NW business briefs: Pets Pantry; Telcom Group; Instep; Merseyrail; Jet2.com; North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce

Georgina Egerton, Ellis Wallker and Jim Moore

Warrington-based Pets Pantry NW Limited, a newly formed company, has secured £150,000 in funding from Liverpool- based River Capital’s Business Growth Loan Fund to acquire the trade and assets of Pets Pantry, a long-standing retail pet store in Stockton Heath.

The acquisition will be led by Georgina Egerton and Ellis Walker, two registered veterinary nurses with a passion for animal welfare and a combined experience of more than 25 years in the veterinary industry. The deal will allow the new owners to take over the successful business while providing additional working capital for future growth.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to acquire Pets Pantry and build upon its strong legacy,” said Georgina Egerton. “Our mission is to empower pets and pet owners alike by providing exceptional products, expertise, and compassionate care for the wellbeing of animals everywhere.”

Established in 1980, Pets Pantry has been a staple in the Stockton Heath community, offering a wide range of pet products and services. Under Georgina and Ellis’s leadership, the business plans to enhance its customer experience through interactive product displays, digital integration, and expanded educational offerings.

Ellis Walker said: “The UK pet industry is thriving, and we are excited to be at the forefront of this growing market. With our professional backgrounds and industry expertise, we are well positioned to take Pets Pantry to new heights while maintaining the exceptional service our customers have come to expect.”

River Capital Investment Manager, Jim Moore, said: “This investment aligns with our commitment to fostering entrepreneurship and supporting local businesses’ growth aspirations.”


Telcom Group, the Manchester-based full fibre, full stack connectivity provider, has been selected for the next phase of Cardiff hypercity transformation. The Gresham House-backed provider of full fibre internet will roll-out the next phase of the city’s full fibre internet network to homes and businesses across the city as part of a multimillion-pound investment through the Welsh Government’s Local Broadband Fund.

Access to high-speed fibre internet is currently sporadic with many areas remaining under-served due to a patchwork approach to existing networks. As a result, some homes and businesses find themselves trapped on the wrong side of the digital divide, even in one of the UK’s most thriving capital cities. Thus, Cardiff Council and the Welsh Government have committed to remedying the issue, targeting 100% availability of fibre optic internet across the city.

In August 2023, Cardiff Council announced that it had selected Telcom Group to deliver an initial phase, a new full fibre network, capable of providing high speed connections to homes and businesses in Cardiff, replacing the old low speed legacy copper networks. This Phase was completed in March 2024, with the second phase planned for delivery throughout 2024/2025. The development is made possible by a multimillion-pound investment by the Welsh Government in the economic future of the city.

Chris Baldock, Executive Chairman at Telcom Group, said: “Telcom has extensive experience delivering on the promise of fast and reliable full fibre internet infrastructure across the UK’s major cities. We believe that access to fast and reliable internet is a fundamental human right, and that bringing full fibre internet to Cardiff will both empower the city’s economy and enrich the lives of its residents.”

Cllr Chris Weaver, Cabinet Member for Finance, Modernisation and Performance at Cardiff Council, said: “This project will deliver high quality fibre broadband to some of the most deprived communities in Cardiff and I am pleased that the second phase of the project is now under way and will be complete by March 2025.”


Businesses in Greater Manchester now have the opportunity to enhance their workforce through fully funded management programmes. Instep, an established leadership and management skills provider, has been appointed by Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), to deliver skill development programmes to employed individuals across all sectors in the Greater Manchester city region.

The Leadership Support Programme, available to individuals and employers residing and/or operating in Greater Manchester aged 16 and above, will be fully funded. The programme includes an unaccredited two-day Masterclass (at Levels 3, 4 and 5), an endorsed two-day Masterclass (Level 5 only), and accredited courses (at Levels 3, 4 and 5), each of which explore leadership skill development along with management and supervisory skills and offer certifications upon completion.

This programme, funded by the Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), contributes to the People & Skills investment and aligns with the Greater Manchester Local Skills Improvement Plan. It directly addresses skill gaps identified by employers across all sectors and business sizes in the region. Known for its actionable skills programmes, Instep has uniquely developed the range of short courses to upskill Greater Manchester businesses in an accessible and high impact format.

The sessions will be delivered by Instep’s team either on employers’ premises or through a virtual training environment. Instep said it has delivered strong results for businesses, helping to drive efficiencies through the implementation of new techniques and approaches. It has previously empowered an organisation to identify £30,000 in cost savings and supported another to positively address an 18-month backlog in production.

