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Business briefing: Nationwide pledges it won’t desert town centres

THE Nationwide Building Society has promised to keep a branch in every town or city where it already has a presence for at least the next two years.

The financial group said its pledge will apply irrespective of whether rival banks and building societies are situated there.

It comes at a time when concerns over people’s access to cash have been heightened by branch and ATM closures.

Nationwide, which has about 650 branches, said it hopes the assurance until May 2021 will give consumers confidence their high streets and shopping centres will not be left without branches.

Chief executive Joe Garner said: ‘Healthy high streets are vital in keeping local communities alive. They are a major part of our history and identity.

‘We need to rediscover the sense of belonging that has served communities for centuries and as businesses we need to open our doors to people and not just customers.

‘It’s not good enough that we succumb to the perceived inevitable and watch our local shopping centres fade away. We owe it to our communities to make ourselves relevant again.’

Nationwide pointed to figures from the Centre for Retail Research suggesting an estimated 10,000 shops are expected to close over the course of this year.

It added that it is committed to spending £350million over five years — including £80million this year — on its branches, from introducing high-definition video and iPads to creating areas where people can chat, read a newspaper or have a coffee.

Teen on road to success with own luxury car polishing firm

Driving force: Alex Chapman polishes an Aston Martin PICTURES: SWNS

A TEENAGE entrepreneur who started washing cars on his parents’ driveway now runs a business polishing luxury motors for £4,000 a job.

Alex Chapman began his venture at the age of 13, charging £6 a wash with a bucket, sponge and shampoo. As the business grew he started offering a polishing service at weekends.

Now aged 19, he runs his own company, AWC Car Detailing, and charges up to £4,000 to polish and treat Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches and Rolls Royces.

C-aww wash: A younger Alex

Alex, from Southend, Essex, is the youngest car detailer in the world authorised by CarPro, and last year was a finalist for the Essex Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Mr Chapman said: ‘I’m proud of my achievements over the years. I hope that I can be an example and inspire other young people.’

He added: ‘It’s extremely difficult to start up a business from a young age. People don’t take you seriously.’

Car control by phone a key breakthrough

CAR manufacturer Hyundai has created a ‘digital key’ to let drivers control their vehicle with their phone. The technology lets up to four people lock and unlock the vehicle, activate the alarm and start the engine via phone. Once the phone and car connect, the position of the mirrors, seats and steering wheel adjusts for each user. Hyundai said the digital key is safer than regular keys and could make peer-to-peer vehicle rental easier. The owner and the driver will not have to meet but can transfer the digital key via a phone app.

BUSINESS BITES

■ AVERAGE house prices fell 0.8 per cent year-on-year, new figures show. The typical asking price last month was £302,000, reported Rightmove. While that is down on 12 months ago, values rose £1,287 (0.4 per cent) from February — the worst monthly increase since 2011. Brexit uncertainty is to blame, said Rightmove.

■ EXECUTIVES take twice as many ‘sickies’ as less well paid staff, a study finds. Company directors are off almost three days a year with colds, flu and minor ailments — double the number for those ‘at the coal face’. IT and HR staff took most sick leave with builders off the least, found a poll for Fisherman’s Friend.

■ BOOKING a vehicle in for its MoT stresses out six in ten motorists. And a fifth reckon the annual roadworthiness test is ‘too much effort’, a poll of 2,000 adults by Co-op Insurance found.

■ TED BAKER is expected to reveal pre-tax profits of £63million for the year to January 26, compared with £68.8million for the previous 12 months. The retailer will report its results on Thursday after a tough year that saw founder Ray Kelvin quit over claims of inappropriate behaviour towards staff.