Wednesday, April 25, 2018

News: Crawshaw reports on disappointing year

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The Rotherham-based Crawshaw Group Plc, the UK's leading value butcher, has been hit by challenging high street trading conditions and has been forced to make an impairment goodwill of £10.6m.

The AIM-listed Hellaby firm reported its financial results for the year to January 28 where group revenue rose 1% to £44.6m but there was an underlying operating loss of £2.0m, an increase from the £1.1m loss reported in 2017.

The group also reported a statutory loss before tax of £13.5m, compared with a loss of £1.4m the previous year, due to a one off non cash impairment charge of £10.6m and £0.8m exceptional costs. The company said in a statement that as part of the annual goodwill assessment, forecast future cash flows were adjusted to take into account the impacts of sterling depreciation on buying prices and expected wage inflation.

Crawshaw announced growth plans in 2014 that involved investing £200m, opening 200 stores and creating 2,500 jobs. The plans stumbled in 2016 as difficult trading conditions continued.

A transformational 2017 deal with the 2 Sisters Food Group enabled Crawshaw to restart its accelerated new store opening programme, with an initial focus on factory shop locations.

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At the end of January, Crawshaw operated 52 trading stores, opening five new factory shops in the period and closing two underperforming high street units.

Sales from factory stores have offset sales from high street locations and the company is transitioning to a model based away from the high street. Now accounting for around a quarter of the group's sales, five to ten new factory stores are planned in the next 12 months.

Outgoing chief executive, Noel Collett, said: "This has been a disappointing year for Group sales. Whilst we have been pleased with the strong performance of our factory shop outlets, sales across our high street estate have proven more challenging, exacerbated by the well documented high street pressures.

"Against this, however, we have made operational progress to strengthen the business. We are confident that the rollout of our unique factory shops format and improvements in profitability across the high street estate will leave the Group well-placed for future growth."

Jim McCarthy, chairman of Crawshaw Group plc, added: "While sales for the year have been challenging, I am confident that the repositioning of the Group towards our successful factory shop model will improve long-term profitability.

"I expect to provide an update on a new management team in due course, who I am confident will help further develop Crawshaws' market leading value and drive improved performance in both factory shops and high street stores."

The report also showed that the company has created a central production capability at the Hellaby factory having invested in automated cutting and packing lines. This should enable a reduction in store-based staff who will re-focus from production to customer service. It also provides the capability to service the wholesale and catering butchery supply routes in the future.

A new leadership team is being sought as the CEO and CFO are set to leave the business later this year.

Crawshaw website

Images: Crawshaw

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News: MBO at long established family firm in Rotherham

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Peter Lilleker, managing director of Rotherham-based Lilleson Engineering Services Ltd, together with his wife and business partner, Carol Lilleker, have sold the company to long-serving employee Tony Wade and his partner, Julie Mitchell.

Based on the Barbot Hall Industrial Estate, the family run business was established in 1984 by Peter's father, Ernest Lilleker, as a manufacturer of electrical control panels and systems.

The company has supplied control panels and systems all over the world, from hydroelectric plants in India to the roof of the centre court at Wimbledon, through its many clients including Fairfield Control Systems Ltd, SCX Special Projects, BOC, British Steel, Bae Systems and Kvaerner.

Tony Wade, who has been with the company from the start, has bought the entire issued share capital together with Julie Mitchell for an undisclosed sum.

To ensure a smooth handover, Peter and Carol will remain in a consultancy role with the company for up to 12 months before retiring.

Neil Large, corporate partner in the Sheffield office of Lupton Fawcett LLP provided legal advice and assistance to Peter and Carol Lilleker on the deal.

Alex Ross at Sheffield-based Bell Buxton Solicitors advised the Management Buy Out (MBO) team. Paul Dawson and Martin McDonagh, partners at Sheffield accountants Hart Shaw LLP provided tax and accounting advice to both parties.

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Peter Lilleker (pictured, third right), said: "It is difficult to believe that we started the business 34 years ago. Although my father is no longer with us I am sure he would have been proud of the success we have achieved over those years. Since Carol joined me in 1994, we have gone from strength to strength.

