In the run up to Christmas I wrote about the ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ madness that happened across the UK. These two days had been borrowed from America and became big news stories in themselves. These were the two big days when Christmas shoppers pushed and shoved their way to purchase items, just because they had been reduced. Now that peak trading has returned to normal, retailers are wondering if they should have bothered discounting their profit margins by so much. One of the High street big names, John Lewis, said it was it’s biggest trading week on record, with sales up 22% on last year. However it has affected the bigger picture. They are now thinking if it was worth concentrating all their trade and promotion in those few days. That week put their back line operations under so much pressure, that it affected other areas of the business. Staff had to be relocated to help with the mountain of work, but left there normal work stations empty. Other big name retailers and couriers became so snowed under with Deliveries to stores, businesses and homes that all the hard work had gone to waste. Customers took to social media to complain about having to wait for something delayed, forgetting that the price was discounted. Sadly some people didn’t have items in time to give as presents on Christmas day. In the five weeks leading up to the 27th December, total like-for-like sales for the John Lewis chain rose 4.8% to £777million. Online purchases went up by 19%. John Lewis also plans to increase its store numbers from 42 they currently have to another 20 stores. They are looking at increasing it’s retail sections in the Birmingham, Leeds and Oxford area.
Earlier in 2014 we heard news of a risk of blackouts during peak times. In the winter we all turn up the heating and stay indoors using every appliance to hand. Advert breaks during our favourite TV shows show a huge spike as we all put the kettle on. The government has been working on stopping the blackouts. They have put into place a system for the next four years. In the run up to this Christmas, power generation firms have been secretly told about the auction. The outcome of the auctions means they are to receive close to £1 billion to ensure their power stations stay open. The UK needs them to be fully working to produce the energy needed. The Government created a auction for energy businesses to trade their supply’s. This was the first time a system like this has been used and will be used again in the future. The country has now secured 49 GW of power capacity at a secured cost of £19.40 per KW. The total cost of this to the UK bill payers is £960 million. Sadly it will add around £11 to everyone’s bill over the year. This works out at 92p extra per month. The doom and gloom people have straight away criticised the scheme, saying that it will keep coal fired power stations such as our local plants, Drax, Eggborough and Ferrybridge, open even longer. I’m sure local workers will welcome the news that they get to keep and expand their employment. We know that Drax has had huge investment to change over to BioMass and hopefully this auction news will help secure Eggbrough staying open for a long time into the future. There are fears of a shortfall in power because power plants in the country have closed because of new pollution rules or because they have become uneconomic to run. The two coal mines left in the country can’t produce coal cheaply enough.  
First published in October 2014 – This column features news that is a little bit closer to home for me, I worked for the Home Retail group for five years in total, so was regularly updated on it’s expansion details and future ideas. Home Retail owns Argos and Homebase and has it’s head office in Milton Keynes. Homebase has announced it will close 80 of its 323 branches in the next three years. Around 30 branches would close in the current financial year before April 2015, with a further 50 closures by the end of 2017-18. No news has been mentioned about the Selby or local stores as yet. The downturn has been blamed on a generation not interested in DIY, inconsistent standards at stores. It has also returned low sales for the size of its floor space and network. The chain’s online business is far behind other retailers and needs major investment. DIY has taken a big hit recently as B&Q has also suffered during the financial crisis. Consumers have less time and enthusiasm for DIY and are more likely to pay a tradesman to do the job for them. Homebase issued details on it’s operating profit of £27.2m. Paul Loft, who has run Homebase for nine years, will leave the group when a replacement is found. It’s sister business, Argos, leads the way in Toy and electrical sales and is currently recruiting to double its work force for the run up to Christmas. Home Retail is going to share the secrets to the successful Argos website and App with it’s Homebase operations, to see if any improvements can be made in the short term.
Parking in our town centre has been highlighted again with the Parking Mad TV series currently being shown on the BBC. Depending when you are reading this, Selby’s parking problems are shown in episode 2, which is aired tonight (24th). Will this be the big push required by our council to change things for the better? Fingers crossed. They say they have funds to help businesses, so lets see that money being spent. The camera crew arrived back in July 2013 and filmed some views from shop owners, businesses and Selby residents. We don’t have a problem with the amount of parking spaces or how the lines are painted, it is the amount of money people have to pay to do some shopping or meet a friend for lunch. Also highlighted was the dreaded fines from the ever eager traffic warden. A story in last weeks ‘Selby Times’ showed some residents have received a fine for parking outside their own homes. A few miles up the A19, York city centre council have recently started a free parking offer in its car parks to help with the shoppers missing out the city centre shops and using the new Monks Cross Vanguard shopping complex. This would be the ideal way to make Selby attractive for businesses and shoppers. Something simple like Monday mornings for the market, or the slower trade Tuesday afternoons or even Saturday afternoons could be improved with the knowledge that we have free parking. Once people know about it they would travel in and give the hopefully give the retail parks a miss one day a week.
