Latest Posts

THE BRITISH HOME STORE (BHS.COM) is TSS Business of the Month for November 2016

this BHS Store in St Stephens Street, Norwich was one of the final 22 stores to close. Image Source: ITV News

this BHS Store in St Stephens Street, Norwich was one of the final 22 stores to close in the UK. Image Source: ITV News

The British Home Stores (BHS) chain enjoyed the penchant type following of the British public for decades, successfully selling factory-made goods across many departments: fashion and accessories, children’s clothing; lighting and textiles; home and garden; as well as toys, stationery and confectionery, until it fell into administration in April of 2016 under circumstances steeped in controversy. Subsequently, it failed to attract a buyer which resulted in the closure of all of its UK stores this summer (2016)

Al Mana Tower in Doha Image source: http://almana.com/box/al-mana-tower/

Al Mana Tower in Doha Image source: http://almana.com/box/al-mana-tower/

However, there is another thread to the BHS story happening right now. In recent months Qatar based corporate business the Al Mana Group has acquired the BHS Brand, the International franchise business, plus BHS.com for online retailing purposes

About Al Mana Group: has a diverse portfolio of businesses and represents many large and successful brands worldwide across the luxury goods, beauty; fashion; home interiors; watches and jewellery areas of retail. TSS can confirm that Al Mana has a new company called BHS International which is now operating BHS.com It is our understanding also, that the Al Mana Group has bought almost all of the international branches of BHS

left to right: David Anderson, managing director, Sarah and Dave West, head of creative, all remain from the former business. Image source - Retail Week

image source : Retail Week

So BHS is back in the UK! Now as an online retailer exclusively, with its website having been launched on 29 September 2016 and with a headquarters in London. Run by key people who had positions within the widely treasured and popular UK retailer before it went into administration. This includes David Anderson, Managing Director (left) Buying Director, Sara Bradley (middle) and Head of Creative, Dave West (right)

Admittedly, product lines have been reduced down in comparison to what went before. BHS lighting products for example have always been excellent, the company provided quality fitments and lighting accessories that were never going to break the bank. So lighting, along with home furnishings, remain the main focus for online selling because both these areas were responsible for the lion’s share of the online sales at the time the retail giant was still trading on UK’s high streets. Kitchen, dining, clothing ranges and festive seasonal selling has just been introduced since that September launch

img_4417

Amina Pendant Available from https://www.bhs.com

Our readers may be skeptical and arrive at the notion that there remains nothing the consumer can associate with the original BHS and what they liked about it. This would be a misconception, because in almost every case the company are using the exact same manufacturers and suppliers as they were before, and it is for that reason we award British Home Store as our latest Business of the Month

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

untitled-1

Santa’s Christmas Party Jigsaw Puzzle 1000 pcs – Product Review

The Artist
For over 10 years Roy Trower has been the man who creates those beautifully illustrated scenes which determine the themes for the Christmas Limited Editions jigsaw puzzles by Ravensburger. The artwork involves 2D skills, from sketching out the design to hand painting. Artist, Trower (from Devon UK) uses a mix of water-colours, gouache and pencil colours. His designs do not include computer software manipulation or enhancement

img_4416-copy

The Theme
The theme is Santa and equally Mrs Claus (as it is for an advertising campaign running for a certain multinational high street retailer this Christmas #LoveMrsClaus) So we have a hat less Santa in a dance hold with his dear wife and they are gazing lovingly into each others eyes. So it is a romantic setting in snowy world with lantern lights hanging down from the top which creates a warm glow which illuminates all the creatures big and small, the partying elves and the foodie treats. Such a colourful and heartwarming scene

The Product
Santa’s Christmas Party is a 20th Anniversary Limited Edition Christmas jigsaw puzzle by Ravensburger 1000 pieces. These Christmas limited editions are a standalone separate from the other numbered limited edition series.This premium jigsaw is rectangular on completion, and measures 70 x 50 cm approx. Not suitable for children under 36 months (small pieces). From 12 years to adult. RRP £12.99

The Promoting
communication and online selling of this item includes:

