Jamie Reed MP for Copeland had recently asked a parliamentary question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to whether he plans to offer deadline extensions for tax due by businesses affected by flooding in Cumbria.

His response:

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) operates a dedicated Severe Weather helpline to offer help and advice on any tax matters to those people and businesses affected by the recent flooding. The helpline is 0800 904 7900

Opening hours are Monday to Friday, 8.00 am to 8.00 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 8.00 am to 4.00 pm, excluding bank holidays.

HMRC will also:

  • consider instalment arrangements where customers are unable to pay as a result of the floods;
  • agree a practical approach when individuals and businesses have lost vital records to the floods;
  • suspend debt collection proceedings for those affected by the floods; and
  • cancel penalties when the customer has missed statutory deadlines due to the floods.

If your business has been affected by the December floods the team at Cumbria Chamber of Commerce can almost certainly help, and they have previously helped Cumbrian businesses through Foot & Mouth, the 2005 Floods and the 2009 Floods.

Whether you have been flooded directly or are affected indirectly (for example through staff evacuations or your supply chain), download their Business Continuity Checklist for a list things to think about and do immediately and see their Business Recovery Toolkit for more information to support your recovery. See http://www.cumbriagrowthhub.co.uk/news/article/december-floods

Advisers are available, free of charge, to help you deal with the immediate impact and through the recovery process – call 0844 257 8450 or email info@cumbriagrowthhub.co.uk

 

The Rural Shops Alliance is becoming aware that current Rural Shop owners wishing to refurbish or expand their business and those looking to purchase a rural shop are finding it increasingly difficult to secure loans and mortgages from banks and other providers.

They would like to hear from anyone who has been refused a loan or mortgage or had any other similar problems, particularly if a specific reason for refusal of the loan or mortgage has been given.

Please contact Gary Hepburn at the RSA via: gary.hepburn@ruralshops.org.uk

For more information about the Rural Shops Alliance click here

Screenshot_2015-11-24-11-09-46 (2)The British Retail Consortium and  The Food and Drink Federation have released a guidance document advising retailers, producers and authorities on how to make a ‘free-from’ claim on a product in order to regulate free-from allergen claims on food and drink packaging.

Currently there are no specific rules at either UK or EU level governing the use of ‘free-from’. This guidance will help business operators know when and how to label and also provides an overview of relevant UK and EU legislation. It will also give help with the key things to be  considered with regard to appropriate manufacturing practices and also when carrying out a risk assessment.

The guidance can be viewed here

From October 5th businesses with over 250 full time equivalent  employees in England will have to charge 5p for a disposable carrier   bag unless it is used to carry a varied list of exempt products  ( visit Gov.uk for full details)

Larger stores will have to ensure that the relatively complicated rules on when charging applies is passed down to individual checkout operators – and then make sure that the process is properly managed. Added complications include dealing with home deliveries, and how to control charging for bags at self-service checkouts.

Smaller businesses, who do not have to charge, may see  some regular customers asking for bags on a more frequent basis so that they can stockpile them to use for free during their visits to the supermarket.

So what should small businesses do? If they carry on supplying  free bags they might find that they will have to buy more bags to satisfy increased demand. If they charge will it put them at a disadvantage against the big boys?

The decision might be based on what actually happens in an individual business but, in reality, if customers accept paying for single-use bags at the supermarket will they quibble if they have to pay in smaller shops, particularity if the money raised is used to support recognised good causes.

Maybe it would be easier if a 5p charge just became the norm.

For some interesting comments and statistics on the use of plastic bags visit BBC news magazine

 

During my recent return to Langholm, it was pleasing to see the progress made by the shops visited during the initial phase of the Let’s Talk Shop support programme.

Langhol, The Shop Dioctor, Lets Talk Shop, Retail Revitalisation, Retail SurvivalMost significant was that achieved by Cut The Mustard Gallery who, having relocated to the shop next door since my original visit, have undoubtedly transformed their business and its impact on the High Street.

Where the original premises had been relatively confined and IMG_6266limited in display potential, the new gallery provides excellent space from which to materially develop their business opportunities. The gallery also adds new dimension to the existing craft focus within the town, one that itself helps  to draw additional footfall to the town. Relocation obviously came at considerable cost but, thanks to a very supportive and forward-looking landlord (who also provides valuable assistance to other retailers in the town who occupy shops owned by him), the transformation was achieved.
IMG_6161When originally visited, the owners of Sticks ‘n’ Stuff received advice as to how to set out their recently purchased shop premises. At the time, the shop was an empty shell and in need of considerable refurbishment. Now completely refurbished, the shop complements others in the town. It provides walking sticks made on the premises as well as all the components required to make your own alongside a range of collectible items.
Abbotts Chocolate Shop and Blue Moon Crafts have also made IMG_6218significant changes to help to engage customer interest more effectively.

At Langholm Gallery the simple removal of the wooden screening immediately behind the window has noticeably improved the visual impact of the window display itself and made the shop interior a far brighter environment in which to shop and work.

IMG_3040One of the recommendations made following my visit to The Old School, Dumfries earlier in the year was the need to enhance awareness of activities being undertaken inside the building.

