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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Fife

Abattoir demolition on course

November 22 2014

Demolition of the former St Andrews Abattoir is now well under way as the developer behind a new Marks & Spencer and Premier Inn development on the site steps up its construction programme. The derelict complex on Largo Road will be demolished within six weeks and replaced by a new 65-bedroom Premier Inn and a Mark & Spencer’s Simply Food, which is due to open in time for the Open Championship next summer. Since obtaining planning consent in January, Crucible (St Andrews) Ltd have been going through the process of satisfying the conditions set by Fife Council, obtaining all necessary building warrants and completing the detailed design of the development. The developer says all of this is now done and the scheme is due for completion in the early summer of 2015. Company spokesman Brian Robinson said: “We are delighted that the people of St Andrews can now see something coming out of the ground on this site. “We have been involved in the project for more than two years and it is extremely satisfying to see the construction of the development commencing. “A huge amount of effort has gone into getting to this stage and we are hopeful that the construction phase of the development will progress smoothly.” Crucible (St Andrews Ltd) has signed a funding agreement for the development with clients of Aberdeen Asset Management. Aberdeen Asset Management’s assistant fund manager Laura Hughes said:“We are delighted to have been able to fund the development in partnership with Crucible (St Andrews) Ltd. “The location of the site and tenant line up with both Marks & Spencer’s and Premier Inn signed up on long-term leases, means this is an extremely attractive investment for our clients.”

Business news

M&S pinning hopes on autumn-winter clothes range

July 10 2013

Marks & Spencer piled more pressure on to its autumn-winter range after revealing a 1.6% decline in clothing and general merchandise sales during the three months to the end of June. The collection, which will begin to arrive in stores from the end of this month, is being seen as a key test of the store’s top fashion team following a major revamp. Figures released in yesterday’s trading update showed the continuing woes of the brand’s clothing offer, though total sales in the period rose marginally after being boosted by the continuing success of its food lines. Chief executive Marc Bolland insisted there were signs of improvement, but comparisons were up against a dire performance in the period last year when like-for-like sales slipped 6.8%. The poor return from fashion was blamed on the unseasonably cold spring weather and the impact of heavy promotional activity during June. Total UK sales increased 2.7% with group sales up 3.3%, helped by international performance, where takings were ahead 8.7%. Online sales were up strongly too, by 29.9%, reflecting management plans to transform the business into what it describes as an “international, multi-channel retailer”. Analysts Conlumino said the performance suggested the latest progress was “extremely limited” and that while M&S seemed to be pinning its hopes on the new fashion range, problems could include lacklustre stores which put off “younger and young-at-heart consumers”. Its launch is being seen as the key test for senior figures such as John Dixon, the new head of general merchandise brought over from the successful food division, and style director Belinda Earl, the former Jaeger and Debenhams boss. Shareholders at Marks & Spencer’s annual meeting at Wembley Stadium yesterday heard Ms Earl say the retailer was “putting the pride back into the brand.” But the board faced questions from impatient investors, who criticised the label’s underperformance, executive pay and bonuses. A total of 8% of voting shareholders rejected the firm’s pay award, while Mr Bolland’s re-election was turned down by 4.5% of investors.

Angus & The Mearns

Angus farm sprouts on nation’s plates

December 21 2013

An Angus fruit farmer has sealed an exclusive contract with a major UK retailer to become its sole provider of prepared Brussels sprouts. Peter Stirling’s Windyhills farm near Arbroath has this year been selected to produce 100% of Marks and Spencer’s prepared sprouts which will be sold in the UK, Ireland and France. The deal has helped to further secure jobs at the farm and Abbey Fruits factory in the coastal town where between 200 and 500 workers are employed. The agreement will see the farmer’s sprouts on sale on the shelves of the high street giant’s stores throughout the country. Peter’s careful farming techniques and procedures to ensure high standards were praised yesterday by Marks and Spencer products managers, who described his sprouts as the “finest quality”. “Peter has been supplying our sprouts for over 10 years now which is testament to how good they are,” a spokeswoman for M&S said. “His sprouts are the finest quality they have twice the life of the average sprouts which mean they taste just as good for longer. “Thanks to Peter thousands of M&S customers up and down the UK will be enjoying his delicious sprouts on Christmas Day.”

Fife

Spencer the horse rescued thaks to ‘fantastic team effort’

July 10 2014

A much-loved Fife animal is in a “stable” condition after being dramatically rescued with the help of some serious horsepower. Seven-year-old Spencer was freed by emergency crews, animal experts and a tractor after falling under the sewage pipe in a field in Thornton on Tuesday evening. The alarm was raised shortly after 6pm after the horse was found trapped under the pipe in a field near Fife Council’s Southend depot. Although a quad bike was used in an initial rescue effort, only a tractor had the necessary power to pull the horse to safety. Scottish SPCA animal rescue officer Ashley Griffin said: “Poor Spencer had become spooked and ended up on his back with his legs trapped underneath the pipe. “It was very important to free Spencer as quickly as we could and keep him as calm as possible throughout his frightening ordeal. “The owner had initially tried to pull Spencer out with the assistance of a quad bike but this wasn’t working, so we then had to use a tractor, along with plenty of manpower. “By 8.30pm Spencer had been brought to safety and, remarkably, he came away from the incident relatively unscathed, with only a few minor scrapes and cuts. “It was a fantastic team effort and Spencer’s owner was extremely grateful to everyone involved in the rescue.” The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service had deployed three units to help, including a special rescue unit. Watch manager Mark McCormack said: “It was quite a challenging rescue. “It was a long way from the road to get our equipment across the field but luckily we had a local tractor driver who helped get over there. “There was an SSPCA officer on site and a vet who sedated the horse and that helped us a lot. The horse walked away, so that was a good sign.”

