Where Will I Buy My Pick & Mix Now?

Woolies has gone into administration.

Described as a 'lame duck' by the BBC, Woolies crippled under £300 million worth of debt. The government won't help out either as it felt Woolworths had a poor business model and wasn't a viable business to invest in.

It's a huge shame to loose such a big British name, over 800 stores will disappear in town's across the UK, with over 25,000 job losses. Woolies has been struggling for ages, and some say it would have have still gone under even if the economy was good, although I'm sure the money could be raised today someone would buy it out. One for Theo Paphitis perhaps?

Although I've not been into Woolies for ages it will be sad to see it go. I went to a MFI store in Warrington the other week which was closing down. It was a humbling, disappointing and very sad experience. To see a proud, buzzing, successful store which was once a weekend trip out with Mum, Dad & a baby brother as a youngster to now an empty, desolate store was upsetting.

Drive past now and it is simply locked up, neglected, weeds already growing around it and Woolworths will soon be the same. Except this time it is directly on the high street.

Business For Breakfast

I popped along to a breakfast conference this morning at Cobbetts solicitors rather posh offices. Hosted by advertising and marketing industry news website How Do, it featured 3 of the regions big business editors Andy Bounds from the Financial Times, David Parkin from newly launched TheBusinessDesk.com and Steve Brauner from heavyweight Crain’s Manchester Business, well chaired by How Do's Nick Jaspan.

There is a lot of talk about the Manchester circuit being over subscribed with business news titles, especially with City AM being another addition in 2009. It was good to hear from the horses mouth what news they were actually interested in, and if there is actually room in the bed for another friend.

There weren't any surprises, Andy Bounds said if you weren't a listed company or had big hitting news then forget it, while Business Desk and Crain's basically said the same thing as each other.

There is an argument to whether print media is still relevant. Business Desk doesn't seem to think so, all their content will stay totally free and online only. Crain's run both a news website (with fresh news accessable for free, with more detailed stories and case studies only available to subscriber content) and a weekly print edition. A guy sat next to me pointed out that he, like me and many others, doesn't read the print edition and if there was any need for it. Crain's argued that their weekly print edition had content which couldn't be found elsewhere, and especially not on their own website. However as Mr Brauner said this he held up a recent print edition, the leading story I had read a couple of days before. Hmmmm.

I'm subscribed to all newsfeeds. I'm a huge fan of Crain's, I was one of the first subcribers and I find their website and especially their e-shot to be easy to read and relevant. I don't read the print edition as I don't have time (another discussion point & a sign of a changing media I'm sure) however their idea to distribute on Virgin Trains is fantastic. I also admire Crain's confidence to keep their advertising rates level despite much disapproval from many - I like that.

Secondly I read the business section of the Manchester Evening News and thirdly the Insider daily news release, which I've found recently to be more inviting to read. I'm then subscribed to BusinessDesk.com, which doesn't do anything different for me so it normally gets deleted. I left today thinking that is was a shame I felt like that because I found David Parkin to be a fantastic speaker. He was lively, well presented and well spoken compared to the droneful Steve Brauner.

Maybe I'll check out Business Desk's e-shots in the future but the problem I have is that both Crains, BusinessDesk and Insider run the same stories and the same content, much to their claims they don't.

One PR lady in the audience asked about exclusivity for their clients and what should she do - share it around? Quickly both David and Steve distanced themselves away from exclusives, "woah we don't do that, we don't care about exclusives, it's the quality rather than quantity". That I don't believe, from past experience myself there is a big competition to who publishes the story first.

Until the editors start adding more depth to stories it will be an individual choice of who you read and I think I'll still to Crains for my daily fix. It rocks!

Budget Report - VAT rates cut.

