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Issue:- 2 December 2010

Planning essential for W-shaped recession

EXPLOITING niche markets and developing innovate ways of packaging and rebranding existing products could be two ways to survive and thrive during a potential W-shaped recession.

That’s the view of businessman Stuart Williams, director at independent insurance broker and business continuity specialist Cowens Survival Capability, and Darren Shirlaw, of business consultancy Shirlaws.  Stuart believes that, based on analysis of previous economic cycles, the economy is heading for a W-shaped recession and he has developed some tips for businesses to survive.

Stuart said:- “During a boom time, businesses tend to focus on strategy – acquisitions, recruitment and new products – and forget the micro aspects such as cost management, efficiency and processes. Going into a recession, people switch from the macro to the micro and worry about costs and staff, while forgetting strategy.  During a recession, the smart businesses concentrate on strategy – and watch out for the micro – right across the economic cycle.  The world is likely to panic at the next market dip, thus creating big opportunities for the business owner who is confident and secure of how their business sits in the economic cycle and is preparing for the next boom.”

Stuart says that coming out of this recession, there are 2 ways of creating innovation - looking for niche opportunities and stepping up consolidation.  He commented:- “Preparation over the next 12 to18 months is critical in maximizing the benefits from the next boom. Businesses need to get their numbers right and take the time to focus on the ratios, prepare and plan.  They need to ask themselves what is the maximum revenue their organisation can generate and how many people are needed to maximise profit. Getting the timing right is crucial, and it’s a wise idea to match business development stages to the economic phases.”  And he added: “In terms of packaging and distribution into niche markets, you may not need to innovate new products, but you probably do need to package these lines differently. Freshen up the brand and then take the products into defined niche markets having identified customers that want your products.”

Darren Shirlaw, of Shirlaws Corporate Coaching, says that the past 100 years have seen three other periods when markets have fallen by more than 50% – 1929-1932, 1937-1938, 1974/5 – and that a W-shaped recovery has also followed such deep recessions.  Darren said:- “Markets tend to move six months ahead of the economy and if we trace the trend lines backwards, July 2007 was the turning point, being when the markets started to crash. In GDP terms we didn’t see the recession until six months later in 2008 when it also started to show in the economy.  Because the economy always follows the markets, when the markets jumped from March to September 2009, it was likely the economy would jump from September 2009 to March 2010. It did and the general prediction was a return to recovery.  So that brings us to today, recovery hasn’t followed because we are in a W recovery, finding us in a flat period before the next boom. Timing in business is critical, but getting there in good shape is vitally important too. In a W recovery, towards the end of this flat phase we may see a short dip for about six months after which the markets will turn around and recover. Pretty much like the previous March – September dip before going back up again.”

And Darren warns that the flat phase could last anywhere between two and 10 years.  He concludes: “When people see a flat market, they often believe they can’t do anything about it and their business also goes into a flat mode. But when the market is flat, it’s just an average of business performance. In reality, some are doing well and growing, some are flat and some are in decline.”

Do you think we are heading for a dabble dip recession or you you think the Unions and some other groups are talking us into one?  Email us your views to:-

Return of the Saints

FOLLOWING the recent announcement of our Boxing Day clash against near-neighbours Warrington Wolves, the club can now confirm that St. Helens will provide the next opposition for the Vikings on Sunday, 23 January 2010 at 3.00pm. Denis Betts and his charges will welcome Royce Simmons’ new look team in the now traditional Karalius Cup competition in honour of the late great Vince Karalius, with Saints keen to retain the trophy they won at the Stobart Stadium last season when they overcame a spirited home side to take the spoils, 42-26. This game will be the first run out in 2011 for both outfits and an ideal opportunity for fans to see their clubs’ new signings in action at ‘home’ ahead of the forthcoming Championship and Super League seasons. Tickets will be available soon, priced from £12 adults and £6 juniors / concessions. More details to follow...


PEDAL power is on the rise in Merseyside, with cycling levels increasing by 14% in the past 4 years.  The latest monitoring report from Merseyside Transport Partnership (MTP) shows that, between April 2009 and March 2010, the number of trips made by bike rose for the 2nd year in a row, increasing by 10%.

The monitoring of cycling levels was first introduced to coincide with the start of Merseyside’s second Local Transport Plan (LTP2) in April 2006. This has seen a network of more than 40 automatic counters being set up across Merseyside, which is supplemented by manual audits.

At the start of LTP2, MTP set itself a target of increasing cycling levels by 10% by April 2011. The most recent figures show that cycling levels have increased by 14.3% since 2006 and mean that MTP has exceeded its target, a full year ahead of schedule.

The increase in cycling levels has been achieved through a variety of measures, including improving cycle facilities and the network of cycle routes, training both adults and children in cycle skills and bike maintenance, and raising awareness of the benefits of cycling.

Initiatives identified by MTP as being particularly successful in increasing the number of trips made by bike include:-

TravelWise:- TravelWise is MTP’s targeted behaviour change and marketing programme. Through initiatives such as the TravelWise Cycle Challenge, Bike Time led rides and free cycle training and bike maintenance schemes, TravelWise has reminded people in Merseyside of the benefits of cycling and provided them with free cycle maps, advice and support.

Bikeability:- Merseyside runs the UK’s largest schools cycle training scheme, reaching almost 50,000 pupils since 2006.

Improved infrastructure:- Funding has been used to build a greater network of cycle routes across Merseyside and investment has been made to enhance cycling facilities on trains and at stations.

Southport Cycling Town:- Southport became a Cycling Town in 2008 and was given funding to invest in projects such as the development of a high quality cycle network and new cycle hire centres.

Cycle Speke:- Supported by the European Regional Development Fund, the major initiative focused on working with the local community to encourage people in Speke to cycle more. Manual cycle counts revealed an average increase of almost 60% in recorded trips from October 2009 to September 2010.

Cycling Alliance:- The Liverpool City Region Cycling Alliance was launched when Liverpool NHS Primary Care Trust (PCT) and Liverpool City Council signed a formal agreement setting out their commitments to increasing cycling levels in the city. The Alliance encourages the Merseyside local authorities and PCTs to work in partnership with the private sector, universities and cultural and sporting agencies to bring renewed commitment to cycling across the area.

Neil Scales, Chair of MTP, is delighted to have exceeded the target for increasing the number of trips made by bike in Merseyside. He said:- “Higher levels of children are classified as obese or overweight in Merseyside than elsewhere in England and Merseyside also has significantly higher levels of coronary heart disease and chronic liver disease than the rest of the country.  Cycling is a very simple way of incorporating physical activity into people’s daily lives and can bring tremendous benefits to health as part of the 2010 Year of Health and Wellbeing. Increasing cycling levels in Merseyside will also help cut the area’s carbon output and benefit the economy, as goods and people are able to move smoothly around the transport network.  In Merseyside, a high proportion of the journeys that people make each day are under five miles and can easily be made on bike. We aim to continue to invest in encouraging people to cycle more often and for a greater variety of trips and, as the consultation continues on our third Local Transport Plan (LTP3), there is a clear opportunity for us to continue to further increase cycling levels.  With more than 50 members already signed up to the Liverpool City Region Cycling Alliance, I would like to thank these organisations for their ongoing efforts to increase cycling levels in Merseyside and would encourage others to get involved.”

For more information on cycling in Merseyside, please visit:- or call:- 0151 330 1290.

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