New head, Same thinking?

So, election fever has hit once again. The build up was the worst kept secret we’re told but with the abuse of the whole system it beggars the question: Why wait for an official announcement if it means nothing?
Mr Brown completely ignored the rule that states when the electioneering can start thus giving his competitors no valid reason to wait either. The role of our monarch in this has been turned into a ceremonial gesture, nothing more. It just takes away one more reason why we need them.
Meanwhile, the lying, sorry, campaigning carries on regardless. Sure, a few specific words and claims have to wait for the short trip to The Palace before they can officially be used but we all knew, as they did, that the campaign had started already.
If this was a business campaign there would be, well, very little outcry really. But had the release of a new film been set and advertising leaked early, the film distributors would protest. Had a new product been in development and photographs released to select websites illegally, and then claims and counterclaims would be flying from lawyer to lawyer.
As it is, our decision makers, the law makers indeed feel free to flaunt all rules when it comes to ensuring self preservation.
Do we really believe anyone who gets in to the top job has any intention of really making any substantial change? The systems that are in place to ensure our supposed stability and safety wouldn’t allow any radical make over. The implementation of anything from Whitehall depends on the unelected public servants to make it come to fruition and if they decide to bog it down or dilute it so it has little of its original bite then it won’t happen. We may vote one person into the position but they will never have all the power. They will have to compromise and sacrifice so many of their promises that the only real manifesto would be one that says “ We will try to possibly attempt to do the following..”
All those that get in will do is, try to slow down or derail the actions put in place by their predecessor and to stamp their own identity on the role. Very little else is possible without the cooperation of the mass unnamed civil service flunkies who don’t have to change when parliament does.
So, here’s to a lively campaign, a vibrant and exciting election and the installation of a new head with all the same options and all the same ideas.


A New Era Beckons

March 4, 2010

After a number of years, the time has come to collate and collect al the various online activities of the Weston Chamber into one cohesive site.
The Facebook site will lead and feed to the main site, as will Twitter. This will also involve a massive overhaul of the original site content and a transfer of the membership directory and all member profiles. In all, it will make the website much more simple for a few select people to contribute to and for me to run/moderate.
The original site was a super-site,growing in size all the time and rapidly became more than it was possible for one person to handle. It was , in effect, a victim of its own success.
The new site will still have the same basic content and aim and will use the same name and URL but will be driven by WordPress.
All this will take a while but will be worth it all.

Chamber does Xmas!

November 13, 2009


The Chamber of Trade Christmas meal will this year take place at Hobbs Boat Inn, on Thursday 3rd December, at 7.00 for 7.30 p.m.

In order to ensure that sufficient places are reserved, please let the Secretary know by Monday 16th November. Please also at that time enclose a cheque for £16 per head (which will include a free raffle) made out to Weston super Mare Chamber of Trade. There will be three courses, which are shown on the back of this notice. Please let her know the choices you wish to make from this menu.


I ……………………………………………………………… of ……………………………………………..

wish to attend the Chamber of Trade Christmas meal on Thursday 3rd December. There will
be …………………………… people in my party, so I enclose ……………………………………….
at £16 per head for everybody.

Garlic and Herb Breaded Mushrooms. An all time pub favourite and great for dipping into garlic, mayonnaise and BBQ sauce.
Drunken Duck Pâté (contains traces of alcohol). Our pâté is smooth and enriched with sweet wine, Bramley apple jelly, truffles and cream. Served with slices of toasted seeded loaf and our own Table Table spiced onion marmalade.
Prawn Cocktail. One of the classic ways to eat prawns! Served on crisp salad leaves with tomato, cucumber, a classic Marie Rose sauce and a chunk of seeded loaf.
British Seasonal Soups (v). Our soups are made from British grown vegetables, which fall within our seasons. Served with a chunk of seeded or cheese loaf.

Hand Carved Roast Turkey. Served with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, sage & onion stuffing, pork and bacon chipolata, seasonal vegetables, gravy and cranberry sauce.
Bacon & Cheese Topped Chicken Breast. Served with BBQ sauce, mixed salad and your choice of chunky chips or a jacket potato.
7oz 28-day Matured Rump Steak. Served with watercress, roasted vine cherry tomatoes and chunky chips.
Grilled Salmon Fillet. With Pomodorino sauce, buttered new potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
Spinach & Nutmeg Soufflé Tart (v). With garlic roasted new potatoes and crisp salad leaves tossed in French dressing, with tomato and cucumber.

