North West business briefs: Suttons; Port of Liverpool; Lookers; Chester Market; The Women’s Organisation

Widnes-based global logistics business Suttons Transport Group is investing a £6m funding boost from Lombard, as it accelerates digital innovation across the firm.

The family-run business, which was founded in 1926 and provides tank container and road tanker services for clients in the chemical, gas, and fuel sectors, has invested £2m of the funding to upgrade its technology. This includes the deployment of telematics and technology solutions from Microlise which will be installed across its fleet of 1,350 tractor units, road tankers and trailers.

This has enabled Suttons to manage its fleet more effectively through vehicle tracking and utilisation reporting, as well as managing driver performance to reduce fuel costs and improve efficiencies. The business will also use the technology to improve driver communication through the implementation of sign-on-glass and image capture across the vehicles, all provided through the installation of Samsung tablets in the cabs.

The remaining £4m has been used to support the purchase of trailers and tanks to fulfil a pipeline of new business opportunities secured by the group.

Keith Broom, group finance director, said: “This year marks an important milestone in the future of Suttons as we seek new opportunities across the globe and accelerate our digital-first approach. The funding from Lombard has allowed us to roll-out new technologies that will streamline day to day processes, enabling us to concentrate on other priorities including upskilling our staff and seeking new business opportunities.”

Joanne McCumesky Brown, corporate senior relationship manager at Lombard, said: “Having worked with Suttons Group for more than 10 years, we know the business inside out and through this foundation we are proud to have enabled the next chapter of their growth.”

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Terminal1 cranes

The Port of Liverpool said its new additional cranes are now fully operational and will deliver a 30% uplift in quayside capacity at Terminal 1 of the Liverpool2 container terminal.

Peel Ports has now completed the commissioning of the additional ship-to-shore container cranes which will service specialist carriers such as Atlantic Container Line (ACL) and their intra Europe services operated by containerships BG Freightline, WEC and Borchard XPS.

The 12-week commissioning programme was fully completed in January and is the operator’s latest investment to meet additional demand and future proof the Port’s capacity. This investment by Peel Ports sees an additional two cranes added to the six already in place, which will allow for much greater efficiency and faster turnaround times for the loading and discharging of taller container vessels.

The announcement comes on the back of last year’s successful completion of its second phase of investments for Terminal 2, where the port operator welcomed 10 new cantilever rail-mounted gantry (CRMG) cranes, which led to the opening of an additional 15 acres of yard capacity as part of the £400m Liverpool2 project.

David Huck, chief operating officer at Peel Ports, said: “Innovation and the continued investment in infrastructure and our people are at the heart of our business strategy. These new cranes represent a significant investment in our capability and highlight our commitment to ensuing the Port of Liverpool continues to provide a highly efficient service.”

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Apprentices Faith McCarton and Euan Dalgleish with Suzanne Sherry

Cheshire motor retail group Lookers is on a fresh nationwide hunt to fill 208 aftersales apprenticeship roles this year as part of company-wide plans to develop a new generation of skills and talent. The 2022 recruitment drive represents Lookers’ largest annual intake of apprentices to date.

Launching the initiative as part of National Apprenticeship Week, Suzanne Sherry, Lookers’ newly-appointed group apprenticeship and early careers programme manager, said now was the best time to get involved: “The motoring industry is in the throes of an exciting digital and electrical transformation that will change the way we live and drive forever and its future success will need a new breed of technical experts who are equipped with the right skills and talent to take it forward. We want even more young people to be part of the journey.

“This year, we’re focusing on challenging gender stereotypes within the industry to encourage even more female apprentices to join our growing ranks while nurturing all talent and enthusiasm when we see it.”

Delivered annually in hi-tech facilities, Lookers’ apprenticeship programme is a priority for the business and each year millions of pounds are invested in training and support. Since 2017, Lookers has steered the careers of almost 1,000 apprentices in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Chief operating officer, Duncan McPhee, said: “Our apprentices are the lifeblood of our business. Focused learning and first class on the job training in a collaborative, warm and friendly environment is what makes our apprenticeship programme the best there is.”

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Richard Newton, who runs Vinyl Ritchie and Bookingham Palace

Cheshire West and Chester Council has revealed that the first allocation of 22 stalls that have been contracted or are under offer to trade in the new Market when it opens in October at the heart of the new Northgate development. A further six traders, including other current and new market traders, are in the process of concluding their leases.

Fifteen of the stalls being announced in the first round will be relocating from the existing market, including Bookingham Palace, NiceBites, Vinyl Ritchie, MRKT Café, Jap Tech (phone repair), Geoff Hughes Family Butchers, Purely Pots (plants), Thai by Thai (Thai street food), The Sandbar (seafood shack), My Trophy Dog (pet shop), Pastry Pedaleur (gourmet pastries) and Guroma (Bangladeshi street food) with some traders taking more than one stall.

Seven stalls will be opened by traders new to the market, all small independent businesses, including a new central and satellite bar operated by iKO Ventures, pizza specialist The Mercato Pizza Company, Cheshire Farm Ice Cream, coffee bar Bean & Cole, cheese-based street food Cheesy Bandits and opticians Pop Specs.

The council will also be seeking tenants for the new market’s remaining stalls. Cllr Richard Beacham, cabinet member for inclusive growth, economy and regeneration, said: “There is a great deal of interest in Chester’s new Market. We are now in a position to make our first announcement about traders – they represent a fantastic mix of both current traders and new expertise. The vision for the new market has always been to create a modern traditional market, a stunning new home for local independent businesses and creative entrepreneurs.”

For those traders that were unsuccessful, individual feedback was offered on their application. Through its Business Support, Property and Markets Teams, the council is also offering support to any trader that did not wish to apply for a stall in the new market and help them plan their future beyond the closure of the existing market when the new market opens.

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Sophia Kennedy

Liverpool social enterprise The Women’s Organisation said it is delivering an unprecedented level of training courses and sessions in the whole of its 25-year history.

It has already delivered training for more than 300 people just one month into 2022 at its Baltic Triangle headquarters. It held 25 training courses and events in January. A further 96 events have already been confirmed up to March 31, which means that by the end of the first quarter it will have delivered 121 separate sessions, far outstripping its programmes for the same period over the previous two years, 39 and 37, respectively.

Head of Business Advice Plus at The Women’s Organisation, Sophia Kennedy, said: “During the lockdown period we saw the number of enquiries received at The Women’s Organisation almost treble. It was a real sign of resilience and tenacity in the face of the adversity faced by women predominantly throughout the pandemic.”

She added: “It’s fantastic to see so many women taking their futures into their own hands and investing in their own professional and personal development, and for as long as that drive and those opportunities exist, the team here will do all we can to help as many women as possible.”

During the lockdown period the organisation delivered more than 160 training courses, events and webinars, and held more than 1,000 virtual business advice appointments. More than 3,000 women accessed the training programmes and the organisation was able to assist more than 4,000 women and men with enquiries and connected them to the right support. It has supported more than 60,000 women and helped to create in excess of 4,000 businesses since its launch in 1996.

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