Amazon
This review will also appear : Ravensburger Puzzle club

img_4413

TSS SAYS:
As Ravensburger reviewing regulars it wouldn’t be quite right to be denied a first look at the Christmas puzzle on release from the company each year. This puzzle is so sweet but difficulty level is quite high, because a large percentage of the pieces are blue, black and white which makes it tricky to identify one piece from another. Therefore we found once the edges were in place it was easier to pick out and compile firstly all those pieces packed with more of the pictorials present, (those pieces enveloped in a yellow and orange glow particularly)-leaving the night sky and the snowy landscape until we had whittled things down a bit

img_4404-copy

THE ROCKING HORSE ADVENT CALENDAR FROM PRESTAT – Product Review

Prestat is looking after us grown-ups this Advent
ROCKING HORSE ADVENT CALENDAR WITH Dark Chocolate (with sea salt) and Milk Chocolate (with caramel) 8.47 OZ – 240g

prestat-rocking-horse-advent-calendar

Individual Prestat chocolates are stunningly presented in the Advent calendar format of a chocolate treat per day (for the 24 days of Advent) designed to engage one in the growing sense of anticipation as we count down the days of December to Christmas Eve. If you’re a celebrator of the Christmas season and a ‘joiner in’ of these kinds of festivities you will appreciate all this has to offer. Prestat is looking after the grown ups again with this lovely package. Why? Well, because we get the dry sense of humour of the story that comes with it and its ‘keep your hands-off they’re my chocolates!’ message, and, we’ll not be distracted away so easily from the view of this thing on the mantelpiece, also, and more importantly, we will definitely savour the luxury of the chocolates better!
img_4403

The packaging features bright and richly colourful Kitty Arden artwork (Prestat’s favourite creative), and while there is not much in the cover/box design that is symbolic with Advent meanings and the traditions to do with that, this is similar to the majority of chocolate style advents in format. Basically it is a luxury box of chocolate treats celebrating things we think about about Christmas, non-religiously, but traditionally and commercially. Remove the transparent seal which keeps the doors firmly closed and there’s that Rocking Horse with golden accents, and a fully decorated Christmas tree, a toy soldier, a candelabra and some paper chains, and through the drapes to the outside we see a snowy scene with Father Christmas and a full sack on his sleigh. Open the doors and the design is repeated with the numbered windows across.  The short story we mentioned is printed on the insides of each door. The story it is about a Bah! Humbug! Ole Grandpa of the Manor, who has had a beef with Father Christmas since he was a child when he’d missed out on chocolates gifts. Whose wish was finally granted when he receives “Chocolates. And more Chocolates!” And who is not very gracious because he’s keeping all the chocolates for himself! Ha!

img_4405-copy

24 mixed chocolates altogether behind numbered doors. Milk chocolates (with caramel peices) contain a min. of 40% cocoa, whereas Dark chocolates have a cocoa min. of 53%. The chocolates are cubed and solid, smooth tasting, a two-bite size as a guide, with a slight hint of saltiness even those containing caramel

Information re: Ingredients and Allergens visit the Website Price £22.50

Prestat is rocking once again with this product. TSS Testers make no bones about the fact that Prestat contains their favourite chocolate recipes and products and never has any other chocolate maker or purveyor managed to turn our heads away from that notion yet!

16158_1

Star Wars Silhouette jigsaw – Product review

 

star-wars-silhouette-jigsaw

Review Submission by Guest Reviewer Cheryl H of Birmingham

I received his jigsaw and opened it with expectancy and – gulp – wow it looked like a challenge. Straight away I noticed that my usual technique of starting with the straight edges wasn’t going to work because, well, the straight edges are not, um, straight.  For some this is exciting, for me this presented an even tougher challenge.

I started to prepare my specialist jigsaw surface, aka my dining/working/painting table, and the reality of a 70x106cm puzzle began to dawn. This is a very big jigsaw! While there isn’t any straight edges in this jigsaw there is, helpfully, a coloured line around the silhouette which transitioned between shades of blue and purple on its way round.  Without any idea how to commence a jigsaw without straight edges I decided to delve through the 1098 pieces looking for the helpfully coloured edges.

The construction began, very, very slowly. With my head in my hands I asked my 9 year old, “What am I going to do with this?” “Just believe in yourself Mummy,” he said. “Use the Force!” pipes up my husband. With the border almost complete I moved onto light sabers and lightning strikes as they were the easiest pieces to spot.

The jigsaw is the excellent quality you’d expect from Ravensburger and a challenge for any Star Wars and Jigsaw lover. The silhouette design and the unique shaped pieces make it more interesting and harder. In previous Ravensburger puzzles I have completed there has been an extra picture of the puzzle to reference within the box, which is useful if more than one person is working on it, but unfortunately there wasn’t in this one.

