News

Travelodge’s loss is Goodnight’s gain.

Following a rather heavy-handed and slightly misguided attempt to force landlords to accept reduced rents by withholding payments, the offended parties have migrated en masse to nascent budget hotel brand Goodnight.
 
As many as 50 landlords are expected to sign with new brand Goodnight Hotels, which has been launched in partnership with Village Hotels.
 
As part of its strong-arm tactics, Travelodge tried to force landlords to accept lower rents through a controversial company voluntary arrangement (CVA).
 
The new voluntary arrangement included a break clause which landlords are now taking advantage of.
 
Village Hotels will manage the Goodnight Hotels brand and expects to launch the brand officially with at least 80 properties in January 2021.
 
Meanwhile, more disgruntled landlords, through the Travelodge Owners Action Group, are reportedly in talks with French hospitality giant Accor to leave Travelodge and join the Ibis chain.

Bicycle subscription platform Buzzbike, has raised £1.7m as Londoners seek alternatives to trains, the Tube and busses to mitigate potential COVID-19 infection risk.

This latest fundraising round brings Buzzbike’s total funding to £3m. Buzzbike has raised funds from a variety of sources, including the UK government’s The Future Fund, sports tech accelerator leAD, Cooper (the company behind the iconic Mini Cooper) and Paddy Byng an early investor in Rapha and Chairman of Brompton.
 
Buzzbike was launched in 2016, to be the easiest option for those who want to start cycling in London. For £29.99 per month (or from £17 per month on the Buzzbike to Work scheme), Buzzbikers receive their own premium bike, complete with protection against theft, on-demand maintenance and huge discounts on essential kit such as a helmet.
 
Members are also incentivised to cycle via the Buzzbike app through data tracking (money saved vs. public transport, calories, carbon offset, miles and hours in the saddle) and prizes, such as free coffee, for going on their first Monday to Friday commute. There are no long-term contracts or commitments and members can cancel at any time.
 
The company recently recorded a 440% surge in sales from February to May, peaking after the UK government announced a £2bn package for cycling to relieve pressures on public transport in early May.
 
Speaking about the latest funding round, Tom Hares, CEO & co-founder of Buzzbike said, “COVID is driving seismic shifts in the way people move around cities. As Londoners look forward to a new way of living and working, there’s an opportunity to change our daily lives to be healthier and more sustainable.
 
“Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen a record-breaking level of interest in our service. Our latest investment round will give us the means to invest into technology, product development, key hires and capability to scale to the demand we’re witnessing”.
 
Horst Bente, co-founder of leAD Sports Accelerator and Buzzbike investor, commented: “At leAD, we support outstanding startups like Buzzbike in the honor of my grandfather, Adi Dassler. We are proud to have invested in this team and we are excited to see Buzzbike’s development.
 
“In these challenging times, they have the opportunity and the right product to encourage city commuters to adopt a new lifestyle – healthier and more active. And we are here to help them achieve this ambitious goal”.

Zoopla is to hire a further 50 people within its product and tech departments despite recently announcing that that it was to embark on a redundancy consultation process for staff working within its Vebra, Alto and Jupix teams.
 
Earlier this month it blamed the unprecedented difficulties faced by the property market for the lost jobs, saying COVID had made it reflect on the ‘way it takes the business forward’.
 
But the portal has now revealed that it is to embark on a ‘hiring spree’, the second such wave over the past 12 months.
 
“The recent redundancy proposals reflect our aim to offer our software customers a more integrated, improved and digital-first experience, consistent with industry best practice.,” a spokesperson said.
 
“If implemented, they would impact only our customer support teams in Pocklington, Redruth and Brackley.
 
“The consultation is on-going, and we continue to liaise with potentially impacted colleagues and provide them with our full support during this difficult time.
 
“These new jobs are for our Product & Tech teams in London which focus on developing software and innovative, industry-leading technology, so are in no way linked to the proposals.”
 
The company is looking for specialists in Front End, Back End and Quality as well as Design, amongst other fields.
 
