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Jobs at risk as Mothercare goes into administration

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PARENTING retailer Mothercare has announced plans to put its UK business into administration affecting local branches including Cardiff and Swansea.

The company said it will file a notice to appoint administrators, casting a shadow over the future of its 79 UK shops and 2,500 employees.

Mothercare has already gone through a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which allowed it to shut 55 shops. The planned administration also affects Mothercare Business Services Limited (MBS), which provides certain services to Mothercare UK.

Mothercare said: “These notices of intent to appoint administrators in respect of Mothercare UK and MBS are a necessary step in the restructuring and refinancing of the Group. Plans are well advanced and being finalised for execution imminently. A further announcement will be made in due course.”

Only 500 of the jobs at risk are full-time posts, including head office roles, with 2,000 part-time.
The main branches expected to be affected in south Wales are Cardiff and Swansea, where many could become jobless at this sudden news.

Mothercare has been looking for a buyer for the UK stores, but with no success so far.
The company also operates in more than 40 overseas territories, which are not subject to administration. In the financial year to March 2019, Mothercare’s international business generated profits of £28.3m, whereas the UK retail operations lost £36.3m.

However, in its prime Mothercare had hundreds of stores. It was the go-to place for new parents but sadly it failed to keep up with the public’s changing shopping habits. Mothercare’s UK sector has been loss-making for years. One big reason is there’s so much more competition these days.

Here are some of the key moments in the decline of the well-known retailer:

1961 – Mothercare is founded by entrepreneurs Selim Zilkha and James Goldsmith.

1986 – The company becomes part of the Storehouse group after it merges with homeware business Habitat and British Home Stores.

2000 – The company reverts to the Mothercare brand after the BHS and Habitat businesses are each sold off separately.

June 2007 – The retailer purchases the Early Learning Centre chain of children’s stores for £85m. By now, Mothercare has grown to more than 350 outlets in the UK.

2017 – The retailer has seen a steady decline in sales following the financial crisis, resulting in a number of profit warnings and a steady stream of store closures. By November, the company has 152 UK stores and warns over the “softening UK market” as half-year losses widen on the back of sliding high street store sales.

May 2018 – Mothercare secures a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) restructuring deal which it says will lead to the closure of 50 stores and affect 800 jobs. The retailer says it has also agreed rent reductions on another 21 stores as part of the move.

July 2018 – Mothercare announces a £32.5m fundraiser at 19 pence per share (more than double its current value) to gather proceeds to pay off its significant debts.
The company also says it will close more stores than previously indicated, forecasting a rise to 60 closures, although this eventually results in 55 sites shutting their doors.

December 2018 – The retailer sells and leases back its UK head offices, bringing in £14.5m, as sales continue to fall in its UK high street stores.

March 2019 – Mothercare announces plans to sell the Early Learning Centre toy business to rival retailer The Entertainer for £13.5m. The group says the sale is the “next step towards being free of bank debt”.

July 2019 – The children’s goods business issues a profit warning after it sees UK profit margins improve slower than forecast due to the difficult retail backdrop, despite the major restructuring and cost-saving efforts.
UK sales are decimated by the raft of closures, driving total UK sales down by 23.2% for the 15 weeks to July.

November 2019 – Mothercare’s parent business says it will file a notice to appoint administrators for the UK business as it can no longer “satisfy the cash needs” to keep it afloat.

New job market data has also revealed a downward spiral for the retail sector as a whole, with available vacancies in the retail sector plummeting by -25% in the last 12 months.

According to data from Adzuna, a leading job search engine, the retail industry has lost a quarter of all vacancies in the past 12 months (a loss of 7,298 jobs) with a -13% decrease of jobs month-on-month. August 2019 shows the largest month-on-month decrease since May 2017.
Splitting this loss out into different roles, the data reveals vacancies for management positions in retail have fallen by 30% compared to this time last year, with vacancies for retail apprentices dropping by 55% and retail operatives dropping by 23%.

The average salary across the industry (£26,284 pa), has only seen a 0.7% increase in the last three years, despite the average inflation rate being 2.62%¹. The current average sits 23% below the national average of £34,164.

The top five companies hiring for retail jobs in the UK are:
Tesco – 1,275 jobs
Dixons Carphone – 952 jobs
Halfords – 401 jobs
Greggs – 351 jobs
Sainsbury’s – 334 jobs
The data also looked at the job market at a whole, revealing that across all industries, the North East of England saw the biggest loss in job vacancies (-46.3% year on year) in the last 12 months.

