2021 East Midlands Review of the Year: July and August

Over Christmas we are looking back on a remarkable year for business across the region. One that started in the midst of latest lockdown restrictions but which seemed to be on the up with vaccination roll-outs. As businesses were getting back to some level of normality, they took a fresh knock from the combination of worker shortages, supply chain issues, inflation and various other consequences of Covid and Brexit. Then Omicron hit……. This was how things looked in July and August.

Frasers Group

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group revealed plans to take over several units in Derby city centre – including the former Debenhams store in the Derbion shopping centre.

The chain said it planned to open a Frasers department store in the three-story unit which became permanently vacant when Debenham’s pulled the plug in May.

The 127,000 sq ft space is the biggest in the shopping centre complex , and a Sports Direct would also operate within the store. Derbion’s existing Sports Direct outlet will close down when Frasers opens in 2022.

Frasers Group also confirmed it was taking on a former Topshop unit, bringing its luxury sportswear retailer Flannels to the 24,000 sq. ft space.

And it confirmed it will also take a further 50,000 sq ft space which housed the former BHS department store in St Peter’s Street.

Once all three stores are open, Frasers Group will operate in 20 per cent of the floor space available across the whole centre.

Inside a Flannels store

Double Boxed

A university graduate who helped launch a sneaker business from a garage said the company had hit revenues of £2.4 million after just one year.

Nottingham Trent University graduate Jack Tierney, 24, launched trainer and streetwear business Double Boxed LTD with his best friend Nat Biggs, 24, in July 2020.

He said it was now well on the way to becoming one of the UK’s leading providers of exclusive trainers and streetwear.

The business, registered in Burton on Trent, stocks ranges such as Air Jordan, Nike Air Force, Nike Dunk, Yeezy, Fear of God Essentials and in its first 12 months has handled more than 10,000 orders.

The pair have been friends since they were 15.

Nat Biggs and Jack Tierney of Double Boxed

Mattioli Woods

Wealth management specialist Mattioli Woods made another acquisition – this time buying Richings Financial Management Ltd, in Buckinghamshire.

It was the latest in a number of buy-outs by the listed, Leicester-based financial services company, which had included Maven Capital Partners, Ludlow Wealth Management and Pole Arnold.

Mattioli Woods said it had bought the business for £900,000 upfront and a potential further £900,000 in two years depending on performance.

Recent trading figures for Mattioli Woods showed it was now looking after around £4.1 billion of client assets, with more than £480 million added in the last year.

Founded in 1991, Richings is an established financial planning and wealth management business, with more than 270 private client families with around £70 million of assets under advice.

Ian Mattioli, chief executive, Mattioli Woods plc

Driver shortages

The Government finally hinted it could make it easier for EU lorry drivers to work in the UK again, in a bid to tackle the HGV driver crisis.

Parts of the UK freight network ground to a halt due to a combination of Covid-19 and Brexit causing mass shortages in shops, restaurants and other suppliers.

Senior figures in the transport sector urged the Government to offer fresh support to help the industry train up new drivers to fill the spaces and ease the deadlock.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) revealed a shortage of 60,000 drivers – partly due to older drivers retiring and around 30,000 HGV driving tests being lost last year because of the pandemic.

Many European drivers also returned to their home countries during the pandemic, with Brexit restrictions dampening enthusiasm for returning to the UK.

As a result, hauliers were forced to ramp up wages to attract talent , with concerns that that and stock shortages are forcing end prices up.

The boss of the Co-op said food shortages were at the worst level he had ever seen.

Lorry drivers en route to Dover stuck on the M20 in Kent


There were growing arguments that the eastern leg of HS2 could still terminate near East Midlands Airport despite spiralling costs and a Whitehall leak suggesting the whole eastern section would be axed.

Work was already underway on the first part of the high speed railway – from London to Birmingham – but there were fresh concerns over the section joining Birmingham to Toton in Notts , and on to Sheffield, then Leeds.

One Whitehall insider told the Daily Mirror: “They have run out of cash. There’s no way we’re going to see this built in our lifetimes.”

The Government was reviewing the eastern leg, while a National Infrastructure Commission report at the end of last year suggested finishing the line at East Midlands Parkway – a few miles from the airport on the Leicestershire/Nottinghamshire border.

One supporter of HS2, who works in the industry, told BusinessLIve cancelling the eastern route would be “catastrophic” as it could form the “backbone” of more localised infrastructure improvements.

But North West Leicestershire MP and long-time HS2 opponent Andrew Bridgen said there was no value in an eastern leg, with latest estimates suggesting the whole HS2 programme could end up costing more than £150 billion. The original budget was £32.7 billion.


