Tag Archives: quarterbridge

Hope you had a good Christmas. Try not to think about the kipper season.

Preliminary sales results from the big boys have been poor at best. The ‘Big Four’ supermarkets have been fighting off the Germans – Aldi and Lidl – so margins remained wafer-thin. The high street fashion retailers were hammered by unseasonably warm weather and Black Friday never really took off. Biggies like H&M and Next started their sales early (which is a bit worrying given the low rate of inflation and rising disposable incomes). Drastic discounting did not draw in the crowds as expected so when the full Christmas sales results are announced it will be interesting to see the proportion which transferred to online or simply disappeared to online competition. Amazon and Google announced amazing turnover figures for Black Friday with durables, white goods and presents only a click away. Shoppers were still seen browsing High Street shops up to Christmas Eve but more for price-comparison with online and/or to sniff out last-minute bargains. Conversion to sales seems to have been poor with many shoppers preferring to sit in front of their PC with a pile of mince pies.

Lower High Street footfall means lower Market turnover

You might have hoped this would not affect your market but I’m sorry to say that doesn’t appear to be the case. Stallholders do not have the sky-high rents and rates of a ‘bricks ‘n mortar’ high street retailer so are still able to offer real bargains BUT they remain overwhelmingly reliant on footfall. Lower high street footfall means lower market turnover which seems to have affected seasonal Christmas markets as much as weekday general markets. Meat, poultry and fruit & veg. seems to have stood up reasonably well but European traders who came to the UK in search of a strong currency and better sales turnover went home disappointed. Sales turnover on Christmas markets seems to have fallen by at least a quarter.

Those with a decent online presence have definitely held their ground

So who were the real winners? Those with a decent online presence have definitely held their ground. Those selling craft and luxury goods only have done well. My friend trained as saddlemaker in Walsall but threw in that towel to make wallets, belts, dog collars and handbags and only sells online. His sales through Etsy, Ebay, Facebook and website are better then ever. He’s not cheap but works on the theory that no girl can ever be too thin or own too many handbags or pairs of shoes. He took a big gamble and doubled his stock from July but had a cracking good Christmas since. His secrets are low overheads, adding value by product skills and selling online 24/7.

Thank heavens the markets industry is so innovative and resilient

So where does this leave the markets industry? The impact of online retailing and home delivery by DHL is as profound as the introduction of self-service supermarkets was to the corner shop. Thank heavens the markets industry is so innovative and resilient. Sadly, the Chancelllor’s Autumn statement didn’t contain any real goodies for small businesses to reinvest in and develop themselves. But it did confirm your market authority’s worst fears – a further 29% in spending cuts over the next 5 years. The easy cuts have been made already so you can anticipate services like care for the elderly taking priority. Loss-making ‘discretionary’ services like markets are in line for disposal in line with the ‘Big Society’ agenda promoted by David Cameron.

It would be interesting to know how many stallholders have half-embraced online retailing

It would be interesting to know how many Stallholders have HALF-embraced online retailing, but not the right half. Be honest with yourself and admit whether you’ve gone online because you’re too busy selling and don’t have time to sit in the carpark queue at Bluewater (6 hours) or Silverburn (3 hours). Maybe next year you should plan ahead and go online then treat yourself with a post-Christmas weekend holiday in Eastern Europe. Many of their Christmas markets stay open until the Orthodox Christmas on 6th January.

A Christmas when you don’t have to work – whoopee!

The Living Wage Foundation is pleased to announce that Quarterbridge is now accredited as a Living Wage employer.

The Living Wage commitment will see everyone working at Quarterbridge, regardless of whether they are permanent employees or third-party contractors and suppliers; receive a minimum hourly wage of £7.85 – significantly higher than the national minimum wage of £6.50.

The Living Wage is an hourly rate set independently and updated annually. The Living Wage is calculated according to the basic cost of living using the ‘Minimum Income Standard’ for the UK. Decisions about what to include in this standard are set by the public; it is a social consensus about what people need to make ends meet.

“Earning the living wage is a basic right for any employee who puts in a good day’s work.”