Zoopla says the hires must be expected to be curious and willing to learn how to use new systems and techniques while having a real impact on reinventing an industry.
 
They will be based at Zoopla’s London office, a short walk from Tower Bridge, and along with a competitive salary will enjoy a raft of benefits including an enhanced ride to work scheme.
The UK Government’s delayed £25 million bike repair scheme has launched and Halfords is the first out of the gate with a marketing drive.
 
Halfords said customers in England will be able to use £50 vouchers towards the cost of fixing bikes.
 
Up to half a million of the vouchers to help the public “drag bikes out of retirement” were initially due to be issued from June as part of efforts to promote more two-wheeled journeys as lockdown eases.
 
During a Downing Street coronavirus briefing on May 23, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the initiative would be “available from next month” and help relieve pressure on public transport, improve public health and reduce the “hidden killer” of air pollution.
 
However, the deadline was missed, with the Department for Transport saying earlier this month the scheme would only begin when maintenance shops could handle the expected spike in demand.
 
The Fix Your Bike initiative forms part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans for a “new golden age for cycling” with more bike lanes and safer junctions.
 
Halfords said it has thousands of slots available each day for customers to bring their bike into stores for a free 32-point health check to assess potential faults which could be rectified under the scheme.
 
A poll of 2000 adults commissioned by the firm indicated that only 48 per cent of people know how to repair a puncture, 43% could tighten lights and fix a loose chain, and 37 per cent could adjust their own brakes.
 
“When it comes to bike repairs, we’ve noticed a change in customer mindset, with more cyclists turning to us to help with the smallest of fixes as they dust off their old bikes and seek to avoid public transport,” Halfords chief executive Graham Stapleton said.
 
“It’s a trend that’s being driven by busy lives and lack of time for consumers who don’t want to carry out awkward maintenance jobs.
 
“As part of the scheme, our thousands of highly skilled bike mechanics will offer each cyclist a free 32-point bike check and diagnosis, which will help them decide how best to spend their voucher.
 
“We think the government’s Fix Your Bike voucher scheme will not only help individuals become more confident about keeping their bikes maintained, but will help speed up the cycling revolution.”
 
Department for Transport figures show there has been a surge in cycling following the coronavirus outbreak.
 
Compared with the equivalent day in the first week of March, cycling usage nearly doubled over the weekend of July 18/19.
Land Registry says needs of Covid led it to take historic decision to bring forward electronic signatures for a wide range of different property transactions.
 
The Land Registry has given the green light to faster property sales after making the historic announcement that it is to accept electronic signatures across a wide range of property transactions.
 
This includes for property sales, leases, mortgages and other property dealings.
 
Talked about for years, the tech has been brought forward by the needs of Covid and social distancing, the organisation says.
 
Electronic signatures will have to be ‘witnessed’ by someone present at the time it takes place, and the process requires a conveyancer to upload the deed or lease to an online platform which sends a link to the signatories.
 
Once they have completed the necessary authentication checks, they then ‘sign’ the document electronically in the physical presence of the witness who then also signs.
 
The conveyancer is then notified that the signing process has been concluded and, once they have completed on the deed, submits the completed document to HM Land Registry with their application for registration.
 
“What we have done today is remove the last strict requirement to print and sign a paper document in a home buying or other property transaction,” says Simon Hayes, Chief Land Registrar.
 
“This should help right now while lots of us are working at home, but it is also a keystone of a truly digital, secure and more efficient conveyancing process that we believe is well within reach.”
 
Adam Forshaw (left), MD at leading tech-driven conveyancers, O’Neill Patient, says: “his is a significant step forward for homebuyers, as it means that in principle the entire homebuying journey can now be conducted electronically.
 
“Even before the advent of Covid-19 and social distancing, there was significant demand for a more tech-driven process. But one of the biggest problems facing the property sector in lockdown was the ongoing requirement for ‘wet-ink’ signatures.”
Travis Perkins remains unsure whether it is building its own recovery on sand or firmer foundations, but it is seeing some signs of progress.
 
