Retail round up - The Sunday Papers
Chris Ronnie, the former JJB Sports chief executive, is plotting a comeback after teaming up with a distressed assets specialist to launch a new venture. The ex-retail chief has set up Premier Sports Retail Limited alongside fellow director Andrew Duckworth, a partner with turnaround business Winterhill Asset Management. The two businessmen are known to have held talks in October about acquiring a group of retail stores formerly owned by JJB Sports, but the discussions broke down. However, it appears likely that the two could now use Premier Sports to take advantage of poor high street trading to snap up retail assets on the cheap.
Young bargain hunters braved cold weather and indiscreet looks to queue at branches of Desigual, a contemporary fashion retailer, which launched a "cheeky" offer to unveil its winter sales. Under the slogan "Come in undressed and go out dressed", the company, which has outlets in Spain and Portugal, promised a matching top and lower garment to the first 100 people who appear at selected branchesust dressed in their underwear.
Middle-class families will be more than £3,000 a year worse off this year, with the rising cost of living pushing many to the brink of bankruptcy, research by The Daily Telegraph has found. A combination of higher prices, lower benefits and pay freezes will leave many struggling to cope in a tough economic climate, experts have warned. Telegraph figures show that a family of four, living in Ashford, Kent, with a single earner on £50,000 will be £3,252 worse off this year than they were in 2010. Major costs include a £488 rise in rail fares, an increase in energy bills of £161 over the year, and food bills rising by £230. Predicted rises in interest rates add a further £562 to the family's average £150,000 variable rate mortgage.
Outgoing Marks & Spencer chairman Sir Stuart Rose has defended his controversial legacy at the top of the high street institution as he prepares to end his six-year tenure on Tuesday. Rose told the Observer: "I feel I have done the job I was hired to do at M&S. People forget what a dilapidated state it was in [when I took over]." He had inherited "underinvestment in bricks and mortar and systems, poor product styling and values, and poor morale". Under his leadership, Rose said, M&S "refurbished most of the chain and invested heavily in systems". As a result, market share was "up at recent historic highs" and profits were recovering.
Independent on Sunday
Retailers are promising to soften the blow of the VAT increase for consumers who are already preparing to slash their spending throughout 2011. Retailers have been hit hard by plummeting consumer confidence topped off by the widespread snow that kept shoppers away from the high street during much of the crucial Christmas trading period. And sales figures showing an increase in big-ticket purchases ahead of tomorrow's increase suggest many consumers are preparing to tighten their belts as they head in to the new year, according to analysts. Many retailers have pledged to absorb or delay tomorrow's VAT hike of 2.5% but admit they can only defer higher prices for so long.
Motorists will be hit by three fuel price rises in the early part of 2011 - sending the cost of petrol soaring by at least 7p a litre. In addition to VAT and fuel duty increases this week, there will be another rise in fuel duty in April. The fuel row came as desperate High Street retailers - themselves being forced to absorb the rise in VAT from 17.5 to 20% from Tuesday - tried to lure consumers into a New Year spending spree with some prices cut by up to 70%. Despite the huge discounts, shops have failed to recoup the losses suffered as a result of heavy snow before Christmas.
Retail boss Sir Tom Hunter said his businesses were braced for a tough year in the face of this week's VAT rise and the spectre of rising unemployment. Hunter owns a stake in House of Fraser, fashion chain USC and last week acquired upmarket clothing business Cruise. Speaking ahead of a fortnight of trading statements from most High Street names, he said: 'All our businesses have forecast a very tight year. We're not really budgeting for much growth. 'With a rise in VAT among other pressures on retailers, it's not going to be an easy year. But the main issue is going to be unemployment. If that starts to tick up, it will affect everybody.'
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