Bath Voice Business News: legal apprentice intern winner; business plan; shop lifting; new building society CEO; Bath Bid and Body Shop in administration

A brief round up of some of the business stories making the news by Harry Mottram.

Top Tag: An apprentice from Bath law firm Stone King has won an Alexander Paul Award.Tag Rowe, an apprentice solicitor currently working in the law firm’s Employment Team, scooped the award at an event held by the 10,000 Interns Foundation at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

Tag started at the firm last year through the 10,000 Black Interns scheme, the brainchild of the Foundation, before going on to successfully apply for an apprenticeship.

The event saw twenty-five longlisted candidates who had achieved places in the scheme shortlisted to five, with Tag emerging as the winner for his work in Bath. The Alexander Paul Award honours a gifted young man who died from a brain tumour before he could achieve his ambition of becoming a lawyer.

Business plan: Higher wages, more productivity, greener businesses and more affordable housing are at the heart of a report that went before the Council last month. It sets out a new approach to economic development which prioritises the needs of residents and businesses as well as reducing impacts on the environment.
If adopted, it will span the decade from 2024 to 2034 and see a 10-point plan which includes increasing take-up locally of the Real Living Wage and delivering Bath’s Fashion Museum and wider Milsom Quarter Masterplan as a flagship for sustainable development.

The strategy is called Building a Fair, Green, Creative and Connected Bath with North East Somerset Economy. It has been produced in partnership with the local Future Ambition Board (FAB), which brings together key organisations, as well as Western Gateway and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). For more details visit the Council website and search for Building a Fair, Green, Creative and Connected Bath with North East Somerset Economy.

Shop lifting: For the first time since records started, there were more than 400,000 cases reported to police in England and Wales, according to the Office of National Statistics. The Avon and Somerset area saw a 41% increase in shoplifting in 2023.

Building Society: Richard Ingle will be taking over from current CEO Kevin Gray, who will retire from the Society on 7th March 2024, after 25 years of service. Richard joined the Society as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Board Member in 2022. He was previously CFO of the sustainable bank Triodos Bank UK Ltd and has held senior management positions at Nationwide Building Society and Bank of Ireland UK.

BID: The Bath Business Improvement District (BID) is an independent, not-for-profit business-led company working to provide the environment for businesses in Bath to succeed. Bath BID was established in 2011. Following a renewal ballot in 2015, the Bath BID was given the mandate to continue working in the city for a further five years, and a second renewal ballot in 2021 has secured the BID’s contract until 2026.

Legal Gate: Robert Buckland writing in Bath Business News has reported on the appointment of experienced lawyer Helen Gate as an associate legal executive at Mogers Drwett. The former business editor at the Western Daily Press noted: “Helen joins the firm from national law firm Clarke Willmott’s Bristol office, where she spent just over a year as a senior associate in the commercial property team, advising landowners on telecom agreements and disputes.”

Body Shop in trouble, By Harry Mottram: Administrators have been appointed to The Body Shop chain of beauty product shops after a reported poor period of sales over the winter.

It casts doubt over the future of its hundreds of branches including the one in Burton Street in Bath which has been listed in the media as one of the stores that may close for good. In 2022 it reopened after a brief refresh along with a roll-out in other stores to highlight new products while in 2020 like other so-called non-essential stores it was forced to close due to the Covid-19 Crisis for a time.

Founded by the late Anita Roddick in 1976 the retailing chain grew from a single shop to some 3,000 outlets in more than 65 countries with numerous franchised stores and upwards of 9,000 staff with many more suppliers.
The retailer that once dominated the so-called ethical beauty market has seen its share slide as rivals offered equally ethical and environmentally friendly products from Boots to Sainsburys as well as Lush and Neal’s Yard Remedies.

However back in the 1980s the chain rose to dominate the market until it all came crashing down when journalist Jon Entine exposed the company for green-washing in 1994 – pretending to be concerned with fair trade and the environment when in reality it wasn’t. After a further expose was published in 2004 the chain began to see its market challenged by new firms who used ethical and environmental standards as part of their USP.

The firm was sold to L’Oreal in 2006 who sold it on again to Natura in 2017 for £880 million before Aurelius acquired it in 2023 for £207 million. There has been some speculation over whether the owners were intent on asset stripping – as many of the stores have prime locations. That is still an open question for some.

The BBC reported that FRP Advisory said that the brand had faced a “difficult trading environment” like other shops as customers’ budgets have been squeezed and online retailing has boomed in recent years.
Andrew Goodacre of the British Independent Retailers Association, said: “It seems that we hear about the demise of a national retailer every few months… We hope that the employees and franchisees are looked after while the future of this chain is decided.”

Ian Carrotte of ICSM – the business membership group in Somerset said: “We are very concerned over the plight of the suppliers as being an international retailer with many franchise outlets the supply chain is huge – with many small businesses that supply The Body Shop. The stores remain open at the moment and we suspect it is possible some will be bought in a deal – but in the meantime we advise suppliers to refrain from completing orders until there is more information from the administrators and only accept orders with payment up front.”

Bath Voice Monthly Newspaper is distributed free to thousands of homes and some supermarkets – distributed from the first of the month. Harry Mottram is the News Editor

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Harry Mottram is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Telegram, TikTok and Mobile: 07789 864769