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Welsh construction sector fares better than UK average

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THE PERCENTAGE of Welsh construction firms at heightened risk of insolvency sits comfortably below the UK average, according to the latest research by insolvency and restructuring trade body R3.

With 37.6% of firms at increased risk, the sector sits just over 2% below the UK average of 39.7%.

Only the construction sectors in the North West, London, and Northern Ireland fare better, at 37.4%, 37%, and 34.8% respectively.

However, the March research shows that the percentage of construction firms at heightened risk of insolvency increased by 3.8% from February’s figures, closely matching the construction sector’s UK-wide increase of 3.9%.

Commenting on the research, Louise Durkan, Chair of R3 in Wales and a director at Deloitte, told The Llanelli Herald: “Resting just below the UK average, while rising at the same rate, will come as encouraging news for many Welsh construction firms, and signals a hopeful outlook for the region after a challenging start to the year.

“According to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, January saw the UK’s construction sector contract for the ninth month in a row, fuelled in part by increases to the cost of imports, a fall in the number of new homes being built, and the strain on the sector’s supply chains.

“However, for Wales at least, a number of new projects in the pipeline, and a rapidly rising Cardiff skyline, look to be helping the construction sector weather the storm.

The wider Welsh picture

Of all 10 key industry sectors monitored by R3 in Wales, construction had the 7th highest percentage of firms at heightened risk of insolvency, followed by agriculture (43.2%), technology and IT (47.7%), and the professional services sector (49.5%).

The restaurant sector saw the lowest percentage of firms at heightened risk of insolvency of all sectors in Wales at 31.9%.

However, the sector remains notably above the UK average of 30.2%, and is only surpassed by the East of England and the South West, at 32.1% and 33.8%, respectively.

Louise continues: “It is unfortunate but unsurprising to see the restaurant sector struggling. Consumer habits are shifting, and while there is a trend for increasing ‘leisure’ spending, this is coming at the expense of eating out in restaurants. Poor real wage growth is limiting what people can spend overall, so more spending in one area means less in another.”

Louise adds: “For any businesses in Wales who are starting to feel financial pressure, as always, R3 suggest seeking professional and qualified advice at the earliest possible opportunity, as this will only increase the chances of successful business rescue.”

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New funeral advice website will help Llanelli people make better funeral choices

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INDEPENDENT funeral directors in Llanelli are supporting a nationwide digital consumer initiative to help people better understand the funeral process and avoid falling victim to rogue operators.

FuneralAdvice.org has been created by GE O’Driscoll and Daughters’ trade association the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) to provide non-promotional information about funerals.

The website is in response to consumer research by the Competition and Markets Authority, which highlighted a lack of public awareness about funeral options. Its aim is to help the public gain the knowledge it needs to make informed choices when it comes to saying goodbye to a loved one, in addition to signposting to aftercare and bereavement support groups.

Often a distress purchase, funerals are bought at a time when people are in an extreme emotional state and ill-equipped to make decisions about spending significant amounts of money.

Gemma O’Driscoll, principal funeral director at GE O’Driscoll and Daughters, said: “As an independent, family-run business, we know it’s important for funerals to be tailor-made for the families we serve. One of the first things those families seek from us is assistance and advice. People purchase funerals at a period in their lives when they are often ill-equipped to do so, and we therefore always try to provide precisely what people need at what is going to be a distressing time.

“Having information digitally and in one place means people will have access to a wide range of subjects, which they can study at a time which suits them. This initiative provides honest, straightforward advice in a simple and effective way, which can only be beneficial to people looking to make the most informed decision they can.”

Terry Tennens, Chief Executive of SAIF, said: “There is lots of information online about funerals but none of it sits in a central space. We think this makes it difficult for people to understand the funeral market. The aim of FuneralAdvice.org is to act as an impartial hub with simple, non-promotional information as well as a signpost service to other organisations that might be of assistance.”

He added: “We hope that as a result of the information on FuneralAdvice.org, the public will gain a better understanding of the funeral process and that when the time comes they are fully prepared in terms of knowing what they want and what questions to ask of prospective funeral directors. This will ensure more people are able to secure a funeral that meets their needs, in terms of style, elements and above all, cost.”

FuneralAdvice.org has been designed in a way which follows the funeral process, across five accessible sections:

1. ‘Arranging a Funeral’ covers topics including what to do when someone dies, funeral choices, coffins, vehicles, direct cremations and DIY funerals.
2. ‘Choosing a Funeral Director’ talks about shopping around, trade associations, care of the deceased and funeral plans.
3. ‘The Day of the Funeral’ lets people know what to expect when a funeral happens.
4. ‘After the Funeral’ talks about paying the funeral bill, complaints and family donations.
5. ‘Further information’ includes links to other organisations dedicated to providing a wide support to bereaved people, from emotional to financial.

FuneralAdvice.org will evolve over time as funeral trends change and new information becomes available. SAIF is happy to take approaches from third parties interested in collaborating on the site to include non-promotional information that will be of benefit to the public.

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Double acquisition as Certas Energy acquires two Pembrokeshire filling stations

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CERTAS ENERGY has added two West Wales fillings stations to its growing company portfolio with the acquisition of Square & Compass and Letterson Filling Stations, both formerly owned by Roger and Anne Shackleton.