Quarterbridge Managing Director, Raymond Linch said: “Earning the living wage is a basic right for any employee who puts in a good day’s work. We value our staff and the efforts they make towards the success of the company and we are very proud to have our commitment to them accredited by the Foundation.”

Employers choose to pay the Living Wage on a voluntary basis.

Employers choose to pay the Living Wage on a voluntary basis. The Living Wage enjoys cross party support, with public backing from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

Living Wage Foundation Director, Rhys Moore said: “We are delighted to welcome Quarterbridge to the Living Wage movement as an accredited employer.

“The best employers are voluntarily signing up to pay the Living Wage now. The Living Wage is a robust calculation that reflects the real cost of living, rewarding a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay.

“..the national minimum wage is not good for business”

“We have accredited over 1,000 leading employers, including Quarterbridge, ranging from independent printers, bookshops and breweries, to well-known companies such as Nationwide, Aviva and SSE. These businesses recognise that clinging to the national minimum wage is not good for business. Customers expect better than that. ”

For more information on The Living Wage Foundation: www.livingwage.org.uk

Launch of Colchester Charter Market

Following our appointment by Colchester Borough Council two years ago, we were delighted to see the goal of unifying the previously disjointed market come to fruition last Saturday at the launch of the new Charter Market in its new home in the High Street.

Early feedback from both market traders and retail shops in the High Street indicates a marked increase in turnover

The market has returned to the High Street after many years, having previously been located at a number of disparate sites across town. Colchester High Street offers prime footfall and early feedback from both market traders and retail shops in the High Street indicates a marked increase in turnover. Some traders have taken the opportunity to expand their businesses, a move which seems to be paying off.

Without exception, the traders went all out to provide a stunning display of market trading at its best on launch day

The specially designed, colourful, branded new stalls have electricity, ground anchors and side awnings and add diversity of offer and a genuine mix to Colchester’s thriving High Street on market days. Without exception, the traders went all out to provide a stunning display of market trading at its best for launch day. Specialist meat and game, free range eggs, fruit and veg and unusual home and garden wares are on offer among ethnic foods, pet products, hardware, jewellery, baby clothes, handmade soaps, mobile phones, toys and luggage to name but a few.

Aerial view

The Market was officially launched with a ribbon cutting by Colchester Mayor, John Elliott, assisted by Colchester United mascot, Eddie the Eagle, the town crier, a Roman centurion and the Blackwater Jazz Band. Representatives of the NMTF were also present for the celebrations.

Convenient park and ride service now operating to encourage out of town shoppers to leave the car at home.

A convenient new park and ride service which drops off just by the market is now operating and should encourage shoppers from out of town to visit the town centre.

park and ride

 

Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury has announced a review of the business rates system and inviting contributions from all parties. Quarterbridge has made representations on behalf of market traders, stallholders and owners. We’ve highlighted inconsistencies in application and how recent changes have created an unnecessary administrative burden on councils.

When the rateable value is calculated it should, theoretically reflect periodic occupation and varying trader attendance from week to week.

The existing system of business rates is based on the estimated rental value of comparable premises which are occupied with exclusive possession by a tenant for 365 days per year. This rarely applies to markets – particularly open markets which don’t occupy a building and for which comparable evidence of rental value can rarely be found. When the rateable value is calculated it should, theoretically reflect periodic occupation and varying trader attendance from week to week. But in reality this does not happen and the market owner is left with a charge to recover through the rents he charges but which has very little relation to the true value of the space.

The administration is unnecessarily complex and in any event often worthless at collecting tax

The system is particularly inappropriate for market halls containing fixed stalls. Stallholders do enjoy ‘exclusive possession’ of their stalls 365 days per year but in recent years the Valuation Office has moved away from a ‘single assessment’ of a whole market hall to individual assessments of stalls within it. This is a retrograde step. Previously it was easy for management to query the assessment and apportion it back to stallholders pro rata to the space they occupy within the building. Nowadays the system requires the individual measurement of each stall and the creation of dozens of new rating accounts for a council to administer. There are also inconsistencies in application between regional valuation offices – sometimes the management facilities are charged in addition and sometimes they are apportioned into the stall assessments. The administration is unnecessarily complex and in any event often worthless at collecting tax because individual assessments fall into the band qualifying for small business rates relief.

