhere more obvious than in the retail sector. So how is it performing in the run-up to Christmas, which is traditionallythemostlucrativetimeoftheyear?

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THE BIG FEATURE CONTINUED FROM PAGE 9 MONG all the current economic chaos, the most visible sign of the downturn is in retail. Step outside your home, and you cannot help but notice the closing down sales and empty units that result from consumers putting their hands in their pockets – and keeping them there. Consumers remain under pressure with months of inflation outpacing wage growth, the economy stagnating and unemployment rising again. Among the retailing survivors, some Liverpool shop owners say their takings are half what they were a year ago. Yet there is still optimism, tempered with a strong dose of realism on the high street. As Isabella Miller, John Lewis’s former Liverpool store managing director told me: “If you’re in retail, you’ve got to be an optimist.” However, that key word of the business community, “challenging”, is once more to the fore, and in such prominence that it threatens to supplant “unique”, “iconic” and “it’s banned by health and safety” as the most frequently used words. Yet “challenging” can express an infinite variety of meanings from the obvious dictionary definition, right through to “We’re all doomed” in the Private Fraser of Dad’s Army sense. But retailers, like the bankers (or rather because of the bankers), are not pretending that the next year is going to be any better than flat-lining. They are now hunkered down for what they regard as a couple more years of heads above water. It is commonly felt the UK is only halfway through the recession, with two years to go. This is highlighted by the evidence that, after facing serious issues over the last few years, UK retail sales saw their worst performance for 16 months in September. The fact that many shopping centre managers refused face-toface interviews for this feature and instead preferred to submit bland statements, speaks volumes about the slump. With the fourth quarter so vital to retailers’ health in the run-up to Christmas, what should be the “golden quarter” for the retail sector is rapidly becoming a “challenging” one, said Phil Duffy, partner at MCR corporate restructuring company. “Retailers are faced with a triple whammy at the beginning of October,” said Mr Duffy. “Not only are they facing the quarterly rental demands on October 1, but also quarterly VAT returns on October 7. “Added to this combustible mix, many retailers must start paying suppliers before Christmas. “With declining spending by consumers and fears of a poor Christmas, retailers are under real pressure to maintain positive cashflow when there are so many financial demands on them. “News that Alexon is seeking a pre-pack sale to Sun Capital, as it can't pay its suppliers for Christmas stock, evidences this.” For the first time, the major retail centres in Liverpool are staging a joint initiative to market Christmas shopping. Under the title “It’s Liverpool”

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Chris Bliss, Liverpool One estate director, believes the different elements of the city’s retail sector need a united message competing complexes such as Liverpool One, Metquarter, Cavern Walks and St John’s Centre have combined their offers in a single brochure. A million copies of the It’s Liverpool brochure have been printed, instead of the three separately-produced editions last year and the four different ones in 2009. “The concept is to go out with a strong, single message. The public sees no particular division between the different retail areas, so we should play to that image,” said Chris Bliss, Liverpool One estate director. Ian Ward, St John’s Centre and Clayton Square director, added: “It’s fantastic that retail teams are

coming together for the first time and we present a united Christmas retail offer.” All absolutely vital as the recession affects even flagship complexes like Liverpool One. “The last couple of months have been quite a challenge,” said Mr Bliss. “We’ve not seen the growth we were used to, even at the beginning of the year or back of last year. “We’ll be watching the first quarter of next year. It will be a breath-holding, really tough period, with maybe more retailers going into administration. “Next year will be flat, or at best marginal economic growth for 12 months, in which we all

have to hang on tightly to just get through it. Hopefully, a recovery will start in 2013. “The recession has hit consumer spending later than in the banking, property and industry sector. It’s only now that the local authority and public sector cuts are being felt. “Thankfully, the last few weeks have seen a bounce back up. In week 39, we had the Labour Party Conference close by at the BT Convention Centre and an 8.3% rise week-on-week and 9.5%rise compared to year on year. “Yet week 40 was up 7.3% week-on-week, which was up 9.9% year-on-year, so you could ask what the Labour Conference did

for us – unless the delegates are still lost in Liverpool One!” There is a sign of people spreading Christmas shopping over two months’ salaries. Research shows Liverpool One is established as a destination shopping centre, with 25% of its core catchment area more than 45 minutes’ drive away. “We have lost a few businesses, with a turnover of 12-14 units during the last year. Interestingly, a new type of retailer has emerged, such as Lego, Pulp and Dr Martins, which interact with the internet,” said Mr Bliss. Harvey Nichols’s Food Store has quietly set up shop and is doing well, in spite of the its owners having decided not to open a main


THE BIG FEATURE

BID to be a better city for shoppers

Business Improvement District pays dividends

QUIETLY working under the public radar is a body which has done much to shape Liverpool’s revival as a shopping destination. Set up in 2003, the City Central Business Improvement District (BID) covers 61 streets. It represents more than 630 businesses and drives foot-fall in to the city centre in aspects like cleansing, environment, events and safety. It also funds initiatives including the Mystery Shopper survey, radio alert scheme, the UK’s first privately paid for police station (in St John’s Centre) and Bold Street Festival. Ged Gibbons, BID chief executive, said: “At first, the cost of joining BID put off retailers who could not see the benefits. “Now we’ve got the Bold Street Festival, it’s made a huge difference to foot-fall and won a lot of hearts.” BID has also created a Liverpool storekeepers group to bring together the leading players. For the first time, there is a city retail strategy. “Being in the group means competitors come together. Liverpool One has to think more about how it exists in the city,” said Mr Gibbons. Merepark, the developer of the £200m Central Village, on the old Central station site, by Bold Street, due to open in 2013, wants membership. “Central Village faces the recession, but is not being scaled down like others elsewhere,” he said. Ahead of its opening, businesses are moving nearby. Central Station now has a WH Smith and e-casino occupies the former Everton store, empty for three years. “That shows confidence, as some people thought we’d lie

store on Hanover Street in a 60,000sq ft building, which is now occupied by The Home Quarter. House of Fraser’s new Liverpool One unit is involved with this retail change with its click and collect service. Located in the fomer Ollie & Nic unit, it only has 1,500sq ft of shopfloor, said Mr Bliss. “At House of Fraser, you can order online by 3pm and have it delivered by 9am the next day. “This new concept is based on quality dressing rooms, a concierge service and little or no stock visible.” The biggest high-profile casualty at Liverpool One was Habitat, which no sooner moved into a very visible store unit than

the group shut down: “It’s a shame as it was such a big name brand, and finding tenants for such a large space are difficult to find,” said Mr Bliss. “We’re pleased to say that Bents will be back with its Christmas store. Homeware retailing is on its knees, as shoppers regard this as discretionary spending. “The Home Quarter, on Hanover Street, has brought wonderful brands to the city and luckily is here for the long-haul. “The concept and offer are great, but it needs time to find a customer base and the owners are giving it their best shot. “Overall, we’re the only UK shopping centre showing growth year-on-year. We’re in such a good

geographical position, being integrated into the city. Our tenants are all in the top 25% of UK retail trading.” Liverpool One is in a strong enough position to guard its image, and has just bought a £20m block on Paradise and Lord Streets from Land Securities. “If the area on our periphery looks shabby, then that reflects on us,” said Mr Bliss. “Our retail offer is now so good, coupled with events programmes like that leading up to Christmas, with the The Big Sing and a celebrity launch on November 9. “The Piano Festival was such a hit, it will be back next summer. “Our main concern is now keeping retailers afloat during the

Ged Gibbons – claims BID has won over the doubters down in a darkened room after Capital of Culture in 2008, but we cracked on,” said Mr Gibbons. “We have a level of support and influence from the private sector unimaginable in the past. Although the council can’t afford to do things now, they will happen. “All our members know, it’s tough, but shop vacancies are just under 10%, whereas the national average is 15-15%. After a series of closures, new shops are opening in the Metquarter like Patisserie Valerie, he said. “With our city centre Mystery Shopper survey, every retailer has the chance for one-on-one feedback and training,” said Mr Gibbons. “In spite of the notion of Scousers being over-attentive,

first two quarters of next year. But I think Liverpool has a fantastic future ahead. We must get the cruise turnaround sorted out for the Pier Head. “That will make such a difference to the city, not only for visitors who certainly do spend here, but to create a cascade effect of contracts for jobs and services in the local economy. “The Olympic Flame event will help in 2012, as will the Titanic commemorations like the Sea Odyssey hi-tech street theatre in the second quarter.” Dan Cooke, who has replaced Isabella Miller as John Lewis Liverpool One store managing director, said: “We predicted at the start of 2011 that this year

we found that one-in-two sales are walking out of the door without a follow-up. “Utility lifestyle shop, in Bold Street, was the first retailer to take advantage of staff training and had record sales last Christmas. “This is all about filling tills at a time when internet shopping has bitten into the high street and retailers are facing recession. Marks & Spencer is doing very well. Primark is second only to London Oxford Street’s store in sales. “The city’s done exceptionally well promoting itself as a tourist destination, but retail has yet to catch up. “We must promote to the 90-minute drive catchment area. The North West should be our back yard, and we want to help make it happen.”

would see tough trading conditions for retailers, as customers responded to a tighter economic environment and cuts in public spending. “Our customers are thinking more carefully about how they spend their money, which is why we are working harder than ever. “Christmas is a hugely important time for us and we are set to provide customers with a ‘one stop shop’.” Mr Cooke denied the store’s famous Never Knowingly Undersold promise was an economic albatross. “It will be a huge attraction for John Lewis customers, leaving us confident as we approach this key trading period,” he said.

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THE BIG FEATURE

Purpose-built designer outlet, Cheshire Oaks, offers discounts on many high street brands which it hopes will continue to give it an edge throughout the

Oaks aims to be evergreen Designer discount outlet is an all-year round business which makes it less reliant on festive CHESHIRE Oaks Designer Outlet is the UK's largest outlet centre, with 145 stores. It was, at one time, the largest of its kind in Europe. Unlike most shopping complexes or high streets, it regards its business as one which runs equally around the year, not as dependent on specific seasons such as Christmas. Located in the village of Little Stanney, near Ellesmere Port, in Cheshire, part of its appeal to the long-distance leisure shopper is the close proximity to Junction 10 of the M53 and other attractions. Owned by McArthurGlen, it features a wide range of discount outlet stores run by large brands. These include Levi's, Burberry, Calvin Klein Jeans, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike Factory Store and GAP. It is a large local employer with

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its own JobCentre Plus and Retail Training Academy. There is an adjacent leisure park, the Coliseum, with restaurants, bowling alley, cinema and night club. Nearby amenities are the Blue Planet Aquarium, a David Lloyd Leisure club, Cheshire Oaks Business Park and sports car dealerships. Colin Wilding, UK country manager for McArthurGlen, said its somewhat different retail offer meant that it was a constant 52-week, all-year offer. McArthurGlen runs 21 European outlets like this, selling a combination of product offers: clearance items, last season ranges and stock from elsewhere discounted by at least 30% on retail prices. “With the economy depressed as it is, and disposable income

dropping, a discount outlet retail site like Cheshire Oaks is even more attractive,” said Mr Wilding. “However, nowhere is recession-proof, and we’re all having to work harder for our dollar, so a discount is a good value offer and our baseline is very compelling. “We’re trading ahead of the high street average by some margin, but we’re not complacent and always looking at our product range. “For example, for Christmas, we’re improving our gift offer alongside clothing. “But there is confidence around to open new stores and we’re adding six new brands. “With our strong performance we find brands like Armani, Reiss and Mamma & Papas want to come.” Although the site was expanded

to 150 units a year ago, currently there is only one vacancy. “We have to foresee what the customer is looking for. Our clientele come from up to 90 drive minutes away, ranging from Stoke, east Manchester and North Wales, so they are spending good money to get here. “That means we must provide a compelling retail destination, with shop fit-out matching the high street and which also has a good catering and leisure offer.” So how is retail doing farther up east Wirral? West Wirral always leans to Chester, while east Wirral inevitably looks to Birkenhead as the bastion of local commerce. So it is important the town does well, for the good of Wirral. The recent trend in Birkenhead has been the large number of discount stores and other mid and

downmarket outlets, leaving only Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser (formerly Beatties) offering more upmarket goods. This makes it an outstandingly good shopping centre for those on low budgets, which applies to many local residents. But with a lack of critical mass of higher brand shops, it lacks appeal to more affluent shoppers. There is no doubt that Birkenhead has taken a knock from Liverpool One. There is only so much retail cake to go round, and, in a recession, any new attraction means someone will suffer. This applies to a big modern centre like Birkenhead’s Grange and Pyramids Shopping Centre. But Derek Millar, Grange and Pyramids Shopping Centre commercial manager, remains stoic: “The centres enjoyed a very


