Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Entrepreneur Denise is a Stevie wonder

Denise O'Leary Entrepreneur Denise O’Leary has picked up two awards at an international competition celebrating women in business.

Denise flew to New York to collect her trophies at The Stevie Awards for Women in Business.

The author and founder of Purpol Marketing won a silver Stevie in the Female Entrepreneur of the Year – Business Services –10 or Less Employees category and a bronze in the Most Innovative Woman of the Year - Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations category.

Called the Stevies after the Greek word for 'crowned' the awards were presented at a gala dinner attended by more than 550 people at New York's Marriott Marquis Hotel.

More than 1,500 entries were submitted this year for consideration in more than 90 categories, including Executive of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Company of the Year, Startup of the Year, Women Helping Women, and Women Run Workplace of the Year.

Gold, Silver, and Bronze Stevie Award winners were determined by the average scores of more than 150 business professionals around the world, working on eight juries.

“To be recognised as a winner by the most prestigious awards for women in business in the world is both amazing and humbling. Being a home based business amongst the largest global corporations, with attendees from all corners of the earth, all cheering each other’s achievements was incredible," said Denise.

“These hugely valued accolades acknowledge the effort and dedication it takes to be a female entrepreneur, and to be in such esteemed company of the best in the world makes me feel incredibly proud.”

Maggie Gallagher, president of the Stevie Awards, said: “In its 16th year, the Stevie Awards for Women in Business received an outstanding body of nominations from women in organisations of all types, in 25 nations.

"We are gratified by how meaningful it is to women to win a Stevie Award, and how impactful it can be on the futures of their careers and their organisations. We congratulate all of this year’s Grand, Gold, Silver, and Bronze Stevie Award winners for their achievements.”

Industry award for energy management company

Stuart PearceA Corsham-based energy management company and reduction specialist has won an industry award.

SMARTech Energy was named Energy Manager of the Year at the British Energy Saving Technology (BEST) International Partner Conference Awards last week.

The awards are the industry’s most prestigious event of the year and celebrate the significant energy reduction achievements of businesses across the globe – and of those who are making a difference in the fight against climate change.

SMARTech MD Stuart Pearce said: "We are delighted to be recognised for our work in helping businesses and organisations to achieve carbon reduction and better sustainability practices and this award validates our commitment to delivering outstanding energy efficiency projects.

“We have found that there is increasing support for the move towards energy efficient technologies and it is the understanding of energy usage from technologies such as the Eniscope energy monitoring solution, which provides companies with the knowledge they need to reduce their energy consumption”.

Simon Jennings, MD of Best Energy Saving Technology Ltd, said: "Stuart has been a core part of our global partner network for some years now and his energy management expertise is a great asset.

"This year in particular, Stuart and his company SMARTech energy have delivered outstanding work on a number of occasions - showing the level of diligence, accuracy, patience and skill required for energy management excellence.

"We couldn't think of another energy manager across the whole of the network that has demonstrated Stuart's level of commitment to the role and that has contributed more to some of the projects that mean the most to us the world over."

Queen's Award gets to the nuts and bolts of exporting

John Hunt and Paul Sanders are presented with their award by Sarah TroughtonA manufacturer and distributor of specialised high quality fasteners, components and hardware for the aerospace, defence, motorsport and industrial markets has been presented with the prestigious Queen’s Award for International Trade.

Swindon-based Clarendon Specialty Fasteners was one of 201 organisations nationally to be recognised with a prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise back in April.

Last week, the firm was presented with its trophy by The Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Sarah Troughton.

Initially specialising in the distribution of aerospace hardware into motorsport and Formula 1 in particular, Clarendon soon became a market leader for the supply of fasteners for use in niche and specialist applications.

Having established a well-respected reputation, Clarendon is now recognised as a leading and integral hardware supply partner throughout its chosen market sectors.

Since 2001 and following the acquisition by Diploma Plc, the business has grown organically as well as strategically through the acquisition of complementary businesses incorporating Amfast (2012), Specialty Fasteners & Components (2014) and Coast Fabrication, Inc. (2017). All acquisitions have helped broaden the company’s product offering as well as extending its market reach.