Christmas Pudding (contains traces of alcohol). Served with a rich brandy sauce.
Tiramisu (contains traces of alcohol). A decadent Italian classic.
Profiteroles. Served with warm chocolate flavour fudge sauce and double cream.
Chocolate Tart. A rich chocolate filling in an all-butter pastry tart served with double cream.
British Ice Cream at its Best! Our ice cream truly is scrumptious! Made from a blend of delicious creamy milk from Jersey cows and double cream made in the Chiltern Hills. Enjoy three scoops of vanilla or strawberry & clotted cream or Belgian chocolate truffle. Top with warm chocolate flavour fudge sauce or blackcurrant coulis.

Please return choices and payment by Monday 16th November to:

Mrs Helen Whiston, 38 Mansfield Avenue, Weston super Mare, BS23 2YD

Chamber gets Social 2

November 1, 2009

Thanks to an alert from the very professional WordPress Team, we now link up with our Twitter account!
Find us at :

Chamber gets Social!

October 31, 2009

We have ,as a direct result of the Wired Weston seminar feedback,created a business page on the Facebook social media site.
Click and see!


Weston-super-Mare Chamber of Trade and Commerce on Facebook

We are currently laying down plans for our October seminar. It will be based around the idea of social media and how businesses use the various forms to enrich their presence and how it relates to their bottom line.
Do you have a case study we can use?
Have you tried it and found it has helped or hindered?
We would like to hear stories of individuals or groups,companies or sole traders, anyone who can show how Facebook,Wordpress or Twitter, linkedIn or Ecadamy or any other site has improved things for them in the present climate.

Having recently tried to tackle the issues faced by small to medium businesses against the big chains, I thought it might be helpful to perhaps pass on some of the advice I have received and those tips that myself and my fellow traders have found to be the most useful.
1:Remember your customers are people, not numbers.
This is as basic as it gets;no one likes being a reference number. It helps the business admin to have a reference for each transaction but to the customer, it removes the personal touch and makes them feel unimportant and unwanted. Smaller businesses are more likely to have regular and locally based customers. Being greeted by name and by someone who can recall what you discussed on a previous visit is enough to warrant the small percentage difference in price for a lot of people. It makes them feel special and for all of us, that is something money cannot replace.
2:We are neighbours.
Chances are that your customers are also locally employed, meaning that if you shop locally or live within your own delivery or service area, you may well be their customer at some point. Treat them as you would expect or want to be treated.

3:Small details make a big deal.
Large chains often offer prices we cannot match due to buying power. What they can’t always offer are the small details that a small business can. The inflexibility of a large chain system can work in your favour. If the customer is on your route home, why not offer to deliver personally after locking up?
A £299 freezer with a delivery charge and a delivery date only means the customer has to wait in all day for the goods and pay extra for the privilege plus losing a days wages or holiday.
Offering a £330 freezer with delivery on a weekend or after hours , especially if its a free delivery and removal of the old unit, will often clinch the deal.

4.First amongst equals.

Treat people as equals with equal knowledge in a different field.No one feels like spending money if they are made to feel inferior.

5.Team work continues outside the office.

In any business community, the small businesses must work together to a common goal.What helps improve the business environment in your area will help all businesses in that area. Consider joining a traders group, such as your local Chamber.Larger chain companies cannot or will not contribute to local issues, thus alienating customers who feel strongly about those issues.

6.You are your own brand.Sell the brand.

How many customers buy a product because of a recognised name? Brands sell. Make your name/company name recognised locally.People don’t talk about popping out to the supermarket, they go to Tescos or Sainsbury’s. Make your name synonymous with your service and product and people won’t consider the competition.Make sure people refer to your business by name rather than description.Sell the brand ,then the product.

7.Knowledge is power.

Train your staff and yourself. Be able to back up the written description of the product with more information that the customer won’t find on the ticket.I have shopped in large department stores where, when asked about a product, the staff could only read off the shelf ticket. I can do that myself. Educate your staff and any knowledge will translate as specialist training to the customer and therefore value for money. Importantly, keep the knowledge fresh:Update training regularly.Use your local school,college or training  facilities.

8.We are all unique.