THE BIG FEATURE

Liverpool nose for a good bargain boosts St John’s

Long-established shopping centre continues to increase foot-fall

‘challenging’ recession period

site season trade busy summer period, with foot-fall for the last week up 1% year-on-year. “The town centre is likely to get a further boost in trade with new customers coming in, following the opening of the Asda superstore next month. “Card Factory chose to commit for a new larger unit for a further 10-year term, while Linen Warehouse made the decision to upsize and Wimpy signed for a further five years. “We have also welcomed new stores, including independent video game retailer Grainger Games, hearing specialist Amplifon, and fashion retailer Attic. “With on-going interest being shown in the centre from a range of retailers, we hope to announce more new names in the coming weeks.”

LOYALTY and the consumer’s nose for a bargain have stood Land Securities’ Liverpool city centre retail investments in good stead. Ian Ward, St John’s Centre and Clayton Square director, said he was “quite happy where we are going” with foot-fall at St John’s up 2.7% on last year and only two out of 100 units empty. “We’re showing growth in many areas and have a couple of deals going through to open new units, which is a good message with so much gloom and doom around,” said Mr Ward. “It’s quite clear from what I see on our malls that people are looking after the pennies and shopping around to for the best value they can get. “I don’t think that’s going to change. Christmas seems to get later and later each year. Christmas Eve falls on a Saturday so it’ll probably be a busy last week before. “Even as a lower brand shopping centre, St John’s felt the impact of Liverpool One opening, but it’s levelled out now. “About 87% of our customers arrive by bus and will come to our independent retailers knowing goods are cheaper here than in big high stree stores.” St John’s, opened in 1969 is 320,000sq ft (100 retail units with only two empty) and Clayton Square, dating from 1989 is 169,000sq ft (30 units) are two of Land Securities’ 18 UK shopping centres. The company has two joint ventures with the City Centre Business Improvement District (BID). Last month St John’s opened a Shopmobility Service (which co-operates with Liverpool One’s unit) loaning free electric scooters. Thanks to the partnership with BID, The Cop Shop police station initiative has cost £50,000 less. “Liverpool is a quirky, special sort of place which is a the fifth biggest UK shopping city,” said Mr Ward. “That’s not been achieved by chance, but through a lot of hard work. “Miltons jewellers in St John’s has scored 100% in BID’s Mystery Shopper survey for the last two years which proves how much effort has been put in.” Cavern Walks Shopping Centre gets a boost from the sheer number of Beatle fans visiting Liverpool’s Mathew Street Quarter.

Ian Ward, Land Securities director of St John’s Centre and Clayton Square Stan Yarker, Cavern Walks manager, said: “Liverpool is one of the UK’s fastest growing economies and Cavern Walks’ mixed-use offering has benefited from this. “The leisure clubs have enjoyed busy trading levels with Cavern Club experiencing an increase in visitors and their sales figures are up year-on-year. “Despite a more challenging national retail market, designer fashion stores Cricket, Kids Cavern and Vivienne Westwood have held their own.” While Cavern Walks has only one empty unit, the Metquarter currently has about a dozen. While putting on a brave face, this designer retail complex has been most badly affected by Liverpool One’s similar. Backed by Grosvenor developments huge financial muscle, Liverpool One is a far bigger offer which has also moved Liverpool’s retail centre further away.

As we go to press, a dozen units lie empty in this once thriving centre. However it has lured three new brands in - cult fashion and homeware Jack Wills, beauty brand Illamasqua and an as-yet unnamed leading Italian restaurant. Jennina O’Neill, Metquarter centre manager, said: “This is an incredible development of regeneration for Metquarter and great for Liverpool. “The nature of the high quality brands that we have secured means visitors will enjoy a completely new experience at the centre. “These brands were not previously available here and the fact they chose to base themselves at Metquarter is a huge endorsement for us. “Their success elsewhere in the UK means we know that they will have a big impact on ourfootfall.

Liverpool One helps to buoy up the rest of the city CRITICS say that Liverpool One has siphoned off retail business from the city centre and Merseyside. But support for the highly popular shopping centre has come from an unexpected quarter. David Legat, surveyor at commercial property agent Mason Owen, said: “Liverpool One has helped the city weather the economic storm. “In no more apparent a way than its unexpectedly

positive impact on Church Street, helping Liverpool to maintain a buoyant traditional high street. “Liverpool One itself is performing well, with its boutique streets such as Keys Court and St Peter’s Walk now reaching full occupancy, to match its main streets of Paradise and South John Streets. “The traditional shopping streets are holding their own, but coping with varying success.

“Bold Street remains a vibrant and diverse shopping street with an assorted tenant mix, Renshaw Street is coming back to life with the re-letting of the former Rapid Building, and Hanover Street is ever improving with development of the new Premier Inn now under way.” Overall, the UK’s retail outlook has deteriorated. A Confederation of

British Industry survey of 74 retailers, between August 24 and September 14, showed 24% of retailers said sales volumes were higher in September than over the corresponding period last year, while 39% said they were lower. The three-month moving average of sales, which smoothes out volatility in the monthly figures, also declined to minus 11, the weakest reading since August, 2009.

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THE BIG FEATURE

CENTRAL VIEW With Ged Gibbons, chief executive of City Central BID

Southport’s famous Victorian Wayfarers Arcade gets dressed up for Christmas

Shopping for members

Sefton Chamber plots new synergy with retail sector SOUTHPORT could reinvent itself as a contemporary resort through the combined force of independent retailers and the Chamber of Commerce. That’s the view of Steve Dickson, Sefton Chamber of Commerce chief executive, who believes in mutual gains for both sides if more retailers take up Chamber membership. “The Chamber can be of big help to independent retailers with its distribution network, and we want to develop more products for the retail market,” said Mr Dickson. “We can help with matters like compliance and health and safety. “Brighton has reinvented itself as a south coast destination resort by retailers and Chamber co-operating. “Likewise, Southport has fantastic, specialist and independent retail outlets, and together we can help attract more customers. “Merseyside has a predominance of family businesses unable to grasp the IT revolution, and we want to help young people to become apprentices to share their skills.

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“Lord Street remains our jewel in the shopping crown. New stores have come in over the last 18 months, in spite of pressures on the high street and the economy. “We must emphasise its appeal. Inevitably, new retail complexes like Liverpool One and Trafford Centre have made an impact, but we have something different to offer. “This town has done a marvellous job over the last 12 years to build itself up with events like golf tournaments and the flower show, attractions, hotels, theatre and public realm improvements. “The Chamber also helps with mundane but important matters like more pay-on-exit parking, which we’re working on with the council.” The resort had a “bounce” on the back of the recession, as the “staycation” came into vogue over the last few years, he said. “We’ve done well with European visitors because of the exchange rate. Lord Street makes you feel like you are the Champs Elysee, which, of course, it inspired.

“I am proud of business people who developed the shops which give Southport its exclusive appeal.” One famous example is the Wayfarers Arcade, run by the Pedlar family since the 1920s. Opened in 1898, it is one of the North west’s oldest shopping centres. Of its 34 retail units, five are empty and, unlike bigger institutions, 10 years ago the owners started offering monthly rents. More than £2.5m has been invested in the last few years, including fixing the roof and installing a marble floor. “We’ve done well this summer with lots of tourists,” said Yvonne Burns, Arcade centre manager. “Everyone is having a tough time, but we work hard with fashion shows and Christmas events. “The ‘silver pound’ is more and more attractive as a market which is resilient. Our clientele stretches from Preston to North Wales, and we try and work as a team with the tenants to give people a reason to come to Wayfarers Arcade.”

IT IS a sign of the times that many of us in the city centre have already signed off our Christmas plans. Be it trees from Grizedale Forest to a brand new – and biggest ever – lighting scheme for the main retail area, by working more closely with our partners in the Council, Liverpool Vision, and Liverpool One, we’ve put together the most comprehensive Christmas programme the city has seen. The partners have also devised a jam-packed programme of quality events, which you’ll no doubt read and hear about over the coming weeks . . . including our very own Curious Garden, in Williamson Square. Encouragingly, the city’s Christmas market has made significant strides, too. All of this activity will be underpinned by the most joinedup PR and marketing Christmas campaign the city’s retail sector has undertaken. By pooling our resources, we’ve secured better deals for the city centre, without adding any pressure on already over-stretched budgets. In fact, in many areas it is costing us less. Partnerships and prudence – the way forward, perhaps? Talking of Williamson Square, there’s some welcome changes afoot, not least to the old Stoniers building, which is now the site of a multi-million pound redevelopment by M&S. With Forever 21 on Church Street and Central Village, this is another huge vote of confidence in the city centre by the private sector. Considering the current economic climate, it’s nothing less than astounding that £300m-worth of developments are taking place. Indeed, contrary to the national picture, vacancy rates and foot-fall are very healthy in the city centre. Take two quick examples:

Metquarter has just announced a hat-trick of new tenants and Liverpool Central Rail Station has outgrown its capacity! Now this latter one presents a challenge, as the station closes for six months after the awe-inspiring “Sea Odyssey” – the UK’s biggest public art event of 2012, which commemorates the centenary of the loss of the SS Titanic. Central Station will remain open as a shopping mall throughout the £20m refurbishment, creating a re-modelled platform and concourse area. Coincidentally, as the station closes, the first phase of Mere Park’s £200m Central Village will be completed, with the opening of a 500-space Q-Park behind Central Station. The gain is clear to see, but, to counter any short-term pain by Central Station’s closure, we’ve already begun meetings with Merseyrail, Merseytravel and other partners to find novel solutions. Watch this space, as they say. Liverpool has a great track record in this area, as we saw only recently with the launch of the singing bins in Mathew Street. As part of our partnership with Keep Britain Tidy, we’ve approached the age-old problem of litter in a slightly different way, by encouraging people to drop their litter in the bin and in return hearing “Thank you very much for binning your litter,” sung by Mike McCartney, to the tune of the old Scaffold hit – and it has gone down really well! This is the start of a much wider “Love Where You Live” campaign, which starts in mid-November, with the key message being “It’s Your Liverpool – Love It!” After all, as a united and joined-up Liverpool, working together in partnership, there is so much more we can achieve.