Under the individual assessment scheme stallholders have to submit individual applications for small business rates relief

Under the individual assessment scheme stallholders have to submit individual applications for small business rates relief which creates yet another burden of administration for their local council. In practice many managers make the applications for relief on behalf of their stallholders to keep total occupational costs down and often end up supplying the VO with floor areas for the calculations. Turkeys don’t like voting for Christmas or doing someone else’s job.

Markets halls and open markets should be assessed on a ‘profits-generated’ basis

The Quarterbridge view is that simple-to-administer single assessments for market Halls should be used and both markets halls and open markets should be assessed on a ‘profits-generated’ basis at the financial year end, using trading accounts and online self-assessment. This will remove a whole raft of administrative costs and make the system fairer all round.

If you’d like to make your views known to HMG and see the terms of reference for the review, then go to http://www.ow.ly/LwMDy

Act now and have your say

Responses have to be received by 12th June which ain’t far away so get weaving.

At the risk of sounding London-centric, the changing face of London markets is providing an astonishing example of how good markets successfully adapt to their constraints and circumstances.

Recently, I have been hearing success stories emanating from the East End Chatsworth Road Market in Hackney, London E5 (It used to be Clapton in my day). A traditional street market, the linear High Street includes rows of lock up shops fronted by market stalls, catering for the newly mixed demographic of different ages and ethnicities.

I speak somewhat informatively as from the age of eight, I had to work on my father’s Chatsworth Road stalls every Saturday and during school holidays in what was at the time a largely poor neighbourhood where the most exotic products to be found were Fry’sTurkish Delight bars, more accurately described as FTD – misshapes.

Chatsworth Road was of fundamental importance to the local community, selling everything from live eels to white goods

The market and fronting shops were always exceptionally busy as locals performed their daily shop and I can’t remember  there being any form of supermarket back in the late 60’s and early 70’s within walking or bus journey distance. Chatsworth Road was of fundamental importance to the local community, selling everything from live eels to white goods.

If I am honest, I feel more nostalgic now with fond memories of how life used to be and have forgotten the freezing cold winter days: flashing out at six in the morning and sweeping up at six at night, but life was straight-forward and honest and my parents earned a decent living from the market.

It appeared as though the retail core had been sucked clean out of Hackney

During the 80’s I worked as a civil engineer in London and would occasionally take a nostalgic drive to Chatsworth Road and was shocked by the desertification of the area. It appeared as though the retail core had been sucked clean out of Hackney by the supermarkets: shops were boarded up and to all intents and purposes, the market had disappeared. However, the sun now shines once more over Chatsworth Road as it has learned to provide the good folk of E5 with what they want and cannot find in the big five – multi-ethnic variety, professional service, tremendous food, cafe culture and above all, unadulterated honesty, a theme which transcends the generations.

Chatsworth Road is just one example of successful and organically developed market regeneration

Chatsworth Road is just one example of successful and organically developed market regeneration in London, of which there are many more. The notion of delivering what people want will filter through other British towns and cities, further underpinning the great British Market renaissance.

 

With thanks to I Love Markets for kind permission to use their images in this article.

 

I Love Markets celebrates London’s markets and all of the wonderful things that can be found within them. We believe that to discover the heart of London, you need to discover London’s Markets. No market is the same and we want to help you discover the unique experiences that each one has to offer. Find the latest news, markets and events at www.ilovemarkets.co.uk

 

 

The start of 2015 saw a very old saying amongst stockbrokers come true: ‘Sell your shares in any company when it buys a company jet or builds a new headquarters’ they say. Companies lose touch with reality as they get bigger and one person who seems to agree is ‘Drastic Dave’ Lewis, the new Chief Exec. of Tesco. He announced the closure of both their Cheshunt HQ and Kansas Transportation Ltd, the Company subsidiary which discreetly operates a fleet of 5 executive jets.

