April 30 coronavirus update for businesses

Lancashire Business View's daily coronavirus updates are brought to you with the support of Boost, Lancashire's growth hub, and its #AskForHelp service. You're not alone in this.

Vernacare steps up to coronavirus challenge

Buckshaw Village-based Vernacare has stepped up production of its infection control products, which are exported to more than 50 countries. The company has increased shift patterns, going to 7 days a week to meet the demand. 

Vernacare's wipes kill the Covid-19 virus within 15 seconds are are used extensively in the UK, in 95 per cent of NHS hospitals, and across the world. The World Health Organisation recommend all reusables are replaced with single-use alternatives, and Vernacare is able to provide hospitals with disposable products for patient testing, toileting and bathing, ensuring that the risk of transmission from patient to patient/healthcare worker is minimised.

Chamber builds three sites for Star Academies

The East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce has quickly built three websites for Blackburn-based Star Acadamies as it works to fight the coronavirus. Star Academies is a mixed Multi-Academy Trust that runs a diverse network of primary and secondary schools in Lancashire and Yorkshire. 

Together, they have created starline.org.uk a national home learning helpline for parents, supported by the Department for Education, starcoronavirusappeal.org a national resource providing donations to those who need it most, and shine-charity.org providing support from healthcare providers across the country.

Birchall supports air ambulance

Burnley-based Birchall Foodservice has delivered care packages to the North West Air Ambulance, whose crew members are now required to operate in level 3 PPE on every shift.

The packages were made up of treats, including chocolates, cakes, cereal bars, sweets and drinks. They were distributed to the crew as a thank you for their effort and commitment to saving lives across the north west, particularly during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

The company has also opened up its doors to the public with Call & Collect and Home Delivery services to ensure people are able to access the supplies they need at this difficult time.

Louise Birchall, sales director at Birchall Foodservice, said: “The Air Ambulance crew performs an extremely difficult job, which has been made more difficult by the understandable introduction of level 3 PPE for all crew members. We just wanted to do something to show our appreciation for everything they’re doing, and we encourage other businesses to donate as well."

Made Smarter manufacturers tackle COVID-19

Business taking part in the Made Smarter programme are using their new-found knowledge to help tackle coronavirus.

Lancashire SMEs are switching production to make medical scrubs, ventilator parts and PPE to help the front-line fight against the disease. Others have harnessed new capabilities to ramp up production to meet increasing demand and continue operating while staff self-isolate to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Alain Dilworth, Made Smarter programme manager, said: “The Covid-19 outbreak has widespread repercussions for the economy, which will have most likely led to uncertainty in terms of the way businesses operate. It has been impressive how manufacturers have reacted and adapted to the different circumstances they find their businesses facing.

"Made Smarter has been able to continue offering help and advice over Skype and telephone. Our advice is fully funded, meaning you can understand the digital tools available to help boost processes and grow your enterprise without the financial barrier."

Lancaster University joins in 'better care' project.

Lancaster University is one of 24 institutions which is collaborating on a project to help improve health and care standards in the north. The Better Care North Partnership has received £1.2m investment from Health Data Research (HDR) UK and £2.2m from partner institutions.

The Better Care North Partnership (HDR UK North) initiative aims to improve the care and services for patients by supporting the better use of data and analytical tools and includes projects that aim to benefit some of the most vulnerable patient groups who are at greatest risk of COVID-19.

One of the major challenges for the partnership is addressing the issue of frailty, an area of unmet clinical and social care need that affects 10% of people aged over 65, rising to 25-50 per cent of people aged over 85 years. This accounts for £15bn of expenditure in the UK and is likely to have a growing impact due to the ageing UK population.

EKM reports 100% growth in online sales

EKM, the UK’s largest ecommerce platform, has seen its independent retailer's orders increase by 100 per cent compared to the same period last year.

The figures began climbing shortly after prime minister Boris Johnson announced 'stay at home' guidelines on March 23. Retailers using EKM then saw sales rise from 9,000 transactions a day to 18,000 a day one month later.

Founder Antony Chesworth said: "There is a clear rush of people trying to set up online shop facilities for their businesses, I don’t think there is a business owner on the planet now that doesn’t realise they must be selling online.

"It’s been an amazing time for smaller independent businesses who have been able to outmanoeuvre the large retailers and adapt their businesses. In some cases we have seen individual online shops revenue jump over 2,500 per cent in a matter of weeks."

Popular products over the past few months include hobbies, toys and games, garden and patio items, indoor fitness, home office equipment and survival items.

EKM has also introduced Obodo, a new free product centred around helping small businesses reach their local customers with a free online shop.