Mr Darling has cut VAT by 2.5% which should see you saving of a couple of quid when buying an iPod or a few pence when buying a CD. Hopefully along with the lower petrol prices, which should now be saving you a few pounds each week, this will bring confidence back to consumers. And although the killjoys are asking how a couple of pounds off an iPod is going to help them, I've figured out that if you're looking at buying a new car at the moment, you should be treated to a saving of over £300 with today's rate cuts on a family hatchback! Terrific!

However you may notice I've used the word 'should'. These VAT rate cuts today are all dependent, as much as the interest rate cuts, in businesses passing those on. I would imagine these cuts will take a while to be fully implimented, especially with small businesses, due to the process of having labels, menu's, leaflets and adverts re-printed with the adjusted VAT.

SME's do have a lot of support though from this Budget. They should see extra money coming in each month due to being able to spread their VAT, corporation tax and NI contribution payments over a longer period and a tax repayment scheme for previously profitable businesses will be extended so up to £50,000 of losses can be offset against profits made over last three years. SME's will also be able to dive into a £4bn help fund which has been agreed between the European Investment Bank & UK banks.

Although this Budget doesn't bring good news for high earners. If you earn over £150,000, you will now be paying 45% tax. Yikes!

We are in no doubt living in tough times, Honda have closed their factory in Swindon for several months over the Winter due to lack of orders, so have Bentley in Crewe and today America have bailed out one of the largest banks in the world, Citi Group, however with every little bit of help, breeds a little bit of confidence and this was seen today with a 10 point rise in the FTSE, it's biggest ever in history.

Behind The Scenes Filming GB Cycling Team

Behind the scenes filming of the British Cycling team for Sports Personality Of The Year using a motorbike and helicopter on the tops in Burnley. See the state of the art GB cycling van for transporting the bikes, Jamie Staff loving a sandwich, Chris Hoy getting knackered because he hasn't been on a bike for a while and is that Wiggins's new white BMW M3?

Good stuff at http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tv_and_radio/sports_personality_of_the_year/7736107.stm

Lead Balloon



Great news that Lead Balloon is back for a 3rd series on BBC 2.

Written by Jack Dee, it follows miserable d-list comedian Rick Spleen, naturally played by Jack Dee, through his day to day trials and tribulations. I love Lead Balloon, the script is well written, the cast is perfect, especially his wife Mel who is played beautifully by Rachel Cassidy and Polish house keeper Magda who is hilarious. If you're like me and get all worked up about cinematography, Lead Balloon is well produced. It's very cosmopolitan and the direction is spot on, you can tell a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into it!

I'm a big fan of Jack Dee, I've got all his DVDs, and if you love his stuff or enjoy cuddling up to a relaxed, warm comedy check this out. Thursdays at 10!

Business North West

I've just returned from the Business North West exhbition at the GMEX in Manchester where I've been exhibiting for the past couple of days. BNW focusses on supporting SMEs, in particular start ups on all aspects of business. Our stand was a huge success and I'm back home nursing very sore feet!!

PR guru Max Clifford kicked off proceedings on the main stage today while the girls from the Apprentice (Jennifer, the ginger one from the last series and Kristina, the irish one from a couple of series ago who came second) were on yesterday. They have started a sales training and motivation company and were also pitching away to visitors over the 2 days. Nigel Hughes, who heads up Rattle PR, managed to grab an interview with Jennifer after Max Clifford's speech - I don't think she likes him too much!

Crazy P - Stop Space Return.



When I first discovered these guys they were called Crazy Penis, and it was their remix of Blakkat's 'The Rite Place' on Shaboom Recordings which got me hooked. Although it was house, it felt as though it was a cool sessions band having a good jam. 'The Rite Place' always got a good reaction and fast forwarding 5 years later those simplistic elements of drums, bassline, funky guitar, warm synths, piano keys and a scrummy vocal are still there.

Before 'The Rite Place', they had a solid succession of releases on Manchester's renowned Paper Recordings before releasing "24 Hour Psychedelic Workout" on Shiva Records in 2003. In 2005, Crazy Penis was re-named to a PR friendlier Crazy P, and with that launched their critically acclaimed album "A Night On Earth" again on Shiva Records.