‘We’ve put together the city’s best Christmas programme ever’

■ IN ASSOCIATION with City Central BID


NEWE DAT

SATURDAY 3RD DECEMBER 2011

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ADVERTISING FEATURE

Christmas Wrapped up Enjoy festive dining in Wales FOR scrumptious festive fare, why not give Ruthin Castle a visit this Yuletide? Ruthin Castle offers a choice of festive dining experiences where you can enjoy a splendid mix of traditional and contemporary cuisine. For example, Bertie’s Restaurant offers white linen and a fine dining experience and with prestigious accolades including AA 2 Rosettes for outstanding food and service. Chef Darren Shenton-Morris and his team specialise in sourcing superior quality, fresh, regional produce to ensure your tastebuds are truly satisfied. If you’re after something a little more informal, or dining as a group, why not try the Peacock Room?

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THE BIG INTERVIEW

Motoring ahead BY ALISTAIR HOUGHTON

▲ ▲

General General Motors’ Motors’ European European president, president, Nick Nick Reilly, Reilly, on on how how he he brought brought Vauxhall Vauxhall back back from from the the brink brink and and secured secured the the future future of of its its Ellesmere Ellesmere Port Port plant plant 18


THE BIG INTERVIEW . . . NICK REILLY HE Royal Automobile Club is a temple to the history of the car. But Nick Reilly is a man looking to the future. In 2009, Reilly, a General Motors (GM) veteran and former manager of its Ellesmere Port plant, was asked to take over GM’s European operations in the middle of the biggest crisis to hit the motor industry in decades. Plunging sales had forced GM into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US, and the company was set to sell its European arm as it battled to survive. At the last moment, the sale was called off. But the problems facing the company had not gone away, and Reilly had to launch a major restructuring plan that saw the closure of a factory. As well as cutting costs, however, Reilly insisted that GM Europe invested for the future. That investment has borne fruit, in the shape of the newgeneration Opel and Vauxhall Astra. The sports tourer version of the car, built at Ellesmere Port, has been a global hit. GM is now looking to take a bite of the growing electric car market, with its Ampera model, and is already planning its next generation of cars. Despite all the turmoil in the global car market, Ellesmere Port has survived to thrive anew. The plant’s success at building the new-generation Astra has made it a shining star in the GM firmament, while it is in pole position to be chosen as the European home of the Ampera electric car. I met Reilly at the Royal Automobile Club, a grand old club just round the corner from St James’s Palace. Welshman Reilly spends much of his time in Germany, with regular visits to GM’s Detroit base and occasional visits to the UK. He may not visit Cheshire as often as he once did but, as we spoke in one of the club’s grand meeting rooms, his pride in his old Ellesmere Port plant still shone bright. “It’s one of our best plants anywhere in terms of productivity, in terms of quality and in terms of continuous improvement,” he said. “We’re edging up the line rates without adding a lot of extra cost. It’s not just engineers doing that – it’s everybody at the plant coming up with ideas about how to improve their business. “We have very good warranty rates with cars coming out of Ellesmere Port. It’s a sign of the quality. “A large proportion of production at Ellesmere Port is for export. It does well in the UK, but the sports tourer is particularly popular in places like Germany. “Europe has been through a pretty major restructuring quite recently. It involved the closure of a plant in Belgium. “But, in this world of downsizing, what happens is Ellesmere Port actually grows. It never would have done that, had the performance not been what it was.” Reilly, originally from Anglesey, joined General Motors in 1975 at the Detroit Diesel Allison Division. He worked in Belgium, the US and Mexico before joining Vauxhall in the UK, becoming a director of that company in 1986.

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Nick Reilly, pictured visiting Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant last year, managed the Cheshire site for four years In 1990, Reilly was appointed director of operations at Ellesmere Port. While he looks back fondly on his time there, he points out that then, as now, the car market was suffering in a tough economic climate. “I was there at a very challenging time,” he said. “That was the time when everybody got the message that there were no guarantees in this life. There was a risk to the plant. “The market was quite weak. We had down days when we weren’t producing, so during those down days we introduced training sessions for every employee in the plant about what we could do for our future and how we could improve our productivity. “We introduced cross training, so that people didn’t just work on one job. They worked on several, both in skilled trades and assembly. “We paid a little bit more money for the greater flexibility that the individual could have.

That was completely new. We took advantage of the lower production because the markets were weak. We totally changed the attitude of the plant.” The plant’s senior staff, including Reilly, got stuck in on the production line to show their commitment to the plant. He said: “We spent time on the line, to understand if we could come up with any ideas as to how it could be improved, but also to demonstrate that we believed that the most important part of the plant was where the cars came together. “I was assembling the doors. I became good friends with some of the guys.” To make changes to the plant, Reilly had to get the unions on board. Among the union leaders was Tony Woodley, later joint general secretary of Unite and a man with whom Reilly has negotiated many times over the years. “In order to get the union’s attention and support,” said

Reilly, “we guaranteed that anybody who lost their job if their job was eliminated, due to productivity improvements, wouldn’t lose their employment. We stuck to that. Eventually, as volumes went up, we could use all those people that we had. “Nobody lost their job as a result of productivity improvements in their own team. If a team had 10 people and we found it could do better with nine, the 10th person was given another job elsewhere. “It was a very interesting time, and I really enjoyed it. I gained many friends from that time that are still friends today, in particular union people I worked with.” Asked about his relationship with Woodley, Reilly smiled. “I sat across the table from him a few times,” he said, “sometimes in very difficult times. “But I think there was a respect both ways, and a realisation that these negotiations aren’t personal.

“We both have responsibilities. I respect him and what he’s trying to do, and he respects me. We had some interesting discussions – some that got quite heated. “But I had a good relationship with him. It definitely helped later when I came back with various responsibilities.” Just this year, for example, Reilly and Woodley’s paths crossed again when GM and Renault were deciding whether Vauxhall’s Luton plant would be given the chance to build the nextgeneration Vivaro van. In March, it was announced that Luton would build the van, securing 1,500 jobs. GM said the move proved the Luton site still had an “important role” in its manufacturing network. “Tony Woodley and I worked very well together on that,” said Reilly. In 1994, Reilly became vicepresident of quality and reliability for GM Europe in

CONTINUED ON PAGE 20

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THE BIG INTERVIEW . . . NICK REILLY CONTINUED FROM PAGE 19 Zurich. Two years later, he came back to the UK as chairman and managing director of Vauxhall, becoming a vice-president of GM in 1997. In 2001, he returned to Zurich before, in October, 2002, he was named president of GM’s Asian arm. And there he stayed until 2009, when the global economic crisis hit the car market with a vengeance. “It was very, very bad,” he said, with polite understatement. “The US business just ran out of cash. It had to go through Chapter 11 bankruptcy. “The US government supported GM and Chrysler. But one of their rules was ‘we’ll support you, but you’re not going to take any of this money out of the US, because this is US taxpayers’ money’. “What that meant outside the US was we had to run the businesses with no support from the parent company financially. “In Asia, we were looking at significant investment in India and Thailand. We couldn’t get any financial support right in the middle of that investment. We had to find money from some external source or else. “In the end, we found finance. That’s great, because they’re now good businesses.” GM’s board decided it had to sell its European arm. In September, 2009, it agreed to sell a majority stake to a consortium led by Canadian auto group Magna and backed by Russian bank Sberbank. Reilly was not directly involved in the negotiations with Magna, but as a GM board member was regularly briefed on the progress of discussions. “It became a case of how do we get the best deal for Opel Vauxhall,” he said, “and being sure that they didn’t just effectively end up closing it.” The Magna deal won the backing of European governments and unions. But Reilly says he never believed the sale was a good idea, “particularly given what’s happened to the car market since.” “It’s remained weak,” he added. “The chances of it being successful would have been pretty low.” The company, Reilly said, would have struggled as a standalone car maker without the backing of GM. And, in November, GM decided to abandon the sale and retain Opel and Vauxhall. And that’s when Reilly got the call from General Motors chief executive Fritz Henderson. Reilly was already familiar with Europe, and was a safe pair of hands who could get GM Europe back on track. Reilly says he took three key decisions – “not in any particular order,” he stressed – to turn the company around. He said: “The first thing I found was that the whole organisation had been marching in this direction thinking that they’d become part of Magna/Sberbank. Suddenly they were heading 180° the other way. They’re back with GM. “To some extent, the management team had become a bit dysfunctional in those circumstances. Nobody knew what their future was. So I had to put a senior team together.” Next, Reilly had to cut costs,

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closing the Antwerp plant and shedding thousands of jobs. “To reduce costs, we had to go through a significant restructuring,” he said. “That meant major negotiations with the unions. “If we had had Chapter 11 bankruptcy procedures in Europe as we did in the US, we could have said ‘this is what we’re going to do, sorry’. But we had to negotiate on every single job.” Asked directly if the company had considered shutting Ellesmere Port, he said simply: “When we were putting the plan together, we were looking at all sorts of different permutations in terms of taking 20% out. “Every plant was looked at at some stage. I don’t want to go any further than that.” Unsurprisingly, there was

strong opposition to job losses and the closure of the Antwerp plant. But, eventually, the negotiations with unions bore fruit. “It took longer than I would have hoped,” said Reilly, “but in the end we went through this huge restructuring without effectively losing any time through strikes or lost production. “We’d assumed a pretty big financial loss through strikes at our plants. One reason we’re ahead of plan is that we didn’t get that. “It took a lot of my time. There was zero trust to start with. Relationships were pretty bad. “The German unions had given their support to the sale to Magna. It took them quite a bit of time even to accept that, yes, we’re part of GM.”

Finally, Reilly had to look at how the company could grow. “We needed to restructure,” he said. “But we also needed the other part of our plan, which was how to improve our top line. “We kept a pretty ambitious vision for new products – 11bn euros over a 4½-year period. We’re keeping up our investment, and we’re benefiting from that now. “The products coming out now are because we stepped up the investment in products. “You cannot just cost-cut to survive. Yes, cost-cutting was important. But we needed to have confidence in our portfolio.” As it restructured, GM Europe needed hundreds of millions of euros in funding. So it began asking European governments for support.

The British government was, said Reilly, very willing to back GM, offering £270m in loan guarantees. But Germany – where most of GM Europe’s operations are based – was slower to respond. “The British Government was the first to confirm it was supporting the company,” said Reilly. “Spain came next. “The German government was very slow. It was quite difficult. That went on for several months. “At that point, we were making real progress with union negotiations. That lack of funding was a big dark cloud over us.” But, by that point, GM in the US was starting its recovery. So, last June, Reilly decided on a new strategy – that GM should bypass government funding and use its own growing reserves to fund the restructuring. The board agreed.


THE BIG INTERVIEW . . . NICK REILLY Nick Reilly at the Royal Automobile Club, in London Picture: ANTHONY DEVLIN

“That was a hugely important time for the confidence of the company,” he said. “We were able to go back to the British and Spanish Governments and say ‘Thank you, but we don’t need your funding’. And to the German Government, we said ‘We withdraw our request’. That took a big cloud away. “We have been able to do that restructuring with less than half that funding. We’re through that peak funding period now. The board of directors is very happy with that.” From his base in Russelsheim, near Frankfurt, Reilly still keeps a close eye on Ellesmere Port. He is proud that it remains one of the North West’s biggest employers, and a beacon for the British car industry. But, he says, it could do still more for the

British economy if there were more component suppliers based in the country. “What we’d really like is a lot more components sourced around Ellesmere Port,” he said. “We are having to import too many components. That goes all the way back to the 80s and 90s when the UK lost a lot of its components industry. “Now the Government is trying to get it back. We have things like the Automotive Council trying to attract back component suppliers to the UK. That would make the success of the car even better, because it would generate more jobs in the UK. “So we are talking to the Government on how we get more component suppliers back in the country. We will definitely use them.”

