Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Spirit of the age: fashion chain enters administration

Award-winning independent fashion chain Spirit has gone into administration, with the loss of around 20 jobs.Models from Spirit at Marlborough Fashion Show in 2011

The firm – which had branches in Devizes and Bradford on Avon, and until recently Marlborough and Frome – was well known for its high-end lines appealing to a market of thirty- to fifty-somethings.

The Frome outlet has continued as a clothing boutique under new ownership, while the leases on the Marlborough shop has been taken by a gifts supplier.

Sprit opened its first boutique in 1999. In 2010 readers of the Gazette & Herald newspaper voted the Devizes store The Best Boutique in Wiltshire.

This week, the firm appointed Bristol-based Mazars as liquidators.

In November, Chamber News reported how the Marlborough branch was looking to sublet the top floor of its two-storey premises in marlborough High Street in a bid to manage the £31,500 PA rent.

Proprietor Rose Webster said: “People look at Marlborough, they see the grand High Street and the College and they assume there are millions of shoppers. There aren´t; and the economic downturn since 2008 has had a serious knock on profits.”

Small businesses must be at the heart of the Chancellor’s Budget, says FSB

FSB LogoThe Chancellor, George Osborne, must improve access to finance, simplify the tax system and make business rates relief permanent in his Budget next Wednesday, according to the Federation of Small Businesses
The FSB is calling for a Budget for small firms, which will give opportunities for investment, growth and job creation and return confidence to small businesses.

The lobbying group has called for incentives to take on new staff and for the Chancellor to announce a review of how enterprise support is delivered through central and local government to ensure support is focused and effective.
“Small firms have ambition and want to grow but consistently cite finance and access to long term capital as key barriers,” said John Walker, national chairman of the FSB.

“The Chancellor needs to put clear plans in place for the Business Bank.  Not only should he set out the role the new institution will have in getting this finance to small firms, he should also show how the bank should help open up competition in the banking sector and encourage non-bank sources of finance.”
To bolster efforts to increase competition, the FSB is urging the Government to ensure the Financial Conduct Authority focuses on this aspect of their remit with the aim of encouraging new entrants into the market, so that small firms have more choice.
The organisation says the Chancellor must also ensure that the work being done to simplify the tax system is not watered down.

The current proposal to allow small firms with a turnover of less than £77,000 to provide cash-based accounts is a major deregulatory step, and one the FSB believes will increase compliance. The FSB would also like to see existing schemes for investment relief pooled together in a simple one-stop-shop so that small firms know where to go for capital to invest in their business.
And the body is calling for Small Business Rates Relief to be made permanent in England as some small businesses pay more in business rates than they do in rent.

The FSB is also calling for a review on how business rates are calculated, moving the indexation from RPI to CPI in line with other areas of Government policy.
In addition, to help create new jobs and boost small firms’ confidence the FSB is recommending Government:
Extend the National Insurance Contributions holiday to all small firms across the UK with less than four staff, rather than just start-up businesses. This could create 45,000 new jobs and add £1.3 billion to the economy
Cancel the 3p fuel duty rise planned for September 2013 and to initiate a full review of fuel prices and motoring taxation
Help boost businesses cash-flow, by ensuring that when it is awarding contracts that its Tier 1 suppliers are signed up to the Prompt Payment Code and pay their supply chains quickly
Extend the money available through StartUp Loans scheme to help more people that struggle to access finance to start a business. The payback periods should also be extended
Direct Ofgem to mandate that energy companies cannot rollover a small business onto an un-negotiated contract for more than 30 days, down from the current period of 12 months
Mr Walker said: “With the economy only growing a fraction in 2012, the Chancellor must deliver a Budget that is unashamedly focussed on boosting small business.

“Our figures show that confidence is rising among small business owners, but there is still caution. And, even though unemployment has fallen considerably, consumer confidence to spend and boost the economy is far from sufficient.
“What we need to hear on 20 March is not more small-scale policies which tinker at the edges but measures that will have a tangible effect both immediately and in the long-term. That is why we have asked for a review of enterprise policy, to ensure the right initiatives are in place that really do help small firms start-up and grow. 

“The Business Bank and access to finance have a clear role to play in this, but so too does making it easier to run a business. This is why making it easier to find investment relief, simplifying the tax system and making small business rates relief permanent should be the Chancellor’s priority.”

Wiltshire Council commits to boosting economy

Tim-Iredale-Julie-GirlingWiltshire Council reconfirmed its commitment to creating a buoyant local economy during a meeting of business leaders on Friday.

The council hosted the monthly Wessex Chambers of Commerce business breakfast, where council leader Jane Scott took the opportunity to pledge the council´s support to the business community and outline plans for the current year.

“Last year was a celebratory year, which we all embraced and it helped to reinvigorate the local economy in many of our market towns and city – but we’re now looking to the future and the legacy that 2012 instigated and how we keep this momentum alive,” said Cllr Scott.

“We have set up a legacy board, which is made up of partners that has already delivered and planned a number of innovative events across the county.

“We need to take every opportunity to encourage communities to continue to come together, to take action to keep our economy buoyant and to encourage people to keep active and healthy.”

