Fitness levels are suffering both in premises and in staff

26 January, 2007

QHow many off-licences go bust each year?

AThere are no accurate figures for this as there is no central register of licensed retailers, and the picture is complicated by the fact that when a store closes it is sometimes because the owner has identified a better site elsewhere. The chains call this "churning the estate".

Drinks retailers are lumped together with food retailers in many business studies and this sector suffered pretty badly in 2006. The number of business failures across all sectors, according to information provider Experian, rose by 10.7 per cent to a little over 20,000. Food retailers saw their failure rate shoot up by a whopping 48.2 per cent.

QMy staff must be the unhealthiest in Britain. As well as being unfit and overweight, they are always taking time off with colds and back problems. I sometimes wonder if it would be more cost-effective for me to pay for them to join a gym! Any advice?

AA recent study by insurer More Th>n Business has found that Brits are pretty bad at looking after themselves, and even if they get around to joining a gym, 22 per cent will never go. Around half will work out once a week.

Fatigue and work commitments were cited as the main reasons for neglecting the gym. 43 per cent of workers said they were just too tired to head for the gym either before or after work and over a third directly attributed their lack of exercise to work commitments.

Mike Bowman, head of More Th>n Business, says: "At a time when healthy eating and exercise is at the top of the government's agenda, these findings do not bode well for our health nor make good business sense, especially when 10 per cent of workers openly admit to being resentful that work takes preceden ce over health.

"It is a well-known fact that regular exercise and good general health helps combat stress, making individuals happier and more productive at work. More Th>n Business was shocked to find so many people are neglecting their health and has launched a 24-hour customer helpline to give stress advice to small business owners." Call 0800 072 0077 or log on to membership could cost you as much as £50 per employee per month. Or you could follow the example of Bradford convenience store J&H Market, which has thoughtfully installed fitness equipment in a back room for staff use.

Q I seem to be selling more fortified British wine than before - is there any evidence of a general boom in the market?

AFar from it, we're afraid - according to the latest ACNielsen figures we've seen, the category was down 5 per cent in the year to Dec 2 2006. It's now worth £54 million, and just about all of those sales come in the take-home market. It's not a category that does any business to speak of in the on-trade.

It was a tough year for fortifieds all round, with port down 6 per cent, sherry declining by 8 per cent and poor old Montilla - another off-trade exclusive - collapsing by 30 per cent in the worst performance of the year.

Fortified British wine has been in ­trouble since the ruling banning the term "sherry" for anything that isn't made in Jerez. But the category is still bigger (in the off-trade) than vermouth and dark rum.

Unfortified British wine (made from imported juice or concentrate, as opposed to English wine which uses English grapes) is still around and valued at £8 million. Its sales held steady last year, according to ACNielsen, keeping pace with inflation - if not drinking trends.

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