Trophy Blog #121 – We have some good news for the area. With the UK’s economy slowly increasing in productivity and production, we need progression and expansion to continue in our businesses. We sometimes forget that All of our big businesses use to be ‘small businesses’ at one stage. One such progression news has arrived in Selby. Gabrielle Owen feels the time is right to take on an a established business and at the same time, expand it. She has purchased and taken over Authentco North, formally based on New Street. She has combined and relaunced it to create ‘A Shade Braver’. This new start will be based in a new location on the Vivars Way trading estate. The business will specialise in the special design paint that Authentco use to sell and also ‘up cycling’. The aim of the company is to save pieces of furniture from going into the landfill system. Many design TV shows have taken on the new trend of changing an old unloved piece into a new and fresh look. This can normally be done much cheaper then going out to buy a new product. A Shade Braver will also run classes on how to get the ‘interior design’ look on pieces of furniture that are either unloved or heading for the tip. Also involved in the new project will be Philip, he has his own business ‘Unique’. This side of the new company will specialise in creating furniture and one off designs made from Salvaged wood & glass.
A Shade Braver will opening it's doors to a launch party on Saturday (31st January) and open to visitors and customers from February onwards. I believe all the Selby Times readers will wish them success. 
  Trophy Blog #93 ~ We have lots of activity and noise coming from Selby town center at the moment, and this can only be a good thing for Selby’s shoppers and visitors. From my office desk I can hear all sorts of machines creating new and improved selling space. Lots of work has taken place at the new leisure center site on Scott Road with the main carcass of the building now in place. The YMCA charity shop has had a nice new sign put up and Selby Hands of Hope will be taking over the Kelly Designs building on Brook Street. We have worked with Selby’ Hands of Hope’s Wendy and Richard on a number of projects in the past and we wish them all the best with the continued work they do for the people of Selby and the surrounding area. The old Jack Fultons freezer store on Market Cross has been completely stripped back lots of different tradesmen are inside creating the new and bigger store. The poster outside says that it will Savers taking over the unit. I presume the current Savers store near Wilkinsons, will be transferring over to the new location once the work is completed. Once Savers has relocated, this opens up three empty shops next to Peacocks on Abbey Walk. These units could be knocked into one larger unit, with a number of retailers being linked to the larger space. A lot of discussions have taken place online recently as to who the local shoppers would like to come and trade in Selby. Famous high street retailers such as Marks and Spenser and Poundland have been getting the most mentions. If I hear of any news, I’ll mention it in future columns.
    Trophy Blog #76 – Good news on the high street at last. According to the latest national business news, the UK has just had the fastest growth in retail sales since 2004. Small and medium sized retailers across the country have reported a vast improvement in the run up to Christmas. The reports are showing a 2.6% increase during December and the UK annual increase has grown by 5.3%. Interestingly it is showing that smaller stores had outperformed their bigger rivals. Hopefully this will continue during the rest of 2014. We all know that November and December are the ‘Christmas shopping’ months for everyone, so retailers expect and plan the whole year for this. They stock up on the popular goods they hope people will buy. The marketing departments of the national retailers love to tell the shopping world how good they have done over the peak Christmas trading period. It is even better for them if a business rival has suffered. The big winners in 2013 look to be Primark, Argos, Halfords and Next. They have all increased their sales, but at the other end of the scale, stores such as Marks & Spencer and Debenhams have struggled compared to their high street neighbours. Another thing retailers look out for is to try and guess what customers want to buy. In the run up to Christmas, Consumers have been searching for the very latest gadgets, but also cheap fashion has shown to be the big winner. Online shopping has increased by 11.8% compared with the same month last year, with average weekly spending online now standing at a massive 675.4 million pounds.
  Trophy Blog #68 ~ Finally we seem to be heading in the right direction with the towns parking issues. As reported in the Selby Times & Post a few weeks ago, the powers that be have all sat down and discussed the issues. Why it has taken 4 months I do not know, but we seem to have light at the end of the tunnel. I remember in the summer speaking to somebody from out of town (more news on this soon) and they couldn’t believe how many hurdles had been put in the way for the shopper. We need to make Selby the easiest option for people wanting to spend money. The traffic warden seems to have been given a few more guidelines and is now using common sense before issuing the dreaded yellow sticker. My ideas was for town centre traders to display a window sticker in their car or van showing that they are delivering or collecting for business purposes. This will allow them 20 minutes ‘grace’ in the morning and afternoon. I’m sure this columns readers will have some stories to tell and I welcome your views via the SOS Selby facebook group site. Hopefully a little bit of leeway will help the negative comments he has already created. We recently had a new carpet in the LRB Trophies office and he allowed the ‘Selby Carpets’ fitters to park their van outside and do their work for 15 minutes without any issues. I have seen the comments and readers letters about parking laws. Yes, time allowances are the law for a reason, and Yes I agree. I know first hand as my business pays £130 for a parking permit every 3 months.