Shares in the parent company Mothercare dived by 29.2 percent to eight pence in early trading on Monday amidst the tough retail climate and one thing is for sure, Mothercare’s days are numbered.

Business

National Children of Wales Awards unveils sponsors

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THE INAUGURAL National Children of Wales Awards has unveiled a list of high-profile sponsors, who have committed to support and deliver the event through to its climax on April 3, 2020.

The Trade Centre Wales, one of the largest and fastest growing used car companies in the UK, and Bidfood, one of the largest food wholesalers in the UK, have committed to support the event as headline sponsors.

Mark Bailey, Chairman of the Trade Centre Wales, said:

“We are extremely proud to be supporting the inaugural National Children of Wales Awards. It is hard to envisage a more befitting event, closely aligned with our ethos and values, than recognising the contribution of children within our great nation.”

Nick Sullivan, Head of Freetrade Sales at Bidfood UK, commented:

“We are honoured to be part of a project that shines a light on tremendously brave children and young people who regularly face hardships and challenges in everyday life. Community engagement is extremely important to Bidfood as a business, which is why we make it part of our mission to regularly support our local communities across Wales.”

Meanwhile, the event has secured the support of a number of other companies as category sponsors. These companies are: Joe’s Ice Cream, RedKite Solicitors, 1192 Laser & Beauty Clinic, Forrest Print, Iceland Foods, Princes Gate, Andrew Rees & Sons Butchers, MGY, Principality Building Society, Barclays, Mitre Linen, Thomas Recruitment Group, PwC and Bibendum Wine.

The event is working with a number of other companies to provide support to the award winners. Packages are available to help fund a stay at the Bluestone Resort, and at the Celtic Manor on the evening of the event.

The National Children of Wales Awards was founded and launched by Blanche Sainsbury, chair of Bluestone National Park Resort and the Bluestone Foundation, the company’s charitable foundation.

Fifteen award categories will focus on diversity, bravery, courage, sporting achievements, and children who help others through championing causes, caring and fundraising. Full details of all the categories and how to enter can be found at the website: www.nationalchildrenofwalesawards.org

The organisers aim to raise £100,000 at the event, which will be distributed to charities in Wales dedicated to helping children. The Teenage Cancer Trust, Dreams & Wishes and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) will all benefit from the event, as will the Bluestone Foundation.

The Bluestone Foundation works with many local charities in Pembrokeshire, while the Bluestone National Park Resort has, for many years, aided charities including Dreams & Wishes, which helps seriously ill children enjoy precious holiday time with their families.

Blanche Sainsbury, chair of Bluestone National Park Resort and founder of the National Children of Wales Awards, said:

“The support of the local business community so far has been fantastic and exceeded our expectations. The fact is, that without this support, these awards would simply not exist. We are very grateful for those that have committed so far, but we are still seeking more companies to work with and also seeking prizes for the auction. I would urge anyone interested in getting involved in these awards to contact us.”

Anyone interested in sponsoring the awards, buying a table or donating an auction prize, please contact Mark Hillary at: mhillary@bluestonewales.com

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WaterSafe and Welsh Water to sign up plumbers in Wales to protect water quality

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WELSH Water and WaterSafe, the national body for approved plumbers, are launching a campaign to sign up qualified plumbers in Wales to the UK’s plumbing register to help keep customers’ tap water fresh and healthy.

When water leaves Welsh Water’s mains and enters the pipes supplying a property, it becomes the owner’s responsibility to keep it safe and free from contamination.

However, poor plumbing in the home or workplace can easily create problems – such as strange tastes and smells, discoloured water, leaks, or in the worst cases contamination with bacteria.

That’s why Welsh Water supports the UK-wide plumber approval scheme WaterSafe. Plumbers on the register are fully trained in the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations, designed to keep water safe, and not waste it, as well as being appropriately insured and having a customer redress scheme in place.

As an added bonus, plumbers on the WaterSafe register can self-notify their work to Welsh Water – and issue a certificate stating that the plumbing work complies with the regulations, which protects customers from any legal comeback.

James Lees, of Welsh Water, said: “The water we supply is consistently top quality and we want to ensure it stays that way when it reaches our customers’ taps. For this reason, we always recommend to our customers they use a plumber or plumbing business approved by WaterSafe.

