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Contract signed to overhaul Swansea University catering in 10 year £58m deal

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Chartwells Universities has signed a 10-year agreement valued at £58m to overhaul the catering facilities at Swansea University with what the company describes as a ‘bold new operating model’ focused around ‘ultimate convenience’ that will provide a number of job opportunities and services for the local community.

The company describes the contract, awarded following an extensive competitive dialogue process, as representing a “fundamental step change in university catering”, driven by Chartwells Universities’ desire to “innovate its offer to meet the ever-changing wants and needs of students”.

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The new operating model, which was informed by an extensive research project to understand how the behaviours of Gen Z consumers have evolved through the pandemic, is the culmination of a significant period of development.

The agreement with Swansea University, which starts in January 2022, provides a blend of Chartwells Universities’ own brands, such as Hollo Pollo, Bamboo, and Liberty Grill, alongside a number of high street favourites, including Subway, Greggs, and Tortilla, which will operate under franchise agreements. All the brands will be available for delivery to the local community through partnerships with third party delivery applications.

The contract is supported by Compass Cymru, which provides a dedicated framework for sharing support and best practice across contracts in Wales, as well as championing Welsh producers.

Jane Byrd, Managing Director of Compass Cymru, said: “This contract is a great addition to our Welsh portfolio, and reflective of the innovation that is going on across the country. Not only does the new food and beverage offer create a point of difference for Swansea University, but, crucially, it provides opportunities and services for the local community.”

Kerry Ford, Managing Director, Chartwells Universities said: “This agreement is the culmination of a significant period of development that we believe will fundamentally change the way students view and engage with the food and beverage offer across Universities. Every element of the offer is deep-rooted in insight and has been specifically moulded around the wants and needs of students.

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“We’re passionate about providing a fantastic experience to support students’ time at university, but also investing in the communities we operate. This model allows us to provide employment and career opportunities, while also enriching the delivery options available to the surrounding community around campus.”

Bay Campus ‘Social Hideaway’

Ben Lucas, Associate Director of Commercial Services at Swansea University, said: “The bid from Chartwells Universities really stood out due to its truly innovative format. Swansea University not only offers outstanding learning opportunities, but it also delivers outside of the classroom, attracting prospective students from across the country, bringing opportunities for local people and businesses.

“Convenience, quality and value are clearly incredibly important to our students, but, what really stood out in the approach was the additional added value, educational and CSR initiatives, such as the digital cookery classes, regional procurement and cook-at-home delivery boxes, which will enrich the overall student experience and provide guidance and support during their time in Swansea.”

The extensive development plan will see the University’s Refectory space on Singleton Campus converted into a new social hub by the end of 2022, which will be renamed the Swansea Social Hideaway.

A second social hub will be created on Bay Campus in place of the current Core catering outlet. These will be multifunctional, tech-enabled social spaces, offering students and staff alike space to meet, work, socialise, eat, drink and dwell in a number of settings.

The format, which replicates progressive working spaces in cities across the UK, gives students the flexibility to adapt areas, either for study, socialising, or down-time. The areas have the dexterity to drive a range of functionalities, including the hosting of pop-up events, the broadcasting of live sports matches via big-screens, and the introduction of a low and no alcohol bar.

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Chartwells Universities’ research also revealed that Gen Z spend, on average, four hours and 15 minutes on the phone each day. Furthermore, with the takeaway market experiencing a 46% increase throughout the pandemic, the ultimate convenience model taps into these macro trends with an omni-channel consumer experience, enabling students to benefit from multiple functionalities through its leading Uni Food Hub app.

The app allows students and staff to place food and drink orders for collection or delivery at locations across campus, as well as offering loyalty points and a parent wallet top up option. In a move beyond the core provision of catering, students will also be able to access educational nutritional content, book in for cooking classes, give back to their local community via volunteering opportunities, and book tickets for events across campus.

Further brand partnerships mean students can also order cook-at-home food boxes to be delivered to their halls or accommodation, through partnerships with Pizza Pilgrims and Hello Fresh.

(Lead image: Swansea University ‘The Rectory’ canteen)

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Welsh and UK Governments agree to establish Freeports in Wales

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The Welsh Government has reached agreement with the UK Government on the establishment of Freeports in Wales.

Welsh Ministers have agreed to support Freeport policies in Wales following the UK Government’s agreement to meet the Welsh Government’s demands that UK Ministers provide at least £26m of non-repayable starter funding for any Freeport established in Wales, which represents a parity with the deals offered to English Freeports.

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The UK Government have agreed to meet a number of other demands – including that both Governments will act on the basis of a ‘partnership of equals’ to deliver any Freeports in Wales.

In addition, both Governments have agreed a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated clearly it will operate in a manner that aligns with the Welsh Government’s policies on fair work and environmental sustainability, including the commitment to Wales becoming a net-zero carbon nation.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Following considerable engagement between our Governments, I’m pleased we have been able to reach agreement with UK Ministers to establish Freeports in Wales. The agreement we have reached is fair to Wales, and respects the Welsh Government’s responsibilities in devolved policy areas.

“However, we have made it clear to the UK Government that a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated, using robust evidence and analysis, that it will support our fair work agenda and deliver long-term, sustainable benefits for Wales, and value for money for Welsh taxpayers.

“I very much hope that the UK Government’s willingness to work with the Welsh Government as equals on Freeports can provide a positive model for future co-operation between our governments on other initiatives.”

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The UK Government’s Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said: “I am delighted that Wales is the latest area in the UK set to benefit from a new Freeport.

“The UK Government’s ambitious Freeports agenda will help to level up our coastal communities and create new opportunities for people right across the country.