To complete this stunning Star Wars Silhouette jigsaw you need a big table or jigsaw mat, a lot of time, tons of determination, and … May the Force be with You!

star-wars-1-copy

img_4399-copy

A Miscellany of MAGICAL BEASTS by Simon Holland – Book Review

A Miscellany of MAGICAL BEASTS by Simon Holland. Illustration contributions by Gary Blithe – David Demaret – Nelson Evergreen – John Howe – Mike Love – Kev Walker – Helen Ward – David Wyatt

ISBN 978-1-4088-8195-8

Published by Bloomsbury in Hardcover –

Release date 20 October 2016

RRP £14.99

A Children’s Picture Book (Hardback)

cover-illustration-by-john-howe

Cover Illustration by John Howe

Overview: This recently released children’s title from Bloomsbury is an authentic collection of mystical beasts from fairy tale worlds, ancient myths, and magical storybook greats. Simon Holland (the author) introduces (in chapters) a creature each time. His passion for the subject is infectious and the information he shares is well researched, paragraphs are not too word laden. The art contributions show fantastical creatures, and their surrounds, using a variety of illustrative styles. There are Giants and Trolls, Unicorns, Griffins and Werewolves. There’s Pegasus (from the Greek myths) and Dragons of course. 20 creatures altogether, plus a page of Elvish spells and tricks and another of Magical Words. The mechanics of the book’s presentation include fold-out pieces which achieves the dimensions of that of a small poster, some die-cutting techniques and exceptional finish to the pages and the cover

artwork-gary-blythe-for-a-miscellany-of-magical-beasts

Artwork by Gary Blythe for the Bloomsbury children’s title A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

Comment and Guide: the author really does beckon a reader away from the hand held or the tablet into an enchanted world in book format. This title has such lovely aesthetic qualities. One great shame however, is due to the composition of the artwork is that the key subject is often centered in the middle frame, so when this happens across the double page spreads the book’s seam disjoints the view and you kind of have to look at the creature in two halves rather than being able to enjoy it in full. Just a small criticism really because this is a lovely keepsake book for a fantasy enthusiast of any age

paper-home-pavillion-craft-and-author-esther-thorpe

A Short Review of Paper Home – an origami project book

Breaking the origami rules somewhat because of the inclusion of the use of quick -drying glue, and some cutting techniques. Described as multi-modular origami creations in fact. Some projects require other objects either to hard wire, to present or to decorate, but not much more is needed than quality papers (some patterned) of differing densities and a bit of creative time on your hands. Project papers by Caroline Gardner, Minerva Crafts and others. Follow Esther Thorpe’s step-by-step instructions and you can make home decorations that are strikingly unique.  

paper-home-pavillion-crafts

 

More about the book:

• Hardcover book with clear presentation of the projects. Excellent photography and art editing
• Offers 15 origami style projects to make home wares and home decorations from quality paper
• Author, Esther Thorpe adds a contemporary edge to a traditional Japanese art (origami)
• Contact and Supplier information included

 

tennessee-oak-light-wood-by-quick-step-at-tss

CREO laminate flooring by Quick-Step Floors – Product Review

THE PRODUCT

QUICK-STEP CREO Laminate flooring. For use as floor covering in buildings according to the manufacturer’s specifications

CREO designs have the look and feel of wood and incorporates ‘single plank designs’

Available in packs (8 planks per pack)

Each plank measures: Length: 120 cm – Width: 19 cm – Thickness: 7 mm
Coverage per Box: 1.824 m²

Matt Finish: Design under review is TENNESSEE OAK LIGHT WOOD and is one of eight from the CREO collection, with every design matching the characteristics of the wood, making the chosen finish more authentic

Uniclic® installation system – Installation method: Floating

20 years warranty

Matching accessories and cleaning aids available

THE PLACE

Active in over 100 countries

Buy online directly from the official Quick-Step webstore (supply only) Home delivery is free for orders over £300. FIND a local installer if required or buy from a local flooring dealer FIND who will offer supply only, or installation at a cost


THE PRICE

CREO CR3179 12.99 £ /m² VAT incl

img_4384

‘CREO is a popular range which has been updated this year, 2016 (use with a recommended Quick-Step underlay)’