“This makes it easier for everyone in Wales to know how to quickly find a trusted, qualified plumber near them. So we’re calling on plumbers who think they meet the criteria to sign up to WaterSafe and be listed on its online register.”

Julie Spinks, director of WaterSafe, said: “Being a member of WaterSafe is a great way for competent plumbers to provide immediate reassurance to their customers that they are qualified to do the job and keep their drinking water safe.

“WaterSafe is supported by all the water companies in the UK, as well as the water industry regulator, the Drinking Water Inspectorate. Membership comes with many benefits and in many cases it’s free to join.

“We’d urge plumbers who are proud of their work and want to find out more about joining, or taking the final training steps to join, to get in touch today.”

Members of WaterSafe benefit from:

1. Free promotion and branding – a listing on the largest online directory for approved plumbers in the UK – which is promoted by Welsh Water

2. Customer reassurance – that you’re qualified and trusted to work safely with water by Welsh Water and the drinking water regulator

3. A direct link to Welsh Water – to self-notify plumbing work and access free advice on the water regulations.

Paul Williams, a Master plumber and member of WaterSafe based in Carmarthenshire, Wales, said: “Being part of WaterSafe has been great for my business. It’s a transparent way for the public to know that I am certified and hold the relevant qualifications and insurances.

“I get frequent calls from the public who have used the online search facility and found my company details.”

To join WaterSafe, plumbers must be qualified and have a water regulations certificate. Plumbers interested in finding out more can visit watersafe.org.uk/howtojoin or call 0333 207 9030.

Anyone looking for an approved plumber can search the directory at watersafe.org.uk.

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New establishment for Neath Chocolatier

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Willy Wonka famously had his chocolate factory, and now a Neath confectioner has opened his version – in his back garden.

When former bakery manager Gareth Davies launched his eponymous chocolate enterprise, little did he think ‘Delicious Delights by Gareth’ would mushroom into thriving full-time family business.

It all began with a raspberry ruffle Gareth made for his wife Lyn, now Gareth produces nearly 3,000 chocolates and sweet treats each week.

“I hadn’t made chocolates before, but Lyn likes raspberry ruffles, and I thought I’d give it a go,” says Gareth, who – along with Lyn – spent 25 years working for supermarket giant, Tesco.

Such was the popularity of his chocolates, fudge and brownies among family and friends that Gareth and Lyn took the plunge and with the help of their family created their confectionary business.

“We use the finest Belgian chocolate,” says Gareth, “I find recipes and then tweak them and try different flavours.”

In order to accommodate the increasing demand for their chocolates, the couple has built a production unit at their home. As well as providing extra space, the unit helps to separate home and work life.

“It is much easier,” says Gareth, “the unit is twice the size of our home kitchen. Now when I’ve finished making chocolates, I can close the door and go into the house to cook tea!”

From those first chocolates, there is now an impressive array of handmade chocolates, fudge and brownies which are sold at markets and festivals.

Truffle flavours include Lemon, Hazelnut, Baileys Salted Caramel, Prosecco – and of course Raspberry! There are Triple Chocolate, Rocky Road, and Hazelnut Brownies, as well as Gareth’s fabulous fudges – such as Rum & Raison, Vanilla, Chocolate Swirl, and Cherry Bakewell.

This weekend Delicious Delights by Gareth will be on home territory, at Neath Food Festival (October 4-6), and Gareth and Lyn are busy preparing for the three-day event.

So, what’s the most popular chocolate in Gareth’s home town?

“Hazelnut Truffle,” he says, “favourites can change from week to week and place to place, but in Neath it is the Hazelnut Truffle. Although, we will be launching a new Gingerbread Truffle at the food festival – so who knows, maybe that will become the
new favourite?”

Delicious Delights by Gareth is being helped to develop by Cywain – a business-led programme delivered by Menter a Busnes. Cywain is dedicated to developing new and existing micro-businesses and SMEs in the Welsh food and drink sector, focusing on maximising opportunities and growth potential.

With Cywain, Delicious Delights by Gareth had the opportunity to sell directly to the public at its most significant event so far – the Royal Welsh Show – where the company was featured on the Cywain stand in the Food Hall.

Says Gareth, “We’ve had great advice and support from Cywain, and they’re helping us to grow and to access new markets.”

Says Lowri Edwards, Cywain Development Manager, “We are delighted to see how Delicious Delights by Gareth has grown over the last two years and it’s great to see the new unit being developed, enabling them to increase production and access new markets with their chocolates. We look forward to supporting them further along their journey.”

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