“Together with the Welsh Government, I look forward to seeing innovative proposals come forward that demonstrate tangible benefits for the people of Wales.”

In addition, Welsh and UK Ministers have agreed that the UK Government will provide tax incentives for Freeports in Wales in parity with Freeports in other parts of the United Kingdom for the reserved taxes that have been designated to advance the policy aims. The Welsh Government will design tax reliefs from local and devolved taxes (Non-Domestic Rates and Land Transaction Tax) to support the policy aims.

Both Governments say they will remain open to the possibility of a multi-site Freeport in Wales. In recognition of Wales’ unique economic geography and the Welsh Government’s aspirations for economic development in Wales, the UK Government is willing to relax the 45 km boundary limit for a multi-site Freeport solution, should there be a sufficiently compelling case for doing so.

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Both Governments will also remain open to the possibility of allowing more than one Freeport in Wales, should they be presented with a sufficiently compelling business case.

As with English Freeports, a fair and open competitive process will be used to determine where the policy should be implemented in Wales. Both Governments will work together to co-design the process for Freeport site selection, and both will have an equal say in all decisions throughout the implementation process. This includes the final decision on site selection.

Both Governments have begun the process of designing the bid prospectus for the competition and further details about the timing of next steps will be released in due course.

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Swansea digital agency iCreate enters the metaverse with bespoke digital environments

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Swansea-based creative agency iCreate is entering the metaverse by creating 3D visual environments for Dubai-based NFT boutique Jumi – a new outlet for curated digital art.

The metaverse hit the headlines last year when Facebook’s parent company rebranded to Meta, reflecting the growing potential of the internet to offer an interactive virtual world through AI and 3D digital animation.

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The metaverse offers social connection through technology, interaction with brands and businesses, and online recreation.

It encompasses everything from online video games to virtual shops where you can digitally try on items before you buy them, and bespoke venues for online events of all kinds.

It’s expected to expand into an online world where people will have their own virtual avatars which they take from one virtual environment to another, purchasing virtual products for them and housing them in virtual homes.

This is where iCreate – which specialises in creating digital environments – comes in. The company provides CGIs, 3D flythrough animations, VR tours and marketing brochures to the off-plan property sector.

From interactive, customisable home interiors that enable buyers to plan every detail of their dream home, through to large-scale digital animations of new housing developments, iCreate is adept at creating virtual environments that look and feel like the real thing.

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Now it’s teaming up with Jumi and other partners to create digital environments that will never be built in the real world, but will exist in the metaverse, where people’s avatars can explore and socialise in them.

A key aspect of the metaverse is non-fungible tokens (NFTs): digital assets that can be bought and traded. These are increasingly hitting the headlines as everyone from independent artists to big brands creates and sells digital-only products, music, artwork and more.

Dawn Lyle (right) and the team at iCreate

Jumy, which completed a $1.2M seed funding round last year, is the ultimate NFT boutique marketplace for exclusive digital art. All artworks are curated from the world’s most creative digital artists, to guarantee outstanding quality.

The platform is the world’s first to offer a fully integrated digital art experience where visitors will be able to purchase pieces with payment cards, trade their NFTs, order NFT frames (digital frames for NFT art) and flex their NFTs on metaverse – all in one place.

By collaborating with Jumi, iCreate will make beautiful, exclusive digital environments for displaying NFTs in the metaverse. From here, it’s expected that a new market in bespoke virtual homes and offices will develop over the coming years, as more aspects of all our lives are lived in the metaverse.

Dawn Lyle, iCreate’s co-founder, said: “We’re delighted to have formed this new partnership with Jumi and to be taking our bespoke digital environments into the metaverse.

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“The metaverse offers such a wealth of possibilities, and over the coming years it will become increasingly common to play, meet and do business with people all over the world in virtual settings.

“We’re excited to be creating stunning digital environments in which these activities can take place; in the metaverse, there are no limitations and it’s possible to bring dreams to life, creating astonishing virtual places that delight and surprise. It gives us the opportunity to put all our creative skills to use in exciting new ways and we can’t wait to get started.”

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River Island launches its brand new Swansea concept store this weekend

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Fashion chain River Island is revealing its brand new concept store at Morfa Retail Park in Swansea on Saturday (7 May).

Located at the former New Look store at Unit 6 on the Brunel Way shopping centre, the new store is just a few doors down from its previous outlet, although promises to be an even bigger and better boutique shopping experience.

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Located across two floors, the 8,253 square foot store has been specially curated to the tastes of Swansea shoppers according to the fashion chain.

Set across one level, womenswear will occupy just over half the space, with the remainder split between menswear and kidswear, stocking kids, mini and baby.

To celebrate the new opening, River Island will be hosting a launch event weekend in-store on the 7th and 8th of May, where shoppers can expect to hear celebratory sounds with in-store DJ sets, whilst the first lucky 100 customers through the doors will receive a £10 gift card which can be redeemed in-store or online.

Frances Baker, River Island Property Director said: “River Island is thrilled to be relocating and open ing a new boutique store in Swansea, Morfa as part of our segmentation programme.

“We are excited to introduce our concept store to our existing loyal customers, with exciting opportunities to acquire new customers with our new look-and-feel store.”

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River Island say the store upgrade strengthens its 300 strong estate and solidifies its message of “standing by the high street”, a campaign set up in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to show solidarity with other high street brands negatively hit by the effects of the pandemic.

The fashion chain say that by investing in finding ways to encourage and entice customers to return to in-person shopping it hopes to “enhance and improve the shopping journey for its customers”.

(Lead image: River Island)

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