20 Dec 2012

Glass Production On Hold At Cowley Hill - St Helens

NSG Glass - Pilkington Cowley Hill St Helens
Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG) owners of Pilkington Glass have announced that they will suspend production at their Cowley Hill plant in St Helens for three months. The plant, one of two in St Helens produces float glass for the construction and automotive industry.

A company spokesman stated that the plant will be placed on hot hold and explained that this means that the furnace will be kept operational. Staff employed on the line will not be affected and will be given other duties. It is understood that the reason for the decision is that the company is holding too much stock at the plant and wish to reduce this by halting production for a short while.

The plant will be placed on hot hold for three months starting from January 3rd 2013 until April.

13 Dec 2012

Mc Donalds Third Restaurant In St Helens

Mcdonalds-st helens
Fast food franchise Mc Donalds have submitted a planning application to build a third restaurant within St Helens. The proposed development will be on Chalon way close to the old Tesco store. It is understood that the company have no plans to close either of it's other stores within the town.

If the application is passed then the proposed 85 seat, two storey development will create around 65 new jobs.

It's obvious then that the folk of St Helens like fast food. Do we need a third Mcdonalds? What's your view?

20 Nov 2012

Starting a business in St Helens

starting a business in St Helens
Since January this year the St Helens Chamber have helped 38 new businesses to start up creating over 60 new jobs! Supported by funding from St Helens Council, the Chamber is committed to helping new and existing businesses in the borough through these trying times. The Chamber offers advice and a series of workshops aimed at delivering all the essential things that a new business owner should know including book keeping, marketing, and tax issues.

Start your own business in St Helens

If you have an idea for a new business and would like to know what help is available to you then why not attend the "Be your own Boss" event on Wednesday 5th December, 6pm – 8pm at the St Helens Chamber. To book a place call 0845 340 9980 or click here

Web Design For Small Businesses

Web Design for Small Businesses
When you're starting a small business it's often tempting to either shelve your web design plans or worse, use one of the many "build it yourself" type web packages such as 1&1. Often this choice is dictated by a tight budget and whilst it seems a good idea at the time it's very rare to ever get good results from such a website regardless of how much time you devote to it.

A St Helens Web Design Company G Wiz have come up with a solution for start up businesses who aren't able to stretch to a custom built website straight away. G Wiz who offer web design and SEO services have recently introduced a "Pay Monthly" Web Design package in addition to their existing services. G Wiz were often approached by start up businesses in St Helens who couldn't factor in the cost of a custom website. The company already offers web design packages from as little as £295 but there were still a lot of small businesses who needed something cheaper.

Keen to help these businesses flourish, G Wiz have launched a CMS website system aimed specifically at helping smaller businesses get off the ground. Start ups and small businesses in Merseyside can now pay just £20 per month to rent a fully functional and SEO friendly website. For more details on pay monthly web design in Merseyside visit www.wizweb.org

28 Sep 2012

St Helens Market Traders Await Council Decision

Market Traders in St Helens await Council Decision
Market Traders await a decision
A number of small businesses in St Helens are awaiting a decision from St Helens Council after they were told this week that their rent would be increasing by 300%.

During a refurbishment of St Mary's Market earlier this year, St Helens Council placed extra stalls for the new Saturday Market with an affordable £10 per day rental. This initiative was influenced by the Mary Portas review of Town Centres which aimed to make trading for small businesses easier and to kick start the nations struggling town centres.

The Saturday market in St Helens has helped several small and startup businesses within the borough. The news of the rent increase however has come as a huge blow and at a time when these businesses are preparing for the Christmas period.

St Helens Market
Nappy Days - one of the affected businesses
We spoke with Lesley Pile, owner of Nappy Days, a new business that sells handmade gifts for baby showers and also a line of pamper gifts. She told us "The new dramatic rent increase came as a huge shock to us all, and all the traders have said they cannot now afford to continue in the Market. The Saturday Market has only been approx 50% occupied, at best, since it started on 21st July 2012. Rather than encourage new traders to come in, this increase will deter new traders and I cannot see how the Saturday Market can continue to operate."