Reilly and GM are already preparing for the next generation of Vauxhall and Opel cars. Unsurprisingly, he is not yet willing to give any details, but said that the company expected the demand for greener and lighter cars to keep growing. He added: “We’re building new engine series to improve CO² performance without losing acceleration. They’re the kind of engines we will have in our next generation of products.” Every car company looking to the future is looking to build electric cars. “They’d be crazy not to,” smiled Reilly. Consumers are demanding green products, and governments around the world are implementing anti-pollution legislation. That means the

market for electric vehicles is set to grow. Reilly says Western car makers need to invest in green technology so they are not overtaken by Asian rivals. “If you look at Asia,” he said, “they are investing billions of dollars every year in this technology because there’s a real need. If you look at Shanghai and Beijing, they are pretty polluted cities. I can see them banning normal internal combustionengined cars in the not too distant future. “They’re developing cars for their own needs. “The costs will come down and the technology will improve, and they’ll be ready to take on the European market. We must keep up. “Governments are getting to

understand that now. We are investing heavily, and governments are going to support this.” General Motors is now pinning its hopes on its electric car, the Ampera. The car is already being built in the US, where it is sold under the Volt name. It will be imported into the UK this year. “It’s been winning awards and will keep winning awards,” said Reilly. “It’s a unique concept. “The Ampera is a very important product for us.” If sales in Europe are encouraging, then GM will start building the car in Europe – though that could be years away. The company has not yet decided where in Europe the Ampera would be built. The most likely candidate is Ellesmere Port, thanks to its expertise in building the Astra. If the Ampera came to Cheshire, it would be good news not just for the local economy but for the whole country, as a sign that the UK is a global leader when it comes to electric vehicles. Reilly, however, is not giving Ellesmere Port reason to celebrate just yet. “The size of the vehicle is pretty similar to the type of vehicle that Ellesmere Port has been producing for a long time,” he said. “Secondly, the Government has recognised the benefit of this type of vehicle and is willing to put some sort of incentive behind it. “If the market for these cars is relatively big in the UK, we would want to produce it where the market is. There’s no point producing it somewhere where there’s zero interest and zero incentive. Ellesmere Port is a good candidate, but it’s not the only candidate.” As the world economy continues to wobble, Reilly has to inject a note of caution into our conversation. “Six months ago, I was more and more optimistic about the markets,” he said. “In April, we were forecasting a million more sales than we had been six months before. But, in the last couple of months, we reduced that by a couple of hundred thousand. “We’re still more optimistic than we were a year ago. But consumer confidence surveys are looking more negative.” The downturn is global, but some parts of the world are more upbeat than others. “Spain and Italy are still pretty weak,” said Reilly. “But France has been strong, and Russia is strong. “But my guess is as good as yours whether there’s going to be more eurozone crises. If there are, that’s going to affect us.” But, overall, the future for GM looks brighter than it has for some time. And Reilly, sitting in a room at his club, adorned with images of the proud past of the British auto industry, is proud of his role in saving Vauxhall and its Ellesmere Port site. He said: “It was a very difficult time for the whole industry, and for the economy around the world, but we have come through it. Now we’re moving to some quite good profits around the world, even here in Europe, where we haven’t made money for 10 years. “It’s looking a lot better for us.”

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COMMERCIAL PROPERTY The centre of gravity of Liverpool’s central business district has shifted to the Old Hall Street area of the city

City’s business district now o Liverpool city centre’s office core is still managing to secure major lettings – despite companies IN LESS than a decade, Liverpool’s central business district (CBD) has shifted several hundred yards to the north. Where Dale Street and Castle Street once formed the nucleus of the city’s office core, now the centre of gravity has shifted to the Old Hall Street area. This shift began in earnest in 2002 when construction work started on 142,000 sq ft of office space at 101 Old Hall Street. The scheme by developers Beetham and Ethel Austin Properties was located on the site of the former Paul’s Eye Hospital and also included the construction of the Beetham Tower and the Radisson Hotel. Partly thanks to the availability of cheap credit and European gap funding, a flurry of other projects

22

followed. These included Rumford’s high-rise 20 Chapel Street and the three-phase St Paul’s Square, which combined have brought something approaching 500,000 sq ft of Grade A office space to the local market. Providers of secondary space have also significantly raised the quality threshold. Downing paid insurer Royal & Sun Alliance a record £51m for its Old Hall Street headquarters, renamed it The Capital and has spent a further £15-£20m refurbishing it. It later secured the biggest letting in the history of the city, when it struck a deal with the UK Borders Agency for 220,000 sq ft of accommodation. UK Land and Pochin formed a joint venture to buy the Exchange

Flags complex, which had lain largely empty for 15 years. Manchester-based Bruntwood has been very busy in the city and now owns the 340,000 sq ft former Littlewoods headquarters and the Cotton Exchange complex just down the street, as well as a number of other buildings. In all, the company has around 750,000 sq ft of commercial space in the CBD. In recent weeks, businesses in the CBD have voted overwhelmingly to become part of a Business Improvement District (BID). Under the BID, each business will pay a levy on top of their business rates to fund improvements to the general environment and be a single voice to represent the interests of the

office core. David Guest, who heads up Bruntwood’s Liverpool operation, believes the CBD is now entering a new phase. He said: “The BID is fantastic because the next step is to be about more than just providing commercial space. “It is about adding value and giving a real voice to business.” Mr Guest dislikes the word “tenants” and prefers to refer to businesses in its properties as customers. He added: “The two key factors are price and quality. “If you don’t have the right product at the right price, then you are not even in the market. “We offer the full range from unrefurbished stock, in older buildings, aimed at businesses with just one or two people, right

up to top-quality refurbished space. “Once you have the quality and price right, then it is about who you are and how you act. “In the long term, people like to do business with people they like and that is why we will continue to be customer-focused. “Businesses are becoming a lot more savvy about value for money, so we have to be flexible and make sure we have the cash resources to give security to occupiers.” The campaign for BID status was led by Paul Rice, in his capacity as chief executive of the Liverpool Commercial District Partnership (LCDP). He now heads up the BID and is excited about what can be achieved.


COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

Paul Rice, who oversaw the successful campaign to set up a Business Improvement District

offers quality and low rents

s grappling with the toughest economic climate that Britain has experienced in decades He said: “Under LCDP, we were dependent on voluntary contributions from members, but now we have a guaranteed budget of at least £500,000 a year for the next five years. “We are still working through the fine details of what we want to do, but it is about giving real value to stakeholders. “Part of the work will be about housekeeping of the area – keeping it clean and tidy, making sure graffiti is removed quickly. “But our work will also be about promoting a greater understanding of what a great place this is to live and work. “We are doing a lot of work with Liverpool Vision to promote the business district to business people in the South East of England, not just telling them

about the available commercial space but also about the quality of life and the quality of the workforce. “There is a lot of scope for persuading businesses to relocate office functions from London to Liverpool. In the capital, they are paying three or four times the rent they would pay here. “Liverpool was always cheaper than other locations, and now we have the quality as well.” Mr Rice is eager to stress that, despite the shift in the CBD centre of gravity to Old Hall Street, the Castle Street area remains a key part of the overall offering. In September, a Latin American festival was held on the street which attracted large crowds. He added: “Events like that add a bit of colour. There is still a good

churn of deals around Castle Street – look, for example, at Medicash moving into One Derby Square. “What we are finally seeing in the area is property owners realising that they are having to raise their game with the quality of space they are offering. “Across the whole CBD, we really do have a high-value, highquality offer.” Despite the tough economic climate, the lettings market in the CBD appears to be holding up. Neil Kirkham, a partner at commercial agency Hitchcock Wright & Partners, said the market in 2011 had picked up after a slow start. “It was very slow in the first month, but since then things have got better and we may be looking

at lettings for the year totalling around 300,000 sq ft,” he added. “That is not too bad in the current environment.” This year’s figure will be boosted by law firm Weightmans, which is relocating from India Buildings, in Water Street, to Bruntwood’s Plaza, where it will occupy 94,000 sq ft. Mr Kirkham repeated an issue which is a concern among agents across the city – where will the Grade A space come from to satisfy future requirements. The amount of Grade A in the CBD is dwindling, and current market conditions means it is not viable for developers to build more, although companies like Bruntwood and Downing would insist the quality of their refurbished space can satisfy

most requirements. Mr Kirkham added: “The quantity on inquiries is clearly down. We have had some businesses who will sniff around for a few months to see what is out there, before then deciding to stay put. “What often drives deals is businesses who are expanding, and that is obviously happening a lot less at the moment. “What is left now are some genuinely serious requirements which have a good chance of turning into deals. “I think the city is coming towards a critical point, because the amount of supply is dwindling. The only significant Grade A space now is at 20 Chapel Street, and St Paul’s Square. “Slowly but surely, we are chipping away at the availability.”

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Dedicated to support business and enterprise...

Knowsley Chamber of Commerce Business Resource Centre Admin Road, Knowsley L33 7TX Telephone: (0151) 477 1356 Email: info@knowsleychamber.org.uk Visit us at: www.knowsleychamber.org.uk

24


ECONOMIC

DEVELOPMENT

Asian angle: Knowsley Safari Park boss David Ross leads a residents’ focus group meeting at Merseyside’s biggest paid-entry visitor attraction . . .

Why Knowsley knows best

Picture: MARTIN BIRCHALL

Is this the Merseyside borough most determined to set the template as best for business? CHINA. If there is one key word to Knowsley’s economic situation (apart from the inevitable “recession”), it is China. We are not talking about fine bone china, as doubtless used in afternoon tea ceremonies all over the borough, but the Far East economic global powerhouse. It shows just how much international trade networks have developed that a Merseyside borough can be affected by the vicissitudes of an economy on the far side of the world. Yet the expanding wealth of China’s merchant classes means that Land Rover’s second-biggest market is China – vehicles built in the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Halewood plant, in Knowsley.

But China’s rising inflation and currency fluctuations mean that it is becoming more viable to return manufacturing to the traditional UK centres, which lost their production to the Far East. Knowsley cushion king, Tony Caldeira, whose successful home textile company set up a manufacturing joint venture in China in 2004, is well versed in the impact on the borough. “Business is tough, primarily because of the high raw material costs, like cotton and polyester, during 2010-11, which reduced profit margins,” said Mr Caldeira, who founded and runs Caldeira UK, Caldeira USA and Fabric Warehouse. In spite of this profit squeeze,

Caldeira’s overall sales increased to £21m in 2010 – the 19th year of successive growth. “Overall, we’re doing much better than our competitors,” said Mr Caldeira, “but the inflated Chinese prices put pressure on our margins for Caldeira China, and made it difficult to get the profit we had in previous years. “The positive impact on Knowsley is it’s now more competitive to make cushions in our UK operation, and presently we have a full order book. “We’re recruiting staff in Knowsley right now, as we bring back work from China and expect to take on about 20.” Caldeira UK has 50 staff at its Knowsley headquarters, employed

in administration, management and manufacturing. “We kept the Knowsley factory open for last-minute orders and some more expensive items. “This gives us the opportunity to expand production and gradually we’re starting to compete on a level playing field with China, which will give huge potential to revive manufacturing in Knowsley and the North West. “Inflation is running in double figures in China’s coastal areas and globally we’re in difficult times, yet Knowsley is faring better than many areas. “When getting off the plane in China these days, you sense things are going in the opposite direction to what we expected.

“It fills me with pride to see so many Jaguar Land Rover vehicles driving around, which I know were made in Knowsley. “When we set up Caldeira China joint venture in 2004, Chinese machinists were paid about £50 a month, now their wages are £250-£300 a month. “By the time you’ve paid for freighting, packaging, duty and currency fluctuations, the total cost is beginning to make Chinese manufacturing less attractive. “If the current situation continues and Chinese prices increase, the global economy will become more balanced and the UK will make things again.”

