Community House in Selby held an event on the 12th June to highlight the ‘Disability Confident campaign’. This is promoted all over the UK by Justin Tomlinson, who is the UK’s Minister for Disabled People. Disabled people make a huge contribution to our national economy both as customers and as employees. Our newly elected MP for this area, Nigel Adams and his team has organised this event to help businesses and recruitment managers find out how disabled people can make a greater contribution. All local business leaders and management teams are welcome to attend the free event. The UK’s 12 million disabled people have a combined household spend of £212 billion every year. They also have major skills, valuable education and knowledge which is sometimes overlooked when looking through piles of CV’s. Help is available nation wide to adapt buildings and equipment to accommodate a disabled workforce. Looking at the bigger picture, disabled people are a significant proportion of the available employees in the UK. The event runs for 2 hours and includes networking amongst those in attendance and refreshments. Various presentations and one to one fact finding discussions can take place. For more information and further details please call the Tadcaster office on 01937 838088.

Earlier this week local businesses and support groups held their 2nd Selby Enterprise Day. The event took place on Monday at the Selby District council offices. It was attended by many people and around 30 different businesses, Support groups and networking associations who gave tips to new and old business owners. Heidi Green, from Business Support York and North Yorkshire set up the annual event and was delighted by the attendance and the amount of eagerness between owners to help each other. People at both ends of the business scale attended, Some people have been trading for decades, while we also had brand new start up ideas looking for guidance. If you are thinking of starting up a brand new business of any size, or expanding your current business, help and support is available if you look for it. Everybody involved in the Enterprise day started from new at some point. The hashtag #EnterpriseDay was used via twitter to give updates. The social media hashtag was being used to guide people to the correct location, who then could help. Three workshops took place involving local business coaches giving talks on Social Media, ‘Not giving away too much Profit’ and ‘Networking Groups’.

As mentioned before in this column, Heidi also arranges monthly ‘Enterprise Cafe’ events each month, these are on a smaller scale to the main yearly event, but still welcomes 40 to 50 people each time. They are now held in Community House on Portholme Road. In the wonderful world of business, It is not very often that you have the words ‘free’ and ‘help’ in the same sentence, so this is very valuable.
For all those thinking about starting up in business this year, some help and guidance is 
available in our area very soon. This is part of a national programme that has been running since April 2012. The 
service is hoping to continue until at least March 2017. The advice and programme is funded by the governments 
'Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' and is aimed at those who are currently in the Small and Medium 
Enterprises (SME's) sized category. This project also includes new Start up businesses across England. The 
Growth Accelerator programme is now part of the 'Business Growth Service', again, a Government backed UK 
service offering support to businesses who have the potential to improve and grow. If you have already built a 
successful company and your ready for the next stage of the project, why not attend the event and see what 
happens. Lots of fresh ideas are available for you to use in your own project or expansion programme. 
We need to remember all the big multi million pound businesses in our city centres once started out as a small 
business at one point in the past. Also part of the event is having the chance to meet and network with other 
liked-minded businesses. They maybe in a similar position and have experiences to share. Access is also 
available for up to £2,000 in match funding for senior managers to hone their leadership and management skills. 
For those who are interested or require further details, the Selby contact is Carl Wolf who can be contacted 
on 0113 3854616 or 07841 903 088.
New technology has gained momentum in our high streets. Some Blog readers may already use it, while others are not aware of it. Have you spotted a ‘contactless’ card reader in your favourite shop? The technology and card readers have been around since 2007, but mainly in our big cities. It works in a similar way to having a Oyster card on the London underground, swipe at the beginning and end of your journey and thats it. however contactless card readers are linked directly to your bank account rather than adding credit to an Oyster card. If you use it already, you will be interested to know that the spending limit is to be increased to £30 later this year. The current limit is £20. Over £2 billion was spent on 300 million transactions using the technology in 2014. People using the transport networks in London, Leeds and Cambridge are the trend setters. 1 in 10 journeys in these cities are paid for using this process. The technology allows customers to make payments just by briefly touching the card on a reader, and that’s it. There is no need to enter a PIN or wait for a printed receipt. Consumers are switching away from carrying cash. Having to go to a cash machine to get a note out, buying a coffee or birthday card, then jumping on a train normally results in a pocket full of change. People are more careful with every penny these days so paying the exact amount is a winner. Several cities, including Manchester, plan to introduce contactless payments at a grand scale in the near future.