Lesley went on further to say "My business is still in its infancy and I cannot currently afford to rent a permanent stall or shop/unit. The Saturday Market was the first rung on the ladder for me to establish my brand and make it more visible to the public. Now I will need to look elsewhere for that opportunity, potentially outside the Borough where I've already discovered this week I can have a permanent unit for half the proposed cost of the temporary one in St Marys, that would be a terrible shame for our town centre."

We also contacted Steve Littler, Estates Manager at St Helens MBC to ask for a comment about the proposed rent increase, Steve provided us with a response as follows: "As part of the refurbishment of St. Mary’s Market the council placed extra stalls in it for the new Saturday market to encourage new start ups with a £10 fee for the day. This was broadly in line with recommendations made in the Mary Portas review of Town Centres and was very much seen as an incentive to get businesses started. The increased rent of £30 applies to those businesses that have been coming for 4 weeks or more which is still very reasonable and an inexpensive way for newcomers to sell their goods. The idea was to give people a start on the entrepreneurial ladder in as cheap a way as possible in an established Town Centre retail environment. Consideration is currently being give to a phased increase in the charge in order to provide further assistance."

 Lesley and the other market traders are hopeful that the Council will re think their rent increase and continue to support small local businesses.

13 Sep 2012

Help for St Helens Businesses

small business tips
If you're in business in St Helens and you've survived the past few years, now is a good time to look to the future and to prepare to take advantage of not just the forthcoming Christmas season but also the increase in business as the economy finds its wings again.

Let's be honest, businesses not only in St Helens but all over the UK and indeed the world have faced some extremely tough times. If you were shrewd and smart enough to survive then now's the time to remove the battens from the hatches, let some fresh air in and make plans to move forward. 

Making Business Plans

The face of business is changing in St Helens, the typical business model of old is unrecognisable in the town today, the markets and town centre have given way to hypermarket complexes, Spending habits have changed, the leisure industry has had to adapt since the smoking ban and we've seen traditional pubs either reinvent themselves as pub restaurants or close their doors. Whilst it's sad to see any local business shut up shop it does increase the market for those that survive. 

Peoples buying habits have changed too, with the vast majority of the population now online people tend to shop from their laptop rather than browse shop fronts. What does this mean for you?

People still like to buy locally but they will research things on the internet first. Whereas up until a few years ago a decent roadside location and an advert in the St Helens Star or Reporter would have brought regular business to your door, people now expect to be able to simply type a search into Google and research a purchase from their armchair. The vast majority of people would still rather buy face to face as oppose to online for payment security reasons but none the less, the research more often than not is done via the internet. Online sales have continued to grow even during the recession, last year alone they increased by 14%

Web Design St Helens

So how can you take advantage of this shift in buying? Well first of you should already have a website, if not then you need to speak to a web designer. Find a local web designer in St Helens who has experience of your market, is local so you can chat to him whenever necessary and who can understand your business and it's place in St Helens. Get your business online, showcase what it is you do, reach out to the people in the town and say "Hey, we're here in St Helens and we're online! 

Get a website for your business
Having a website gives you the opportunity to have a salesman working for you 24 hours a day. It gives you the opportunity to put your business in the best light possible but it also does so much more. You can interact with your customer base, you can even extend your reach outside of the town, as far as you like! If you already have a website then take a good look at it, have you had a website designed a few years ago and just neglected it since? Be honest, if so then have it redesigned. Have it optimised so that it is high up on Google search. Do you have a Facebook page? If not then you are missing out on a massive opportunity here. Facebook in conjunction with a website is a fantastic way of communicating with customers and increasing public awareness. 

If all this makes your head hurt then fear not, There is help and advice waiting for you at you at the St Helens Chamber of Commerce alternatively there is an excellent St Helens Web Design Company called Gwiz who can design a new website or redesign an old one for just a few hundred pounds. They can also help you to get onto Facebook and Twitter. 

It's understandable that this may worry some business owners in St Helens, the face of business is changing so rapidly but only the foolish will ignore the benefits of being online. If you've come this far already then your business has proven itself to be strong. Reinforce that strength by arming it with the advantage of a website and watch it thrive. 

