Budding retail businesses in Lancashire are being given a fantastic opportunity to take their plans to the next level in the local heat of a nationwide business competition.

The Mall Blackburn is offering two month’s rent-free space and £500 towards stock to the winner of its annual contest, The Retail Factor.

Launched on Tuesday 3rd January the competition is focussed around supporting and nurturing retail start-ups in the local community.

Entrants can submit ideas until Sunday 12th February and management at The Mall will select a shortlist of entries to trial their businesses on an RMU (Retail Merchandising Unit) in The Mall for a period of two weeks.

The judges will look at how innovative each business had been as well as taking into account trading results to select an overall winner.

The successful entrepreneur will then be entered into the national final against competitors from eight others Malls across the UK to be in with a chance of winning a place on the exclusive retail business course BHF-BSSA Oxford Summer School.

Last year’s Retail Factor winner, Sophia Patel of Cupcakes and Cookies, certainly thinks it is worth entering.  She said: “My business has taken off like a rocket since I entered the Retail Factor and I had such a fantastic response to my products from the moment I began trading.”

Sophia has more than a decade of catering experience and, after taking a break to care for her young family, she decided to start her own business following countless orders for her delicious products from friends and family.

She has been so busy that she has now had to move operations out of her kitchen and into her fully converted garage to which she has just added her first commercial oven.

Cupcakes and Cookies received glowing reports and recommendations from hundreds of customers at The Mall Blackburn and she has continued trading in the new Blackburn Market in the lower level of The Mall.

Sophia continues: “My family encouraged me to open my own business and I am so pleased that I did. My creative flair and perfectionist tendencies mean I treat every single order with the same passion and determination.

“I would certainly urge anyone that is looking to either take their first steps to a permanent retail base or is looking to expand into The Mall to enter the competition.

“It worked for me and could work for you too.”

Loraine Jones, general manager at The Mall Blackburn, said: “The Retail Factor has been designed to provide the people of Lancashire with an opportunity to turn a hobby into a profitable and enjoyable career.

“We were over-joyed when Sophia brought the national title home to Blackburn last year and she thoroughly deserves the success she is enjoying!

“The Mall continuously supports entrepreneurship in Lancashire and we are looking forward to seeing what ideas we receive in the coming weeks, one of which we hope will keep the national title in Lancashire.”

Entries to The Retail Factor can be made online at or by completing a form available at The Mall Blackburn’s Ask Me Point.


Picture shows: (L to R) Dawn Smyth, Manager of Primark, Matt Cooper, Manager of Debenhams, Sophia Patel, Owner of Cupcakes and Cookies, Loraine Jones, General Manager at The Mall Blackburn and Samantha Butcher, Marketing Manager at The Mall Blackburn.

Please click on the link to download the picture or email to get a copy sent direct.

Notes to editors:

More information about The Mall

The Mall is the UK's leading community shopping centre Fund. Managed by Capital & Regional and Aviva Investors, The Mall Fund owns 9 shopping centres across the UK - home to approximately 1220 retail units and attracting approximately 1.9 million shopping visits every week.

Shopping as it should be………….

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For further editorial information about The Mall Blackburn, contact Denise Dawson, Julie Hackett or Paula Holden at ICG on 01772, or Out of hours contact: Paula Holden: 07772268278

The BHF-BSSA Oxford Summer School

The BHF-BSSA Oxford Summer School, established in 1923, is run 'by the trade for the trade' to allow middle managers from across the spectrum of UK retailers to further develop their retailing skills at Keble College, Oxford University. Taking place annually for a week in August, it combines a challenging academic programme with the opportunity to network with fellow retailers.