■ CONTINUED ON PAGE 26

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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT KNOWSLEY

Changing economics means Knowsley cushion king Tony Caldeira is bringing some production back from China to the borough

■ CONTINUED FROM PAGE 25 Knowsley is a good place to do business because of its strong transport links, boxed in by motorways, with a keen, flexible, skilled workforce, he said. That road network and the overseas links play a part in another great Knowsley institution, but one that could hardly be more different from cushion manufacturing. Knowsley Safari Park, Merseyside’s top paid-for attraction with 500,000 visitors a year, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. “When petrol was cheaper we had visitors from as far as southern Scotland, Birmingham and Norfolk,” said David Ross, general manager. “It’s been a challenging year as fuel costs mean people think twice about coming and it’s a five mile

26

circuit on arrival. So we’ve concentrated on a lot of special offers to the local Merseyside market this year. “While visitors are a bit under the half million mark this year, we have gone from strength to strength over the 40 years. We’ll be bringing in more enhancements over winter for the pedestrian areas. “When the Earl of Derby opened the Safari Park in 1971 it was ahead of its time and we’ll keep investing and move along with the times.” While the £15 adult entrance charge to the Safari Park might deter the budget conscious these days, the £7,000 a day basic hire cost for Knowsley Hall is not putting the wedding market off. “We’ve seen a year-on-year increase in weddings and are practically chocker from June until October next year,” said Edward Perry, Knowsley Hall

director of operations. “We used to limit weddings to keep a balance with other business, but, as the corporate market has dropped, weddings have kept us busy instead. “I think banks and other big companies are sensitive about being seen hiring places like this, so they have shied away.” Dating mainly from the early 18th century, Knowsley Hall, the great ancestral home of the Earls of Derby has Merseyside’s only five star gold accommodation, with nine double bedrooms. “In spite of the recession, couples come wanting the ultimate big day,” said Mr Perry. Cllr Dave Lonergan, Knowsley Borough Council cabinet member for Regeneration, Economy and Skills, said: “We look at projects such as Kirkby retail academy in Kirkby, so jobseekers can increase their employability by gaining

skills and apprenticeships. We work with employers to address the need for more highly skilled workers across the region. “Since 2008, there has been more than £1.1bn of investment into the borough, creating 4,100 jobs and safeguarding 3,500.” The borough boasts four estates dedicated to industry and commerce: Knowsley Industrial Park is one of Europe’s largest, with 1,000 acres and nearly 1,000 companies, and is home to familiar names like Vertex, Delphi, QVC and Dairy Crest. Knowsley Business Park is a 200-acre estate with hi-tech companies, including Virgin Media and News International. Kings Business Park is a 50acre office development. Huyton Business Park with firms like Halewood International, Goodrich and Transactis. The Boulevard Industry Park

capitalises on the investment by Jaguar Land Rover. It provides an automotive component and pharmaceutical supplier park, adjacent to JLR’s Halewood plant. “Knowsley Industrial Park remains a key economic generator for Knowsley and the city region,” said Cllr Lonergan. Mr Caldeira said: “We need an attitude change. Young Chinese people’s number one career choice is owning a business. “We don’t even have that choice offered in careers services, yet it’s the entrepreneurs and business people who create the wealth. This view is endorsed by Lesley Martin-Wright, Knowsley Chamber of Commerce chief executive. She believes whole-heartedly that the key driver to economic recovery in this area, as elsewhere, is the private sector. “Times are very tough, but there is a lot of positivity,” said


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT KNOWSLEY

FUNDAMENTALLY TALKING With Andy Leach, CEO of North West Business Finance, which manages The North West Fund

No matter what the banks say, access to finance remains our biggest problem – Lesley Martin-Wright, Knowsley Chamber of Commerce chief executive

EXCITING things are happening in Merseyside. At the beginning of September, we saw the launch of It’s Liverpool, I’m Liverpool – an ambitious marketing campaign aimed at eradicating outdated stereotypes and repositioning Liverpool as a modern, global city. Then, in early October, it was announced that Liverpool Science Park (LSP) has succeeded in securing £7.6m of funding to create a further 42,000 sq ft of research and development offices and laboratory facilities. LSP is now actively marketing Liverpool to science-based companies nationally as a high quality destination for commercial knowledge enterprise. Most recently, Lord Heseltine and Sir Terry Leahy outlined their vision to support growth in Liverpool’s city region in their report, Rebalancing Britain: Policy or Slogan? The blueprint for economic development details a number of opportunities and measures that the city should grasp and adopt in order to better compete on the global stage. The report will now be assessed by the city region’s Local Enterprise Partnership, the local authorities, and cities minister Greg Clark, who will work together to take forward some of the recommendations. These are all extremely positive developments for Merseyside, sending out the message that the region is open for business and an attractive location for trade and innovation. Focusing on inward investment is a smart move for the area. This is especially the case as, since launching The North West Fund 10 months ago, the desire for growth funding among the region’s indigenous businesses has fallen short of expectations.

Forty per cent of the £185m that we have to invest has been ringfenced for investment in Merseyside, meaning that a minimum of £74m must be invested in the area. The 40% allocation available to businesses based in, or relocating to, Merseyside represents roughly 2.5 times the pro rata “entitlement”, when you take into account that just 16% of the North West’s businesses are located here. But our data shows that applications are running at only around 1.4 times Merseyside’s pro rata share. Encouraging, but clearly not enough. On the other hand, we have seen substantial appetite among growing businesses to relocate to Merseyside. So, as stakeholders with a vested interest in the continued growth and success of Merseyside, it is incumbent on all of us – support organisations, local authorities, the LEP, funders and advisers – to work together to attract further inward investment. It’s Liverpool, I’m Liverpool is a great start, but it focuses too keenly on the city and not enough on Merseyside as a whole. We need to come together to better promote the entire region – from St Helens to Bebington. Merseyside has a great story to tell. So let’s start telling it. Only then can The North West Fund deploy the full weight of its capital in creating jobs and generating value for the region.

‘Focusing on inward investment is a smart move for the area’

An aerial view of the giant QVC headquarters, in Kirkby Ms Martin-Wright. “But the biggest issue, especially for smaller businesses, is the access to finance. It’s sad but true, but no matter what the banks say, this remains our biggest problem. “A good example is a Knowsley building contractor who does a lot of public sector work and has orders coming in. “Instead of agreeing to a request to increase its overdraft, the bank preferred invoice discounting or factoring, which gets the bank more business, but doesn’t address the problem.” Knowsley Chamber has 350 members, a figure which has doubled in the last 15 months. This ranges from small businesses to large national companies, such as Dairy Crest, which has just become a member and is currently is expanding its Knowsley operation. “There are probably another

350 companies out there which would benefit from membership,” said Ms Martin-Wright. “Around 20% of businesses here are in manufacturing. Businesses are trying to be pro-active in times of difficult trading. “The fundamental situation is that businesses have gone as far as they can in cut-backs to staff and reducing spending. “They have been through restructuring and looking at new markets, but now they are now trying to get the maximum out of staff and investment.” The current focus is the huge emphasis on customer care and from developing markets. “One of the issues is how much construction is suffering. We’ve seen tragic losses in this sector such as Mayfield, which was a very good company that had been in the borough for a long time. “Knowsley is in the same boat

as everyone else. We play to our strengths and where there are weaknesses try to plug the gaps.” Cllr Lonergan said: “The council’s Knowsley Works team works in partnership with Job Centre Plus on some of the borough’s biggest recruitment drives for companies including Jaguar Land Rover, IAC, Decoma and Getrag Ford Transmissions.” Knowsley Chamber has an excellent relationship with the council and work together on projects like the new Enterprise Allowance Scheme (EAS). This initiative allows individuals to start their own businesses and more than 60 start-ups since the New Year. “We will allocate a business mentor to each of them. In effect, it’s to ensure they’re sign-posted in the right direction to avoid the

■ THE North West Fund is a £185m evergreen fund that is financed jointly by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Investment Bank. To find out more, visit www.thenorthwest fund.co.uk ■ IN ASSOCIATION with The North West Fund

■ CONTINUED ON PAGE 28

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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT KNOWSLEY

Foreign journalists experience the new Evoque being put through its paces on a submerged pontoon at Duke’s Dock, Liverpool, in July Picture: JAMES MALONEY

LEADING KNOWSLEY MANUFACTURER, JAGUAR LAND ROVER, IS ENJOYING AN UPSURGE IN SALES TO NEWLY-ENRICHED NATIONS THE fluctuations in international trade can work in the UK’s favour, as well as against British businesses. As outlined in the main feature, Chinese inflation and increased labour costs mean UK manufacturing which was switched to the Far East is now seeping back here. Coupled with that, the newly-enriched entrepreneurial classes in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China)

countries are buying established UK luxury brands which they recognise. This directly benefits Knowsley, as China is Jaguar Land Rover’s third largest market, with retails up 60% for the year to September, 2011. Land Rover’s Freelander 2 and new Range Rover Evoque are both made at Halewood. China delivered a record month for September, with sales up 85% for

■ CONTINUED FROM PAGE 27 pit-falls,” said Ms Martin-Wright. “It isn’t always easy to get the right mentors, but we take great care to match them with the best person. “We encourage them to join the Chamber so they can take advantage of our networks, through groups such as our manufacturing network, human resources or women’s forums.” Cllr Lonergan said: “Much credit must go to the Chamber of Commerce, who do a fantastic job for the businesses in Knowsley. “The fact that their membership has doubled in the past year is testament to how respected an institution it has become, and is why the council is working closely with the Chamber to support local businesses and encourage new investment. “We have recently gained funding to appoint two travel plan advisors who will look into better transport, one of whom will be based within the Chamber.”

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Land Rover. Launched last July, the Evoque, which is the small “green” Range Rover, has advance orders for 30,000 vehicles. Land Rover UK sales for the month were up 12%, due to the Evoque’s introduction. Land Rover sales to Russia were 16% up, sales to India rose by a record 155%, and sales to Brazil were up by a record 55%. The Evoque is also largely responsible for

Ms Martin-Wright said: “There is a real political willingness here to engage with business to make it work. There’s no entrenchment, but great flexibility. “One of my concerns is the micro and small businesses employing one to 10 staff, who are only planning six months ahead. “We work to help them to understand how to be more competitive, give training in how to tender, which is often completely new to them, although they’re all hungry for business.” The borough is very well-positioned for business geographically, and has land for warehousing to take advantage of its skilled workforce. “We’re a smaller business area, but very fleet of foot,” said Ms Martin-Wright. The Chamber has just taken over the St Helens Chamber Women in Business group, and has organised conferences to address matters such as “running a business meeting with confidence.”

Jaguar Land Rover European sales rising by 38%. Land Rover’s top five markets for September, 2011, are UK – 7,596 vehicles, China, 3,510 vehicles, North America – 2,976 vehicles, Italy – 1,075 vehicles and Russia – 1,049 vehicles. A Jaguar Land Rover spokesman at Halewood said: “As Evoque production started, we hired 1,500 people between January and July this year.