13 Aug 2012

Funding for small businesses in St Helens may be a reality

UK businesses have suffered from chronic under funding for years. As far back as 1931 a report was produced highlighting that small to medium sized enterprises in the UK were severely underfunded.

Traditional banks have never been keen to invest in small business enterprises certainly not without the assurance of a secured guarantee usually taken on a Directors family home. Furthermore, who has ever met a business banker that actually understands their business, or come to that any kind of business! As a result it would seem that there has been little in the way of assistance for entrepreneurs in the UK for years, For those that do make it off the ground they can look forward to ever increasing tax and excise at every point.

1) Mine Iron Ore

Sell it + VAT

2) Process the Ore

Sell it + Vat

3) Make Pig Iron

Sell it + Vat

4) Make Steel

Sell it + Vat

5) Create steel panels

Sell it + Vat

6) Manufacture Car

Sell it + Vat

Any wonder then that inflation is always climbing? It's acceptable to tax a business when it's established as long as you've assisted it in it's infancy. It's only the same as us raising our kids, paying for their education and their first car but then charging them a few quid "keep" each week once they find employment. That's perfectly acceptable,  Imagine however if we'd have sent them out to work when they were still in nappies and then taken all their earnings.

Back to funding....

The UK is currently the only member of the G8 that does not have a government institution that provides knowledge and funding for small business. All the other members have dedicated organisations that provides funding and guidance for small businesses.  In the UK, the Government and the banks are happy to leave our small enterprises in the gutter.

The USA has a Small Business Administration (SBA), this organisation provided funding for Apple when it was just a fledging small business. That's wise investment!

The USA can often be criticised but they do look after their industry. When our limp wristed officials fell over themselves to sign the Kyoto agreement, the USA administration refused to do so as they were concerned about how it would cripple their industries. That's a caring government, one that considers the consequences.

Past government initiatives have shown promise, but have simply failed before they even got started. The government loan guarantee scheme was a farce from start to finish, in fact one could argue that it was almost a scandal! How many small businesses desperate for help approached their bank for details of that scheme only to be turned away as the bank had little knowledge and no inclination to help them. Instead, despite massive losses and record liquidations the banks dished internal bonuses around like smarties.

Our businesses need and deserve some real help if the UK is going to see any signs of recovery. The opposition have been making noises this week about a similar initiative, a government investment bank. Hopefully this will rattle the powers that be into action. And quick!

27 Jul 2012

St Helens has a Range Rover for Mayor

St Helens Mayoral Car
Library photo of a Range Rover Evoque
CDJ 1 is the registration number that traditionally adorns the St Helens Mayoral car. In times of prosperity the valuable number plate has been seen on such Marques as Rolls Royce and Jaguar. The latest car to wear this number is the most unlikely choice, a Range Rover Evoque!

How the decision to purchase a Range Rover came about is anyones guess, If a 100 people were asked to write down 5 choices for a Mayors car then I'd be surprised to see the Evoque appear more than once  in the results. A Range Rover Vogue yes, but the Evoque?

Styling cues for the Evoque were provided by the "ahem" well known car designer "Victoria Beckham". For a 4x4 the car is relatively "green" returning reasonable consumption figures but it's more suited to Yummy Mummys and Wags than a running a ceremonial Mayor to and from store openings. The interior is no bigger than a Ford Focus, it has limited rear headroom and the image it portrays leaves you wondering if St Helens council are considering asking 50 Cent to be the next Mayor.

So what was the thinking behind this replacement car? Well it is made in Halewood at the Indian owned (Tata) Jaguar Landrover plant. Maybe that was a consideration? If so, then why not buy another Jag? If they wanted to be green then Jaguar now produce a highly efficient 4 cylinder version of their XF that has start stop technology and drinks less than a cactus. Furthermore it looks much more "Mayoral" than the above Boogie Bus!

