Retail round up the Sunday papers
Monsoon founder gives up dividend, Freezing spring hits Marks and Spencer sales, Potatoes in short supply as big freeze hits crops, Clothing sales pile agony on M&S, Ocado to deliver pay boost for bosses, Belfry owner eyes David Lloyd, Questions for chief executive Bolland as Marks & Spencer market share dives, Key cutting opens new doors for cobbler Timpson, Weak pound fails to attract tourists, Online spending soars as shoppers stay warm in wintry conditions, Museum shops cash in with sales reaching a record £100m a year, Betting cap 'will cost 40,000 jobs', Furniture chain Betta Living seeks buyer.
Peter Simon, the former market stall trader who founded Monsoon 40 years ago, has chosen not to take a dividend from the womenswear retailer after it posted an operating loss. Mr Simon, who took the retailer private in a £775m deal in 2007, and his family banked more than £100m in dividends in the three years from 2009-2011. In recognition of the £4m operating loss in the year to August 2012, no dividend has been paid from Monsoon's parent company, Drillgreat.
The terrible spring weather which has seen snow across large parts of the country into April has led to a slump in clothing sales at Marks and Spencer. The company will post fourth quarter sales figures on Thursday with analysts warning that like-for-like clothing sales could be down by as much as 6pc. If correct, it would be retailer's worst figures for four years. Analysts at Nomura, who accurately forecast the company's slump in Christmas clothing sales, have predicted that like-for-like sales in general merchandise sales will fall 6pc despite a 3.5pc rise in like-for-like food sales, a stronger performance than the wider grocery industry.
The price of potatoes has risen by half, and more French varieties will go on sale in Britain after the big freeze hit harvests. The rain, snow and ice this year has led to the lowest yielding and poorest quality crops since the drought of 1976. The Potato Council has warned that stocks are down by almost 20 per cent on last year because of the heavy rainfall. Customers have also been told to expect higher prices on carrots, peas and tomatoes, because much of the planned crop was not planted or is being stunted by the lack of light.
Marks and Spencer is braced for another dismal trading update this week, with analysts predicting that clothing sales will fall for the seventh quarter in a row. The retail giant is expected to admit that like-for-like fashion and homeware sales fell 4.5% in the first three months of the year. Industry data reported by The Sunday Times in February showed that M&S, traditionally beloved of Middle England, lost out in the new year trading period as its customers defected to Primark and Zara.
Ocado has drawn up a generous long-term bonus scheme under which the boss of the online supermarket could annually be awarded shares worth up to £1.8m — four times his salary. Tim Steiner, one of three former Goldman Sachs bankers who set up the home delivery grocery service in 2000, earns £450,000 in base pay. Under a proposal revealed on Friday in an appendix to the circular for Ocado’s annual meeting, the chief executive would be able to take shares worth up to three times his salary in normal years.
The American owner of the Belfry golf resort is considering a bid for David Lloyd Leisure. KSL Capital Partners, which recently snapped up the Malmaison and Hotel du Vin chains, is one of several buyout firms weighing up offers for the fitness clubs operator, which is valued at about £900m.
Mail on Sunday
Marks & Spencer will reveal its worst slump in clothing sales since the arrival of chief executive Marc Bolland three years ago.The beleaguered chief executive will attempt to blame the unseasonably cold weather for the sales slump, but the figures will increase the pressure for him to deliver his long-promised turnround in the chain’s fortunes. Analysts are concerned about lacklustre styles, which they believe are in urgent need of rejuvenation. Bolland has already told shareholders that they will have to wait until autumn for any improvement in the clothing departments, but every drop in sales in the meantime will make the recovery more challenging.
Family-owned cobbler and key cutter Timpson intends to open 100 stores to add to its 1,000 branches. The plan emerged in the chain’s results, which showed a slight rise in turnover to £134 million in the year to September, boosted by its tie-up with Tesco and Sainsbury’s, which saw more stores open in out-of-town shopping centres. Profits, however, were squeezed, falling to £10.1 million from £12.8 million after what the directors called ’a tricky year’.
Hopes that the weak pound has helped to lure tourists to Britain and boost exports are set to be dashed by official figures due this week. On Thursday, official figures will show how many foreigners came to Britain and how many Britons went abroad. The figures cover February, and seem certain to show a continued deficit on British earnings from foreign visitors as against the money spent abroad by Britons.
Wintry weather last month provided a further boost to the already booming online retail sector with internet spending up 12 per cent in March, according to Barclaycard. The credit card group’s figures, provided exclusively to Financial Mail, showed spending in stores rose just 0.4 per cent compared with March last year, confirming fears that the ice and snow had kept shoppers away from the high street. In total, spending increased 2.5 per cent compared to March last year, slightly below inflation, which was 2.8 per cent over the same period.
From David Bowie prints to Warhorse replicas, a new and innovative range of products is taking off. Thanks to a combination of the financial crisis, government cuts and the changing landscape of Britain's high street, museum and gallery shops are turning into thriving commercial hubs, generating sales of £100m last year. As cuts have hit arts funding hard, the answer for many museums has been to raise their retail game – by moving upmarket.
Independent on Sunday
More than 39,000 jobs could go and nearly 8,000 betting shops closed if the Government gives in to demands to curb limits on stakes and prizes for electronic gaming machines, according to Britain's bookies. The Government is under intense pressure from anti-gambling campaigners to reduce the maximum stake from £100 to just £2, while keeping the prize money at £500, as part of a review of gaming machine limits that closes for consultation this week.
The father-and-son team behind Betta Living will put the fitted bathroom and kitchen chain up for sale tomorrow. An industry source said that Betta Living, which has 29 stores but will soon be selling through a major high-street name, should fetch well over £25m due to its recent growth spurt and upbeat prospects.
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