How small shops plan to take on the retail giants

When Boris Johnson came on television to announce the November lockdown, it was the final straw for Joh Rindom.

Before the prime minister had even finished speaking, the shop owner from Bristol had hammered out her response on Instagram.

“Small businesses will once again suffer immeasurably,” she told her customers.

“So PLEASE shop small,” she added. “Resist Amazon at all costs, and think about how you ‘vote with your money’.”

Joh runs That Thing, an independent fashion, homeware and accessories shop. Like many smaller retailers she’s just been through the hardest year she’s ever known.

It is always hard to compete with the big online brands but this year, shop-owners like her have had to stand by as rival outlets – deemed essential – remain open, scooping up Christmas trade.

By the end of November non-essential shops will have been closed for 17 weeks of the year. Some say it’s a “use it or lose it” situation: shoppers need to support them or next Christmas they won’t be there.

“Small businesses have websites too,” says Joh. “People just need to wake up a bit and think outside that box.”

Perhaps because people have spent more time at home, perhaps because they’ve focused on what is important to them, this year there does seem to be a “fashion for independents”, she thinks.

A third of us plan to spend more at independent stores this year than we did in 2019, according to a poll commissioned by Enterprise Nation, an organisation which supports start-ups. It found younger shoppers are even more determined, with half of under-35s planning to shop more at independents.

Small scale sellers have been quick to respond to these pledges, offering everything from vintage handbags to macrame plant hangers. There are more than 42 million posts tagged #shoplocal on Instagram.

Larger independents are showing their agility too. Those who weren’t already trading online have been quick to remedy that, and while their budgets make it hard to compete with the likes of John Lewis and Marks and Spencer, they’re finding ways to gain traction: reaching out to local online community groups, tapping into nostalgia with “Hovis-ad style” bicycle deliveries, and emphasising their environmental credentials.

Others are innovating even more: chatting one-to-one with customers on video calls and offering personal shopping over Zoom.

Loki Wine Merchants in Birmingham has held virtual wine tastings, and DJV Boutique in Ipswich launched online fashion shows and a service that helps select, wrap and send your gifts for you.

DJV’s owner Mandy Errington says loyal customers are keen to support them but it doesn’t stop there. “We’re attracting new people because of the personal services,” she says.

But independents know that still won’t be enough to get them noticed in the run up to Christmas, so some are joining forces.

In Bristol Joh Rindom has banded together with 22 other independent outlets to create an online directory. They are putting posters up around the city advertising “Bristol Independents Online” with a QR code linking to their website.

Christmas markets, which usually see the streets of many UK towns and cities crammed with shoppers elbow-to-elbow, have inevitably been cancelled. But many of those are being replaced with virtual forums, offering the chance to buy direct from the people who would usually run stalls.

More permanently, Bookshop.org has recently launched in the UK. Marketing themselves as an “ethical” way to fight the might of Amazon, it’s hosting online shopfronts for more than 250 of the UK’s independent booksellers, offering them a large slice of any sales revenue they help generate.

For its part, Amazon points out it is not the enemy to small businesses that it is sometimes painted. More than half of the physical products sold on Amazon come from small and medium-sized third party businesses, it says.

In October it held a small business promotion to drive business their way and it runs bootcamps and online learning sessions to support small sellers in conjunction with Enterprise Nation.

Emma Jones, the founder of Enterprise Nation, says Amazon and similar forums can help to build a “broad exposure to customers”.

“Yes, have your own e-commerce website and social channels, but it also makes sense to try out selling on Amazon, Etsy or Uber Eats for restaurants and caterers, as they offer access to a vast customer network,” she says.

Lavinia Davolio, founder of confectionary boutique Lavolio in London, says before Covid-19 hit around half of her sales were online, the majority of them through Amazon. But this year those sales have doubled. Amazon has been “a lifesaver” she says.

So will these strategies be enough to see local retailers through?

Oliver Vernon-Harcourt, a partner in Deloitte’s retail consulting practice, says strategies like these – building networks, innovating with digital technology, reaching out to new customers – could make all the difference.