If the primary concern was to support local business then why not buy a used car from a local dealer? I'm serious! There are lots of car dealers in St Helens who sell Mercs, BMWs Jags etc for under £20k which is half the price of the Evoque. In fact why not keep the old car? Downing street were running a 1992 Jaguar up until a few years ago, it had a certain air of class about it. Lets be fair, these Mayoral cars are pampered and will last for years.

Whatever the reason, CDJ 1 and all it stands for has always looked somewhat regal emblazoned on the front of the previous Mayoral cars. I'm sure i'm not on my own in thinking that a Mayor will look faintly ridiculous turning up to an event in an Evoque

Another St Helens Town Centre Shop Closes

Birthdays in St Helens Closes its doors
Birthdays Card Store on Church Street is the latest in a line of businesses to close it's doors in St Helens. Birthdays was a division of the Clintons card group that was placed in administration earlier this year. Clintons have survived and been restructured however no buyer could be found for the Birthdays group.

The latest closure comes at a time when figures show that the double dip recession is far from over with the economy shrinking even further. Are the Chancellors austerity measures suffocating any possible growth?

25 Jun 2012

St Helens business shows initiative

Since the new Saints RLFC stadium opened there has been controversy over the parking facilities. Fans are expected to park in St Helens town centre and walk to the stadium which, on a summers evening is no doubt rather pleasant. The weather as we all know is rarely pleasant in St Helens or the UK for that matter and so when the light nights aren't around then the prospect of leaving a car in a town centre and walking doesn't seem that appealing.

 A St Helens pub, the Millhouse on Mill lane came up with a great idea a few months ago. They have their own large car park and a lot of local Saints fans. In a bout of creativity the Millhouse came up with the idea of putting two 80 seater coaches on free of charge for each home game. People could leave a car at the Millhouse in safety and get a free ride on the coach to and from the game.

The only proviso was that they purchased a drink. This didn't have to be an alcoholic drink but it went some way to paying for the coach.

 A spokesperson for the Millhouse told us:

"We have this huge car park and a lot of regulars who follow saints, it seemed a great idea to provide this service to any St Helens fans who were worried about the parking facilities at the Saints stadium. People travelled from all around St Helens. A lot of them hadn't even been in the Millhouse before so it gave them a chance to see what a friendly pub we are.

Everyone has benefitted from this piece of initiative. The supporters, the local community and the Millhouse, not to mention Saints RLFC. The Millhouse has a coach on each home game. You can call and check on 01744 813123 or visit the Millhouse website www.millhouse-st helens.co.uk

If you are a St Helens Business with a story about initiative then contact us, we'd love to hear about it.

20 Jun 2012

Are Supermarkets killing St Helens?

Is St Helens under threat?

Local Shops in St Helens
According to statistics the number of local specialist shops such as bakeries, florists, greengrocers, butchers and so on has fallen over 90% since the late 1950s. A whopping 40% of that is over the last ten years. 

St Helens now has countless supermarkets and as land is getting more and more scarce the large players have taken to building smaller "community supermarkets" on whatever land they can get their hands on. 

If you're honest you'll perhaps admit to using the supermarkets and also thinking it fantastic that under one roof not only can you buy your groceries, you can even buy an iPad and some holiday clothes, insure your car and even have a spot of lunch whilst you're there. Why wouldn't we want supermarkets, they make our life easier surely? Think again.

You may think that you're unaffected by this mass invasion of retail giants, you're not a baker or a fishmonger so why should you care? The reality is that as more and more smaller independent businesses shut up shop unable to compete with the big players this in turn has many knock on effects. Let's take a look at some and use St Helens as an example. 

First of all we have seen the decline in local butchers and bakers, gone are the joys of picking a nice piece of steak up for dinner, some haddock maybe and a fresh granary loaf in our local area. Then we've watched in horror as the names that we have known since childhood started to vanish one by one from our town centres.

The inability to compete with the supermarkets on price and product range, coupled with crippling borrowing costs during the recent credit crisis such names as Woolworths became part of history not just in St Helens but all across the country.  Also, why would we park on a multi storey that costs money when we could park for free outside a hyper-mega-supermarket in the suburbs?

