Bolton-based Greenhalgh’s, a long-established family craft business, has successfully kept to the principles it was founded upon, while embracing the needs of the 21st century consumer. Its ability to change with the times, as well as provide high-quality products and service were key reasons why it won The Craft Business Award, sponsored by Rank Hovis, at the Baking Industry Awards last year.”The inspiration and driving force behind Greenhalgh’s, which built it into the business is it today, was its founder Allan Smart, who sadly died in 2003,” says Sandra Ogden, head of retail operations. “He saw what was needed to produce the very best and he made it happen.”The company is now run by his wife Kathleen Smart and children David Smart, production director, and Anne Busby, HR director, together with key senior executives. Ogden says the bakery has a large number of long-serving staff. She herself has been working for Greenhalgh’s for more than 20 years and is responsible for its estate of shops and staff. Ogden says the staff are very proud and passionate about the bakery’s reputation and welcomed the chance for the bakery to be benchmarked against its competitors in the Awards. “We showcased our products and how passionate we were, and I think that’s what the judges recognised. We also highlighted our ability to adapt to changing market conditions, as well as the continued family involvement in the firm.”She explains that the business is also very self-sufficient. “We have our own art studio, with a full-time graphic designer and a printer who produce materials for our window displays, point-of-sale materials and labels. We also have our own garage, which services all our vehicles.”Ogden says the win has bought a range of benefits, from improving customer perceptions, public relations, recruitment and staff morale. “The competition was stiff, so we were very proud to have won it.”As part of Ogden’s role she promotes team spirit and motivation and has a tremendous amount of passion for the business and its products. Ogden adds: “Greenhalgh’s is a very solid company, but we must never be complacent. Training is paramount to everything we do.”Staff have on-the-job training, and the company has an on-site training centre at its head office in Lostock. It also operates an apprenticeship scheme. Retail staff are encouraged to up-sell, for example by offering a roll with soup, which Ogden says is very successful for them. She explains that she recently had a call from a mystery shopper who felt compelled to ring and tell them how good the service and products had been in the shop. The business also offers regular incentives to staff, and rewards for hitting sales targets. These include everything from a day at the races, to a week’s paid holiday.Future developmentFuture growth will come from the opening of new shops as well as the growth of its wholesale business, she says. “It is difficult when you’re faced with double-digit price increases, and we try to make economies where possible, but we would never threaten the company’s image, by using inferior ingredients,” emphasises Ogden. “We put our prices up in January this year, and we will review them again in October, which is what we normally do, so we’re not doing anything differently.”Ogden acknowledges that there is competition in the marketplace, but says, “We never let it bother us. We’ve got wonderful products, and we’re particular about the calibre of staff we have, as you have to have the best service as well. As long as you have those things, the customers will keep coming back.” The set-up The business currently has 59 shops, and a significant wholesale business around a 55/45 retail/wholesale split supplying virtually all the major supermarkets, including Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Asda, The Co-op and Spar, and the foodservice sector through 3663, Brakes, Bako NW, BHS and Roadchef. It has a £25m turnover and approximately 975 employees 400 in the bakery and 575 on the retail side Popular products The bakery has many shops in the Bolton and Wigan area “the heartland of pies and pasties” and as far north as Cumbria. Its potato and meat pie is its top seller, with potato cakes, egg custards and scones among the most popular items. Ogden says healthy eating trends have not hindered the business at all, although it has been working to reduce salt in response to current market trends, and offers a range of multiseed and low-GI breads, for example. However, she says, you’ll never change the mentality of the workmen who want a pie for their lunch. Although traditional products remain very popular with its customers, Greenhalgh’s product development work is ongoing, and is key to the continuing success of the business, explains Ogden. “We’ve got some new filled paninis and low-GI sandwich rolls coming in, as well as some savoury muffins, salads and new sandwiches for summers.” On winning the award “Winning the award is not just a nicety, it is a prestigious accolade, which gives the firm a higher profile in the industry, and with our customer base. Our business philosophy is to do better today than yesterday. To market ourselves and our skills, creating a quality product and the correct atmosphere for it to be retailed in, is the ethos of our business. We have to do things better than the supermarkets; the customers know the difference, and there will always be a discerning market.” David Smart, production director, Greenhalgh’s Social media Greenhalgh’s has moved with the times and has embraced social media as a way to improve its profile, and increase its presence online. It has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a blog, and Ogden says the firm is currently developing its website to enable web ordering. Its website is already award-winning, she adds, after being voted ninth out of 500 retail websites, for compliance with regulations, functionality and speed. The bakery also raises it profile in the local community by doing presentations in schools and for local interest groups such as the WI and Age Concern. It also supports local charities and worthy causes.Comment from the sponsor “We chose Greenhalgh’s after much consideration as the other two finalists were also so “crafty”. We were impressed with the fact that craft skills are at the heart of what Greenhalgh’s do despite their great scale. Often, when businesses scale up, there is a compromise on quality in order to make the business efficient. Not so in this Bolton legend! Also they have an unerring need to innovate and this is also not typical of a large business and is great to see. So for managing scale, pace and quality there was no-one better than last year’s winner.”Sara Reid, marketing manager, Rank Hovis