Located slightly away from the town centre, the premises themselves delivered little indication that they provided accommodation to an interesting variety of small businesses.

It was pleasing to receive today the following comment and photographs from  Rachel Speedie of The Art Room, one of the businesses operating in The Old School building.  Rachel is helping to coordinate improvements to business vitality within the building.

I just wanted to show yOLd Shool Dumfries; Retail Revitalisation, The Shop Doctor; Let's Talk Shop; Retail Survival;  customer journey; visual merchandisingou what got installed today at The Old School in Dumfries,  apparently they can be seen from Brooke Street, but also DGOne & the Lidl traffic lights too!  

So THANK YOU!! None of this would have been possible without you…Rachel”

hThe Shop Doctor; Let's Talk ShopThe entrance to the premises are to the left-hand side of the building, immediately  off the access road to the customer car park.

Signage has also been installed on this facing of the building, further developing the opportunity to inform a wider audience about the presence of this small oasis of business activity.

Other businesses involved are: Blusha, Make-Up and Hair Specialist;  NonaLou’s Tea room, Cafe and Coffee Shop; Dumfries School of Dance; B Beautiful by Beth and Brighteye Design & Branding.

It is easy to pass through Thornhill without full appreciation of the selection of retailing gems operating from this attractive small town close to Drumlanrig Castle.

With free parking, public toilets, tearooms,  cafes and hotels the number of shops may be relatively small, but the service provided and variety of products sold is large.

Lets Talk Shop; Retail RevitalisationFrom the  intriguing setting  of Thomas Tosh,   a cafe-gallery-retailer-venue based in the historic Old Parish Hall building in East Morton Street to the fashion delights at Voila and  101 Boutique time spent in Thornhill can certainly enhance the shopping experience.

IMG_5934Helping satisfy those seeking interior design and home accessories BQA Gifts, operated by The Buccleuch and Queensberry Arms Hotel, provides a wealth of intriguing items for the home and A1 Curtain Design deliver the skills and materials to compliment any home.

Hillhouse and Hunter have retained the  traditional setting of the original business within their family run hardware store and, at the end of West Morton Street, Antiques at Zitan dislay original  Chinese elegance for the home.

Of the ten businesses originally advised under the Let’s Talk Shop Support Programme 8 are still  very much in business, one is closing down due to retirement ( the owner is now 84 ) and another, The Happy Potter Ceramic Cafe, is now  Latte Da Tearoom.

All in all Thornhill sustains an intriguing mix of retail opportunity highly reliant on attracting customers seeking the service, quality and setting available. In addition on-line accessibility of many of the businesses concerned adds further dimension to individual business opportunities helping to sustain the businesses in the longer term.

shops; dalbeattie; retail revitalisation; retail survival; Shop Doctor,  Lets Talk Shop; In a recent follow up visit to Dalbeattie retailers who participated in the original Let’s Talk Shop Support Programme it was pleasing that many of them were feeling considerably more positive about their trading vitality.

Whilst there had been some shop closures in the town it is likely that it was not the economic climate alone that had contributed to their demise. Other businesses had invested and reports from those who had implemented improvements following the initial recommendations were very positive.

Whilst many of the participating retailers had taken advantage of the Let’s Talk Shop grants scheme to help introduce recommendations many were now waiting for implementation of the Shop Front Improvements Scheme to enable more robust external improvements to be undertaken.

One major improvement to the gateway impact of the town was the investment being undertaken at the Pheasant Hotel.

The dilapidated condition of the premises at the time of the original visit reflected poorly on the town and it is hoped that the major investment underway to create the Birch Tree Inn, Restaurant, Bar and Hotel will materially improve the arrival impact  whilst increasing the number of bed spaces available, a positive step forward for tourism.

Shop Doctor  Lets Talk Shop Dumfries Galloway

Excellent street sculpture elements within the enhanced public realm in Lockerbie,  a great talking point.

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Of the retailers originally visited it is pleasing that all but one are still providing great service to the local and visitor community although the traditional haberdashery shop Wightmans is now an Opticians.

In addition the co-operative Project Art has recently relocated its displays into Elegance making way for a new venture in the double fronted premises being vacated by them by opposite the Town Hall. Indications of a new, and very appropriate, business venture opening soon.

Two of the businesses have also expanded their offering with additional ground floor space made available at Elegance (Gift Shop) and expansion to include the adjacent shop unit at Anne Maries (Fashion). Curvaceous has relocated to smaller, but no less suitable, premises and the refurbished Margaret’s (Post Office) is also looking great, as are all of the others businesses involved in the Let’s Talk Shop Programme.

IMG_4757

 

There are still  a number of empty units in high visibility locations but the town felt vibrant with the enhanced public realm in the town centre providing a pleasing  and visually attractive setting.

 

In Gretna all of the original retailers visited continue to provide to the needs of their community and great to see positive changes at Bliss (Hairdressers), McKenzies ( ex Post Office now gifts and cards), Springfield Post Office and J Kerr & Sons (Butcher). All businesses were holding their own against the draw of the nearby Gretna Gateway.