The event was a lively hive of activity with business leaders having a tour of the photographic studios to see the fabulous work done by members of Studio’s photographic and digital departments. With over 750,000 images taken by the photographers per year, it is one of the largest studios in the region, built to assist Studio’s online and catalogue business, utilising in-house stylists, photographers, makeup artists and international models.
Paul Kendrick, Managing Director of Express Gifts Ltd, shared his journey with attendees, from being the E-commerce Director at Thompson Holidays in 1999, to being appointed Managing Director at Express Gifts Ltd one year ago. Self-described ‘data geek’, Paul harbours a passion for analysis and metrics, making him well suited to a proactive business. The company now has high growth targets of £600m turnover within five years, a feasible goal with sales growing 9% and profit up 20% over the last 12 months.
Paul shared how, despite their continuously increasing growth, Studio is still very much a developing business, with offices based not only in Church and Clayton-Le-Moors, but also in Shanghai and the Philippines. Keen to share their success in a manner that benefits the local community and understanding how larger businesses can provide a platform for improvement and inclusion within the Borough, Studio recently signed a three-year deal to become the family stand sponsors at Accrington Stanley Football Club.
When asked about any threats to the business, Paul shared with attendees how the company is a value retailer but, unlike the companies they are benchmarked against – such as B&M and Primark – their sales are primarily digital and the majority of their customers have a credit account facility which isn’t available with competing businesses. “Cyber security would likely be our largest challenge,” Paul commented, “but we invest a lot of money into protecting data; adapting and changing accordingly.”
Business leaders were joined by members of Hyndburn Borough Council including council leader, Miles Parkinson, and Graham Jones MP. Miles discussed the developments within the Borough, including the Accrington Stanley Community Trust sports hub. As a registered charity, the Trust is relying on donations to fund the hub and Miles shared how local businesses are generously donating to make it happen including Totally Wicked and What More UK.
He updated the business leaders about the Council’s major growth project for a garden village in Huncoat, as part of the Government’s Housing Strategy, which will result in 2,000 new homes as well a significant employment space for a logistics, manufacturing and commercial premises. Consultants have been appointed by the Council, with a masterplan having been started and set to be complete in 2019.
Business Leaders also heard how work at Frontier Park at Whitebirk Junction 7 M65 in Hyndburn is continuing with contractors installing major infrastructure linking the development site to Junction 6, as well as construction to provide a 24-hour petrol station, as well as shops, services and a major hotel. Miles also divulged plans with regards to Accrington Town Centre, sharing how the vision is to create an event space – an ambience where it can be used both during the day and during the evening – and how the Council is supporting local business owners throughout the transformation with grants.
Miles commented: “Engagement from businesses is very important. What we have got here is a group of people coming together under the #AmazingAccrington umbrella and being positive. With positivity we can and will succeed.”
Graham gave an insight into how, as an MP, he can support businesses. He commented: “In terms of #AmazingAccrington and businesses, it’s about being strong enough to influence MPs, regional and statutory bodies, the Government – pulling together to shape the place that we live; to create a better economy and, in turn, a better life for people. It’s pivotal for businesses to be involved in shaping their area from skills to transport, you make things happen.”
Murray Dawson, Chairman, #AmazingAccrington added: “The collaboration of businesses and the Local Authority is really important; it’s up to us to step up all the time and push as hard as we can do, to build aspiration for kids in the area. We want good news stories and success, we want to find champions.
“It’s been great to have Studio as the venue today, I’m utterly in awe of the facility. One of the main initiatives of #AmazingAccrington is to keep the youth of today in the Borough tomorrow and we need to show them that there are facilities on their doorstep that they can make use of, from education at Accrington and Rossendale College through to all these wonderful businesses. So, instead of being sent out of Hyndburn to study or to work, they can stay local.”