“The businesses that are proactive about trying different things – testing, learning, failing as quickly as possible – they’re the ones who have the best chance of thriving,” he says. What’s more they’ll then be in a stronger position to compete in future years.

But in the end, says Andrew Goodacre from the British Independent Retailers Association, it will come down to consumers. Will they put their money where their mouths are?

“It will only be enough if people don’t panic and buy everything [for Christmas] now,” he says.

“There are two things I’d urge consumers to do: wait until December, you’ll have better choice and better value. And if you are shopping online, look for the shop you know, not the product you want.”

Children in Need: Audience-free show raises £37m

Pudsey Bear returned with a host of celebrities on Friday night for the 40th anniversary of the BBC’s fundraiser Children in Need.

More than £37m had been raised by the end of the programme on Friday evening.

This year’s show was shorter and had no audience, due to Covid-19, but there were still plenty of treats in store.

Peter Crouch and Andy Murray went head-to-head in a game of Paddle Tennis, and an all-star cast covered Oasis’s Stop Crying Your Heart Out.

One of four hosts of Friday night’s live show, Mel Giedroyc, thanked viewers for supporting the fundraiser.

“Children In Need has been going for an astonishing 40 years and we have only been able to do so because of you,” she said.

“Despite the challenges that we have come up against this year, and will continue to face while this pandemic plays out, we are strong because the hearts of the people who keep these projects alive are strong.”

The charity Oasis single features Cher, Kylie, Bryan Adams, Robbie Williams, Nile Rodgers, Gregory Porter, Lenny Kravitz, Paloma Faith, Ava Max and Jess Glynne.

It got its first airing on The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show on Radio 2.

“Children in Need is such a special charity and so loved by everyone, including me,” said Kylie.

“It was a privilege to take part in this recording with so many amazing artists.”

Earlier in the day, Joe Wicks completed his 24-hour workout challenge for Children in Need.

He was joined by stars including Louis Theroux, Melanie C, Sam Smith and Dame Kelly Holmes as he completed a range of activities, from cycling to yoga, boxing to rowing and his signature high intensity workouts.

Appearing on the live show, Wicks – who was presented with a gold Blue Peter badge – described it as “the longest day and night of my life”.

“My body aches, my bum, my feet, everything, but I’m so proud of what we have done,” he said.

“We have come together, people have been so kind and generous, and raised so much money through that challenge.”

It was announced that his workout marathon had raised £2,108,229 for the charity.

A special edition of DIY SOS, which saw a group of volunteers build a new, all-inclusive surf school in Swansea, has also raised £844,000 after being screened on BBC One on Thursday.

Host Nick Knowles wiped away tears when he was informed of the total on the BBC’s Morning Live on Friday.

“It’s a big deal,” said the presenter. “We understand that times are tough, Covid times are tough and people are worried about their finances and we were up against the football, all those things.”

He added the total had been expected to be “not as massive as normal times”.

In fact, it was the highest sum ever raised by the show’s annual Children in Need episode.

The main Children In Need show kicked off at 19:00 GMT on BBC One, hosted live in London by Mel Giedroyc, Alex Scott, Chris Ramsey and Stephen Mangan.

Ahead of the show Giedroyc told BBC News the format was “a bit stripped back” but that as for the vibe, the famous faces and comedy elements, “nothing has really changed”.

The telethon, which raises money for disadvantaged children in the UK, raised an “on the night” total of £47.9m last year.

The show also included a special clip from the Doctor Who team, while TV presenter Emma Willis has narrated Life in Lockdown – a film showing youngsters living through difficult circumstances during the coronavirus pandemic.

The feature follows research commissioned by the charity, which found that 94% of children and young people have had cause to feel worried, sad or anxious in the last six months.

“The current pandemic has affected all of our lives, but some families have additional and complex needs and challenges outside of Covid-19,” said Willis.