Instep CEO, Andy Murphy, said: “Instep are delighted to be continuing our relationship with GMCA, its residents and employers. Creating social mobility is at the heart of Instep culture, so supporting the UKSPF and Levelling Up agenda gives us a great opportunity to further support businesses in the development of their colleagues, allowing them to achieve their potential in an ever-evolving landscape.”


A new study has discovered that in the last quarter of 2023, there was a 15% increase of passenger journeys on Merseyrail trains.

The research, by West Somerset Railway, analysed newly released data from the Office of Rail and Road ‘Passenger rail usage, October to December 2023’ report.

Merseyrail served 7.5 million rail users in the last quarter, that’s a 15% increase from the same time a year prior which was 6.5 million.

At the top of the table was Elizbeth Line (40%), Avanti West Coast was second (8.5%), and ScotRail came third (34%). Looking at England, Scotland and Wales altogether, 417 million rail passenger journeys were recorded in Great Britain between October to December 2023, a 20% rise from the same period the previous year, which saw 348 million journeys.

Samantha White, from West Somerset Railway, said: “It is fantastic to see these incredible rises of rail passenger journeys across Great Britain. Despite figures not yet matching pre pandemic levels, it is really encouraging to see that the amount of people using trains continue to rise close to how they were before the pandemic.”


West Cheshire Foodbank

Jet2.com has donated almost £20,000 worth of food and drink to the West Cheshire Foodbank over the past six weeks from its Retail Operations Centre based in Middlewich, Cheshire which stocks, manages and distributes millions of in-flight products for customers to enjoy on flights.

Opened in October 2023, the Retail Operations Centre is the first centre of its kind in the UK aviation industry and was built so that Jet2.com could take control of its in-flight operations. The food and drink items donated to the charity include products that can be pre-ordered by customers before a flight or purchased on the day from the airline’s in-flight menu.

Jet2.com’s latest donation to the West Cheshire Foodbank included more than 1,000 of each of its onboard Kids’ Snack Boxes, Ploughman’s Snack Boxes and Chilli Meals, and more than 200 hot drinks, including Starbucks Lattes and Cappuccinos. West Cheshire Foodbank support local people referred to the charity in crisis, and they will distribute the donated food and drink items to residents in the area who are locked in poverty.

Ian Oulton, Trustee at West Cheshire Foodbank, said: “We are extremely grateful to Jet2.com for their very generous food donations, which mean that we can provide additional support, on top of our standard ambient food provision to local people in crisis, to those who find themselves in temporary accommodation with limited access to cooking provision.”

John Davis, Director of Retail at Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said: “We are thrilled to be supporting people in the local community and working with the West Cheshire Foodbank to donate food and drink items from our Retail Operations Centre. Seeing the charity collect all the pallets of food and drink over the last six weeks has been absolutely fantastic, and we will continue to work with the foodbank to do all we can to support their efforts in the future. We sincerely hope the items make a difference to people.”


Lancashire businesses who are interested in trading outside of the UK are being invited to Skills Bootcamps. The North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce has been awarded the contract by Lancashire County Council to deliver the courses which aim to give organisations the tools they require to boost their exporting credentials.

The International Trade Skills Bootcamps will equip delegates with the latest import and export skills, enabling them to take on additional responsibilities within their current roles or even recruit new roles within their business. They will build on the nationally-recognised BCC Level 2 Foundation Award in International Trade and each delegate who graduates from the course will receive a Level 3 certification.

Content for the course includes understanding exporting, export documentation, import procedures, rules of origin and support with growth for exporters. It is hoped the training sessions will provide a stepping stone for Lancashire businesses to find routes for the products in the foreign marketplace, following the announcement that the UK became the fourth largest service exporter earlier this year.

Paul Walters, head of the International Trade department at the Chamber, said: “Following Brexit and the resulting confusion in the amount of legislation needs to trade with the EU and beyond, many Lancashire businesses have held back on exporting. These bootcamps aim to give businesses the skills they need to boost their confidence in exporting their products.”

The Chamber will be running Skills Bootcamps for two cohorts of 10 learners during 2024, at a value of £3,000 per learner, although the cost to an employer is just £300 for SMEs, rising to £900 for larger companies. If your company is interested in the boot camps please e-mail export@lancschamber.co.uk or call 01772 653000 and ask for the International Trade department.