Pembroke: Champagne day at the chippy

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The Independent Online
THERE were bucketsful of champagne at Claridges yesterday to celebrate the annual Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year award. This year's trophy went to Jan Fletcher, who runs the Fletcher Group, a motor trader with seven dealerships in the North of England.

But Ms Fletcher has more than one string to her bow. In addition to the pounds 45m car business, the Leeds-based MBA also owns a well-known fish-and-chip shop. It may not be Harry Ramsden's, but Bryans, based in Headingley, near Leeds, since 1984, has sales of more than pounds 1.25m, sells seven tonnes of potatoes and 3.5 tonnes of haddock every week and numbers Michael Parkinson, Sir Jimmy Savile and Jimmy Tarbuck among its customers.

'I didn't know anything about fish and chips but I worked in the kitchen and learnt to fry,' says Ms Fletcher, who hopes to open another chip shop. And a few more car dealerships, presumably.

SOPHIE Mirman, a former winner of the Veuve Clicquot award in her Sock Shop days, was mingling with the crowd yesterday - pleased it seems, to be taking a more softly, softly approach these days. Now running two childrenswear shops called Trotters in London, she tells me: 'It's a relief to just be a small private retailer in a time like this.

'I said at the outset that I would just have two shops and I don't plan to expand. I've been through all that before.'

COMPETING for Veuve Clicquot's audience yesterday was PPP, the private health group which was anointing the first winner of its oddly-named Wellness Forum award. DuPont, the Northern Irish subsidiary of the American multinational, was voted Britain's most health-conscious company, followed by Mobil Oil. DuPont's video entitled Suburban Man, which highlights the potential dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, gained honourable mention.

THE annual meeting of Mirror Group Newspapers was set abuzz yesterday by the questions of one small shareholder. Mrs Allen wanted Sir Robert Clark, chairman, to explain why the shares were not doing better.

'They go up, then they go down, then they go up again. Why is it?' she inquired.

Sir Robert, no slouch in financial matters, revealed that when there are more buyers than sellers the price goes up and when there are more sellers than buyers it goes down. 'If I thought the price would go up, I would invest a bit more,' continued Mrs Allen. Wouldn't we all, sighed the massed ranks of shareholders.

ENGLAND'S victory in the fourth Test against the West Indies in Barbados might have had something to do with the wicket. At least this is what a Somerset company would have us believe.

TH White, makers of the Autoroller, assembled a roller at short notice and flew it to Barbados just in time for the final preparation of the wicket. If it made that much difference, Mike Atherton must regret not flying one in to Antigua before Brian Lara let rip.