Try some form of exclusivity. A number of suppliers will avoid competing with themselves by only supplying to one outlet in a given area. If they themselves are a small business (by comparison) they will have problems with supplying to large chains. Make an exclusivity deal and eliminate local competition. Promote that exclusivity. i.e.’Approved Stockist’ .

9.Can’t compete won’t compete.

This is one of the controversial tips. Some deals you won’t be able to match. Economies of scale mean that unless you are promising orders in huge amounts and often, suppliers simply won’t give you the same prices as the chains.The answer may be simply to not offer that product. Accept you cannot win and offer something else:An alternative or a different product line alotogether.Putting all your effort into trying to run with the big boys may leave you more vulnerable than running your own path and picking up customers that way.

10.If you love them, set them free.

Sometimes it is easy to put too much pressure on the customer for that first sale.The ethos that no one leaves without a purchase can make uncomfortable shopping for the poor customer. Sending them away with information and a feeling that you are there to help rather than just to snatch a deal will make them more inclined to return. If there is no pressure to part with money immediately, they will feel more at ease and happier to trust you and ,hopefully to invest in that trust.In furniture sales, I have found a rushed sale often results in mistakes and returns. A customer at ease and reassured after up to three visits before the final decision is more likely to have made a considered and therefore correct choice. The follow up visits and subsequent purchases prove that. Someone is more likely to return and pay that small percentage more for goods if the environment is a happy and comfortable one and they don’t feel under pressure to buy.



Update and more

July 9, 2009

The chamber has been busy of late and I can say with honesty, I mean the chamber and not just myself.

The new executive has brought a breath of life into the chamber with two vice presidents sharing the workload and bringing new ideas and fresh enthusiasm to the board. The newly established membership team has brought a rise in membership figures and has managed to clear out the older deadwood that were still being listed as members but had failed to renew membership in the last year or more. The team has also managed to update all the contact names for members so we can direct communications to the correct person. Many of the original contacts had either passed on, moved on or left the company so causing a lot of chamber contact to wither and die.

It is essential when running any large group to constantly update and renew contacts. Your members won’t always let you know when staff changes are made and your letters could be heading straight for he waste paper bin for years to come!

The new membership team has proven itself by having regular team meetings outside of the normal chamber meetings and updating the executive as they work and on their results. The team has a treasurer, secretary and a few officers actually out and about chasing memberships in person and bringing a human face to membership applications. It has resulted in a rise of about 30% in active/live membership in the last year.

The next team that I hope to develop will be I.T. The chamber website was one of the reasons the chamber avoided collapsing entirely and now runs at over 100 pages. It needs a team to constantly monitor and update the content though otherwise we will lose the advantages of having it.

On the activities front, We had our AGM at Battleborough Grange and elected a few new exectuive members, mainly as executive but also two new Vice Presidents. The new members have already made an impact and results are showing. The V.P.’s and myself have met to discuss responsibilities and organising future meeings and speakers was one of the main priorities.

We hosted our second town centre business breakfast on the 3rd of June which was a quiet success with local M.P. John Penrose (Shadow Secretary for Business and Enterprise) as main speaker. This event is growing and will hopefully continue to over the next few months. Next is planned for September due to the holiday season.

I was personally invited to attend the opening of The Sand Sculptures on Weston Beach. It always amazes me how much skill goes into creating what are really temporary works of art.

Our next meeting is scheduled for the 15th of July at The Royal Hotel, Westonsuper-Mare. Meeting starts at 7pm.

Recently, the Weston Chamber has seen links with some of the larger Hotels and Country Houses increase as the recession bites and businesses see the benfits of association with a recognised business organisation.

Battleborough Grange has become the latest in a line of local accomodation and restaurant specialists to work with Weston Chamber as hosts of our annual general meeting They join Cadbury House Hotel and Spa and The Royal Hotel as hosts for the chamber and it’s members. Cadbury House saw a combined meeting of Weston,Bridgwater,Burnham and Clevedon Chambers, with guest Chamber, GWE Businesslink in October of last year, with The Royal being the base for all executive and non-hosted meetings since March 09.

It is hoped that The Batch Coutry House will also soon be joining the list when they play hosts later in the year.

Date of AGM announced

May 23, 2009

The Annual General Meeting of the Chamber will take place on Monday 15th June at The Battleborough Grange Hotel,Brent Knoll, Somerset.