What happened in world of Yorkshire business during 2023: October to December

The final quarter of the year was ushered in by some sad farewells to two of the country’s best-known brands. In early October, Wilko shut the doors of its last high street shops for the final time following after the 93-year-old discount retailer falling into administration in August.

Dozens of Yorkshire shops were among those to close, with around 12,000 workers losing their jobs nationally.

Deals were agreed to sell up to 71 stores to Poundland and to sell up to 51 shops to fellow rival discounter B&M. Poundland said it had offered jobs to more than 200 former Wilko workers.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Wilko brand has not disappeared from the high street completely despite the collapse, after The Range struck a deal to buy its brand, website and intellectual property for £5 million. It opened new Wilko stores in Plymouth, Exeter and Luton in early December.

Wilko stores across the country closed down in autumn, with thousands of jobs lost. Picture: Yui Mok/PA WireWilko stores across the country closed down in autumn, with thousands of jobs lost. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Wilko stores across the country closed down in autumn, with thousands of jobs lost. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

In late October, it was the turn of Bradford-based Safestyle UK to enter administration.

The company, which had been the country’s leading installer of windows and doors, was wound down with around 700 people losing their jobs. It has subsequently come to light it owed around £30m at the time of its collapse.

There was more positive news in the same month for Leeds Bradford Airport, which announced the imminent start of a £100m terminal expansion and refurbishment programme designed to shed its “ugly duckling” image.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Work will involve a three-storey extension to the terminal and “significant refurbishment” of the existing building in the first major improvement since it opened in 1968.

Work is continuing on Anglo American's Woodsmith Project in North YorkshireWork is continuing on Anglo American's Woodsmith Project in North Yorkshire
Work is continuing on Anglo American's Woodsmith Project in North Yorkshire

Meanwhile, debt collection specialist Lowell moved its 1,600 staff into a new purpose-built £52m office building at Thorpe Park Leeds.

UK CEO John Pears said despite the impact of the pandemic on office working the company felt it was important to continue with their plans – and are already seeing the investment bearing fruit.

"The vision we had was a place where people could innovate but also collaborate as well,” he said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"As we have gone through Covid with hybrid working and people getting more comfortable in a blend between their work environment and home environment, it is really important to have a welcoming work environment."

John Pears in Lowell's new Leeds office.John Pears in Lowell's new Leeds office.
John Pears in Lowell's new Leeds office.

In November, Northern independent supermarket chain Booths made global headlines after announcing it intends to axe almost all its self-service checkouts as part of a strategy to promote good customer service.

​Booths, which is a family owned and operated independent supermarket with stores across Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Cheshire and Greater Manchester, said the move was in response to feedback from shoppers.

A spokesman for Booths said: “We believe colleagues serving customers delivers a better customer experience and therefore we have taken the decision to remove self-checkouts in the majority of our stores.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We have based this not only on what we feel is the right thing to do but also having received feedback from our customers."

In the same month, it was reported that grocery price inflation had fallen below 10 per cent for the first time since July 2022. But experts noted that consumers would still be “feeling the pinch” despite the welcome moment.

Yorkshire food-production giant Cranswick separately said that post-Brexit recruitment pressures on the business have eased after being allowed to hire almost 500 Filipino butchers.

In late 2021, the company told MPs that “each of the Cranswick sites have been affected by the widely reported skilled butcher shortage as a result of Brexit and the lack of qualified British butchers”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It called for improvements to the system around skilled worker visas and has subsequently been able to recruit hundreds of new staff from the Philippines.

Brexit-related disruption was removed as a “material risk” in the company’s latest accounts this quarter.

In December, mining giant Anglo American said it was prioritising investment in its multi-billion new fertiliser mine in North Yorkshire as it announced cuts to production elsewhere in the globe.

Anglo American will reduce production at its Kumba iron ore operations in South Africa and will go down to one operational plant at its Los Bronces copper mine in Chile.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Its massive North Yorkshire scheme known as the Woodsmith Project to mine for crop nutrient-containing mineral polyhalite is unaffected by the cuts plan.

Duncan Wanblad, Chief Executive of Anglo American, cited crop nutrients as an area of investment which will to help secure long-term growth for the business.

The Woodsmith Project involves the creation of a new mining site near Sneaton to the south of Whitby and a 23 mile tunnel that will transport polyhalite to new processing and shipping facilities on Teesside.

The product will be sold as a fertiliser suitable for organic use that can boost crop yields and aid more sustainable farming. The site is expected to be operational by 2027.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.