She was enticed into the haulage industry by her father, Jeffrey, who was a HGV driver. Karen works on vital routes including the M5, M50, A49 and the M42. And she says some motorists still look twice when overtaking her on the motorway. Karen Smith-Storer and her husband Neil work for Highways England as gritter drivers in Worcestershire.The pair – together for 12 years and married for three – have been working around the clock this winter to keep the Midlands’ major A-road and motorway network running freely.Karen – who lives in Worcestershire with Neil – has worked in her role for the past 11 years. The former HGV driver and Class 1 licence holder says there’s a healthy rivalry between her and her husband. In snow and ice: drivers should stick to the main roads where they can and only travel if necessary. Drivers are also encouraged to make sure they have a winter kit in their vehicle, including an ice scraper and de-icer, warm clothes and blankets, and sunglasses to cope with the low winter sun. In high winds: drivers should slow down and avoid using exposed sections of road if possible. Lorries, caravans and motorbikes are at particular risk. In heavy rain: drivers should keep well back from the vehicle in front, gradually ease off the accelerator if the steering becomes unresponsive, and slow down if the rain and spray from vehicles makes it difficult to see and be seen. In fog: drivers should switch on their fog lights and not use lights on full beam as the fog will reflect the light back. If drivers really cannot see, they should consider stopping until it is safe to continue. It’s quite funny and it always makes me smile because I have seen several male drivers look at me and they are clearly surprised to see this petite woman driving such a large piece of equipment. I really love my job and I really enjoy the solitude of driving the truck and being in my own office, of sorts. That said, the camaraderie of the team in and around the depot which we work out of makes the role what it is. But it isn’t always plain sailing working as a gritter driver. Despite weighing in at some 26 tonnes, last year 36 Highways England gritters were driven into by motorists.The pair – who operate from the Strensham depot next to the M5 – have thrown their support behind calls from Highways England for motorists to leave plenty of distance between themselves and the gritter in front of them.Each spreading machine is limited to 40mph and must travel in the middle lane to ensure the salt is spread evenly and safely across the whole of the carriageway.Neil added: During severe winter weather drivers are urged to follow this advice: I often see cars trying to undertake me and driving in the hard shoulder where there could be a stranded vehicle in snow or a breakdown. The advice would always be to overtake on the outside lane and leave plenty of distance between themselves and those driving the machine. The back of a gritter is the most vulnerable area as it’s where the salt spreading equipment is located. If it’s struck it can mean the gritter has to be taken off the road to be repaired, which is costly and could affect critical services in extreme weather conditions.Highways England’s national winter and severe weather team leader Paul Furlong added: We do have a laugh about it when we are together at home, albeit my husband knows I am the better driver out of the two of us. We’re lucky in the sense that working and living together hasn’t impacted on our relationship. There have even been times when we have crewed up together and it’s quite nice to work with Neil as we have that familiarity and understanding of the other person’s traits. I think it really helps with pressurised situations at work because we have that support and understanding for one another. We do have some banter between us but it’s nice because we can learn from each other and that’s how we look at it. I also think that’s one of the aspects that I enjoy the most around the job because our company is very good at listening to what we tell them, and they will always do what they can to train us and help us to develop new skills. Although the vast majority of people support our gritter drivers by leaving a sensible distance and only passing when it’s safe to do so, we do have occasions when people misjudge the situation and end up colliding with one of our vehicles. We have also noticed a growing problem with driver using the hard shoulder to undertake gritters, risking a collision with stationary vehicles on the hard shoulder and causing a hazard to gritter drivers who need to exit at motorway junctions. It’s really important that we keep traffic moving and our gritters are out on the network enabling us to do that. Neil says he loves working alongside Karen. General enquiriesMembers of the public should contact the Highways England customer contact centre on 0300 123 5000.Media enquiriesJournalists should contact the Highways England press office on 0844 693 1448 and use the menu to speak to the most appropriate press officer.