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Retail round up – The Sunday Papers

John Lewis to launch ‘value’ range, small suppliers waiting longer for their money, Vodafone eyes T-Mobile UK, Some retail staff use Facebook to abuse customers, Shareholder rebellions expected over some directors’ pay


Retail round up – The Sunday Papers

John Lewis to launch ‘value’ range, small suppliers waiting longer for their money, Vodafone eyes T-Mobile UK, Some retail staff use Facebook to abuse customers, Shareholder rebellions expected over some directors’ pay

Sunday Telegraph

John Lewis will launch a low-price "Value" range next week in a bid to counter the threat of customers defecting to cheaper rivals such as Tesco and Ikea. The move marks the first time that the upmarket retailer - which is famous for its Never Knowingly Undersold slogan - has launched a low-cost product range. John Lewis Value will initially comprise 100 lines of homewares products, from wine glasses to towels, but will double in size next year when basic fashion lines, such as pants and socks, are added. The range will be specifically priced to compete with the non-food ranges of supermarkets. Prices will be markedly lower than John Lewis's existing prices. A box of four Value wine glasses, for example, will cost 4 compared with 2.25 each at existing prices. Towels will range

from 1.50 to 5, while two pillows will cost 4. The launch of the Value range is part of a bigger push by John Lewis to emphasis its low-cost credentials. A major marketing campaign will launch next month to explain what Never Knowingly Undersold stands for.

Leading companies are increasing the pressure on small suppliers by delaying paying bills by up to four months, the Federation of Small Businesses claimed on Wednesday after two more names were added to a list of businesses changing payment terms. Jewson, the building materials supplier, has told some suppliers they will have to wait 60 days for bills to be paid and be charged a 10pc fee for settlements made within the period. Bernard Matthews, the food group, has followed a number of other companies, including TNT and Compass, the catering giant, by extending payment terms to 60 days. The latest additions came as the FSB presided over "economic summit" in London attended by politicians and business leaders to "change the damaging culture of late payments". It decided against listing participants to avoid embarrassing them or raising hopes of fresh initiatives.

Sunday Times

Vodafone and the owner of O2, Telefonica of Spain, have tabled conditional offers to buy T-Mobile UK as the race to create the biggest force in Britain's mobile-phone industry gathers pace. Both are believed to have bid about 3.5 billion for the business, which has 16.6m customers but lags behind its two big rivals and is being touted for sale by German owner Deutsche Telekom. The auction is now in its late stages and a decision is expected within weeks. The offers, discussed by Deutsche Telekom's board at the end of last month, have come in beneath the expectations of Rene Obermann, the Bonn group's chief executive. He is thought to prefer a third proposal submitted by France Telecom to merge T-Mobile UK with Orange. However, it is possible all the proposals could be rejected. All three operators believe combining with T-Mobile UK is a one-off chance to create a powerful market leader. Any deal would be heavily scrutinised by telecoms regulator Ofcom as well as by Brussels, which has led a campaign for mobile operators to slash charges.

A stake of almost 50%, worth more than 800m, in the holiday group Thomas Cook is set to be placed with institutional shareholders this week. The share sale is the most dramatic money-raising move by creditor banks of the stake's owner, Arcandor, the German conglomerate that filed for bankruptcy in June. It should lead to 44% of Thomas Cook's shares being placed in the market. Market sources said demand for the stock was likely to be strong and indicated that the shares would be placed at a small discount to the current price of 229 p.

The Observer

Staff at PC World and Currys are using Facebook to launch a torrent of abuse at customers. Offensive comments have been posted on discussion boards by past and present employees, entitled "Really Stupid Customers!" and "Some customers are really, really stupid". Despite criticising some customers for being "ignorant", many of the group's 3,000 members have posted comments under their real names. The shops' parent company, DSG, is understood to be investigating in the wake of the revelations. Posters who said they were employed by DSG said some customers deserved to be punched and one asked if they should be allowed to "cattle prod" others. DSG said: "We have clear guidelines for staff and will investigate any alleged abuse of customers. Delivering excellent customer service is at the forefront of everything we do, so we are very disappointed a small number of our colleagues have made these comments on a social networking website. We will take the necessary action with any staff found to be acting inappropriately."

Financial Times Sat / Sun

Aquascutum is being eyed by Harold Tillman, the fashion entrepreneur best known for taking upmarket retailer Jaeger from classic to cutting edge. Clinching Aquascutum would see two clothiers steeped in rich British history united under Mr Tillman's ownership. It would also be a fillip for Mr Tillman, who is chairman of the British Fashion Council, ahead of what is expected to be a bumper London Fashion Week. Mr Tillman has been weighing up a bid for some time for Aquascutum, which has been put up for sale by its Japanese owner Renown, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mail on Sunday

Pret A Manger is seeing profits wiped out by interest payments on the huge debt it has been saddled with by its private equity owner, Bridgepoint Capital. From the time Bridgepoint took over on April 3, 2008 until January 1 this year, turnover was 190.2 million and operating profit was 14.2 million. But hefty interest payments on bank loans and borrowing from shareholders brought the final pre-tax figure down to a loss to 34.2 million.

Sports Direct, Carpetright and Comet electricals owner Kesa are expected to face shareholder rebellions over the generosity of proposed pay schemes at annual meetings this week. The criticisms follow a rising tide of complaints over pay awards, with fashion chain Next and DSG International among the latest in the firing line. Sports Direct chief executive Dave Forsey and finance director Bob Mellors could each net up to 750,000 in bonuses this year on top of their 150,000 basic salaries, according to research organisation Pirc.

The Independent on Sunday

Crombie, the gentleman's outfitter that built its brand on the Crombie Covert Coat, is to open concessions in 11 more House of Fraser stores next month. A Crombie spokesman said demand for the garment - which started life as a hunting coat at the start of the 20th century and is still a snitch at 675 - is booming despite lean times.

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