Over the past few weeks many people have told me of their dismay about the demise of AC Skeltons of Hull, and its 42 shops. I share that dismay.
Skeltons was one of the best known bakery companies for over 70 years with some excellent employees. But six years ago things began to get much tougher: supermarket competition, rising energy and flour prices, increased business rates, new food regulations, employment legislation and so on. And if you cease to have money to invest you cease to grow. It’s why profit is so essential.
I can never understand the anti-capitalists of this world. Trade is what makes the world go round. They should campaign against abuse, fraud and unjust war. But profits keep us all in jobs.
I’m glad that Cooplands of Scarborough, has just bought Skeltons’ Hull bakery and 34 of its retail shops (pg 4). The shops will have good new owners and 500 jobs should be saved. When I last visited Cooplands two years ago I enjoyed meeting Paul Coopland and some of the staff including Chris Wainright, Rob Pashly and John Ruddock.
They all had one thing in common: they had been winners or finalists in the Baking Industry Awards. I’m not surprised. Cooplands’ bakery was probably the cleanest I have ever visited and when I called in on a retail shop unannounced, the choice was good and service efficient. I paid a fair price for quality products.
Cooplands specialises in retail, with minimal wholesale. Bakery manager Chris Wainwright explained how he had needed to be extremely proactive in attracting staff. At a careers trade fair he had seen parents physically drag children past the bakery stand to the catering corner - even a budding young patissier.
So Cooplands developed a new strategy and offered work experience placements for up to three children at a time, as well as offering professional development for food technology teachers. It ran open days for schools including a tour of the bakery and presentations on career opportunities. Over lunch staff were encouraged to network and ’sell’ the baking industry to every school in their catchment area.
All this took place while the shops were being modernised and business was growing. Skeltons should be in good hands.