“Being part of this documentary, I was able to see just how vital BBC Children in Need’s funds are to families across the UK in times of crisis

“People are facing incredibly challenging times, but I hope the public tune in and donate if they can to a much-needed cause.”

Children in Need was on BBC One on Friday from 19:00 to 22:00 GMT. Catch up on iPlayer.

Abdul Deghayes death: Drug dealer jailed for murder

A drug dealer convicted of murdering a customer has been jailed for a minimum of 19 years.

Abdul Deghayes, 22, was stabbed eight times by 37-year-old Daniel Macleod in Brighton on 16 February 2019.

He was the third of his parents’ four sons to be killed after two of his brothers died fighting in Syria.

Mr Deghayes father said he accepted Macleod’s “sorrow” on the condition he would jointly form a “trust” in his son’s name to help drug addicts.

Abubaker Deghayes said his son had been a “joyful” character, but added he was not an “innocent angel”.

Addressing Macleod directly in court, Mr Deghayes said in his victim impact statement: “You looked me in the eyes many times and I remember you said you are sorry. I want to take that at face value.”

On the night of the stabbing, Mr Deghayes and his friend had arranged to meet Macleod, from Lambeth, south London, to buy cocaine outside a block of flats called Hanover Court.

But when the victim left his car to conduct the deal, Macleod, of Gypsy Road, attacked him.

He denied murder, claiming he was acting in self-defence, and said he was “ashamed” at his involvement in the drug trade.

Det Ch Insp Colin Pirie thanked the court for rejecting Macleod’s defence, adding that he had carried out a “brutal” and “sustained” attack that Mr Deghayes had “desperately tried to avoid, as was evidenced by the defensive wounds that he suffered to his hands”.

Mr Deghayes twin Abdullah was killed in 2016 aged 18 while their brother Jaffar, 17, was killed in 2014 while trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s government.

They are survived by a fourth brother, Amer, a former finance student, who had also travelled to Syria.

No faction gets a clean sweep in Labour NEC poll

Sir Keir Starmer won the leadership of his party by a wide margin in April but his grip on Labour’s ruling national executive (NEC) has been more tenuous.

He has won the body’s backing for his reforms so far – but sometimes by very tight margins.

In today’s elections of nine constituency representatives, the “Grassroots Voice” candidates – who represent the Left and are closer to the former leader Jeremy Corbyn – won five places.

Their leading candidate was former MP Laura Pidcock.

Had she retained her North West Durham seat at the 2019 election, some on the left saw her as a future leader.

Some insiders say their chances were bolstered by a campaign to reinstate Mr Corbyn, who was suspended from membership when he said opponents had overstated the scale of anti-Semitism.

A panel of NEC members that could decide whether or not Mr Corbyn will be readmitted to the party.

The ‘Labour to Win’ ticket consisted of candidates who pledged loyalty to Sir Keir Starmer, and who want to see the party move further from the Corbyn era.

They won three seats in the NEC election.

Their most prominent candidate, Luke Akehurst, topped the NEC poll overall.

He runs Labour First, a group of “moderate” Labour members whose aim is to ensure “the party is kept safe from the organised hard left”.

A further seat was taken by Ann Black, who was backed by the “soft-left” Open Labour group.

She had previously fallen foul of some on the Left who felt she hadn’t been sufficiently loyal to Jeremy Corbyn, though she disputes this.

No one faction gained a clean sweep of seats because the voting system changed from the traditional ‘first past the post’ winner-takes-all method to a more proportional system.

Starmer ally Carwyn Jones – the former first minister of Wales – won election as the Welsh representative.

A Left candidate – Ellen Morrison – won the seat elected by members with a disability by a very narrow majority.

The two representatives of Labour councillors – who are largely supportive of Starmer – retained their seats.

So after Friday’s results Keir Starmer seems set to retain a working majority on the executive – but an opportunity to “copper-bottom” it has been missed.

Trade unions which pay to affiliate to Labour are also represented on the body – but are appointed by their own organisations, so they did not take part in Friday’s elections.

