The loan arranger good guys

This column is kicking off the New Year with some good news. It comes via Steve Vaughan, a Londis retailer who runs Handbridge Services in Chester.

He is no stranger to this column having recommended a tax savings company (Wilmslow Tax Solutions) which saved him £13,000 in corporation tax in 2011. "That was really successful," he told me, "and I know a lot of other retailers took it up after reading about it."

Steve sits on a number of forums and committees and, although his own cashflow is okay, he has noticed that a lot of fellow retailers struggle with the highs and lows. Two big examples: you stock up like mad for Christmas and then in the bleak mid-winter of January the tax comes due.

Or you trade in a tourist area bountiful summer followed by the dead season. "Take places like Anglesey they get enormous peaks and troughs. Or Southend: they’re on their knees in January."

Of course, the banks won’t help. Or as Steve puts it: "Banks will give you an umbrella whenever you want, but not if it’s raining."

Enter LDF, specialist finance brokers, which marketing manager Natalie Powell tells me has been established since 1986, and which is growing volume across all sectors with the small retail segment being a major part of it.

"We are a leading player but we try for a very personable approach and a very flexible cashflow solution," she says. "Everyone gets an account manager who will look to develop an understanding of the client’s business."

Steve reckons that where LDF really scores is on corporation tax with a loan spread over 12 months, and VAT where the cost is spread over three months. "It could be a lifeline," he says.

I think Steve deserves a round of applause for taking the time and trouble to go and meet LDF, even though he doesn’t require its services, and effectively doing my research for me. He is passionate about being in Londis and in helping fellow retailers. So have a look at the website to see what’s on offer or email And cheer up, Easter’s on its way!

Another piece of good news

Well, goodish anyway. In the December issue, I reported that staff at Huw Griffiths’ Texaco/Nisa Local at Bridgend had received a call supposedly from PayPoint’s call centre (caller ID said it was PayPoint and the number tallied). Within seconds Huw lost £500 as staff obligingly keyed in the numbers, convinced that it was a genuine call.

Spokesman Peter Brooker said at the time that PayPoint would be lobbying Ofcom to ban phone companies from allowing anyone to programme their phone with a different number and allowing it to show up on caller ID, and on 1471, as it was obviously only going to be used for fraudulent purposes.

Seamus Smith, managing director, UK & Ireland, has since written to Ofcom’s chief executive pointing out that many PayPoint retailers have been deceived by the fake calls and "have lost many thousands of pounds".

He adds: "While we are working with law enforcement agencies to track down individual fraudsters, I believe it is also the role of regulators and legislators to do what they can to protect innocent people and businesses."

And he requested a meeting.

This took place and the PayPoint delegation was able to dispel the assumption within Ofcom that phone number spoofing isn’t just an issue with nuisance calls.

Says Peter Brooker: "They now appreciate that it is far more serious and does lead to serious financial losses among both consumers and small businesses. It is not, unfortunately, something that the UK is able to resolve in isolation but it is now on Ofcom’s agenda, which it is tackling through international collaboration.

"We shall continue to keep up the pressure through lobbying of Ofcom and at ministerial level."

PayPoint recommended last issue that symbol groups and federations/associations in the retail sector should lobby too. I repeat that appeal. We all hate conning-calls so join the fight back!

In the bleak mid-winter

You know how you have to order for Easter well ahead of time? Well, the January column (and actually, most of the rest of this magazine barring a few headline bits) has to be in before Christmas, so I’m actually writing this on December 15.

Therefore it feels a bit daft writing the following, but here goes: I hope you all had a happy new year following dazzling days and zinging tills over Christmas but it’s cold dark January now and a lot quieter. So take the time to do what you know you have to do.

Walk the store as though you’ve never seen it before; ie pretend to be a customer or, even better, your closest competitor. Write down all the cheap fixes and get them done. Longer term obviously needs a different agenda.

And speaking of such, don’t forget to mark up next year’s calendar of events: World Cup (June 12 to July 13); Tour de France wheels out on July 5 for its run from Leeds to Harrogate with the second stretch running on July 6 from York to Sheffield, then from Cambridge to London on July 7. The Commonwealth Games run from July 23-August 3 in Glasgow.

I won’t deign to tell you when Easter is because you are bound to be up to speed on that one, so I don’t want to over-egg the pudding.