Nottingham based Crazy P are made up with Danielle Moore on vocals, Chris Todd on guitar and keys and Jim Baron on keys, guitars, horns and everything else in between. Chris is also known as 'Hot Toddy' and has had releases on Winding Road Records. Jim can also be found as a band member of Secret Stealth, which should you enjoy Crazy P, I would definately recommend their album Mince & Onions from last year.

So, 'Stop, Space Return' is launched on Ralph Lawson's 20:20 Vision imprint, and compared to their last albums, I'm wondering if 20:20 has influenced them to become slightly more grittier, with strong electronic influences throughout. The thing I love with Crazy P, is that all their albums take you on a journey. Ok, I know that is well worn cliche, but you do become mesmerized with Danielle's vocals and those synths wrap around you.

This is an incredible album. Each individual track is very well produced, super funky and I would say it's their best work to date. You could easily put this CD on and either relax with a bottle of wine or put it on full blast at a party.

If you love Jamiroquai, 70s or 80s funk, you will love Crazy P. They are also touring throughout November taking in Leeds, London and Nottingham. You can find out more on their website at www.crazyp.co.uk or check out their albums on iTunes.

Robin Thicke - Something Else.



Chances are you haven't heard of Robin Thicke, and neither had I until a few weeks ago. I strolled across this album on iTunes and was hooked straight away. Smooth, relaxing and funky, I've really enjoyed listening to it and would really recommend it to anyone who is into motown, soul, R'n'B or list Lionel Richie, Luther Vandross, Earth, Wind and Fire, Average White Band, Warren G or Guru on your MP3 player.

My pick is 'Sweetest Love' which has also had support from the likes of Trevor Nelson. Check out Robin's website at http://www.robinthicke.com/

Tracklisting

1 You're My Baby
2 Sidestep
3 Magic
4 Ms. Harmony
5 Dreamworld
6 Loverman
7 Hard On My Love
8 The Sweetest Love
9 Something Else
10 Shadow of Doubt
11 Cry No More
12 Tie My Hands (featuring Lil Wayne)

Top 10 Cocks In Advertising

Charlie Brooker runs us through.

Alto @ Radisson Edwardian Manchester

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the opening of Alto at the Radisson Edwardian Manchester last night. For any foodies out there who don't mind spending that little bit extra this place is a must!

Radisson Edwardian is more known for Opus One, Alto's more expensive brother however, for the moment at least, Alto is a quiet little gem of a restaurant in Manchester.

The restaurant is situated just past the reception, seperated by long glass windows. Once inside you can grab a seat at one of the sofas by the windows and watch the world (and celebrities) go by. After being warmly welcomed with little bottles of champagne, Rioja and Budweiser we were treated to miniature tasters of the food on offer. The food is homely, freshly made, the pizzas are scrumptious and the burgers with piccalilli are just out of this world.

With the wine flowing we were seated to a 3 course meal of Red Pepper & Tomato Soap, Cottage Pie and Winter Vegetables with chocolate and vanilla mousses for pudding. Everything was well seasoned, the vegetables were soft but still had that little bit of crunchiness to them and the soup....at this point it's probably worth saying I'm not a great fan of soup. It's always too watery, made from wierd mixtures of vegetable and always has wierd bits swimming in it. However, this soup at Alto was just gorgeous. It was thick, tasty and simply delicious.

A 3 course meal for two with beers, wine and coffee will be knocking on the door of £80. The portions are plentiful, atmosphere buzzing, food delicious and even for a normal bod like me, I'd be only too happy to spend the money occasionally.

Alto is a down to earth, casual restaurant you've probably not heard of yet, but once you've tried the food you'll most certainly be back for more.