The Northampton-based builders’ merchant closed 165 branches in June, with the loss of 2,500 jobs.
 
But it says that since then “the business has continued to recover well”.
 
The group’s revenue was down 20% in the first half of 2020, to £2.78bn. It had £455m cash and total headroom of £855m as at June 30.
 
Travis Perkins’ chief executive Nick Roberts said: “We remain cautious as to the near-term headwinds facing our business and the wider economy, nevertheless the decisive actions we have taken to manage our cost base mean that we are well placed to continue to service our customers, support our colleagues and generate value for our shareholders.”
 
The group’s share price is slowly recovering from its pre-lockdown fall, and has so far clawed back just over half of the losses in late February and early March.
Budweiser Budvar is launching a new design across all its packaging.
 
The activity is part of a brand refresh that puts the focus on the Czech lager’s authenticity and heritage and proclaims its status as the flagship of “the Republic of Beer”.
 
The new identity, appearing on cans and bottles in the UK from this month, takes its stylistic cues from the brewery’s archive, dating back to when it was founded in 1895. It also features a classic colour palette inspired by the Czech flag.
 
On pack, the classic Budweiser Budvar branding is now framed above by an historic roundel for Ceské Budejovice (or ‘Budweis’ in German), the South Bohemian city that traces its brewing origins back over 800 years, and where all Budweiser Budvar is brewed today.
 
Budvar’s locally sourced, premium ingredients is also part of the focus of the redesign.
 
On bottles, the ingredients are highlighted on a new paper neck label, which replaces the previous aluminium foil wrap, making the bottles easier to recycle.
 
Supporting the new design is the positioning ‘Greetings from the Republic of Beer’, which will appear on everything from new POS to a programme of live sampling and experiential activity planned for the second half of 2020.
 
Simon George, managing director of Budweiser Budvar UK, said: “Consumers are increasingly focused on authenticity in the food and drink they consume, and this first major brand refresh in a decade tells our unique story in a powerful new way to the growing number of UK consumers enjoying authentic beer.
 
“We are the only Czech state-owned brewer, a beer from a nation not a corporation. Both the rebrand and the new Republic of Beer positioning celebrate the Czech Republic as a unique and thriving beer lover’s paradise and show how the art of brewing remains the proud heart of the Czech nation’s history and culture today.”
Burrito chain Chilango has given notice of its intention to appoint administrators, putting the money of small investors in its “burrito bonds” scheme at risk.
 
The chain, which has 12 sites, is working with restructuring agents RSM to pursue a sale. A source has said that a pre-pack sale is expected within two to five weeks.
 
Over 1,000 investors bought mini-bonds worth £5.8 million in two fundraising efforts by the restaurant chain. The scheme promised investors returns of 8 per cent a year, but the company warned investors in December that it was in need of rescue restructuring and entered a CVA.
 
The company said that the vast majority of bondholders had opted not to preserve their principal investment or rate of return in a new preference share class at the time of the CVA. Chilango then paused this conversion.
 
If the chain does enter administration, bondholders may be reliant on recouping some of their money from the sale of Chilango’s assets, which the company warned last year could lead to a 99 per cent loss on their investment.
 
Chilango said that following its restructuring it had returned to positive trading and was on track to deliver budgeted group EBITDA of more than £800,000. However, the company says that, like many other restaurant chains, it had then been hit hard by the COVID-19 lockdown.
 
In a letter to shareholders, the company said: “No business could have foreseen the impact the coronavirus crisis would have on our industry, with few sectors being hit harder by the pandemic than hospitality.”
 
“During this period we have done our very best to mitigate the pandemic’s impact, operating as much as is safely possible while implementing the various government support measures available. Unfortunately, these efforts have not been sufficient to secure the future of our business.”
Automotive marketplace Auto Trader has implemented Looker, part of Google Cloud, as part of its wider digital transformation initiative.
 