"Having started something from scratch it can be quite difficult handing over the reins to someone else. However in selling the company to Tony I know it is in very safe hands. He has been with us since the business started and it wouldn't be where it is today without his expertise and dedication over the years. I am confident the company will continue to go from strength under his and Julie's direction."

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Tony is certainly looking forward to the new challenge. He added: "This is a great company, hence why I have remained here for so long. It is a new chapter in our lives and presents Julie and me with a great opportunity.

"Julie and myself are looking forward to working closely with Peter and Carol over the next 12 months as we learn about different aspects of running the company."

Neil Large of Lupton Fawcett (pictured, right), said: "It is not often you get an MBO when both side have people have worked together for so long. If there was ever a case for an MBO exit (rather than trade sale) then this was it. It is great that Peter and Carol can transfer the ownership of Lilleson Engineering Services Ltd to people they trust implicitly to continue to grow the business.

"It was an absolute pleasure to act for Peter and Carol on their exit and I am sure the business will go from strength to strength under the new ownership of Tony and Julie where it is in safe hands."

Lilleson Engineering website

Images: Lupton Fawcett

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News: Bluetree Group aiming for European success

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Fast growing Rotherham-based print business, Bluetree Group, is appealing for public votes as it represents the United Kingdom in Europe's largest business competition, the European Business Awards.

Since 2007, the European Business Awards has been shining a light on the most innovative businesses on the continent by promoting success, innovation and ethics in the European business community.

Based at Manvers, The Bluetree Group operates through a number of different brands, including Route 1 Print and instantprint.

After being named the UK winner of businesses with a turnover of £26 - £100m, Bluetree Group are now competing in a public vote to be named "European Public Champion" in the awards final stages set to take place in Warsaw, Poland this May. The print manufacturer has created a video that demonstrates their company's operations in hopes to engage with people from across the globe. Last year the public vote generated almost 250,000 votes.

To vote for Bluetree as the public champion at the final of the European Business Awards 2018 visit https://www.businessawardseurope.com/vote/detail-new/28/26751

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James Kinsella, director of ecommerce at Bluetree Group, said: "Myself and the entire team at Bluetree are delighted to represent the UK in the final stages of the European Business Awards in Warsaw. Making it this far is testament to the hard work that everyone at Bluetree has put in over the last year. We now need the UK to get behind one of their own and vote for us to become the European winners."

Adrian Tripp, CEO of the European Business Awards said: "This is an amazing achievement and Bluetree is clearly a stand out leader in their field. To be a National Winner means you represent our core values of success, ethics and innovation and are one of the best in Europe. We wish you the best of luck in the final round."

The primary purpose of the awards is to support the development of a stronger and more successful business community throughout Europe. Last year it engaged with over 33,000 businesses from 34 countries. Sponsors and partners include RSM, ELITE and PR Newswire.

Established in 1989, the Bluetree Group, previously at Templeborough, has evolved from a traditional screen printer to a predominantly digital offering. It took space at the Ignite @ Magna development in 2007 and in 2012 the business merged with instantprint.co.uk to provide a multi-channel offering.

The group moved to bigger Rotherham premises in 2015. Funding from Barclays and the Sheffield City Region Growth Fund Programme enabled the company to take a new 86,900 sq ft site at Brookfields Park in Manvers. Staff numbers have passed the 250 mark.

Bluetree Group website

Images: Bluetree Group

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

News: Driving the skills agenda

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In addition to showcasing science, technology and engineering to young people, parents and educators, the recent Get up to Speed (GUTS) event in Rotherham brought together a number of key figures to discuss the manufacturing workforce, now and in the future.

The event, driven by employers and delivered through The work-wise Foundation, is now believed to be the largest of its kind in the North. It started in 2011 and moved to its home at the Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham in 2015.

Kicking off the day at a business breakfast, Master Cutler, Kenneth Cooke, the owner of CTW (Hardfacing) Ltd, said that the drive by employers to establish the event showed that they "understood the need to promote industry, both nationally and within the area."

The guests heard of the shortage of skilled engineers in the region and the country. 186,000 new engineers are required nationally per year between now and 2024 to fill the expected skills gap.