The company has achieved rapid growth in overseas sales in recent years with export sales increasing from £3.6 million in 2016 to £6.4 million in 2017 and £8.6 million in 2018, representing a total increase of 140 percent over the three year cycle. The top five export markets are Italy, France, Germany, South Africa and Thailand.

Clarendon plans to continue on its growth trajectory and achieve substantial further increases in export sales. It is already in the process of establishing physical locations in Germany, Thailand and the US to further develop strong relationships with customers in these geographies.

John Hunt, Managing Director, said: "“We are honoured to receive the Queen’s Award for International Trade. It serves as a testament to all employees whom without their sheer determination and hard work, we would not be in this position today.”

Paul Sanders, Sales Director, added: "“This award comes at an exciting time for Clarendon as we extend our global footprint into new markets and is the UK’s highest accolade for business.”

Swindon hit hard by retail closures – report

Swindon has one of the fastest-declining retail economies in the UK, according to a new report.

The findings, by AskTraders, suggests the town was in the top five of the worst-hit urban centres in 2019.

The analysis looked at ATMs, bank branches, retail store closures, and retail growth data from the Office for National Statistics over the course of 2019.

Swindon came fifth in the list of worst-performing high streets after Poole, Blackpool, Warrington and Manchester.

Victims of the retail slump in Swindon this year include Argos, Dorothy Perkins, Homebase, Morrisons, Mothercare, Starbucks, Thomas Cook, Thorntons, and Wallis

Nationally, the report paints a sorry picture: 1,200 high street stores closed during the first half of 2019 and 5,000 have closed in the past 12 months.

More than 6,000 cash machines have disappeared across the UK, and 1,100 bank branches have shut their doors.

Steve Miley, senior market analyst at AskTraders, said: "The UK high street has been weathering tough trading conditions with many UK retailers dropping by the wayside. Traditional retail store closures are on the up as businesses grapple with a weak consumer in the face of Brexit uncertainty, the unabated rise of e-commerce, higher costs and changing tastes.”

He continues: “There are, inevitably, going to be winners and losers. High street retailers with inflexible business models that have failed to adapt to their changing environment are and will be the most noticeable casualties. Big names have just vanished from our high street and there will certainly be more to come.

The challenges that the High street is facing aren’t going anywhere fast. This will be a case of survival of the fittest. Those retailers that can evolve whilst still giving their customers exactly what they want could have a lot to gain.”

Fast-growing outsource centre acquires technology provider

Cyril MolitorOutsourced contact centre Woven has acquired technology provider tPoint Solutions.

Woven, which also offers customer management and business process outsourcing services, launched nearly a year ago with three acquisitions and is now operating with over 1,000 colleagues from centres in Bristol, Swindon, Ipswich and Epsom, serving global brands across a wide range of industries.

The acquisition of Reading-based tPoint will enable Woven to more easily connect with and service its customers around the world.

Woven CEO Cyril Molitor said: “This is an incredibly exciting time for Woven and tPoint, with this acquisition allowing us to service our clients in a more productive, efficient and agile way.

"Over the past 10 months, Woven has partnered with tPoint and developed a new service reality where people matter and technology is intuitive.

"tPoint’s technology allows Woven to deliver a combination of increased speed-to-competency for advisors, through an easy to use unified desktop, while delivering innovations and solutions that will improve customer experience and business outcomes."

tPoint CEO Andy Griffin said: “This is a fantastic day for the team at tPoint. The acquisition by Woven provides tPoint with the tools we need to accelerate our product differentiation.

“We believe passionately in technology that empowers business users to deliver amazing customer outcomes simply and in real-time.

"Together Woven and tPoint will disrupt the BPO space and also the wider customer engagement disciplines for the benefit of both our clients and customers.”

18,000 Swindon workers earning less than the Living Wage – report

Eighteen thousands workers in Swindon are earning below the Real Living Wage, according to a new report.

The figures, from the Trade Unions Congress, mean 16 percent of the town's workforce are earning less than £9.30 an hour.

The Real Living Wage rate is an independently calculated voluntary wage set by the Living Wage Foundation as the basic hourly amount needed to get by.