But challenges still lie ahead for Keir Starmer on this front.

Members of the country’s biggest union, Unison, are voting in a leadership contest this month.

If a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn – Roger Mackenzie – wins, then in due course the union’s representatives on Labour’s NEC are likely, in due course, to change,

And be less amenable to the current leadership.

The make up of the NEC is important.

It is the body which will draw up rule changes to implement the recommendations of the Equality and Human Rights Commission on anti-Semitism in Labour’s ranks.

And it will respond to a forthcoming report on the party’s internal culture.

The results took longer than expected to appear.

The proportional voting system meant that there were 37 vote counts.

But candidates had been told that some former members who had resigned from the party had still voted electronically,

so a time-consuming process had to be put in place through independent scrutineers to eliminate those votes.

Some on the Left felt this was an attempt to suppress their vote.

Those who resigned recently are most likely to would have done so in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension.

But the party has said anyone who voted while a member then subsequently resigned would not be disqualified.

But those who had voted while no longer being party members needed to have their ballots struck out.

A source said: “It’s a matter of contract law.”

Children in Need: Stars gather for audience-free fundraiser

Pudsey Bear returns with a host of celebrities on Friday night for the 40th anniversary of the BBC’s fundraiser Children in Need.

This year’s show will be shorter and is audience-free due to Covid, but there are still plenty of treats in store.

Peter Crouch and Andy Murray will go head-to-head in a game of Paddle Tennis, while EastEnders and Strictly have both filmed special clips.

And an all-star cast will cover Oasis’s Stop Crying Your Heart Out.

The charity single features Cher, Kylie, Bryan Adams, Robbie Williams, Nile Rodgers, Gregory Porter, Lenny Kravitz, Paloma Faith, Ava Max and Jess Glynne.

It got its first airing on The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show on Radio 2 – and the video will premiere around 21:00 GMT on BBC One.

“Children in Need is such a special charity and so loved by everyone, including me,” said Kylie.

“It was a privilege to take part in this recording with so many amazing artists.”

“This year it feels even more poignant than ever, and I hope we can all come together to raise as much as possible” she added.

Ahead of the show, Joe Wicks completed his 24-hour workout challenge, raising more than £1m.

He was joined by stars including Louis Theroux, Melanie C, Sam Smith and Dame Kelly Holmes as he completed a range of activities, from cycling to yoga, boxing to rowing and his signature high intensity workouts.

A special edition of DIY SOS, which saw a group of volunteers build a new, all-inclusive surf school in Swansea, has also raised £844,000 after being screened on BBC One on Thursday.

Host Nick Knowles wiped away tears when he was informed of the total on the BBC’s Morning Live on Friday.

“It’s a big deal,” said the presenter. “We understand that times are tough, Covid times are tough and people are worried about their finances and we were up against the football, all those things.”

He added the total had been expected to be “not as massive as normal times”.

In fact, it was the highest sum ever raised by the show’s annual Children in Need episode.

The main Children In Need show kicked off at 19:00 GMT on BBC One, hosted live in London by Mel Giedroyc, Alex Scott, Chris Ramsey and Stephen Mangan.

“It’s a bit stripped back,” Giedroyc told BBC News, ahead of the show. “But the key thing [is] the vibe will be exactly the same. There will be great sketches, there will be lots of famous faces turning up. Nothing has really changed.”

The telethon, which raises money for disadvantaged children in the UK, raised an “on the night” total of £47.9m last year.

The show will also include a special clip from the Doctor Who team, while TV presenter Emma Willis will narrate Life in Lockdown – a film showing youngsters living through difficult circumstances during the coronavirus pandemic.

The feature follows research commissioned by the charity, which found that 94% of children and young people have had cause to feel worried, sad or anxious in the last six months.

“The current pandemic has affected all of our lives, but some families have additional and complex needs and challenges outside of Covid-19,” said Willis.

“Being part of this documentary, I was able to see just how vital BBC Children in Need’s funds are to families across the UK in times of crisis

“People are facing incredibly challenging times, but I hope the public tune in and donate if they can to a much-needed cause.”