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John Bohan, senior director, engineering & manufacturing at Rotherham's Elevation Recruitment Group discussed the impact of skills shortages and described how the GUTS event was key to "inspiring the next generation, but also leading to conversations about how we drive forward the skills agenda."

And as Will Stirling, editor of The Manufacturing Review (pictured top, right), said: "If the local engineering sector doesn't come together to do this, then who will? It is unlikely to be the Government or schools."

The event, which attracts over 2,000 attendees, is delivered through The work-wise Foundation. Headline sponsors for this year were Liberty Speciality Steels, Cooper Brown Enterprises and Careers Y&H, with other event sponsors including the likes of AESSEAL, Doncasters Bramah, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), Santander and Elevation Recruitment Group.

The business breakfast also brought together a panel comprising of David Richards CBE, chairman of Prodrive and chairman of the UK Motor Sports Association (MSA), Julie Kenny CBE DL, the entrepreneur who built the successful Pyronix company in Rotherham, and Rachel Abbot, managing director of Cobra Sport Performance Exhaust Systems.

The panel discussed a number of issues including recruitment concerns, inspiring young people, and especially women, into engineering, evolving a business and investing in skills.

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Richard Caborn, president of the work-wise Foundation, said: "Events like this are not just recognised as an "add-on" but are integral to the skills agenda.

"We are 13,000 engineers short in this region and it will cost us if we don't address this and get it right.

"It's why the Government has asked us to double the number of apprentices at the AMRC Training Centre. We'll soon see a snotty-nosed kid from the Manor estate or Parson's Cross who will come out with a PhD in engineering. That is social mobility on a scale we've not seen in this country."

David Richards gave the keynote speech to discuss his aims for using motorsport as hook to attract people into engineering, similar to how GUTS has used speed for its attractions - the Bloodhound supersonic car, McLaren supercars and Rolls-Royce jet engines.

Richards (pictured top, centre) said: "This is a credit to Sheffield and Rotherham. I wish there were events like this when I was leaving school."

GUTS website

Images: GUTS / Andrew Klinkenberg

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News: Rotherham bingo hall back under the hammer

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The Mecca Bingo site in Rotherham town centre is set to go up for sale at auction in London next month.

The freehold leisure investment on Corporation Street is being advertised with leading commercial property auctioneers, Allsop and has been given a guide price of £875,000 - £925,000.

The 26,000 sq ft property comprises a substantial building currently used as a bingo hall providing reception area, gaming hall and ancillary and office accommodation over lower ground, ground, first and mezzanine floors.

The property last sold in 2014, when it went for £880,000, also at auction.

The property is entirely let to Mecca Bingo Limited until 2021 at a current rent of £125,950 per annum. The tenant has the option to extend the lease.

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For the year ended June 30 2017, Mecca Bingo Ltd reported a turnover of £203.340m and a pre-tax profit of £39.807m. It is part of the Rank Group which has been struggling with a declining retail gambling environment and moves towards digital growth. For the six months ended December 31 2017, Mecca's like-for-like revenue fell by 3% due to a 7% fall in visits but the company is thought to be outperforming the market with visitors who spend more.

The building, which auctioneers say "may lend itself to a variety of uses and redevelopment subject to obtaining all the necessary consents," is situated alongside the key regeneration site in the town centre - Forge Island.

Along with the site of the Law Courts and Riverside Precinct, Rotherham Council is currently selecting a development partner for a £43m mixed-used leisure development proposal, led by a new cinema and hotel. The Forge Island redevelopment has been penciled in for completion by mid 2020.

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Originally opened in December 1934 as the Regal Cinema the building was commissioned by Thomas Wade Cinemas Ltd of Wath-upon-Dearne, and designed by Messrs Blackmore and Sykes, Architects, of Hull. It had seating for 1,825, and was fully equipped for stage performances with three dressing rooms, and a theatre organ.

The site became the Odeon in 1946 and the café was turned into a Victor Sylvester ballroom in the 1960s. The cinema was taken over by Rank in 1975 and renamed La Scala. It showed its last film in 1983. It opened up for bingo as the Ritz, but was then taken over by Mecca Bingo.

The auction takes place at The Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge on May 15.

Allsop website

Images: Allsop

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