Looker’s analytics platform provides Auto Trader with access to vital insights to deliver data-driven improvements across its business for the benefit of its employees and customers.
 
“A fundamental shift in the process of buying and selling cars driven by technology, means the volume and the variety of data that we’re collecting is ever-increasing.” said Edward Kent, principal developer, data engineering at Auto Trader. “With Looker, we can better manage this large volume of data and ensure that our employees and customers have access to the trusted metrics they need to make decisions and ultimately, deliver a superior buying experience for our end users.”
 
Since its transition from a print magazine to a fully digitised business, Auto Trader has become one of the UK’s most visited websites.
 
Over 75% of all time spent on UK classified automotive sites is spent on Auto Trader. The company’s successful transformation reflects a general trend in the automotive sector with buyers typically doing the majority of their research online rather than in-person. For automotive advertisers, this means they need access to real-time data on how their ads are performing, while car buyers need to have relevant ads served to them for cars that fit their requirements.
 
Auto Trader’s data team laid the groundwork for the company’s digital transformation by building out a modern, multi-cloud data architecture. At the core of Auto Trader’s architecture is Google BigQuery – its modern data warehouse for performance and scalability. By centralising its data in the cloud and deploying Looker on top, the business can now empower internal users to access and use data to make better decisions and provide external retailers with insights while also serving intelligent recommendations to its customers.
 
Shortly after Looker was fully implemented, Auto Trader’s data team built performance dashboards for the sales team to help the business to have more data-led conversations with its retail customers. These valuable tools enable the sales team to analyse and visualise key performance indicators for ads, including search appearances, views, quality, and leads, while also empowering them to have better conversations and provide more value to its retail customers.
 
John O’Keeffe, Director of Looker EMEA Sales at Google Cloud, added: “With retailers pivoting to digital channels, Auto Trader has accelerated its digital transformation, in order to provide a best-in-class customer experience online. We’re proud to help it harness the power of data, through its multi-cloud environment, as it continues to redefine the car buying and selling process.”
The government is set to launch a reported £10m campaign called "Better health" around its initiative to tackle obesity in England after the coronavirus pandemic.
 
The work, created by M&C Saatchi, will be led by Public Health England and encourages people to lose weight if they need to, eat better and get active. It will run for the next nine months.
 
The campaign will run across TV, print, radio, out-of-home and digital channels, with media planning handled by Wavemaker and buying by OmniGov. A 60-second ad will launch this week with roadblocks across TV channels today and tomorrow.
 
The government said it will be supported by a range of "evidence-based" tools and apps that will give advice on "how to reduce the waistline".
 
This includes the NHS Weight Loss Plan app, which is "at the heart of the programme", as well as discounts for WW (previously known as Weight Watchers), Slimming World, Get Slim and Man vs Fat.
 
The activity will target people from black, Asian and minority-ethnic backgrounds, because they have suffered higher death rates during the pandemic.
 
The work will aim to be an "energising campaign showing very diverse people". (source: The Guardian)
 
The proposed obesity strategy, which was revealed by prime minister Boris Johnson and will ban TV ads for food and drink that is high in fat, sugar or salt before 9pm, as well as introducing an advertising ban online for "unhealthy foods". There are also plans to cut down on in-store promotions.
 
The measures have been strongly criticised by brands and agencies, with ISBA director-general Phil Smith calling it "a slap in the face for food and drink manufacturers, the advertising sector and small business".
 
Earlier this year, Campaign reported that Public Health England will be running its Change4Life campaign later in the year – the first time in 11 years that it has not run in January.

PREVIEW
If this is news to you, we can help
SEARCH THE UK'S MOST COMPREHENSIVE DATABASE
OF COMPANY AND MARKETING INDUSTRY INFORMATION
CLICK TO CONTINUE
THIS IS THE NEWS, COMPANY DATA, PEOPLE MOVES, TENDERS AND INSIGHTS FROM THE INDUSTRY 7 DAYS AGO