In October 2015, the minimum wage will rise by 20p to £6.70 an hour. This increase will mean more money for over a million lower paid workers throughout the UK. The Government has accepted the advice and independent recommendations to also raise the levels for younger workers over 18 by 17p to £5.30 an hour, and for 16 and 17 age group by 8p to £3.87. Apprentices wages are also increasing by 57p to £3.30 an hour. With the election only a few weeks away, the minimum wage is major issue for the various parties to get right. The Prime Minister, David Cameron has called on the UK employers to “give Britain a pay rise” following the improved economic situation over the last few years. More money in peoples pockets means more money being spent in our shops and businesses. I’ve spoken in this column before about the Governments huge push for school and college leavers gaining ‘hands on’ practical knowledge. One of the main ways for young people to do this is by taking on a apprenticeship qualification. Having practical experience in a trade is a huge plus point for anyone applying for a job. This country will always need skilled trades such as plumbers and electricians. The Prime Minister went on to say “Whether you’re on low pay or starting your dream career through an apprenticeship, you will get more support to help you go further and faster.” The opposition party, Labour has promised that their levels of wages will rise to £8 by 2020.
Shoppers have been spending their hard earned pennies even more recently. We’ve just had the sunniest April since records began, and this has helped lift quarterly retail sales figures for businesses across the country. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has announced an 0.6% increase in overall retail spending. The ‘feel good’ weather has made people leave their houses and spend. Non food sales rose 2.3%, with food sales going up 0.4% over the quarter. The BRC quoted in the report that it gave “a clear indication that confidence among consumers is slowly improving even more”. They also mentioned “this is despite overall profitability being under intense pressure due to continued changes in shopping habits”. These shopping habits include shopping via websites and the attractiveness of home delivery. Consumers are also not being loyal to any one brand or product any more as they search for a discount or bargain. Old habits use to be shopping in the same place every time. Now, with adverts, social media and the internet, shoppers can be swayed to go elsewhere if they see a better reason to go. Retailers will be paying out for shop rents and business rates at the end of this quarter, so they will be trying extra hard to attract more footfall into their stores. This normally means ‘summer sales’ starting early. The good news is that it is set to continue, The weather ahead looks to stay warm and sunny through out the summer and the news of Princess Charlotte being born continues the consumers ‘feel good’ factor and encourages spending even more as we head into the next quarter.
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.
Sadly for over nearly 3,000 workers, Christmas was not a enjoyable time. The courier company City Link went into administration on Christmas eve. Unless a last minute rescue package is found, they look set to be made redundant by new years day. For those who have used City Link to send their parcels, customers are being urged to collect parcels from depots on Monday. The companies online tracking system will tell you where the parcel is. If you have used them to send numerous parcels far away, I’m afraid you face many miles to go and get them back. City Link was founded in 1969, and had been acquired by restructuring specialist Better Capital for just £1 in 2013. The company had been running at a lost for some time. It had recently upgraded its fleet on yellow and green vans to Mercedes Sprinters, but this had come at a huge price. It was also in a difficult sector in the parcel industry. I send 40 to 50 parcels each month, but only used City Link twice in three years. Their prices were too high compared to similar companies and drivers would turn up hours after the allocated collection time. Another company facing a worrying time is the chocolate maker, Thorntons. It’s retail outlets had been doing well in the run up to Christmas, but its new centralised warehouse in Derbyshire, had major teething problems that had created delivery issues. Online sales had been heavily hit. The company had already started a store closure programme which shut half of its 350 shops, this lead to 500 jobs being lost over the past four years, at the moment they still employ almost 4,000 people and made a pre-tax profit of £5.97m in its last financial year.
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.