From now on it’s RyanAir only for Tesco directors as they struggle against falling sales and a £260 million accounting scandal

This must come as a disappointment to former CEO Phillip Clarke (currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office). It limits the possibility of doing a flit in the £31 million Gulfstream jet delivered last month as part of the £29m cost of flying executives around the world 2005-2012. From now on it’s RyanAir only for Tesco directors as they struggle against falling sales and a £260 million accounting scandal. And now we know who owns all those private jets parked at Luton airport.

The good people of Cheshunt, home to Tesco’s ugly concrete HQ since 1973 were also less than happy about job losses and a move for remaining staff to Welwyn Garden City. ‘I can’t believe it’ Ward Councillor Mike Iszatt told the ‘Hertfordshire Mercury’. ‘I don’t know why they want to move out of the Borough – it’s so convenient for their employees next to the station and we’ve got crossrail coming in the near future. I hope they will reassess their decision’.

The international credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded Tesco’s credit rating to ‘junk’

Apart from that, Drastic Dave suspended yet a ninth executive – Chris Robinson, finance director at food sourcing – and confirmed the closure of the defined benefit pension scheme for staff, 43 convenience stores and cancellation of 49 new store developments. Stockbrokers seemed mildly pleased and shares rose to £2.20, still less than half their pre-scandal level. Nevertheless the international credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded Tesco’s credit rating to ‘junk’, saying “structural changes in the UK grocery retail market will continue to challenge the Company’s operating performance”. Whether that enables suppliers to demand better terms from the retailer is unclear.

The announcement of a new ‘Retail Ombudsman’ has been greeted with mixed feelings

The ‘Kipper season’ is now upon us. It’s always a good time for everyone to have a moan so the announcement of a new ‘Retail Ombudsman’ has been greeted with mixed feelings. The response to this ‘new independent service to resolve disputes with supermarkets, high street brands and online retailers’ has been less then overwhelming. Like several other Ombudsman services it lacks teeth as it is unofficial i.e. not established or vetted by Parliament. Its adjudications are not binding on anyone unless they happen to subscribe to it, but if you do and it does find in your favour don’t feel too smug – the complainant can still take you to court.

So why establish a toothless Ombudsman?

So why establish a toothless Ombudsman? Apparently this is a mainstream retail response to the forthcoming EU ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution directive’ which will take effect in July. This says the retail sector must have an ‘Alternative dispute resolution body’ – but Parliament has already decided the new watchdog must be official i.e. vetted by the Trading Standards Institute. So whilst toothless in the interim it may morph into that in due course but the meantime is funded by subscriptions from 3,000 or so retailers who have signed-up to it. You can offer it as part of your Customer Care Charter which is one way to take pressure off your Customer complaints department. Especially if you run the notorious ‘No-help-whatsoever-desk’ at RyanAir which has an annoying habit of emailing an apology to your mobile and not accepting replies.

Although the new Retail Ombudsman may be a bit of a crock in terms of Consumer protection it’s a different thing if the Ombudsman is regulated e.g. for energy, financial advice, mortgages, insurance and savings. If you receive or want to make a complaint then go to http://www.ombudsmanassociation.org to see if there is a relevant ombudsman and if its findings are binding.

 

 

 

Meanwhile suitably-barmy advocates of ‘Workplace Wellness’ in the USA are hoping 2015 will be the year that ‘Standup Desks’ take off. These have been favoured by great minds such as Leonardo da Vinci and of course Michael O’Leary, the Chief Exec. of RyanAir. He once suggested RyanAir were considering ‘standing-only’ spaces on their flights and charging people to use the loo. Despite criticism from the Guild of Chairmakers, Joe Nafziger, the Californian inventor of Standup desks said “It’s definitely a worldwide thing that’s picking up speed”.

Advocates of ‘Workplace Wellness’ in the USA are hoping 2015 will be the year that ‘Standup Desks’ take off

Joe would love to hear your opinion of whether standing behind a stall all day in January is good for your health.

unit to let

Quarterbridge Commercial Director, Hayden Ferriby gives you his top tips for successfully letting market units.