The Chamber successfully bid to run the initial six-week-long EAS pilot scheme, with Knowsley Council, for the Liverpool city region, and has been awarded the second phase. It has also bid for phase three. “One of the Chamber’s great strengths is to bring business communities together where they’re spread out across an area and people can’t bump into contacts as city centre workers can,” said Ms Martin-Wright. The Chamber despatches its e-newsletter to several thousands of readers – some as far away as Russia and Argentina. Its website has 1,000 hits a day and is refreshed daily. “Businesses are hungry for information and also send plenty in to us,” said Ms Martin-Wright. “We have large international companies in Knowsley and others active abroad, so hence they follow us from around the world.” The multi-nationals are also well-represented on the

“This has practically doubled our workforce. The 30,000 advance orders for the Range Rover Evoque will keep us in work until 2012.” Phil Popham, Jaguar Land Rover group sales director, said: “This has been our strongest September since 2007, when the industry was hit by the recession. “Since that time, we have introduced a host of new models and engines that has driven sales growth and

Chamber’s board by Andy Horton, Jaguar Land Rover financial controller, and Alan Seeley, Getrag Ford human resources manager. “These companies have been very generous in sharing their best practice experience,” said Ms Martin-Wright. “Of course, that’s in all our interest as the multi-nationals depend on a quality supply chain and area always looking to extend their networks. “The fact that JLR chose to launch the new Evoque in Liverpool to huge international acclaim by the world’s press is an amazing credit for the city region.” The Chamber joined Knowsley Borough Council, Knowsley Housing Trust and Knowsley Council for Voluntary Service a year ago to launch the Unit for Social Enterprise. This will give access to contract tendering for community-interest companies, which wish to take over a community centre or playing fields to run for the benefit of local residents, with

attracted new consumers to our brands. This month, our sales have been further bolstered by the award-winning Range Rover Evoque and the 2.2l diesel XF. “Both of which went on sale in September in the UK and Europe and will roll out across other markets in the coming months. “These new models add to what is already a very strong stable of products.”

profits being reinvested: “There is still some grant-funding in Knowsley, such as Business Improvement grants, but that’s about it. However, it’s an option which many local companies have benefited from,” said Ms Martin-Wright. Cllr Lonergan said that the borough’s wise investment in recent times meant the necessary infrastructure for business to thrive in the borough was already in place. He said: “The low carbon/green energy sector is set to be one of the big employers of the future, and Knowsley is ahead of the game when it comes to offering a suitable base for such businesses. “Supporting and encouraging new investment in the borough is a top priority for Knowsley Council, and we are confident that, when the economy does pick up, Knowsley will be in an extremely strong position with a skilled workforce and quality infrastructure to support the business needs of the future.”


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IN ASSOCIATION WITH

HOW GREEN IS YOUR BUSINESS?

Park launches chain gang

Workers at thriving Lingley Mere get access to bikes to cycle between site buildings A BUSINESS park in Warrington is enhancing its green credentials by offering free bikes for workers to cycle between buildings. A pool of 32 bikes has been set up by United Utilities, after requests from green-minded employees at the 100-acre site in Warrington. The water company is a joint venture partner with Muse Developments at the business park – and is also based there. The bike pool is intended to promote cycling as part of a sustainable travel strategy, including a new four-day parking scheme, plus a shuttle bus and park and ride initiative. Robin Uttley, head of commercial property at United Utilities Property Services, said: “Lingley Mere is a large park with significant distances between some buildings. “We have spread the bikes between five key locations where people can pick them up, drop them off and travel quickly and efficiently without needing a car. “The idea is to reduce singleoccupancy car journeys by encouraging people to use one of our green travel alternatives. “It also supports the expanding and thriving business community here at Lingley Mere.” The expansion of the bike provision follows the launch of Lingley Mere Cycle Group, a small on-site group of experienced cycle-commuters. This was set up independently during this year’s Bike to Work week in June. The group, which currently has 18 members, encourages people not only to cycle to work, but also travel across the expanding open parkland. Janice Castle, continuous improvement manager at United Utilities, helped to set up the group. She said: “The launch of the cycle group provides the perfect opportunity to promote the benefits of cycling, which include cutting expensive fuel cost, reducing CO² emissions and leading a healthier lifestyle.” Members are now developing a map of facilities across the site for cyclists and new employees. Future plans include social rides and the provision of emergency bike maintenance.

Cycles are now the default mode of transport for people working at Lingley Mere Business Park

British Airways spearheads UK carbon framework THE UK Carbon Reporting Framework has been launched in a partnership between BRE, British Airways, Deloitte and Forum for the Future. The framework acts as a matchmaker between carbon reduction projects, such as community-owned renewable energy installations or the

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energy-efficient refurbishment of social housing and organisations wishing to support such projects in the UK. British Airways will be the first company to support the scheme through their new One Destination Carbon Fund. Jonathon Counsell, head of environment at the

airline, said: “The UK Carbon Reporting Framework marks a milestone for carbon management in the UK. “Through our new One Destination Carbon Fund, our customers can help support carbon reduction projects based in the UK – something that has not previously been available.”

Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, added: “This is an innovative approach to tackling climate change. “It enables funders to support projects that have clear links to their work and the communities in which they operate.”

British Airways – aims to support projects to cut emissions


IN ASSOCIATION WITH

HOW GREEN IS YOUR BUSINESS?

Chris Hirst, of Thin Joint Technology, right, discusses the external render system at a scheme in Wirral with architectural advisor, Trevor Irvine

Soaring energy prices boost firm

Thin Joint says low-carbon products are now more popular on refurbishment schemes LIVERPOOL-BASED Thin Joint Technology is reporting a “dramatic upsurge” in demand from homeowners for low-energy, high impact refurbishment products and materials as energy prices soar. Developers, self builders and homeowners across the UK, looking to refurbish investment or private properties, are specifying products including external

insulated render systems to reduce thermal bridging, retain warmth in the winter and conversely, keep the building cool in summer whilst reducing the pressure to use domestic heating and cooling appliances. With energy companies increasing prices by an average 18%, the average UK homeowner is set to be hit by an approximate increase of around £190 extra each

year. Chris Hirst, of Thin Joint Technology, said: “In the past, people have associated low-carbon, energy-efficient systems and products with newbuild schemes. “However, systems such as an Externally Insulated Façade System (EIFS) can be as equally effective on a refurbishment scheme.” Insulated render and cladding

is a process that, when added to a traditional solid wall, can achieve thermal values which are in line with current new-build guidelines. Where insulation is correctly used, it can change the energy consumption of a building. In some cases, the addition of an EIFS system with additional roof insulation and good quality windows could reduce heating

bills by half, Thin Joint claims. Mr Hirst added: “It is interesting to see the small developer, and, indeed, homeowner, now looking carefully at the type of product they are specifying. “An initial cost outlay is now being considered more closely than before and short-term investment is being measured against spending saved long term.”

BSOLAR achieves top marks following audit process A MERSEYSIDE solar panel firm has received one of the best results in the country, following a national audit. BSOLAR, based in Halsall, has recently completed its MCS accreditation tests for the second-year running, where it received one of the best scores in the UK. The micro-generation certificate scheme (MCS) accreditation is crucial to

energy companies such as BSOLAR, because, without it, occupants of the homes or businesses that they fit with solar panelling can’t participate in the Government’s national feed-in tariff scheme. The process for being awarded the MCS involved a complete audit of the company’s jobs and contracts, as well as spotcheck visits to a number of

homes where their solar panels had been installed. Peter Bladen, director at BSOLAR, said: “There’s been a bit of national media attention on rogue tradesmen selling dodgy solar panel packages recently, but, as our recent audit results show, there are also some extremely trustworthy, ethical and reliable solar companies around.

“Rising energy costs mean that the average family is now paying 18% more for gas, and 11% more for electricity than they were 12 months ago – so there’s never been a better time to consider solar energy as a serious long-term investment, as well as for its environmental benefits.” BSOLAR was launched in April, 2005.

Never been a better time to consider solar energy – Peter Bladen, director at BSOLAR

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PROFESSIONAL SECTORS

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

THE SHARPER

INVESTOR

Nigel Hibbert, Partner at Cheviot Asset Management, Liverpool Brothers in arms? Nigel Hibbert on how UK and US economic interests are linked. THE business of America is business, but once every four years the electoral cycle takes over as voters decide on who should be their President. Incumbents generally need a strong economy if they want to be re-elected, and so the ground work needs to be done with a year to go. That means now. Recent pronouncements both by President Obama and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke were designed to set the political and economic agenda for 2012. Yet, despite the best efforts of all concerned, confidence remains shaky. Why should we be worried about events on the other side of the Atlantic when there are so many other pressing issues closer to home – not least the threat of defaults in the weakest eurozone countries? The truth is that, while the US economy is large and extremely powerful, there is only one economy – the worldwide economy. Individual areas such as the US, China, and the UK have an impact to varying degrees, but it’s hard to overstate globalisation itself. The integration of multinational companies, and the ease with which you can purchase goods and invest overseas, means that basically all economies are connected in some way. Without doubt, political will and bravery are required to lead the way out of the present difficulties. What is also clear is that markets are sick of plasters over the cracks, when what’s required is proper surgery.

So it will be fascinating to see how President Obama adapts to the many and varied challenges of turning the economic tide, while also putting himself into a position where he stands a chance of re-election. The US economy is still just about growing, and there is inflation, not deflation. Left to its own devices, it’s probably strong enough to be self-righting. All of this will take time and so the temptation will be to be more radical, in order to jump start the recovery in time for next year’s election. Our own government has yet to feel the heat that only an election can bring. What’s more, the Coalition itself has proved resilient to shocks, bad news and departures. We may well have two or three more years of this – a lifetime in politics – before the ballot box of 2014-15 exerts a gravitational pull. In all this, the question of how our economy reacts to the austerity cuts and tax rises will be monitored continuously, but the overarching context will not change. Put simply, consumers, companies and the state are all locked in a race to straighten out their finances. That means spend less and pay down debts, a toxic combination for the economy in the short-term, although necessary for long-term health. The obvious concern is that we end up with “stagflation” – where growth stalls but inflation remains dangerously high. Not only is real wealth eroded, but it may mean hiking interest rates to control inflation, with the nasty side-effect of higher borrowing costs further damaging economic growth.

‘There is only one economy, the worldwide economy’

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■ IN ASSOCIATION with Cheviot Asset Management

Helping to find a A Liverpool firm is targeting entrepreneurial talent THREE successful Liverpool business figures have set up a venture to nurture and inspire a new generation of talented entrepreneurs. Hackett Equity Solutions (HES), in Old Hall Street’s The Plaza, comprises Peter Hackett, Liam McKenna and Andy Bate. Mr Hackett formed a construction products business in 1996, building a £15m turnover group before selling four businesses to a FTSE200 plc in 2007. He has also sat on 15 boards, including operations in the Middle East and China. Mr McKenna graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University and dabbled in football coaching in the UK and USA, before involvement in property and more recently a

Hong Kong product design company developing decorative accessories and homewares. Associate partner Mr Bate qualified as a chartered accountant and has worked with PwC, KPMG and, for the past nine years, has been involved in private equity with Baird Capital and Barclays Ventures, sitting on eight company boards. Their mission is to identify viable business opportunities and, further up the scale, assist existing businesses to take the next step in their development. Mr Hackett, 44, said: “We are business builders, not corporate financiers. “We know how to take something from nothing, with a beginning, middle and end.” He said he wants to encourage

the entrepreneurial spirit within his home city, adding: “I am very passionate about Liverpool. The real asset of Liverpool is the people and their creative spirit. Me and Liam want to develop talent and help people build their businesses. “Our strength probably leans more towards young and new businesses. People with talent but who don’t know how to develop that into a credible business. “We’re not great business gurus – it’s about building a structure around people who have ideas.” Mr McKenna, 30, said their client base will range from start-ups to existing firms of up to £75m in turnover, which is where Andy Bate’s experience in


PROFESSIONAL SECTORS

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Hackett Equity Equity Solutions Solutions partners partners Peter Peter Hackett, Hackett, left, left, and and Liam Liam Hackett McKenna, outside outside their their Old Old Hall Hall Street Street office, office, at at The The Plaza Plaza McKenna, Picture: Picture: PAUL PAUL HEAPS HEAPS

LEGALLY

SPEAKING

With Adrian Fryer, Partner in employment at law firm Hill Dickinson

Q

WE ARE a niche manufacturing company, and the nature of our business means we use a lot of temps. What do I need to be aware of when it comes to Agency Workers Regulations?