There will also be appearances by McFly, Beverley Knight, and Shawn Mendes; as well as the cast of West End musical Six.

Comedy sketches will come courtesy of the stars of King Gary and The Goes Wrong Show; while former One Show host Matt Baker returns for the gruelling Rickshaw Challenge.

Children in Need is on BBC One on Friday from 19:00 to 22:00 GMT.

Marie Antoinettes mirror hung in toilet fetches £10k

A mirror that once belonged to the last queen of France and had been hanging in a family bathroom for 40 years has sold at auction for £10,000.

Auctioneer Andy Stowe said although it bore a plaque referencing Marie Antoinette, the owners “thought it was a bit of fun, and probably not true”.

As a consequence, it had been nailed to the wall of a downstairs toilet.

It was passed down to the seller, from North Ferriby near Hull, from a relative in the 1980s.

Its provenance was proven after it was discovered in a Christie’s auction catalogue of Napoleon III’s possessions from 1889.

Napoleon’s wife, Empress Eugénie, had a keen interest in Antoinette and bought up many items belonging to the former queen, which were later sold off.

The mirror, measuring 50cm by 40cm, is thought to have been part of a larger display in one of the queen’s palaces.

“To imagine Marie Antoinette herself staring into this mirror is just wonderful,” said Mr Stowe, from East Bristol Auctions.

“And it just goes to show that items we have in our everyday lives can very often hold a secret that makes them worth a small fortune.”

It was sold to an anonymous UK-based collector for £8,500 hammer price, or £10,000 including buyer’s premium.

Coronavirus: Non-Covid patients may die in wait for treatment

Health Minister Robin Swann has said no hospital will turn away a Covid-19 patient but people with other serious illness may have to wait for treatment.

His comment comes after the Belfast Health Trust chief said the system was facing the “most difficult challenge” she has seen in her 33-year career.

Dr Cathy Jack said having to prioritise some patients over others was leading to “moral distress” for clinicians.

Eleven more Covid-19-related deaths were recorded on Friday.

Another 607 people have tested positive for coronavirus.

Speaking to BBC News NI, Mr Swann acknowledged that people waiting for treatment for other serious conditions such as cancer could suffer further as a result of the pressure on hospitals.

He said: “The ethical decision is could we turn a Covid patient away? The answer is no.

“So where we get the latitude in our current system, with our current staff, is by saying to other people: ‘No, sorry – your operation, your scope, your diagnosis is going to have to be put off until we can safely accommodate you within the health service.'”

Asked if that meant some of those people may die as a result of that delay, Mr Swann said: “Yes, that’s as black-and-white as it is.”

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme, Dr Jack said there were 170 patients with Covid-19 in Belfast Trust hospitals.

“And across Northern Ireland there are 44 critically ill patients in intensive care with Covid-19,” added Dr Jack.

“Over the past three weeks there have been more patients in Belfast Trust who are ill with Covid than in the peak of the first surge.”

Dr Jack said there had been a “huge impact” on the trust’s elective surgical capacity.

“When we talk about elective surgery, I want to point out that many of these patients are very, very, sick and in desperate need of surgery.

“We are not talking about simple procedures – I’m talking about elective surgery like cardiac surgery and indeed some of these patients will have cancer.

“I have the capacity to treat everyone with Covid-19 that needs to be treated but the cost of this is that elective care has been downturned and every day we have to make clinical decisions on who needs the treatment most.

“Now that is something where no nurse, no doctor, no social worker and no manager ever wants to be in.”

Dr Jack said that in regard to people who had surgery delayed “there is potential harm and the outcomes may not be as good as if they had surgery earlier”.

“I need to tell you today about the moral distress that that is causing some of my clinicians and my senior managers where they are having to make decisions that we have never had to make before.”

Asked if those were “life and death decisions”, she replied: “Yes.”

The Belfast Trust chief executive appealed to the public to “play their part”.

