David Parkin on blowing your own horn and retail rot

David Parkin on blowing your own horn and retail rot

NO there won’t be a caption competition for the photograph above. When I was a journalist we used to love having an unusual picture to accompany the story. When you are one of the subjects in the photo and the photographer has just handed you a horn and told you to smile at the camera, then you are probably entitled to some doubts. But Simon Dewhurst is a talented and very likeable individual who I have known for many years and we were taking the photograph at last night’s Lord’s Taverners Balloon Debate which raised thousands of pounds for a very worthy charity. And the horn is a vital part of the Balloon Debate – my colleague Liz Theakston times the speeches of each of the four speakers and honks it with gusto when they reach their time limit. Given guests were arriving at the venue at New Dock Hall at the Royal Armouries just when we were doing the photos, I got a bit of gip from off camera. “Ooh, I can’t wait to suggest a caption for that,” said Jason Taylor of Orchard Facilities Management. I got my own back during my introduction on stage when I warned our speakers that Jason is fond of a selfie with celebrities – and put up the photo of him with a scowling Roy Keane that I used in my blog a few weeks ago. One of the biggest challenges for a charity event is for it to capture the attention and hearts of attendees. Lord’s Taverners Yorkshire chairman Jeremy Thomas, a corporate financier at Deloitte, did that with a...
David Parkin on the legacy of a local hero and feeling like a million dollars

David Parkin on the legacy of a local hero and feeling like a million dollars

FAREWELL then Keith Tate. I read a short obituary in the Yorkshire Post a couple of weeks ago about a boxing trainer I met 30 years ago and memories came flooding back. When I was a teenage student at Huddersfield Polytechnic (it turned into a university just in time for me to collect my degree) I fancied myself as a bit of a boxer. With a grandfather who boxed in the final of the 1932 ABA Championships and went on to become European Police Middleweight Champion in 1937, I believed I had something of a pugilistic pedigree. So off I went to Dewsbury Amateur Boxing Club – two temporary buildings next to the railway station in the town at the centre of the Heavy Woollen District. The club was run by Keith Tate, a stocky flat-nosed one-time flyweight boxer who won numerous amateur titles and defeated future world lightweight champion Ken Buchanan before turning professional as a bantamweight. But it was as a trainer of amateur boxers that Keith really made his name, establishing the Cleckheaton Boxing Academy in 1975 and running it alongside his wife Sally for 40 years. Keith’s gyms produced a host of national boxing champions as amateurs and many went on to great success as professionals including  the British super featherweight Gary ‘Five Star’ Sykes and three world champions, Mark ‘Hobbo’ Hobson, ‘Super’ Steven Conway and James ‘Roberttown Rocket’ Hare who was an upcoming schoolboy boxer when I used to train at Keith’s gym. Well I say train, Keith used to get me to skip in a corner after a couple of unsuccessful sparring sessions....
David Parkin on a supermarket sweep, rebels without a clue and judge cred

David Parkin on a supermarket sweep, rebels without a clue and judge cred

THE only people who seem surprised by the Competition and Markets Authority ruling out Asda’s merger with Sainsbury’s are the people running the two supermarkets. The CMA announced its decision yesterday saying it believed the deal to create Britain’s biggest supermarket – accounting for £1 in every £3 spent on groceries – would raise prices for consumers. Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe, who had effectively gambled his future on getting this deal done, hit out angrily saying that the regulator was “effectively taking £1bn out of customers’ pockets”. His Asda counterpart, Roger Burnley, was a little more measured: “”We were right to explore the potential merger with Sainsbury’s, which would have delivered great benefits for customers and supported the long term, sustainable success of our business.” That’s the point. Both supermarkets have been struggling to deal with the rise of the discounters like Aldi and Lidl and the steady improvements in trading at Morrisons and Tesco. They might have dressed this deal up as a good one for shoppers but they needed it to fix the flaws in their businesses. The CMA might have felt it wouldn’t benefit consumers, but imagine the leverage it would have given the combined group over suppliers. I’ve seen the ruthlessness with which Asda despatches its own staff when it needs to cut costs, so suppliers would have been squeezed on prices like never before. So what now? Well perhaps Sainsbury’s and Asda will focus on retailing. I suspect the effort put in to trying to get this deal done has diverted valuable management time away from the day-to-day business of running shops. In the...
David Parkin on why bottom of the league are top of the class, a hardy perennial blossoms at the Masters and getting hits with the ghoulies

David Parkin on why bottom of the league are top of the class, a hardy perennial blossoms at the Masters and getting hits with the ghoulies