She told networkers that a sporting dinner will be held on Friday, May 24, where each table will be asked to sponsor a future Olympian or Paralympian to support their training, connecting businesses to future sporting stars.

The council is also supporting the Wealth of Wiltshire Markets in Chippenham, Salisbury and Devizes, the city council-run Big Business Event in Salisbury, and the Trowbridge Business Expo in June.

The guest speakers at the event, which was held at County Hall in Trowbridge, included South West MEP Julie Girling, who gave an overview of her responsibility as an MEP and the current  issues facing the  European Union, and Tim Iredale  from Calls In Confidence, who explained how his organisation can provide a “ sterile corridor” between employees and senior management enabling sensitive information to be passed on anonymously.

The next breakfast will be held at Cumberwell Golf Club, BOA on Friday, March 22 when the guest speaker will be James Scott, CEO of the Royal United Hospital, Bath. Visit wessexchambers.org.uk events for details.

Deal ´will unlock economic potential of military´

Driving the growth of the local economy is behind a successful bid from Swindon and Wiltshire that will see key government powers devolved to the region.
The Swindon and Wiltshire deal confirmed by central government today (Tuesday) focuses on unlocking the economic potential of the area’s military presence by freeing up existing redundant MoD sites and using the skills of military personnel to support business growth.
The deal is also centred on bringing forward other appropriate sites for economic development to encourage further inward investment.

The key behind the deal is to make it easier for the two unitary authorities and the Local Enterprise Partnership to work with government agencies more effectively and flexibly.
This will accelerate economic growth by cutting through bureaucracy and making it easier for the LEP, through the unitary authorities, to attract investment to the area.
The bid, which was submitted in January, outlined a number of key requests to government:

  • To provide the funding for 2,000 degrees so universities will compete to deliver the courses in Wiltshire and Swindon to improve the skills of the local workforce
  • Establish a ‘land-bank’ that brings together the area’s public-owned land, including military sites, to identify where appropriate economic development could take place
  • Devolve the funding process for apprenticeship, skills and research to local authorities and the business community ensuring the required skills are developed

By focusing on the military infrastructure as well as the economic power and skills within its workforce, the bid led by the LEP, Swindon Borough Council and Wiltshire Council will attract and accelerate private sector investment, reinforcing the area’s position as a high growth economic area.
The links between the local authorities and the military in the area are already well established with significant development currently underway.
The deal has the support of major companies located in the area such as Honda, Dyson and Nationwide. It is also supported by the MoD.

Paul Johnson, chairman of Swindon and Wiltshire LEP, said: "We’re delighted that the government wants to work with the LEP and our unitary authority partners to further our goal of strong economic growth and job creation in Swindon and Wiltshire.

"This deal is the result of a co-ordinated effort from the core partners to set out a compelling vision on how we can unleash the economic firepower of the military assets in the area.

"The business community will be key to turning this aspiration into reality – utilising the skills of the military personnel to support their growth plans as well as building a symbiotic relationship for the future that sees them supporting the Army Reserve Force and getting highly skilled and motivated people working for them in return.

"Government have committed to playing their part by removing bureaucratic barriers and providing the policy tools to give businesses confidence to invest more in the economy of Swindon and Wiltshire."
Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott said: “This is excellent news for the area. It will lead to key government-decision makers working with us and our partners to cut through red tape so we can  deliver speed and certainty when it comes to making important decisions on investment opportunities which will in turn lead to local jobs for local people.

"We are very proud of the military presence in this county and this is another example of us working together to boost the local economy and make our communities more resilient.”
Swindon Borough Council leader Roderick Bluh said: “This is further recognition of Swindon and Wiltshire’s huge potential in driving regional economic growth.

"There’s a good reason why so many major businesses are here already, and this will help attract more investment.

"The 2000 extra higher education places this deal hopes to deliver will boost the employment chances of young people, and give businesses the skills they need employees to have.

"Another key benefit of the deal is a consistent approach to decision-making right across Swindon and Wiltshire.”

Employment agency takes snapshot of Wiltshire economy

A snapshot of the state of the Wiltshire economy is being taken by Trowbridge-based White Horse Employment, which is conducting its 2013 Business Outlook Survey.

Wiltshire businesses are being invited to share their thoughts on operating expectations over the next 12 months in a quick, easy and confidential survey.

White Horse Employment MD Beverley Glover was the driving force behind the 2012 survey and believes this year’s information gathering is just as important.

“Following the published Business Outlook report from last year’s submissions, we were approached by local businesses who found the survey invaluable, who want to gain a snapshot for the year ahead, specific to our geographical area,” she said.

“We have seen that by sharing this information, businesses can get a better measure of the local economy and it helps us all.”

The 2013 Business Outlook Survey, can be completed online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/WhiteHorseEmployment-2013BusinessOutlook

As a thank you to businesspeople who complete the survey before 31 March, White Horse Employment will make a £5 donation to Comic Relief.  

Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

HMV to pull out of Swindon and Salisbury

HMVHMV is to pull out of Swindon and Salisbury in the latest tranche of closures following the company´s move into administration.

Administrators Deloitte announced yesterday (Wednesday) that 37 stores, employing 464 staff, will close.

At the time of its collapse, HMV operated 236 stores around the UK.

Following yesterday´s announcement, just 116 will remain.