A

fitting solution

and next-stage opportunities. Neil Hodgson reports

finance, compared with their skills in building a business, comes to the fore. “Andy has a different skill-set with corporate finance to add the other dimension. “We can work with a start-up to a big business looking to make that next big step.” Although he adds: “We are looking more at young, small businesses, because that excites us the most ” – illustrating his point while gesticulating – “in seeing a business go from here, to here. “Seeing people maximise some of their potential is much more rewarding.” Although only recently launched, HES has already assisted two clients at opposite ends of the scale, advising

logistics giant Stobart with its airports division, and supporting the growth of Liverpool-based Kate Henshaw Hairdressing through an equity stake in the business, although they add that their assistance could also be fee-based. Mr McKenna said their business model can offer clients up to £5m in a mix of HES’s own in-house funding or matched funding in partnership with other funders. And Mr Hackett revealed they are keen to tap into the investment network to fund viable opportunities by liaising with the likes of “Angel” investors or high net worth individuals looking for a better return on their funds than the banks can offer, although he

added: “We are there to help businesses build, not plug a gap.” He insisted they have no fixed exit strategy for their clients: “We are in for the long haul and we will look at all different options with the management team. “Not all businesses get sold.” Looking further ahead, Mr McKenna added: “There are three areas we need to develop future links and contacts with: actual businesses; the investors’ network; and associate partners to add skills if we haven’t got those skills.” He said higher education could also be a source of nascent talent: “We could work with universities to give advice. No-one did that for me when I was at university.”

AS OF Saturday, October 1, the Agency Workers Regulations came into effect, so you are right to want to clarify your position as a business that employs temporary workers through agencies on a regular basis. Failure to comply with these new regulations could see you having to fork out hefty compensation payments, so now is the time to start putting appropriate systems in place to avoid being caught out. The Agency Workers Regulations 2010 give agency workers the right to many of the same basic working and employment conditions as they would receive as an employee of the end-user; these are being called “Day 1 rights”. Under the new regulations, agency workers will also have rights of access to onsite facilities such as use of the company canteen and childcare facilities. In addition, they are also entitled to receive information about, and apply for, permanent vacancies that come up within the business. Agency workers also accrue additional rights after working in the same role with the same company for 12 weeks. However, a point to note is that the 12-week qualifying period for entitlement to equal treatment does not have to be continuous. Some changes or breaks in work will end the accumulation of the qualifying period, others will put it on hold, and, in some instances, the qualifying period will continue to accrue when the worker is absent.

Agency workers are also now entitled to write to the agency and/or the employer to seek a written statement of their rights. And any failure to respond could stand against the agency or employer in any subsequent tribunal. Anti-avoidance measures have been tightened up also, to prevent agencies or businesses from structuring assignments so that agency workers do not complete the 12-week qualifying period. The regulations say that an agency worker should be treated as if the equal treatment provisions already apply, even before the 12-week qualifying period is up. There are, of course, limits to the regulations, for example those who work on a self-employed basis should not be covered. Also, there are exceptions in relation to equal pay for agency workers who have a qualifying permanent contract of employment with the temporary work agency which provides for them to be paid between assignments. These are all things to be aware of. So what should you be doing to ensure you are not caught out when it comes to new agency workers regulations? You will need to: ■ Identify what on-site facilities you need to provide, and how vacancy information will be disseminated; ■ Calculate when the 12-week qualifying period is met; ■ Define terms of employment that must be replicated for agency workers; ■ Ensure exchange of the appropriate information between the three parties; ■ Update collective information procedures; ■ Train relevant managers on agency workers’ rights.

‘What should you do to meet new rules for agency workers?’

■ EMAIL: adrian.fryer@ hilldickinson.com ■ IN ASSOCIATION with Hill Dickinson

33


KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY

LSP chief executive Chris Musson, outside the IC2 facility Picture: ANDREW TEEBAY

IC3 takes us onto next level

Liverpool Science Park’s third site set to offer much-needed laboratory space to start-ups LIVERPOOL Science Park’s third building will help fill a significant gap in facilities for the city region’s life sciences sector. That’s the view of LSP chief executive Chris Musson, who is to oversee the construction of Innovation Centre 3 (IC3), which is due to open in summer, 2013. IC3, which will go ahead after LSP secured £7.6m of funding, will total 42,000 sq ft of space. What Mr Musson describes as “lettable” space will total around 30,000 sq ft and of that at least 10,000 sq ft will be given over to space for laboratories. He adds that it is the laboratory space that is the key component to taking Merseyside’s life sciences sector onto the next level. “It has been acknowledged that what is missing is the provision of lab space for early stage companies,” said Mr Musson. “When a company reaches a certain size, it will set up its own

34

laboratory, but start-ups also need access to lab space.” To complement this, IC3 will also offer purpose-built starter pods for young knowledge-based companies trying to get a foothold in the sector. Mr Musson added: “What we want here is a nice mix of young companies because we know from experience that real innovation happens when people from different sectors can get together. “What we can offer is very flexible – we can offer someone 1 sq ft for a day or 10,000 sq ft for 10 years. “We have chosen to offer the starter pods because we see a very big demand for them.” IC3 will be built close to the Science Park’s existing buildings in the shadow of the city’s Metropolitan Cathedral. LSP’s owners – Liverpool City Council, the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John

Moores university – will underwrite a £3.8m loan taken out by the Science Park towards the construction costs. The balance of £3.8m will be provided by the European Regional Development Fund. Construction is expected to start in late spring next year . IC3 will be built on a 0.55-hectare site over IC1’s existing car park off Mount Pleasant, to the south west of the cathedral. It will feature flexible office space, fully-serviced laboratories over three floors, meeting rooms, car parking and secure cycle storage. Detailed planning permission was granted for the four-storey building in October last year. Sir Howard Newby, ViceChancellor of the University of Liverpool and chair of the LSP board, said: “Liverpool Science Park was created as the special-

purpose vehicle to support and drive forward Liverpool’s commercial knowledge economy, and IC3 marks another exciting chapter in our long-term plan. “The laboratories in IC3, combined with the floor of

laboratories to be built in IC2, will be a great asset to the city region and the perfect complement both to existing facilities in the city region and to the planned BioCampus and BioInnovation Centre.”

A computer-generated image of how IC3 will look


INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Vision to boost Liverpool’s trade links with four target countries

Alistair Houghton on agency’s hopes to build on existing connections across the globe REGENERATION agency Liverpool Vision says it will be focusing on four key international markets in coming years. The agency has recently appointed two trade representatives in the US, and is planning to create a network of representatives in cities across China. As well as those two countries, Liverpool Vision also plans to work to boost the city’s trade links with India and Germany. Ailsa Horne, head of international investment at Liverpool Vision, said: “Towards the end of last year, the Liverpool Vision board signed off an international approach for Liverpool going forward to make the most of the connections it made at the World Expo in Shanghai, to build on relationships and use international markets to generate growth for the city. “We have identified opportunities in key markets, particularly China, America, India and Germany. They are where we’re going to focus our attention over the next couple of years.” Liverpool’s historic links with the US have been boosted in recent months by a number of initiatives. This year, Georgia’s Governor, Nathan Deal, led a delegation to Merseyside from the Southern state. Another mission visited from Boston, inspired by Boston Red Sox owner Fenway Sports Group’s takeover of Liverpool FC. In return, Liverpool Chamber of Commerce led a delegation to Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Liverpool and Memphis, Tennessee, have become “Rock’n Soul Mates” in a move Vision hopes will build trade as well as cultural links. Also, Liverpool Vision’s digital industry director, Steve Smith, is continuing his work to build links between Liverpool’s hi-tech sector and dynamic young businesses in California’s Silicon Valley. So, to cement Merseyside’s US links, experienced trade advisers Kristen Hirst and Gareth Lewis have been recruited by Vision to promote Liverpool to more potential US investors. Ms Hirst will cover the east coast and the key areas of New York, Georgia, Austin, Boston and Memphis, while Mr Lewis will look after the west coast, particularly California, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Ms Horne said: “Their remit is to be taking the Liverpool message and make sure it’s spread far and wide. “Gareth’s background is in the software, digital and creative

industries, the opportunities in which are huge for us as a city. “He’s making connections with firms out there, building the Liverpool brand, talking to companies looking to have a base in Europe, and building partnerships to promote the city. “Kristen’s work is a bit broader, and covers more geographically. For example, she could be helping to build university links, or working on the cultural side. “They will have targets, in terms of companies introduced and meetings held. But it’s really about the brand. Some of these things are more intangible. “Look at the Liverpool in London initiative (the city’s London ‘embassy’). I met lots of people who said that really changed their perception of Liverpool. That’s the target, but it’s hard to measure.” As well as looking to attract inward investment, the reps will also be able to guide companies looking to invest in the US. Ms Horne said: “We know from things like Expo that initiatives can inspire people to look at these markets. “Something like 30% of the companies that sponsored Expo wouldn’t have done that international trade if it hadn’t been for that. “There’s been some really positive outcomes from people who said they hadn’t thought about that market before, such as architecture practice Brock Carmichael.” That firm, as reported exclusively by the Daily Post in September, beat competition from around the world to secure work on two massive regeneration schemes in China. Its success is a sign, says Ms Horne, that Liverpool firms can compete in China. She said: “We really will be trying to continue the momentum built with the Expo to promote the Liverpool brand. “Following the Expo, we found that there was a huge interest in Liverpool in that China connection.” As reported this month in the Daily Post, Vision has appointed Helen Wang as its representative in Shanghai to develop trade links there. But it is also looking beyond Shanghai to develop a network of business representatives across the country. This month, a Liverpool delegation including Cllr Nick Small, cabinet member for employment enterprise and skills, and Vision’s deputy chief executive, Mike Taylor, visited the south west China city of Nanning. They and Liverpool’s Chinese Business Champion, Dr Lee Kai

We will be trying to continue the momentum built with the Expo to promote the Liverpool brand – Ailsa Horne, head of international investment at Liverpool Vision Picture: PAUL HEAPS

Hung, who originates from Nanning, met political and business leaders and discussed having a Liverpool investment manager in the city. Ms Horne said: “We’re looking at a different strategy for China. “Shanghai is where we’re focused now. “We’re looking to go beyond Shanghai in the medium to long term. “It’s very much a partnership approach. “Working with people such as the China Britain Business Council and UK Trade and Investment, we can reach further and have a better impact. “We also work with The Mersey Partnership on inward investment, making sure we share what’s going on and making sure they get access to our

on-the-ground reps.” In Europe, Vision is focusing on Liverpool’s connections with Germany. Ms Horne said: “Germany is a massive European export market, and the source of one of Liverpool’s largest inward investments. “We’ve been twinned with Cologne for 60 years next year. We’ve got cultural and civic connections. “Next year, we will be talking to our partners about how we make the most of that and see how we can get economic benefits. “That’s a key part of our whole strategy. We haven’t got infinite resources. Our partners across the city are doing a lot of activity. We can work together to make the most of their resources and achieve more for the city.” Vision is also at the early stages

of developing a strategy to promote the Liverpool brand in India. “There are huge opportunities there,” said Ms Horne. “There’s a fair bit happening there with the Universities. The Beatles Story is building cultural links. “India is very favourable to the UK as an investment destination for Europe. There are lots of long-standing partnerships.” Vision’s staff will be looking out for other links to build on, but Ms Horne says that by focusing on these four countries, the agency will be able to get results more quickly. “There are opportunities across the globe,” she said. “But we have to prioritise in terms of where we can make an impact in the short to medium term. But we keep our eyes open.