THE PROMOTION

Quick-Step flooring is designed, manufactured and produced by Belgian company UNILIN. In 1997, the company invented the ‘UNICLIC’ Click System. Patent is Uniclic® installation system. CREO is a popular range which has been updated this year, 2016 (use with a recommended Quick-Step underlay). No sealant required. Promotional materials state that with CREO Quick-Step have ‘managed to perfectly bring the width of the strips in line with the unique character and style of each wood type’

 

img_4393

Fig 3 – Quick-Step CREO TENNESSEE OAK LIGHT WOOD

TSS Says:

As CREO laminate was a past Product of the Month at TSS this editorial is dedicated to the full reviewing/featuring of the CREO – TENNESSEE OAK LIGHT WOOD design. The fitter reports that the installation was straightforward using the tools, and like all Quick-Step laminate Flooring the fit is the best kind (tight and even). The finish is best described as classy and sophisticated and would suit a room design to match it. The wood effect is a grey(ish) dark beige colour overall with lighter neutral shades occurring in elongated strips across the whole floor under certain light conditions which defines the wood pattern and adds a special kind of definition (see Fig 3). The Matt finish of the planks makes for a warming appearance, and while the surface is hard wearing enough to withstand constant use and footfall the walking across the area in bare/sock-covered feet is very pleasing too

CREO Laminate flooring by Quick-Step Floors

CREO Laminate flooring by Quick-Step Floors

img_4385

Large Scale Wooden Carrom Set – A Product Review

If you grew up in the Eastern world, in India particularly, you will be no stranger to the game Carrom. In the States, well they would match the concept as being very similar to pocket billiards, and to us in the UK and Europe we would think the rules are very much like a game of Pool. When it comes to Carrom we can play singles or doubles too, however, there are no cues, no balls, and ‘strikes’ are made with a flick of the finger on the side of the Striker piece sending a Carrom coin into any one of the four pockets.
Under review is the Wooden large scale version of Carrom from Garden Games

Disclaimer

img_4386

The board is made from wood of a decent quality and finish (underneath : a wooden framework with pockets made from synthetic material stretched across every corner). Everything is well planed and smooth, no splinters, and with the Carrom design (the striking lines, the flower etc) in black and red it is very pleasing to look at. The board requires no assembling though it is one solid piece and so it is not possible to fold it down smaller. The board is square and measures 84 cm x 84 cm and can be set upon a table top with a large flat surface, or put straight down on the floor/grass or patio. The playing coins are similar to backgammon pieces, wood milled, very tactile and pleasing to hold and handle. The Striker is a larger coin, made from acrylic in blue and white.
The whole set with its current 47 GBP price tag consists of:
Offical Sized Carrom (Karrom)
11 x White Wooden Carrom coins
11 x Black Wooden Carrom coins
2 x Red ‘Queens’
Striker Carrom Coin
30 gms of Carrom Board Powder (see comment on health and safety below)
Rules and Instructions Booklet

img_4387

It is obvious that this Carrom set from Garden Games is Made in India and are supply distributed straight out of that country. TSS testers noted however, that the booklet containing the Rules and Instructions bears all the hallmarks of being written by someone whose first language is not English. We presume the customer base for Garden Games is mainly UK National, but because the booklet (be it small) is rather amateurish, it lets the presentation down somewhat and we feel it may be difficult for people to get a handle on the Rules of Play because of the word errors. So we suggest a rewrite and some kind of planned implementation to replace those booklets in existence for the UK market especially.

img_4391
Health and Safety information
Suitable from 3 years plus (with smallest components measuring 3cm diameter round) The kit does include Carrom powder (30g). This is designed to add ‘slip’ to the surface area so that extra speed along the striking lines can be achieved. Unusually the label on the little white bottle bears no detail about actual broken down content, and it has the tiniest, small print information imaginable warning against ingesting the stuff. We wondered if it may be toxic but Garden Games assures us the powder is vegetable starch and in a statement they say: ‘there are clear labeling laws that state what you have to put on a product if the contents are toxic and the Carrom powder is definitely NOT’. TSS has requested that they look into clarifying the fact for the consumer by relabeling the item so it reads as being 100% Vegetable Starch
img_4389

TSS Says Powder labeling and booklet aside, we really like the standard of all the components. We strongly feel the Wooden Carrom set would make a great, long lasting, keepsake gift for anyone! Great fun and entertainment at home with family and friends; indoors or outside. A Carrom board would work well as a permanent installation in a meeting place, staff room, or games room.

img_4388

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

the-exorcist

Stage Review: The Exorcist

I do not need to overview the story as it is a classic in the public psyche. An explicit tale of demon possession and religious dogma. A ‘hell is burning’ binge of a tale!

