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Crunch busters

Douglas Fraser | 13:08 UK time, Saturday, 2 May 2009

We're occasionally accused of being unduly negative in our economic coverage these days.

So at BBC Scotland, we deliberately went on the lookout for good news stories in the midst of recession.

We left aside the fact that there has been balance to the coverage.

And what we found was not just about the boom times for insolvency lawyers, car repair shops and cobblers.

Nor is it just those for those who are awaiting the upturn, when they can take advantage of their rivals' weakness.

There are plenty of companies holding steady or even planning for growth in the midst of recession.

And on The Business on Radio Scotland this weekend, presenter Graham Stewart and producer Magnus Bennett have picked a wide range of stories about those doing just fine, from childcare to oil services to sushi to fake tan, and from Aberdeen to Galashiels.

ProStrakan, for instance, is a Borders-based company with a good story to tell about its drug delivery system.

Instead of chemotherapy being injected, cancer drugs can now be taken by 'transdermal' patch, similar to a nicotine patch.

Its prospects are strong in the US, as it staffs up for a big sales push.

There's an unusual story from a trio of Japanese nationals made redundant by JVC in East Kilbride last year, who decided they wanted to stay in Scotland, and have had a strong start to a sushi company called Bento Box, which has just taken a supply order for Peckhams delicatessen chain.

Hear more about these and more at 10am on Sunday 3 May on Radio Scotland, or you can listen again on the BBC iplayer or on The Business podcast.


  • Comment number 1.


    You said you were looking for a good news business story. Here's a big one.

    Last year, eCommerce (trading online) just in the UK turned over around £160 billion and grew at around 30%. This rate of growth is continuing. Our company (INDEZ, Skypark, Glasgow) looks after 16 large eCommerce sites. Over the past 12 months they have grown at over 100% average. The media thought that Amazon (whose turnover grew 18% and profits grew 24%) was something special and doing well. In fact it probably lost market share. ASOS (that grew turnover at over 100%) was probably ahead of the curve.

    Here in Glasgow we launched a site called last December. Today it turns over four figures daily and over 20% of sales to the US - i.e. people in California buying duvet covers from a Glasgow company. A much bigger Glasgow enterprise we built is toolstop. They are now an eight-figure turnover pure online business; they even sell Bosch drills to Germans.

    While we are doing our best producing a long string of rapidly growing online businesses, Scotland itself is not doing too well. The Hitwise online retail list (like the footsie 100 on e-tailers)does not have a single Scottish company in the top 100 (by ratio we should have 10%) this probably means that we in Scotland are probably running a large balance of trade defecit in eCommerce with the rest of the UK. But are we? We don't know. I asked the UK Office of National Statistics (who provided the stats I started with) if they had figures for Scotland. They told me they "do not do regional breakdowns"! Nobody in Scotland has the stats. If you ask why is this the problem we are not aware of any public sector strategy or plan for eCommerce (which by our Government figures is larger than our balance of trade defecit in oil and gas) and the public sector does not even support it. We understand that Scottish Enterprise formally does not support retail with the main reason being "displacement".

    Bottom line, eCommerce is massive and it is booming and generally ignored by the media. People buy stuff online because they quickly and easily find excellent products at the best price. We talk about the high street in decline. Absolutely. The only point is that whilst the media go on about this being because of the recession, they miss the main story which is that the underlying cause is eCommerce which is now deeply and fundamentally changing the nature of our town and cities.

    The numbers itself suggest that this is the biggest business story of the moment - so why do the media largely ignore it?

  • Comment number 2.

    If BBC Scotland was serious about business coverage it wouldn't put its only business programme out at 10am on a Sunday morning. And, frankly, it would also serve up a bit more than a rather superficial blog which is no more than a slim facsimile of coverage from across the rest of the BBC and other media (i.e. it doesn't tell us anything new, although it does mangle the English language quite impressively).

    The BBC appears to believe that the economic downturn is all about house-prices and retail sales, which may tell us more about the pre-occupations of well paid, insulated BBC journalists rather than anything else.


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