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Budget supermarket ALDI reports its best ever Christmas in the UK

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The return of Kevin the Carrot in the ‘standout’ TV advert of Christmas helped Aldi attract more than half a million new customers from the ‘Big Four’ supermarkets and propelled it to its best ever festive sales results.

Sales in December rose +0.4% compared to the previous year, when grocery spending was higher than usual due to the national lockdown and temporary closure of bars and restaurants.

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Aldi was the only major supermarket to grow sales in the three months before Christmas according to Kantar and its sales were also up 8.1% on 2019.2

Giles Hurley, CEO of Aldi UK, said: “Kevin the Carrot reminded Britain last year that you do not need to be extravagant to be kind, just as you do not need to spend a lot to indulge your family with a little luxury at Christmas.

“As the UK’s fastest growing supermarket in 2021, our premium Specially Selected range notched up its highest ever sales. We saw strong demand for our award-winning beers, wines and spirits. Stand out popular products included our Specially Selected Exquisite Chesham Bronze Turkey as well as our English Sparkling Wine.

“As we look ahead, the top priority for most families this year will be managing their household budgets in the face of rising living costs. As the cheapest supermarket in Britain, Aldi will always offer the lowest prices for groceries, no matter what, and continue to support our British farmers and producers.”

During the run up to Christmas, Aldi sold more than 43 million mince pies, 21 million British pigs-in-blankets and 118 million Brussels sprouts. Its shoppers also bought more than 5.5m bottles of champagne, sparkling wine and prosecco for Christmas and New Year celebrations.

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Aldi’s Christmas ad was deemed the year’s most effective by Kantar’s annual consumer survey. The advert, which saw Kevin the Carrot join forces with Marcus Radishford – voiced by Marcus Rashford MBE – highlighted Aldi’s support for the footballer’s campaign against child food poverty.

And the supermarket’s Christmas Food campaign also continued to grow, as it donated 1.8m meals this Christmas to local charities, food banks and community groups through its partnership with Neighbourly.

Behind the scenes, Aldi colleagues worked tirelessly in the run up to Christmas to ensure customers could get the products they were after at a price they could afford, every time they came to store.

Giles Hurley added: “There’s no doubt that 2021 was a long and difficult year for lots of people, but our amazing colleagues stopped at nothing as they came together to deliver the Christmas that our customers deserved.

“Of course, that is nothing new at Aldi, which is why we have always given our teams Boxing Day off so that they can enjoy the whole of Christmas with those dearest to them. It’s a well-deserved thank you and we look forward to doing exactly the same in 2022.”

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Last year, Aldi announced plans to create 2,000 jobs in 2022 and invest a record £1.3bn over two years, opening 100 new stores as well as distribution centres, and refreshing existing stores as it continues to grow its share of the UK grocery market.

Aldi opened new stores in Swansea City Centre, Llanelli and Neath Abbey in 2021.

From next month, all store colleagues will be paid a minimum of £10.10 an hour nationally, or £11.55 for those inside the M25, ensuring Aldi remains the best-paying UK supermarket.

The news comes as rival ‘big four’ supermarket Sainsbury’s announced that it is raising it’s basic salary for it’s supermarket and Argos workers to £10 per hour.

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Covid grant scheme for Swansea businesses that don’t pay business rates

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photo of black cab on cobblestone road

An emergency grant scheme is now available for Swansea businesses in the leisure, tourism, hospitality and retail sectors that do not pay business rates.

Funded by the Welsh Government and run by Swansea Council, the Emergency Business Fund grant scheme is aimed at helping support businesses impacted by current Covid restrictions which are not eligible for the Economic Resilience Fund.

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Covering business impacted from Monday December 13 to Monday February 14, online applications are now open which cover two levels of grant award:

  • A £1,000 cash grant payment for hospitality, tourism, retail, leisure or related supply chain businesses which do not employ anyone apart from the owner, and do not have a property
  • A £2,000 cash grant payment for hospitality, tourism, retail, leisure or related supply chain businesses who employ staff through PAYE (in addition to the owner)

Also covering freelancers in the creative sector, both these grants are aimed at supporting businesses with an annual turnover of less than £85,000.

Businesses which may be eligible are asked to visit https://fundchecker.businesswales.gov.wales/businesssupport where the Business Wales eligibility checker must be completed before applicants are able to access the application form.

All applications must be submitted by 5pm on Monday February 14.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, said: “It’s important all businesses in Swansea impacted by the current Omicron restrictions have access to financial support, with this latest grant scheme aimed at supporting many businesses that may not be eligible for the other support schemes already in place.

“We’re doing all we can as a council to assist our business community during these extremely challenging times, with more than £150m having been allocated to provide support since the onset of Covid.

“I’d encourage any business that may be eligible for emergency financial support to fill out an application. Council officers will do all they can to process payments for successful applicants as soon as possible.”

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A grant scheme for hospitality, tourism, retail and related supply chain businesses which are liable to pay non-domestic rates is also now live. This means these businesses could be entitled to grants of £2,000, £4,000 or £6,000, depending on their rateable value.

More information, eligibility criteria and both registration and application details for that grant scheme are available at www.swansea.gov.uk/CovidNDRbusinessgrants 

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Swansea Building Society appoints new non-executive director

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Swansea Building Society, ranked the most profitable building society in the UK last year, has appointed a new non-executive director – Malcolm Hayes.