IF my host at last Saturday’s match between Huddersfield Town and Leicester City had invited me to make himself feel better, then he didn’t mention it. The West Yorkshire club were playing their first game since their relegation from the Premier League was confirmed by a 2-0 loss at Crystal Palace the week before. Their lowly points tally and number of goals scored makes the Terriers one of the worst teams in Premier League history. But not the worst. That was my team, Derby County, who were relegated with just 11 points in 2008. But my host, Jason Taylor, commercial director at Orchard, the facilities management and energy group, and other Huddersfield fans and officials I met at the John Smith’s Stadium were far too nice to mention it. They have had some time to come to terms with relegation during their second season back in the top flight. But that doesn’t make it any easier. So I was delighted that conversation around our table over lunch in the White Rose Club centred on the best pie shop in Wakefield rather than a forensic study of either of our football clubs’ recent fortunes. When it comes to pies, Andy Needham of Approved Foods, Britain’s largest online retailer of clearance food and drink, is an aficionado. Football is a funny old game, as dear old Jimmy Greaves used to say. Fans often enjoy the misfortunes of their closest rivals almost as much as they do the success of their own team. And I’ve always found it a bit odd that certain rules apply in the sport that don’t quite work...
David Parkin on the future of Welcome to Yorkshire and rocking the boat

David Parkin on the future of Welcome to Yorkshire and rocking the boat

DEPENDING on your viewpoint, the scheduling of Welcome to Yorkshire’s annual Y19 conference this week came at the worst, or the best, possible time. Chief executive Sir Gary Verity resigned on health grounds two weeks ago from the role he had held for a decade. He left after concerns were raised over his behaviour towards staff and his expenses. Subsequent reports in the media speculated over the size and details of those expense claims and featured interviews with at least two of his former personal assistants criticising his behaviour. If the Welcome to Yorkshire board hoped that Sir Gary’s abrupt departure would allow the organisation to move on quickly, the furore that followed quickly dispelled that notion. This week, the day before Y19, Welcome to Yorkshire’s board announced two independent investigations into Sir Gary’s expenses and behaviour since his appointment in 2008. Those investigations will aim to establish the facts from the speculation and gossip swirling around his departure. At this stage, the only thing I can say with some certainty is that it seems Sir Gary went through personal assistants at an even faster rate than former Leeds United chairman Massimo Cellino went through managers. On Wednesday the team he once led at Welcome to Yorkshire were faced with delivering their annual showcase event on the 10th anniversary of the organisation’s launch at a time when it was making headlines for reasons other than tourism success. I think we’d all agree that’s a tough job. But I think Y19 came at the right time. Amid all the speculation and schadenfreude perhaps what was getting forgotten was the incredible...
David Parkin on Sir Gary Verity and getting shirty

David Parkin on Sir Gary Verity and getting shirty

THERE is no getting away from the big news of the last seven days. It all surrounded a larger than life figure with many fans, a good number of detractors and an ability to attract a huge amount of publicity and also some controversy. Most of us were shocked, some were upset, others verging on the celebratory at the news. And I know I can’t avoid writing about it. Yes, the launch of Marmite Peanut Butter. Who would have thought we were missing that from our lives? Anyway, the other news was the shock departure of Sir Gary Verity from tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire. It was announced last Friday evening that the man behind the audacious and outrageously successful bid to bring the Grand Départ of the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2014 had resigned on health grounds from the role he had held for a decade. He left after concerns were raised over his behaviour towards staff and his expenses. An investigation by the board of Welcome to Yorkshire concluded that “Sir Gary made errors of judgement regarding his expenses at a very difficult time for him and his family”. He lost his younger sister Lindsay in January. Apparently he has agreed to voluntarily reimburse the organisation for “monies owed” which is said to be a five figure sum. A story followed in the Sunday Times which claimed to be an “investigation” into the tourism supremo. However it shed little new light on the claims of bullying against him and appeared more like an opportunity for some to settle old scores. I’ve known Gary for a...
David Parkin on a leisurely discussion, luxury hotels and a rose of hope

David Parkin on a leisurely discussion, luxury hotels and a rose of hope

NO the picture above isn’t a shot from the set of a new Yorkshire version of Mamma Mia. Although the bloke at front left does have a look of a young Pierce Brosnan. It is from an event we organised this week for financial recruitment firm Woodrow Mercer Finance at Trinity Kitchen, the street food experience at the Trinity shopping centre in Leeds. The Business of Leisure brought together a panel of four people working in completely different areas of this diverse and exciting sector. Peter Banks, is managing director of Rudding Park Hotel in Harrogate and has been a pivotal figure transforming the family-owned hotel into one of the finest luxury resorts in Yorkshire, boasting a £9.5m roof-top spa. When I asked Peter to take part in the panel event he told me he would be telling it like it is, deftly taking a verbal rapier to  the many challenges the hospitality industry faces, not least British young people’s distaste for working in the sector. Joining Peter on the panel was Phil Forster, external affairs manager at Leeds Bradford Airport Phil, who has worked as a press officer for Newcastle United and reporter for Sky Sports News, joined Leeds Bradford from Newcastle Airport a year ago following the appointment of David Laws as chief executive. The airport, which was sold by private equity firm Bridgepoint to Australian fund AMP Capital in 2017, is currently engaged in ambitious growth plans including adding new services, expanding the terminal and a longer term project to improve road and rail access. But Phil was quick to admit that it is still primarily...
David Parkin on Game of Thrones, balloons, bikes and cat flaps