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Dundee

Abertay University students help police with gruesome murder probe

April 13 2016

Forensic Psychology students at Abertay University are assisting Norfolk Constabulary and Police Scotland with an ongoing investigation into a gruesome murder. Operation Monton dates back more than four decades and relates to the headless body of a woman found in Norfolk in 1974. When it was discovered, her body was found wrapped in a National Cash Registers’ plastic sheet, was clothed in a pink Marks and Spencer’s nightdress and was badly decomposed. Despite DNA samples being taken from her body after it was exhumed in 2008, her identity remains a mystery and the police are following up every lead in an attempt to find out who she was which is what has brought them to Dundee. The victim’s hands were bound with an unusual piece of string and Dundee was recently identified as the only place in the world where this type of rope was manufactured. Unfortunately, the firm that made the rope went out of business many years ago, and detailed police records do not date back as far as 1974. However, Police Scotland believe that a clue to the woman’s identity may lie within the pages of local newspaper reports of the time. Abertay students will now be carrying out a review of newsprint media coverage from Dundee between January 1973 and January 1975 in the city’s Central Library. Their task is to identify any women reported missing at that time, as well as any other murders that may have a connection with the case. The student support to this long-term investigation is seen as an integral part of the police’s ongoing inquiries.

Dundee

Abertay University students help police with historic murder investigation

April 14 2016

Forensic Psychology students at Abertay University are assisting Norfolk Constabulary and Police Scotland with an ongoing murder investigation. The case known as Operation Monton dates back more than 40 years and relates to the headless body of a woman that was found in Norfolk in 1974. Her body was found wrapped in a National Cash Registers’ plastic sheet, was clothed in a pink Marks and Spencer’s nightdress and was badly decomposed. Despite DNA samples being taken from her body after it was exhumed in 2008, her identity remains a mystery, and the police are following up every lead in an attempt to find out who she was, which is what has brought them to Dundee. Her hands were bound with an unusual piece of string, and Dundee has been identified as the only place in the world where this type of rope was manufactured. Unfortunately, the firm that made the rope went out of business many years ago, and detailed police records do not date back as far as 1974, making this a very challenging investigation. However, Police Scotland believe that a clue to the woman’s identity may lie within the pages of local newspaper reports of the time. They have engaged the help of students at Abertay, where lecturer Dr Penny Woolnough is an expert is missing persons. She said: “Our students are currently working hard on this investigation, carrying out a review of newsprint media coverage from Dundee between January 1973 and January 1975 in Dundee Central Library. “Their task is to identify any women reported missing at that time, as well as any other murders which may have a connection with this case. “We have 12 students working on this case and we were asked to support the investigation because of the translational approach we take to psychology, which focuses on training the students to apply academic knowledge to real-world challenges.”

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.

Business news

Bolland under pressure over M&S profits

May 22 2013

Management at Marks & Spencer promised a more stylish future after profits at the high street fixture fell to their lowest level in four years. Chief executive Marc Bolland said the retail stalwart where pre-tax profits fell more than 14% to £546.3 million in the 12 months to the end of March would improve its fashion ranges as part of “strong progress” on a turnaround plan. The firm’s clothing division, long criticised by shoppers, saw its performance slip 2.4% in the period, as general merchandise fell 4.1%. New ranges were launched last week and a new fashion team, led by John Dixon, head of general merchandise brought over from M&S Food, and style director Belinda Earl, the former Debenhams and Jaeger boss, has been charged with “reinvigorating” its offer. Like-for-like UK sales fell 1%, but the high street staple’s food offer continued to flourish as revenues in the grocery arm rose 1.7%. Overall group figures improved by 1.3%, buoyed by performance in international markets. But the result impacted by more than £100m in exceptional charges for restructure and bond movement costs, and losses in the chain’s banking offer fell some way below Mark & Spencer’s heyday. In 2008, underlying profits had topped £1 billion. Mr Bolland, who was appointed in 2010 and is two years into a three-year plan designed to turn the brand into an “international, multi-channel retailer”, remains under pressure to improve fashion sales. The company said it had taken “decisive action” to boost its fortunes after clothing revenues fell as much as 5% in the early weeks of last year, though this summer’s sales are likely to be seen as a litmus test of its wares. “The improvement in product will take time to come through, but our customers will start to see the benefits of the changes from this summer,” M&S said. Another change at the top was unveiled yesterday as marketing director Steven Sharp retired after nine years, to be replaced by Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, formerly of Estee Lauder. Chairman Robert Swannell said the retailer was “building longer-term foundations”, while Mr Bolland said M&S had made “strong progress” in some areas. He pledged to “bring something that really delights and surprises the customer”. M&S is targeting profit improvements for the current year, though these are likely to be impacted by the cost of web development, the recent opening of a vast new distribution centre at Castle Donington, and future capital commitments. Markets had widely anticipated a fall in earnings, and shares closed the day 27.4p higher at 467.9p. Shore Capital retail analyst Clive Black said there remained a degree of caution about the scope for improvement, but added that M&S was “a valuable brand with upside to come.”

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