Hayes comes to the role with extensive executive and board level experience gained within several major UK clearing banks, a specialist lending group, an ethical bank, and a large mutual credit union.

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After starting his career with NatWest, Hayes went on to spend over 25 years in Lloyds Banking Group, where he held senior risk and credit positions in the bank’s business and commercial divisions.

His 40-year career has seen him hold executive positions as chief risk officer, operational risk & compliance director, control function director, head of credit audit and head of enterprise-wide risk management.

Having retired from executive roles in 2019, following five years as the chief risk officer of Paragon Banking Group, Hayes currently also holds non-executive director roles at Reliance Bank Ltd and as chair of the board of directors of Citysave Credit Union Ltd.

He also has previous board experience as a director of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation PLC and AMC Bank Ltd – wholly owned subsidiaries of Lloyds Bank PLC – and served as a board director of a Lloyds Bank subsidiary established to undertake residential property development.

Hayes’ new non-executive director role with Swansea Building Society sees him sit on the Society’s audit committee, risk committee and asset & liabilities committee.

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Malcolm Hayes, non-executive director at Swansea Building Society, said: “I’m very excited to be taking on this new non-executive director role with Swansea Building Society. The Society’s vision and ethics are truly inspirational, and the success the Society has achieved in recent years is a tribute to its customer-focused, common-sense approach to lending. I hope that the experience I bring to the role can help the society continue its success and allow it to help even more people build a better future for themselves and their families.”

Alun Williams, chief executive officer at Swansea Building Society, added: “We are delighted to welcome Malcolm to his new role of non-executive director. Malcolm has extensive experience, over many years, which will be invaluable in helping Swansea Building Society build on our success and achieve our business aims.”

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Neath-based Vortex IoT acquired by national tech company

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The Development Bank of Wales have announced that they have successfully exited Vortex IoT Limited just three years after providing initial pre-seed capital funding to the technology start-up that now employs 35.

The Neath-based supplier of environmental sensors, networks and data solutions has been acquired by  Marston Holdings, the UK’s leading provider of integrated, technology-enabled transport solutions. Figures have not been disclosed.

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Marston supports government, utilities and private sector clients through the delivery of market leading integrated technology-enabled solutions from design through to implementation, management and recovery.  Marston’s clients include local authorities seeking to build environmental schemes that reduce congestion and pollution.  With the acquisition of Vortex, Marston will strengthen its offering by delivering complementary air quality solutions that maximise awareness, identify pollution hotspots and improve public health. 

Headquartered in Neath, Vortex IoT was founded by CEO Adrian Sutton and CTO Behzad Heravi. It is made up of a highly-skilled team of 35 that includes engineers with expertise in emerging technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G, LiDAR laser technology and machine learning. 

As equity funders, the Development Bank of Wales invested £250,000 pre-Seed capital followed by a further £250,000 from the Wales Business Fund alongside London-based Start-up Funding Club (SFC Capital). Having enabled Vortex to scale-up in just three years, the Development Bank has now exited.

Adrian Sutton, CEO of Vortex IoT, commented: “Joining Marston Holdings accelerates Vortex IoT’s ability to deliver social value and environmental change for clients, and we’re delighted to collectively build on the existing relationships we have established as trusted partners to our clients in bringing cutting edge smart city and environmental monitoring solutions to market.

“The equity funding and support from the Development Bank made a difference to our business, enabling us to be at the forefront of the fight against climate change with the development of solutions that help reduce carbon emissions. It’s also what has given us the platform to build a business that is attractive to bigger players like Marston meaning that we can continue to grow with the benefit of the Welsh ecosystem all around us.”

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Alexander Leigh, Senior Investment Executive with the Development Bank of Wales said: “As early investors in Vortex with pre-seed capital and follow-on funding, we are delighted to have supported the growth of this exciting business over the last three years.

“It’s hugely rewarding to exit a start-up after such a short period of time, particularly having seen the team benefit from the support available here in Wales. They could have set-up anywhere in the world but chose Wales because of our can-do attitude, the help available for entrepreneurs in the tech sector and the lower cost base.   

“Marston’s acquisition of Vortex now further accelerates the opportunity for the team to deliver their innovative air quality solutions that are very much needed for a zero-carbon economy whilst also continuing to invest in highly skilled jobs from their base in Neath. It’s a brilliant success story that we are really proud to have played a part in.  

The acquisition of Vortex follows the 2019 acquisitions of Videalert, a supplier of intelligent traffic management solutions; ParkTrade, a Swedish-based European tolling payments and collections business; and LogicValley, an Indian-based AI focused developer.  Vortex’s products further bolster Marston’s transportation technology division, ensuring Marston is best placed to meet the evolving needs of its client base. 

Mark Hoskin, Chief Commercial Officer at Marston Holdings added: “We have a long track record of successfully working in partnership with the public sector, and this acquisition reflects client feedback seeking innovative, technology-enabled solutions. COP26 demonstrated public support for driving the transition to a zero-carbon economy, and we’re pleased to further enhance our ability to support our clients and their residents through cleaner, healthier and more people-friendly communities.”

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