 

Letting units in any market hall can be very tough going, regardless of the location. As with all property lettings, there are key points to follow to ensure presentation is excellent to attract the perfect business to your market.

The appearance – sell the vision

It goes without saying that high levels of cleanliness and maintenance should be upheld within your market; make sure the unit you wish to let is the same. Remember, you are selling a prospective business their new home – not everyone has the foresight to imagine how a unit could look when occupied, and not just how it looks as an empty shell.

 

  • An unused unit is a magnet for children’s rides, rubbish and other tenants’ old stock – make sure it is kept clear, clean and presentable
  • Undertake minor repairs – small, simple fixes can make the world of difference Make sure the unit number is visible
  • Turn the lights on, ensuring all the bulbs work!

If there is any equipment being let with the unit (coldroom, serve-over counters, for example), check they are fully functioning, are odour free and clean. Ideally, ensure they are serviced and the service history is up-to-date. This will make life much easier for the incoming tenant.

Advertising – find the right tenant

Gone are the days that passive advertising alone will find you the perfect business for your market. These days, market managers need to go out knocking on doors to attract the best businesses – though luckily there are ways of doing this ‘virtually’ to save both your time and shoe leather.

 

  • Decide on the user clauses you wish to attract to your market – set yourself a goal and don’t just accept the first business that comes along. Prepare to be flexible though – you never know when someone will come up with a completely different idea that will be perfect for you.
  • Use social media to advertise for new businesses. It is free, easy to use and wide reaching across age ranges, demographics and geographical areas.
  • Facebook advertising is cheap, easy to control and simple to use. This can help you reach out to thousands of people for very small outlay.
  • Use internet search engines to source contact information for local and regional businesses that fit your user clause aspirations. Write to them all, showing how your market would be the perfect home for them. If possible, include some well-taken photos of the unit and the market hall. Describe the fantastic environment they will be joining and sing the praises of the events you run. Remember to follow up with an email or letter.

And very importantly… make sure you put a big, bold To Let board up in the unit with the correct contact information on!

The process – keep it simple

Once you’ve found the perfect business to fill your empty unit, you need to take them through the lettings process. You will need to advise them on whether they are signing a lease or licence, what documents they need to provide, deposits to make and how long the process will take. Even if you have gone through the process hundreds of times and it seems simple to you, remember this will be an exciting but probably anxious time for the applicant so explain everything clearly and make them feel at ease throughout. Having worked with many markets across the UK, we know that the lettings process varies from one market to another with some markets even including elements such as approval of an applicant by all existing market traders. Whatever your lettings process, ensure it is as seamless as possible by adopting the following points:

 

  • Simplify the process as much as possible.
  • Make a step-by-step applicant’s guide to the process.
  • Include an explanation of key phrases such as ‘licence’ or ‘service charge’ – this is especially useful when dealing with start-up businesses.
  • Keep in regular contact with the applicant and let them know how their application is progressing.

market cuts

 

When Journalist and Broadcaster Alistair Cooke joined the New York Times he was puzzled by a large sign – KISS – hanging on the wall of the newsroom. His editor explained: ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid. Your readers have 10 minutes on the subway to read and understand your article. Then tomorrow it will be on the bottom of their budgie cage’. The business consultancy Deloitte did just that in December with their annual ‘State of the State’ report published in partnership with independent Think Tank ‘Reform’ it showed the progress the coalition government has made in restructuring the economy after the 2008 financial crisis.

A Deloitte reports suggests that: ‘Councils are likely to move away from providing services they are not legally required to provide ‘ i.e. discretionary services such as Markets.