David Parkin on Game of Thrones, balloons, bikes and cat flaps

FROM gold medal winning Olympians to David Bowie, the Kaiser Chiefs, chart toppers Rudimental and Game of Thrones. At a dinner for alumni of Leeds Beckett University last week I learned of the cultural, teaching, sporting and learning influence that the institution, dating back to 1824, has had. And given I received an honorary degree from the university in 2013, I’m in good company. The uni, which has its main campus in Headingley in Leeds and another base at the Rose Bowl building in the city centre, invited back honorary graduates for a dinner hosted by Chancellor Sir Bob Murray and Vice Chancellor Peter Slee. It was Bob, co-founder of bathroom manufacturer Spring RAM and the former chairman of Sunderland football club, who presented me with the honorary degree. I had met and interviewed Bob some years before and when I launched TheBusinessDesk.com he visited us soon after launch at our tiny offices to learn more and wish us well. But I’d always known he was a decent bloke as he was one of the very few people who Guy Martin-Laval used to speak highly of when they visited his restaurant, La Grillade. Even though diners used to spend large amounts in his Leeds establishment, Guy, as gallic as they come, used to view visitors as a bit of an imposition he had to try and grit his teeth and put up with. Back at Leeds Beckett, I learned that the dinner last week was the first they have held for alumni. Walking into the dining hall, the first two people I bumped into were veteran stockbroker Keith Loudon...
David Parkin joins Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran

David Parkin joins Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran

BEYONCE, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Coldplay. Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium has played host to some of the world’s biggest names in entertainment. This week it was my turn. Now admittedly, I didn’t appear in front of the size of crowd that Queen B and Jay Z are used to. And I didn’t whip my audience into the kind of frenzy that Take That can induce. But then again, they weren’t focusing on human resources and payroll services. I was at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester to host the Northern Business Forum for ADP. The US-based group is one of the global leaders in HR and payroll services and is listed on the NASDAQ market in New York and ranked at 248 in the Fortune 500. It’s UK operation is better known in the South of England and so this week’s event was part of ADP’s plans to raise its profile in the North. I met Matt Roberts of ADP years ago when we both worked in neighbouring offices in the Round Foundry Media Centre in Leeds. And so more than 10 years later, when he was looking to deliver a successful business forum he knew exactly who to call to host it. Fortunately they were engaged and I answered my phone. The event, in a smart second floor suite overlooking the lush Etihad pitch, featured two keynote speakers and a panel discussion which I chaired. The first speaker was Bob Brown, chief information officer at Manchester City Council. With his slick haircut, white teeth and sharp jacket and tie, Bob looks more like a Sky Sports presenter rather than  a...
David Parkin on a heavyweight meeting, Italian restaurants and a dog day afternoon

David Parkin on a heavyweight meeting, Italian restaurants and a dog day afternoon

WHEN it comes to stories of redemption, Tyson Fury’s is hard to beat. Seemingly on top of the world after improbably winning the world heavyweight title from long-serving champion Wladimir Klitschko, the self-titled Gipsy King’s fall from grace was rapid and shocking. Rightly vilified for making misogynistic and homophobic comments, he descended into a dark pit of drug taking and drinking and ballooned from his fighting weight of 18 stone to almost 28 stone, gave up his title and received a two-year anti-doping ban. Fury, who is as articulate as any sports person I’ve seen, has openly admitted that his long-term battle with mental illness is the reason for many of his problems. After two years of self-abuse he says that about a year ago he woke up one morning and decided he no longer wanted to be that man. He got treatment for his depression, trained hard, shed weight and had a forgettable comeback fight. It led to a match-up against heavy-hitting WBC champion Deontay Wilder in Los Angeles in December. Given the abyss in which he had been in, it was remarkable that Fury had got himself back to even stand in a ring and contest a world title. Most pundits predicted he would lose and just hoped he wouldn’t get badly hurt. Despite being knocked down, Fury outboxed the ferocious Wilder until the 12th round when he was flattened by a punch and lay motionless on the canvas. And then the 6ft 9in Fury rose to his feet and bounced lightly on his toes before the referee finished his count. He then boxed the rest of...