Retail round up The Sunday papers
Hunter, the British wellington boot maker whose footwear is worn by the Queen, has found a home in Regent Street after striking a deal with the Crown Estate to open its first flagship store. Retailers including Burberry, Superdry and J Crew have flocked to the West End street in a £1bn regeneration. Hunter fell into administration in 2006 but has since enjoyed a revival thanks to celebrities such as Kate Moss and Madonna.
Two of the UK’s leading supermarkets are this week expected to explain how they intend to take on the increasing might of the European discounters amid falling sales. The pressure on Wm Morrison and J Sainsbury has increased as the performance of the likes of Aldi and Lidl has continued apace. Morrisons is this week poised to announce an unprecedented fall in like-for-like sales and Sainsbury’s is likely to warn of slower sales growth in the year ahead.
Kim Winser, who launched an eponymous online fashion venture last year, has described her frustration and susprise that she could not get ahead in business as quickly as she wanted because she is a woman. Winser joined M&S in 1977 on its management trainee scheme, after her father said it was "the best" in the land. "I hadn't realise this when I joined the company, but there were no women on the board. There was one route to the board - the commercial route. I applied and was rejected on the basis of one thing only: because I was a woman. One boss said to me, 'women don't go through that route. Why don't you apply to do into HR or design?'
The founder of Charles Tyrwhitt has taken a £10.6m payday after sales of shirts, suits and shoes rose 23%. Nick Wheeler, the Old Etonian who set up the retailer while studying at Bristol University 28 years ago, confirmed he was the highest-paid employee but said he would plough back most of the money into the business.
Graff Diamonds has enjoyed another sparkling year, paying out a $26m dividend after a 15% jump in profits. Sales at the luxury jeweller, majority owned by its founder and chairman Laurence Graff, dropped slightly to $680.6m (£402.7m) according to the latest accounts for the year to December. But pre-tax profits increased to $125.7m.
The financiers behind Game Group have sucked more than £16m out of the high street chain since saving it from extinction. The windfall has been shared by Elliott Advisors, the New York hedge fund that bought the company out of administration, and the American Henry Jackson, a controversial former banker who was widely criticised for making tens of millions of pounds out of the collapse of Comet, the electrical goods retailer, in 2012.
The backer of Maplin is set to take a hit on the struggling electrical gadgets retailer as it tries to offload it to a new owner. Montagu, the private equity firm, is facing losses of tens of millions of pounds after bids fell way short of the price it paid for the chain 10 years ago.
Tesco faces a wave of investor unrest at its annual meeting as frustration over the supermarket’s poor performance and unclear strategy starts to boil over. One top 10 shareholder said it was considering voting against the re-election of both Philip Clarke, the chief executive, and Sir Richard Broadbent, the chairman. The investor believes that Broadbent is failing to act as a proper brake on Clarke, who is known for his domineering style.
Mothercare has been forced to renegotiate the terms of its bank loans only seven months after securing a £90m refinancing. The struggling retailer has asked its lenders for breathing space following a string of profit warnings. It is trying to persuade HSBC and Barclays to relax banking covenants — strict rules on financial performance that are a condition of loans being advanced.
Mail on Sunday
Sainsbury's will plunge into the supermarket price war this week when it unveils annual results amid City fears that discounting will wipe billions of pounds off retailers’ profits in the coming year. The ‘Big Four’ supermarkets – Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons – have all been affected by the exodus to German discounters Aldi and Lidl. Sainsbury’s is expected to be hit by a wave of profit downgrades from City brokers this week following the opening salvo of cuts announced just days ago by Morrisons.
Marks & Spencer faces potential strike action at its Irish business after proposed pay and pension cuts were rejected by staff. Ireland is one of M&S’s biggest overseas chains and one of the few it wholly owns – most others are run by franchise partners. The country represents almost half of international sales. Representatives at trade union Mandate said the proposals included a 20 per cent pay cut and that employees’ living standards would ‘seriously deteriorate’
Government plans to reform betting shops are under threat from all sides as politicians and local councils complain they are too weak, and smaller bookmakers threaten to call for a judicial review. At the same time it has emerged that betting shop staff get higher bonuses if more customers play on fixed-odds betting terminals – the focus of concern for campaigners who dub them ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’.
At a time when it is difficult for businesses to get funding, the tills are ringing at a specialist bank for independent retailers. Bira bank is celebrating the first time it has turned over a £1million in a month since it was established in 1955. The March record was 76 per cent up on a year ago. The bank is owned by the British Independent Retailers Association and offers loans and savings deals to its members.
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