Page last updated at 15:46 GMT, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Is it all doom and gloom?

Tesco, Poundland, Eurostar pictures

In its latest look at the state of the UK economy, the British Chambers of Commerce said its survey contained "no positive features". But surely it can't all be bad news?

Amid the torrent of bad results from businesses over the past few weeks, there have also been a few success stories.

Here are a few of them:


Along with the all-too regular news of firms cutting jobs, a number of major supermarkets have announced they intend to create jobs.

The UK's biggest retailer Tesco said that despite the "challenging" outlook, it would continue to open new stores in the UK in 2009, creating up to 10,000 jobs.

Just a few days after the final Woolworths stores closed for good, frozen food retailer Iceland announced it would buy 51 of them, creating 2,500 new jobs.

An estimated 30,000 workers lost their jobs when Woolies collapsed. Iceland said it hoped its move would help the local communities in these 51 towns.

Buoyed by its "best ever Christmas", Sainsbury's plans to create 5,000 new jobs this year. About 3,000 people will work in the 50 convenience stores and handful of new supermarkets it intends to open in 2009. In addition, 2,000 of its Christmas staff have been given permanent jobs.


With more shoppers watching the pennies, it will probably come as no surprise that retailers offering goods at the cheaper end of the scale are doing well.

The everything-for-100-pennies retailer, Poundland, said it was planning "significant" growth in 2009, including 30 new stores and 1,000 new jobs. The fast-growing chain also said its total sales for the five weeks to 4 January were 24.3% higher than 12 months previously.

Discount fashion retailer Peacocks said sales at its existing stores in the two week to 3 January were 22% higher than a year ago. It announced plans to open up to 50 new stores over the next two years creating up to 750 jobs.

Cheap eats

Consumers who want to reduce spending on eating out while avoiding doing the cooking, have been credited with helping Domino's Pizza.

The pizza delivery chain said total sales in 2008 were 18.4% higher than in 2007.

Pennywise shoppers have also boosted Newcastle-based bakery firm Greggs, which saw its sales rise 5.3% in the four weeks to 3 January, (even excluding newly opened stores).

Greggs put its success down to its low prices; the average customer spends 2 a visit, it said.


The Eurostar boss said his company had provided "some good news amongst all the doom and gloom".

The weakness of the pound against the euro and its new base at the St Pancras International station attracted 10.3% more travellers to Eurostar's services last year. Sales revenue was also 10.9% higher.

Signs of the resilience of the package holiday emerged late last year when two of the biggest tour operators announced big rises in profits.

Thomas Cook said its profits in 2008 had risen by almost a third.

Consumers "still intent" on taking a summer break meant it had also sold a similar percentage of its 2009 summer holidays compared with a year earlier, the firm said. There were, however, fewer packages on offer it pointed out.

Europe's biggest travel firm, TUI Travel, saw even stronger growth. The First Choice owner said its full-year pre-tax profit rose 43%to 319.7m.

"Our customers continue to regard their main holiday as an essential, not a luxury, which they are reluctant to forgo," TUI Travel's chief executive Peter Long said.

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