The couple have operated their Pembrokeshire forecourt business for 22 years, its two Gulf branded forecourts are integral to the local community, with large and successful convenience stores and a combined fuel volume of 5.6ml.

“We are delighted to have concluded this deal, it’s a very good fit for our business as we continue to grow our company operation across the UK,” enthuses Richard Billington, Retail Director, Certas Energy. “We already have a strong Gulf presence within Pembrokeshire and these two flagship sites will complement our thriving and expanding Dealer operation.”

“Anne and Roger have put their heart and soul into their business and its standing within the locality is testament to their hard work and that of a very talented team, whom we look forward to working with. We’ll bring the sites into harmony with the rest of our company-owned operation, investing in the latest back-office technology and on-site facilities to future proof the business. We will also remain true to the values established by the Shackletons to be at the heart of the local community.”

Square and Compass filling station in north Pembrokeshire

The two forecourts currently employ 20 people. They are seven miles apart, both situated in the town of Haverfordwest. Dave Morris, Director at specialist business property adviser, Christie & Co, acted on behalf of owners Anne and Roger and comments; “The two forecourts presented a great opportunity for a buyer as they are in a good location and well regarded locally. It has been a pleasure to work for Anne and Roger who have been passionate fuel retailers for over 20 years and we wish them all the best with their retirement. Both sites are a good fit for Certas Energy and we look forward to seeing them transition into Certas’ company owned portfolio.”

Reflecting on his departure from the business, Roger Shackleton says: “We have fantastic staff and a successful business that has been nurtured to the needs of our community. I’ve loved every minute of the ever changing environment of forecourt and convenience retailing. I still get up every morning at 4am to prepare for the day ahead but now seems the right time to retire. Certas Energy and Gulf Retail are better suited to unlock the future potential and get the very best out of our two sites. It’s a very emotive time for us both, we regard our staff as family but we know they are in good hands. The Gulf team are genuine, the process has been relatively smooth and David Morris of Christie and Co. has been brilliant, working tirelessly keep the deal progressing and to get us to this place.”

“When we drive past the sites in the future, we may feel saddened that we are no longer at the helm but in Gulf Retail, we are happy that we have sold to the right people.”

This latest acquisition by Certas Energy increases its company portfolio to 35 sites as it continues to grow the Gulf network in size and scale.

Fuel family’s final farewell

IT WAS an emotional farewell at two north Pembrokeshire filling stations this week as the popular owners Roger and Anne Shackleton handed the reigns over to new owners Certas Energy, Britain’s largest independent distributor of fuels and lubricants.

Staff at Letterston filling station say good bye to old owners Roger and Anne

After 22 years, Roger and Anne are looking forward to a more relaxed life on their farm, and to see more of their family, they told The Herald.

In 1997, the couple sold their pedigree herd and bought Letterston Filling Station. In 2007 Square and Compass Filling Station was purchased and plans were made to rebuild the shop into a convenience store to serve the neighbourhood. They were able to provide a wide range of goods and competitive fuel prices over a long period at both sites, an important resource for the local community in both cases.

The staff at Square and Compass filling station

Roger and Anne said in a statement: “We would like to thank our suppliers, and the loyal and long-standing customers for their support over the years. A final thank you goes to the staff, past and present that have helped make the business what it is today.

They added: “We would like to extend our best wishes to Certas Energy for success in the future with both Letterston and Square and Compass Filling Stations.”

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Business

What makes Wales special?

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THIS MONTH sees Visit Wales’ first ever targeted digital campaign happening in Wales. It will encourage those with arguably the best knowledge of all, the people of Wales, to share images of the places that they love and how they enjoy them.

There is also an opportunity to be featured in Visit Wales’ ads, as a selection of the best images shared on social media will be part of the next phase of the campaign.

The Year of Discovery is the perfect time to re-discover places from childhood, or discover a new corner of Wales.

Visit Wales would like as many people as possible to get involved. What makes Wales so special? Where do you like to spend your weekends in Wales? Where’s your favourite beach, pub or dog walk? These special moments in Wales can be captured by tagging #thisismywales on your Instagram or Pinterest posts.

The in-Wales market is especially important to Wales. In 2017 there were 1.47m overnight stays by Welsh residents staying in Wales. That is 16% of all overnight trips taken in Wales by GB residents, and these trips generated £228 million for the Welsh economy.

In addition, there were 62 million tourism day visits taken in Wales by Welsh residents. This is 63% of all day trips taken in Wales. The expenditure on these trips was £2.21 billion.

Dafydd Elis Thomas, the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “This is an excellent time for the people of Wales to share what makes Wales special to them – it’s all about pride and passion and the people of Wales are often the best ambassadors and travel guides to what can be found locally.

“It’s possible that Brexit uncertainty means that more people will take a staycation this year. A targeted and flexible digital marketing campaign means that Wales is well placed to make the most of these opportunities.

“Marketing work has been gathering momentum since early March in key markets in recognition of the strong competition for the domestic market – so that Wales is front of mind as a holiday destination during our Year of Discovery.

“As part of a refreshed visitwales.com, celebrities such as Alex Jones, Matthew Rhys and Huw Stephens have already shared their favourite things about Wales.”

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