I have never read the bestselling book of 1971 and it has been ages since I saw the iconic film of 1973 based on story, so I am not really comparing this UK premiering play by John Pielmeier with anything that has gone before. I know this much, that this stage setting has not brought about anything which is trans-formative, as is often the case when a novel has been adapted for stage.

Yet the story lends itself very well to theatre and though it is such a brave undertaking, this is quite masterfully presented, and one thing, in early scenes, it is seriously creepy. The special effects and the artistry of creatives Ben Hart, Duncan McLean, Adam Cork, and Tim Mitchell, are the reasons why. Plus, a stand-out performance by Clare Louise Connolly as Regan, who gives it her all and is incredible, I felt quite exhausted for her. Though the exorcism scene itself, was weirdly unremarkable because by then we’d seen all the tricks.

Jenny Seagrove’s dialogue is delivered in an American accent without intonation and is quite weak, and so her happy voice is pitched much the same as her distraught one. This is problematic for Seagrove to handle, because the script does not turnaround things enough for her to deliver her motherly, come famous actress character, Chris, with much heart. And while I enjoyed the sauciness and sarcasm of Uncle Burke (Tristram Wymark), because of script limitations again, it made Regan’s worsening sorry state come across as nothing much more than a mild kerfuffle for these two supporting characters.

Fiction not working its best kind of magic, but I realise I am being nit-picking and that it is extremely challenging and because so many nails are hit squarely on the head with this one, I happily overlook the negatives in this instance. Themes are mature, but we expect that and the intensity of scenes are all the more powerful for it.

This lead up to Halloween an evil entity is at large at Birmingham Rep! It’s official, The Exorcist is theatrically enthralling!

Theatre critic, Debra Hall attended press night of The Exorcist at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre on Tuesday 25 october

photos: ROBERT DAY

cinnabon-westfield-stratford-london

Franchise Partnering Company FOCUS Brands Inc. and its CINNABON Brand

 

Since 2014, TSS has profiled many different types of businesses monthly, from relatively small set-ups to corporate giants. Those operating (or with head quarters) in the UK, the US, and in Europe. Most have been trade companies. In fact, the first business ever to feature was the brand of a franchising company, who, like FOCUS Brands, are responsible for the local manufacture, distribution and sale of product in many countries around the world. Whatever your business is get in touch if you would like to be similarly profiled at tssreviews

Atlanta-based FOCUS Brands Inc is a franchiser, operator and developer of global multi-channel food service brands. Their strategy: ‘to develop owned and acquired food service brands through a repeatable operating model that leverages the core franchise business into multiple distribution channels, including licensing, consumer products, and ecommerce’

focus-brands

FOCUS Brands have been operating since 2001 and acquired Cinnabon (whose speciality are the World Famous Cinnamon Rolls bakery product) in 2004

Visit www.focusbrands.com to learn more

joe-guith

President of Cinnabon – Joe Guith

Cinnabon Outlet - Image source http://www.foxbusiness.com/

Cinnabon Outlet – Image source http://www.foxbusiness.com/

Some facts you should know if you are interested in becoming a Cinnabon franchisee in the US or abroad

Cinnabon is the 30-year-old market leader among cinnamon roll bakeries
Cinnabon is a gourmet specialty bakery that fills a niche market
Cinnabon serves fresh, aromatic, oven-hot cinnamon rolls with ‘the goo factor’ and a variety of other baked goods and specialty beverages
Cinnabon has expanded its footprint across US states and 52 countries
Cinnabon can be customized to fit high-traffic venues such as shopping malls, airports, train stations, and travel plazas. There are full street-side bakery cafés all over the world but also micro bakeries present in gas stations, universities, military bases and office buildings and branded products available in grocery, retail and restaurant outlets and online ordering
Cinnabon looks for candidates with a successful track record in food service or retail operations
Cinnabon offers franchisees the support they need to establish and grow their business
Cinnabon supports the DAISY Foundation

More information at https://www.cinnabonfranchising.com/

Warm dough, Makara® Cinnamon, topped with rich cream cheese frosting

Cinnabon Classic roll is a warm dough, with Makara® Cinnamon, topped with a cream cheese frosting