“We need to bring this [coronavirus transmission rate] down so that our hospitals cannot only treat those who are critically ill with Covid-19 but also the other patients that are being affected and their care is being downturned,” she said.

“So I’m appealing directly to the public to wash their hands, wear a face covering, but keep their distance, limit their contacts because by working together, and we have seen how successful this can be in the first wave.

“That’s what we need to do now so that our hospitals can open up again as they did over the summer and prioritise other critically ill patients that we need to treat.”

On Thursday, restrictions were extended for one more week with a partial reopening of some sectors due next Friday.

Close-contact services and unlicensed premises can reopen on 20 November.

First Minister Arlene Foster has said she regrets how the Stormont Executive handled the decision over extending Covid-19 restrictions this week.

Dr Jack said she “would not want to be a politician” and added: “They have difficult jobs balancing lives and livelihoods and none of this is easy.”

Nurse Lucy Letby denied bail in baby murders case

A nurse accused of murdering eight babies and attempting to murder another 10 has been denied bail.

Lucy Letby, 30, of Arran Avenue, Hereford, is charged with murdering five boys and three girls at the Countess of Chester Hospital between June 2015 and June 2016.

She is also accused of the attempted murder of another five boys and five girls.

Ms Letby was remanded into custody after a hearing at Chester Crown Court.

She attended in person, speaking only to confirm her name, after appearing before Warrington magistrates via video-link on Thursday.

A further hearing is expected to take place at Liverpool Crown Court on 18 November.

A Cheshire Police investigation launched in May 2017 looked into the deaths of 17 babies and 16 non-fatal collapses at the Countess of Chester between March 2015 and July 2016.

Ms Letby had previously been arrested in 2018 and 2019.

She was rearrested on Tuesday and charged on Wednesday.

Police said parents of all the babies involved were being kept fully updated on developments and were supported by officers.

M4 partially shut at Swansea after four vehicle crash

A four-vehicle crash on the M4 is causing major Friday evening rush-hour congestion on the motorway at Swansea.

The incident near the M4’s Ynysforgan turn-off – junction 45 – has shut the westbound carriageway and caused an eight mile traffic jam.

The crash happened about 17:30 GMT and congestion is backed up to the Llandarcy turn-off, junction 43.

Some motorists are caught in the jam while police are diverting other drivers up and over junction 45.

Covid: Watchdog shelves plans to protect loyal savers

Plans to protect savers and investors from ultra-low rates and investment platform exit fees have been shelved by the financial regulator.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has dropped plans for a single long-term interest rate as a backstop for non-switching savers.

Also gone are proposals to restrict fees when exiting investment platforms.

The FCA said the decision came “in light of the ongoing impact of coronavirus and economic conditions”.

Savers who leave their money in the same account with one of the major providers can receive as little as 0.1% in interest.

Such low rates can apply to instant access savings accounts, as well as easy access cash Individual Savings Accounts (Isas).

Under the plans, firms would have been required to pay long-standing customers the same rate as customers who had recently come off an introductory offer. This would have been known as the Single Easy Access Rate (SEAR).

The FCA said the current economic situation, in which savings rates have been slashed, made this less of a problem.

“As interest rates for new products fall, so does the gap between rates paid to new and longstanding customers, and the size of the harm falls,” it said.

Citizens Advice said the FCA needed to ensure the decision was not permanent.

“When the single easy access rate was proposed in January, the FCA predicted it would save people £260m a year,” said the charity’s acting chief executive Alistair Cromwell.

“It’s vital the FCA keeps track of how much banks penalise savers just for staying loyal, and it should be ready to implement the single easy access rate when interest rates rise.”

The FCA has also ended a separate investigation into potentially restricting exit fees charged by investment platforms.

It said there had been a shift in the market away from exit fees, and it would continue to monitor the situation.

Richard Wilson, chief executive of investment platform interactive investor – which charges a flat fee, said: “We are saddened to see this news snuck out.

“There are still platforms out there that have grown far too complacent, relying on customer inertia and hefty penalties.”

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