What we have failed to see is that despite us all not owning local shops we are slowly but surely being affected. These local businesses that have been starved out of the market all needed accountants, banks, solicitors, printers, vehicles, signage, websites, uniforms, the list is endless, as each one closed it meant that all the support businesses lost another customer and so one by one the cancer spreads to all areas of the town pushing up unemployment figures as it took hold.

A large percentage of the money spent in independent local shops stays local, not only to pay local staff, it is also used to pay other local support companies such as we mentioned earlier, local accountants, mechanics, printers and so on. In contrast, only a small percentage of the money spent in a chain store stays local. It's only the cost of the local wage bill, the rest is channeled through to head office and then distributed to shareholders often after some very clever tax planning by offshore accountants. None of the money goes back into the tills of the local community that the supermarket serves.

So maybe you're a farmer, maybe you were rubbing your hands when the supermarkets said that they wanted to support their local communities? The reality is however that if you speak to any farmer who is supplying the big supermarkets they'll tell you terrible tales of a years worth of fruit being refused or being sold at a price less than what it cost to package and then sold on a buy one get one free. 

So what can be done really? Ideally, we'd all make an effort to buy local, you'd be surprised at how much better the surviving local shops are to the main players. Take Fosters DIY in Fingerpost (Fosters haven't paid me or even asked me to mention them in this article, I just think that they are a good example). Fosters have been there since as long as I can remember (and i'm in my 40s) and I bet most of you have not been in there in years have you? The next time you want something DIY related, screws, timber, silicone sealant etc then please do yourselves a favour. Go to the large outlets (we all know who I mean) and price up what you want then go to Fosters and see not only how much you can save but also experience the warm friendly community atmosphere that still exists in the shop. 

Now you may think that this contradicts what I've said about low prices and locals being unable to compete. Let me explain, If we're looking for a new central heating boiler then the large players are perhaps very competitive, they will gladly sell something for £600 and make just £20 on it. They'll get you back when you're buying your pipe brackets and screws however. Have you seen the price of screws in the big DIY stores? Compare the prices with Fosters and you'll have a shock!

Supermarkets operate in a similar way. Fishfingers might be "buy one get one free" but then go down the air freshener aisle and prepare to be shocked. They will sell everyday items at knock down prices but have your trousers down when you put something less price sensitive in your trolley.

If you're fortunate enough to live close by to a local speciality shop or if you still happen to work in the town centre then please make an effort to stop by and purchase something, even if it's only once each week. You'll feel good in the knowledge that you're helping a local St Helens business and you'll probably be pleasantly surprised with the quality and service and heaven forbid even the price!

Link your St Helens Business

Lets help each other to help St Helens Businesses

If you have a business that covers the St Helens area then please feel free to exchange links with us. Click the "Exchange links" tab at the top of the page. 

Lets help each other to help St Helens.

VAT Reduction Suggested

A few weeks ago it is reported that the IMF (International Monetary Fund) suggested that the UK either cut VAT or NIC if the economy continues to falter. To have VAT at the highest rate whilst the UK is in such poor state is like the owner of a donkey flogging his steed to work harder, instead, if he were to rest it for a while, feed and water the poor thing he may find it would work twice as hard and not need to be flogged.

Would a cut in VAT stimulate the economy or do we finally need a complete VAT overhaul to level the playing field? Maybe we should scrap the registration threshold, drop the rate to 10% and therefore everyone in business will need to pay VAT but at 10% it will practically eradicate the black market overnight.

What's your thoughts? are you a St Helens business that is being crippled paying 20% VAT whilst all the while competing with non registered businesses?

Olympic Torch in St Helens caused misery for some

The Olympic torch passed through St Helens a few weeks ago bringing delight to many. The Torch followed a route through the town starting from the East Lancashire road at Windle. It is reported that around 40,000 people turned out to see the torch at various points in St Helens and with the sun shining down the day was considered a success.

On the flip side however we've heard reports from some local businesses in St Helens that they were not informed that access to their business would be closed for several hours. It seems that there had been poor planning by St Helens Council and businesses were left uninformed and unable to operate for many hours that day.

Was your business affected by the days proceedings and if so were you informed well in advance?