Engineering giant Rolls-Royce came back from eye-watering £5.4 billion losses to post bottom-line profits of £393 million for the first six months of the year.

Despite the bounce-back – helped by major cost-cutting – the Derby-based engine maker warned that sales to the pandemic-hit global aviation industry would not recover until after 2022.

At the end of last year the business revealed details of plans to cut manufacturing capacity following the big drop in orders – affecting its workers in the East and West Midlands, Lancashire and Scotland.

The business said the sweeping job cuts – included in a figure of around 9,000 worldwide announced in May 2020, of which two-thirds will be in the UK – would protect its remaining workforce.

The group said it needed to make savings of £1.3 billion a year by the end of 2022, predominantly in its civil aerospace business.

In August it reported pre-tax profits of £133 million for the half year compared with losses of £3.2 billion a year earlier.

The Rolls-Royce Pearl 700 engine


Toyota said it would start using trains fuelled by vegetable oil to move its cars.

DB Cargo UK said it was planning to invest £2.6 million in its depot at Toton, Notts , to export cars built at the Toyota plant in Derbyshire and bring in cars built abroad on environmentally sustainable locomotives.

The investment would see a new vehicle storage compound and loading and unloading areas built on a disused section of the Toton site next to an existing paint shop and stores.

Subject to planning, new services would start in January, 2022, with hybrid Corollas manufactured at Toyota’s Burnaston plant being exported to France and the Czech Republic.

Toyota Aygo, Yaris and the new Yaris+ vehicles will be imported on the return leg.

DB Cargo UK, which is currently the country’s leading transporter of finished automotive, said up to three trains per week are planned to depart from the new facility at Toton, each carrying up to 230 finished cars.

The three millionth hybrid car sold in Europe by Toyota was a Derbyshire-built Corolla GR Sport
The three millionth hybrid car sold in Europe by Toyota was a Derbyshire-built Corolla GR Sport

Very Group

Online retailer The Very Group said it had moved all its clothes and footwear returns to its huge new warehouse near East Midlands Airport.

The business, which operates very.com and littlewoods.com , said it would be able to resell returned products within half an hour of their arrival at the 850,000 sq ft Skygate building at the East Midlands Gateway warehouse park.

The online retailer said it has processed more than 750,000 returned items at Skygate since a three month-long migration from Raven Mill in Chadderton, Greater Manchester got underway in April.

The warehouse was already being used to process most Very orders prior to the returns department moving over.

The site has capacity for 500 permanent staff, supported by an extra 200 to 300 agency staff during peak periods.

Very said the relocation would bring benefits to its 4.5 million customers, with refunds being provided faster than before.

The retailer was gearing up for another busy build-up to Black Friday and Christmas.

Skygate will employ 500 permanent staff
Skygate will employ 500 permanent staff

Games Workshop

Sales and profits at Games Workshop, the company behind the Warhammar battle games, surged during the pandemic – partly down to growing demand in the States.

Global fans of the fantasy miniatures were kept entertained by virtual events during lockdown , helping push sales up by £83 million in 12 months to £353 million.

Margins were up 6 per cent to 73 per cent helping propel pre-tax profits to £151 million – up a healthy £61 million on the previous year.

In annual results for the year to May 31, the Nottingham-headquartered manufacturer said its mission remained to engage and inspire customers, and to sell its products globally at a profit “forever”.

Kevin Rountree, Games Workshop chief executive, said its strategy remained focused on “long-term success, not short-term gains”.

Artwork from Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team

Live Tech Games

An online games company, which was set up in a small village on the Leicestershire/Nottinghamshire border, won a multi-million pound investment from ITV.

The commercial TV giant took a £2.5 million stake in Live Tech Games, which is registered in Rempstone, near Loughborough , but now based in Bishopsgate, London.

The start-up – which was incorporated in March last year – creates live mobile phone games where people can play against anyone in knock-out rounds with the chance of winning a prize.

Its simple games are designed to bring the public together in short five-to-ten-minute bursts.

Games include the classic rock, paper, scissors, which is open to anyone with a mobile at 8pm each Sunday, and offers the chance of winning £100.

Businesses can also use its games to bring staff or customers together through smaller tournaments – for instance, by drinkers in a bar or concert crowds before a headline act comes on.

ITV said it had taken a minority stake in the business as part of Studio 55 Ventures – an ITV initiative launched last year in partnership with growth strategists Founders Intelligence, to back new business ideas it says are “unique, solve identifiable consumer needs and which are aimed at materially enhancing ITV’s reach amongst 16-34 year olds”.

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