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SPONSORED BY MATCHDAY HOSPITALITY AT EVERTON 0151 530 5300

THE NETWORKER

THE BUSINESS LIST Thursday, October 27

A FREE public debate, organised by the University of Liverpool about finance, titled Policy Provocations: Can finance ever be fair and does it even matter?, will feature Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead and Lord Whitty, outgoing Chair of Consumer Credit. Lord Whitty will ask how effective recent measures to fight financial exclusion have been for the individual, and whether financial inclusion can help build a fairer society and stronger communities. Frank Field MP will discuss the impact of financial exclusion in Liverpool and the Merseyside area and will consider measures taken by organisations such as RBS and the Charity Bank to improve financial inclusion. An informal reception will follow the event from 7.45pm. The venue is Liverpool Cathedral, from 6.15pm. The event is free but it is essential to book. Visit www.liv.ac.uk/ events/policy-provocations or call 0151-794 2650.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 14/ IT’S LIVERPOOL – THE BUSINESS CONFERENCE

Friday, October 28 The next presentation in Liverpool Chamber of Commerce’s “60 really useful minutes” series is “How to manage your time more effectively using Outlook”. The event will provide a practical “happy hour” with Outlook, and the aim of the session is to help people understand what causes them to waste time and for them to come up with three things to change to make them more efficient, back at work. The chamber’s Old Hall Street office is the venue and the event is free to chamber members, and £10 for non-members. Book online at liverpoolchamber.org.uk

Friday, November 11 The Social Housing Conference returns to the BT Convention Centre for the second year running. The event is organised by Mitchell Charlesworth and

Knowsley cushion manufacturer Tony Caldeira is among an impressive array of keynote speakers at the DLIB event DOWNTOWN Liverpool in Business, with Liverpool Vision, Google, City Talk and High Performance Consultancy, is staging a one-day conference at the start of UK Enterprise Week to celebrate Liverpool

securing the Global Entrepreneurship Congress next March. The event, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, will engage delegates through a series of seminars and keynote addresses delivered by a panel of influential

Brabners Chaffe Street – both of which have significant experience in the social hous-

Finance debate venue – Anglican Cathedral

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speakers, including Liverpool council leader Cllr Joe Anderson, Manchester council leader Sir Howard Bernstein, Liverpool council chief executive Ged Fitzgerald, Vision chief executive Max

ing sector – and is sponsored by Arena Housing Group and the Harvest Housing Group, with additional support from Riverside Housing Group. Key speakers at the event will include David Orr, National Housing Federation chief executive, Liverpool council leader Cllr Joe Anderson, and Steve Coffey, chief executive of Liverpool Mutual Homes. There are practical workshop sessions with speakers from the Homes and Communities Agency, Plus Dane Group, The Mersey Partnership and the CEL Group. For information about booking a place as a delegate, contact Cara Bartlett at Brabners Chaffe

Steinberg, and owner of housebuilder Redrow and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, Liverpool entrepreneur Steve Morgan, as well as Knowsley cushion company founder Tony Caldeira.

Cllr Joe Anderson Street on 0151-600 3022 or email: bcsnewsandevents@ brabnerscs.com

Wednesday, November 16 Free asbestos awareness training for local tradesmen is being offered by housing

The afternoon will offer a series of breakout seminars. It costs £60+VAT for DLIB members and £99+VAT for nonmembers. To book, visit http://www. downtownliverpool. com/events/2011/22/

consultancy Pennington Choices, as part of the Health and Safety Executive’s “Hidden Killer” campaign to raise awareness about asbestos-related deaths. Pennington Choices’ managing director, Mark Seaborn, said: “In the North West, there were 1,251 mesothelioma deaths in the five years between 2004 and 2008. Though there is little that can be done to help those already suffering, we can prevent this hidden killer claiming another generation by ensuring there is good quality and accessible training out there.” Pennington Choices’ head office in Runcorn will host the session, from 4-6pm. To attend, email Hannah Snowden on hsnowden@ pennington.org.uk or telephone 01928 568842.


The Mal is back on Princes Dock.

Buy two courses and get the third for free.

Terms and conditions apply.

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An exciting time for your business to invest in the North West

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THE NETWORKER

SPONSORED BY MATCHDAY HOSPITALITY AT EVERTON 0151 530 5300

ALISTAIR HOUGHTON . . . in which we examine networking and marketing through the prism of a pint BEER festival as a networking event? It’s an interesting hypothesis, and one that requires rigorous testing. Luckily for you, dear reader, I was

A

a willing volunteer. Combining beer and business wasn’t my original plan. I’d had Warrington’s Oktoberfest in my diary for some time as a social event, but then I had a brainwave. Here at Daily Post Towers, we were short of a profile subject for our weekly supplement, LDP Business. And I was off to Warrington. So, I ploughed through the list of sponsors for the Oktoberfest and spotted recruitment firm DATS Holdings – whose boss Stephen Nickson was happy to chat. Not only was DATS a sponsor, but its offices also face festival venue Parr Hall, across Palmyra Square. “I have a weakness for beer – I love my proper beers,” he said, sitting in his office. “So we sponsored the event.” And with that we gathered one of Stephen’s colleagues and headed to the Parr Hall. T CALLS itself an Oktoberfest, but, rather than being a Germanic lagerfest, the Warrington event is actually a classic British beer festival, with dozens of brews from across the UK. My first, of course, was the beer DATS had sponsored – Ossett Brewery’s crisp and refreshing Yorkshire Blonde. Next, Stephen recommended a Weetwood – his local ale. So I tried the Ambush, a fruity bitter with a sharply floral aftertaste.

I

OON, he and Ian had to go, and it was time for more networking. So I decided to hunt out the Thomas Hardy Brewery. Thomas Hardy is an interesting company. It’s one of the region’s biggest brewers, yet it cannot shout about its success because it largely brews for other people who it cannot name. But luckily, just for Warrington, the brewery was sharing some of its own brews for the Oktoberfest – including Inspiration, a rich, deep, sweet bitter black toffee of a brew. Its brewer Cliff Houghton – “how do you spell Houghton? The proper way” – was, it turns out, a little distracted. “My wife’s going to be on Radio 2 in a minute,” he said. “You know Simon Mayo? The three word thing? “I’ve tried,” he smiled, “to get her to mention the beer festival.” After disappearing to hunt for a radio, and peering intently into the screen of a yellow polo-shirted colleague’s iPhone, his face lit up with an eerie glow. Failing to get a live stream of his wife’s efforts, he gave up and talked to me. “It’s my beer festival,” he said with a smile as he surveyed the hall. “Well, it was my idea five years ago. “It’s grown over the years. We cannot get any more people in on Fridays – it’s so full, we have to shut the doors. And we’ve raised over the last 14 years £170,000 for charity.” That money comes from sponsorship – every barrel has a name attached. And one of those sponsors then waved at me. I first met Bill Shaw, of recycling firm Environmental Waste Controls (EWC), over a pint of Bass a few months earlier, and learned he was a fellow ale

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fan. So it was good to catch up over more halves. We paid for our beers, by the way, with a token system – green tokens for the lighter ales, gold for the stronger. “You have to start on the greens before the golds,” warned Shaw, a veteran of these events, “or it’ll knock you out.” HOOSING beers is part of the fun at festivals. Some choose by names, some by where the brewer comes from. This time I tried to go for beers sponsored by companies I knew. But that proved harder than I thought. Real ales are living things, still maturing in their casks, so they’re not always ready when you want them to be. Even Thomas Hardy’s Boadicea, recommended by Cliff himself, hadn’t quite settled in time for my visit. I went scientific for a while, testing my networking hypothesis. Splitting The Atom was off, as was Katalyst, but the pale Acorn Quantum was on. Then I tried going “business”, with a zestily hoppy False Economy, from Chester’s Spitting Feathers brewery. “That’s sponsored by Gordon Brown,” smiled the barman. I went back to chat to Shaw, who gave me another business tip. “There’s a band on tonight called The Bottle Tops,” said Shaw. “And the lead singer is the chief executive of Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority.”

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ATER, I met colleagues, and tried more brews. And I was inspired to think about the funny names so many brewers give to their beers. Because, while the world of “branding” may seem light years away from the world of ale, brewers are in their own way masters of marketing. After all, at any beer festival, you face a choice of dozens of beers. The chances are you’ll like them all. And so how do you differentiate? The easiest way, of course, is by name. Huddersfield’s Empire brewery, for example, was represented at Oktoberfest by Strikes Back. And, at this summer’s MonkeyFest in Huddersfield, punters couldn’t keep their hands off Helga’s Big Jugs. Yes, that beer sold out quickly.

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ROM a business point of view, a festival like this – or the much larger Liverpool event, in February – is a showcase for the products of small firms, just as the Liverpool Design festival days earlier was a showcase for designers. So a beerfest can, it turns out, bring networking and business showcasing together in one boozy package. Oh, yes – the name of the MWDA chief executive and lead singer with The Bottle Tops? Carl Beer. As they say, you couldn’t make it up.

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You’d have to do a lot of networking to help you get through all these ales at the Great British Beer Festival

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SOCIAL DIARY THE NETWORKER

From left, Jilly Williamson, Michelle Brunskill, Alison Lockhart, Lesley Watson, and Lorraine Case, at the Suites Hotel’s breast cancer Pink Party fundraiser

Make-up artist Georgia Joseph, with Jane Joseph, of Crown Productions, and Chantelle Nolan, of St Helens Theatre Royal, at the Boodles baby shower event

CAROLYN HUGHES Bala Croman, of the Chocolate Cellar, and David Jones, of Alice in Wonderland Jewellery, at Jamie’s Meet and Eat Lunch

STYLISH Jewellers Boodles hosted a baby shower event for longserving employee Hayley Glover recently. One hundred friends, customers and colleagues joined the party to wish Hayley well, joined by DJ Cata Pereda. ■ POPULAR Liverpool One Eatery, Jamie’s Italian, successfully hosted its first Chamber event, a Networking Meet and Eat Lunch. ■ THE stars came out for the Merseyside Young Professionals Charity Ball, at the Crowne Plaza, as Hollyoaks’s Jennifer Metcalfe and her Dancing on Ice star boyfriend,

Sylvain Longchambon joined Andrew Lancel, Coronation Street’s Frank Foster, for an event in aid of the Kayla Jones Trust. ■ STAFF at the Suites Hotel, in Knowsley, have raised almost £10,000 to help beat breast cancer, thanks to the success of their third annual Pink Party, attended by more than 200 people. ■ STYLISH bar and restaurant, Living Room, in Victoria Street, held a new menu launch for its team last week. The team were able to sample each new dish on the menu and ensure that they were fully briefed for any customer query.

Deborah Bond, of the Keith Jones Partnership, and Tim Bramwell-Smith, of Speakfluent, at the Meet and Eat Lunch in Jamie’s Italian restaurant

Jennifer Metcalfe and Andrew Lancel, at the Merseyside Young Professionals Ball

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Claire Marshall, of Boodles, Chester, and Hayley Glover, of Boodles, Liverpool, at the jewellers’ recent baby shower event

Alex Wainwright, of Boodles, with Kerrie Fowler, at the baby shower event for Hayley Glover

Vishal Rana, Paul Corcoran, and Darren McLeod, all from Agent Marketing, at the Young Professionals Ball

Paul Quinn and Jay Wray sample the new menu at the Living Room


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LDP Business Magazine - November 2011