Bank Of England Reduces Base Rate to 3%

Well, a huge statement of intent to get the economy moving by the Bank Of England, reducing interest rates by 1.5% in one hit. This is huge, huge news as for the past year the Bank Of England has simply wibble wobbled about nibbling off a quarter of a percent here and there. Today's rate cut just shows the severity of the problem in the economy at the moment. The rate cut should bring some good news, freeing up some extra cash for hard up families on tracker mortgages however brings more bad news for savers who will have seen their rates almost halved in the past year.

Hopefully, together with lower fuel prices and lowering taxes, confidence will return to consumers.

Interestingly, many people have opted to staying in over the weekend in order to save the pennies which has seen Dominoes Pizza report soaring profits. However, a medium Tandoori Hot and a small Meateor pizza adds up to £19, if you collect it yourself. A meal for 2 at the Hollow Tree, a gorgeous pub just off the Stretton roundabout in Cheshire which included a starter, 2 coffee's and 4 pints of beer was £21.

Marks and Spencer has also been suffering badly with profits down 35%, however I've not actually been into a Marks & Spencers store and seen a decent offer yet. If businesses are to survive they need to alter their pricing and advertise more to let people know whats out there. Boots The Chemist for example has fantastic offers on and I would highly recommend checking out their Christmas catalogue for gifts for all the family. And guess what, their balance sheet is looking pretty healthy!

Movember!

Myself and 14 other guys at work are raising money for Prostate Cancer. We are doing this by growing moustaches through out November.

Movember is an officially recognised charity, which creates awareness about Prostate Cancer through research, support, information and campaigning.

Although awareness is slowly growing, Prostate Cancer is still relatively starved of promotion and the statistics are alarming. 1 in 11 men will be diagnosed in their lifetime, with one man dying every hour from the cancer.

We've set up a dedicated webpage to securely donate online and you can also keep track of our progress everyday at http://www.go-cd.co.uk/mogo/

You can find out more about Movember by visiting their website at www.movember.com

Your donation will be very, very much appreciated. Thanks.

US Election Result

Barack Obama wins 2 to 1 and in my opinion, from what I've seen in the papers and TV coverage over the past few months, I feel he is the right choice.

Although I'm an avid follower of politics, I've not got too involved with these elections. It could only be America that turns an episode of Question Time into an episode from a Jeremy Kyle show. Everything was hazy, hesitant, stuttery, and it actually made me feel proud for our bumbling Politicians back here in the UK, and all the while the audience shouted, wooped and hailed yeah whenever McCain or Obama were mentioned.

One thing that I found surprising was just how much the audience talked about history and race. I found it strange that even today, having a black candidate was hard to swallow for some of the American audience, and even last night during the results on the BBC, there were accusations of racism, which were of course played down.

There was also a lot of talk about American history (not surprising I hear you say as there normally is with British politics too), however with British politics it normally goes as far back to about the 1970s. Back in America I was really surprised that they brought up issues to as far back as the early 1900s, at one point even World War 2 was brought into context as one disgruntled member of the audience fought it out with a Professor on the panel.

It was this little episode where I decided to shut off, the member felt that there was no way at all that this Professor, who had spent his life studying American politics and history, was right at all and set about constantly, rudely interuptting him. All the while the Jeremy Kyle crowd wooped and cheered leaving me to question how old these people were and what zoo they had escaped from?

One thing that all of the audience did seem to have in common was the hope of the American dream. Obama talks about the American dream in his speeches, echoing Martin Luther King, and his victory speech can be found at length here at The Times. I'd like to highlight the opening verse:

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

If anyone can take the American people to live the American Dream it is Obama. Simply because he is a President that won't look to take over the world like Bush, but simply will be a President that will look after America. Yeeeehaaaa!

Hello & Welcome!

Hello,

Well, here we go! I've taken the plunge into the dark murky waters of blogging.

Through work I've become increasingly aware of just how powerful blogs can be. Over 60% of people using the internet are either reading or participating in blogs, which is incredible when you consider that figure is actually hundreds and hundreds of millions of people.

So...I shouldn't have much of a problem with people listening to my big gob. We shall see!!