Last week the Foundation announced an increase from £9.00 to £9.30 per hour signalling a pay increase for people who work in organisations that have signed up.

Swindon and Wiltshire employers who have pledged to pay their workers the Real Living Wage include, Apetito, the Bible Society, Business West, Excalibur, Good Energy, Moovahome, the National Self Build and Renovation Centre, and Nationwide.

The UK minimum wage is currently £8.21 for workers over the age of 25. For those aged 21 to 24 it falls to £7.70 and for 18 to 20 year olds it is £6.15. Under 18s are entitled to £4.35 an hour, and apprentices £3.90.

The rates are decided each year by government, following the recommendations of independent advisory group the Low Pay Commission.

The TUC South West says Swindon is suffering with too many working people stuck on poverty wages, and with good quality jobs set to close in the next couple of years due to Honda leaving the organisation fears it will only get worse.

The TUC's South West TUC regional secretary, Nigel Costley, said: "“Our biggest fear for Swindon is what will happen when good quality jobs leave the area, and low paid jobs are left to take over."

Ahead of an election, the TUC is calling for urgent action to get wages rising again, with a minimum wage of £10 an hour for all workers.

The Conservatives have pledged an increase in the minimum wage to £10.50 over five years. Labour says that if it won the election, the minimum wage would immediately be increased to £10 an hour for workers aged 16 and over.

British Chambers of Commerce sets out election priorities

Adam MarshallAvoiding a no-deal Brexit and delivering an urgent confidence boost through action on infrastructure, immigration, skills and business costs must be at the forefront of the next government’s agenda, says the British Chambers of Commerce.

2020 and beyond: business priorities for the next UK government – compiled with input from the 53 accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK and the BCC’s growing global network, which includes Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce and Business West – sets out key priorities that would enable businesses of all sizes to reignite the country’s stagnating economy.

BCC director general Dr Adam Marshall said: “The message from business communities all over the UK couldn’t be clearer: the next government must deliver an end to the Brexit stalemate and take decisive steps to improve the business environment here at home.

“To say business leaders are angry and frustrated would be putting it mildly. They are doing their bit for the country – and think it is high time politicians do their bit too.

“We cannot afford to allow our infrastructure to fray, for the gaping holes in our training and skills system to go unfilled, or for governments to pile on new costs that stop firms from investing in growth.

“Millions of businesspeople across the UK pay their taxes diligently, and care deeply about their communities and the environment. They should never be seen as the enemies of progress, and Westminster should never be distracted from delivering the conditions needed for growth, jobs and prosperity here at home.

"Our proposals would help an incoming administration reignite business confidence and investment – and would pay lasting dividends for our communities and the UK economy.”

The BCC says key business priorities for the next administration should be:

On Brexit:

Avoid a messy and disorderly exit from the European Union. Ensure the smoothest possible shift from a transition period to the future UK-European Union relationship. Introduce a temporary SME Brexit tax credit to support businesses that need to undertake specific activity to adjust to changes in trading conditions.

On people:

Introduce a simple and flexible new immigration system that minimises the administrative burden on businesses and allows access to all skill levels – including temporary, seasonal and permanent roles – with recognition of professional qualifications.

Increase funding for apprenticeships to ensure SMEs can access training, at all skill levels, in their local area and reform the Apprenticeship Levy in England to allow businesses to use all forms of accredited training.

On business investment and costs:

Launch a business-led review of the business rates system in England and Wales, and work with the Scottish government to co-ordinate these reforms to provide a level playing field.

Extend the £1 million Annual Investment Allowance for a further two years and widen its scope.

On infrastructure:

Raise public investment in infrastructure to at least 1.4 per cent of GDP per year – exceeding the funding guideline of 1.2 per cent recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission.

Complete the legal frameworks for all phases of HS2; deliver promised investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail; and proceed to deliver a UK-wide high-speed rail network as soon as possible.

On international trade:

Ensure continuity of trading conditions with third countries so that businesses can continue to benefit from the levels of market access that they have had under European Union free trade agreements.

Secure the future of the UK-European Union trading relationship, minimising cross-border trade frictions and avoiding a hard border with Ireland.

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