According to Deloitte/Reform just under half of the necessary spending cuts have been achieved but all the quick fixes – public sector pay freezes and redundancies etc – have now been used up. The second half of the necessary cuts is going to be MUCH tougher. The report suggests that of necessity ‘Councils are likely to move away from providing services they are not legally required to provide ‘ i.e. discretionary services such as Markets. There’s also a nasty sting in the tail with the warning that: ‘Whilst early spending cuts took place in a recession, the coming ones will be in a period of economic GROWTH. Citizens are more likely to experience roads in disrepair, dirtier streets, unkempt parks, and fewer pools and libraries’. The UK may now have emerged from recession and be the fastest-growing economy in the EU but government spending needs to be savaged for years to come. The report suggests ‘the UK’s governance, public sector and citizen experience of public services is likely to change profoundly’ i.e. ring their Contractor, not the Council if your bin isn’t collected on time. The report illustrates the enormous growth in the public sector over the last 50 years which in inflation-adjusted figures has risen from £190 billion in 1964 to £730 billion in 2014. Public sector spending now represents an unprecedented 44% of the UK’s Gross Domestic Product.

£1.4 trillion of debt was borrowed to buy Royal Bank of Scotland to prevent total economic meltdown. This debt continues to rise and costs the taxpayer £1 billion per week in interest payments – more than the government spends on education.

The report steers clear of political point-scoring but does confirm the record annual budget deficit of 2010 meant the government spent £159 billion MORE than it received in income. This annual deficit has now been reduced by about half after the coalition government set itself the ambitious target of eliminating it entirely by 2018/19. Once this has been eliminated by ‘fiscal consolidation’ HMG can start paying back the £1.4 trillion of debt borrowed to buy Royal Bank of Scotland etc and prevent total economic meltdown. This debt continues to rise and costs the taxpayer £1 billion per week in interest payments – more than the government spends on education. If this isn’t reduced then by 2023 the interest payments will be three times greater than total expenditure on the armed forces. Whichever government we have after next May the need to buy-down the debt is so pressing that hoping economic growth will make the problem go away is not an option.

Quarterbridge has unrivalled experience of securing investment and restructuring Markets services to meet the challenges

If you cast your mind back to 2010 you’ll remember the long overdue creation of the independent Office of Budget Responsibility to produce ‘Whole Government Accounts’ for the UK. In retrospect it’s amazing that prior to then there was no set of trading accounts for the government. That’s not exactly the way to run a Business or a Markets Service or Country, but it happens. The good news is Quarterbridge has unrivalled experience of securing investment and restructuring Markets services to meet the challenges.

You can download a copy of the Deloitte report from: http://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/public-sector/deloitt-uk-state-of-the-state-2014.pdf

 

As Christmas fades into customary memories of short-term celebration and long-term debt, I hear from many market sources that pre-Christmas trading within our markets was poor and below the previous year’s results. Common comments include ‘ we don’t understand, we did the same as last year’ but it would appear the shoppers didn’t come, at least, not in the numbers hoped for.

Black Friday sucked vast amounts of cash out of the retail economy at much reduced margins

In a European economy on the brink of deflation where, retail supply outstrips insufficient consumer demand, the narrow margins of retailing success is to extract Christmas shopper spending at the right time and it appears the 2014 Black Friday sucked vast amounts of cash out of the retail economy at much reduced margins. It surprised even the largest retailers and delivery companies and unfortunately a few accident and emergency wards.

The Genie is out of the bottle

Andy Street, managing director of John Lewis was stated as saying: ‘I personally hope we move back in future to a more normal pattern where sales are smoothed over the Christmas period’. Sorry Mr. Street but it ain’t never gonna happen! The Genie is out of the bottle and with the medium term economic forecast showing much of the same, like it or not we will endure many more annual black Friday’s for years to come.

market traders will face very difficult times this first quarter of 2015

As a market industry, we have always relied on solid pre-Christmas trade to see us through the ‘kipper’ season and I am fearful of the number of market traders who will face very difficult times this first quarter of 2015, without a few thousand in the bank from Christmas sales.

2015 Black Friday will be bigger and more damaging than last year

Be under no illusion, 2015 Black Friday will be bigger and more damaging than last year and the market industry needs to prepare a marketing strategy to divert shoppers’ spend back to the High Street. It will need to be potent and before Friday 27th November, 2015. If every market trader business contributed £20 towards to ‘Mid November Market Madness’ a fund in excess of £1m could be raised for a national campaign, now there’s an idea!