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Retail round up – the Sunday Papers

David Jones and Chris Ronnie had buy-out plans, Convenience stores face survival, Renewed taste for own-label premium foods, Staycation Britons boost John Lewis sales, Chris Ronnie answers his critics


Retail round up – the Sunday Papers

David Jones and Chris Ronnie had buy-out plans, Convenience stores face survival, Renewed taste for own-label premium foods, Staycation Britons boost John Lewis sales, Chris Ronnie answers his critics

Sunday Telegraph

Sir David Jones, the executive chairman of JJB Sports, was working on a secret plan to take the sportswear retailer private with Chris Ronnie, the chain's former chief executive who he sacked earlier this year. Sir David told Mr Ronnie that he wanted to "have a share of the action" in taking the retailer private, after which they would "all live happily ever after". News that Sir David was discussing a management buy-out of the business with Mr Ronnie - who he has since accused of taking the business to the brink of insolvency - suggests that the two men were far closer than has been suggested.

Kurt Geiger, whose customers include Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Cole, saw earnings

rise by 21pc over its last financial year. The private equity-owned chain also saw a like-for-like sales increase of 7pc over the year, according to documents to be posted at Companies House this week. The chain, which has almost 30 stores in the UK and Ireland and a raft of concessions in the UK and overseas, created more than 300 jobs over its financial year, bucking the general trend for job losses across the fashion retail sector.

A war of the convenience stores is raging on the high street. It may seem like a storm in a box of cut-price tea bags, but for the 980 members of Nisa-Today's, and the 5,000 independent stores under its ownership, it is a vital battle for their survival. Britain's last remaining mutually-owned buying group for independent shopkeepers is facing a potentially hostile bid from Bibby Line Group, the owner of 51pc of Costcutter, Nisa-Today's biggest member. Bibby's bid, worth as much as £75m, was rejected last week by Nisa-Today's board because they believe it "significantly undervalues" the company. But Bibby has asked shopkeepers to contact it in the hope of drumming up enough support that the Nisa board will be forced to reconsider. It has said the buy-out will hand the majority of members as much as £100,000 during a time of economic hardship and berated Nisa-Today's board for not giving the shopkeepers a chance to vote on the deal.

Financial Times Sat / Sun

Fine dining on a budget is back on the menu as sales of supermarkets' own-label premium food ranges bounced back for the first time this year, signalling a recovery in consumer confidence. Shoppers keen to make savings are taking advantage of promotions retailers are offering on their expensive premium ranges. Sales in premium private label goods, which have re-cently been in decline, rose by 4 per cent in the three months to the end of June, according to Nielsen, the market research company. Mike Watkins, a retail specialist at Nielsen, said: " is not just due to discounting but because consumers are feeling more confident than six months ago."

Sports Direct is under investigation over the purchase of 31 stores from rival JJB Sports. The Office of Fair Trading referred the case to the Competition Commission on Friday after Sports Direct failed to find buyers for stores in five areas of the country where the OFT is concerned the retailer would gain a monopoly.

Britons holidaying in the UK this summer have given a welcome boost to John Lewis, allowing the department store chain to record its third consecutive big rise in weekly sales. The group, considered a bellwether of the British high street, said sales were up 5.6 per cent on last year to £50m, building on rises of 6.3 per cent and 5.3 per cent in the previous two weeks. The weak pound and fears over unemployment has put off many UK holiday-makers from going abroad this summer, boosting sales on the British high street. Sales at the group's department store in Southampton showed the highest weekly rise of 15.9 per cent.

The Observer

Former JJB Sports chief executive Chris Ronnie claims to have been the victim of a "witch-hunt" and has sought to clear his name in an interview with the Observer. But questions remain about his use of company funds. Ronnie claims the other directors have made him a scapegoat over strategic errors that the board was party to. JJB bought footwear chains Qube and Original Shoe Company without due diligence and their combined losses were a big factor in the company's near collapse. During Ronnie's 18-month tenure, its share price collapsed from more than £2 to less than 3p, a deterioration that fed suspicions he was undermining it to benefit former employer Mike Ashley, who runs rival Sports Direct. "Why would I want to destroy something I have invested millions in?" said Ronnie, whose shares were seized by the administrators of nationalised Icelandic bank Kaupthing last year. "The person who stood to lose the most was me."

The Independent on Sunday

Saga, the over-50s holiday company backed by private equity, is set to buy one of Britain's biggest travel agents, Titan Travel, in a deal that could be agreed as early as this week. It's believed that Saga is likely to fend off rival interest for Titan, which was put up for sale earlier in the year. McInnes, the corporate finance arm of insolvency specialists Begbies Traynor, is handling the sale after being appointed to review the travel company by a number of creditor institutions. Saga, which is owned by the private equity firms Permira, Charterhouse and CVC, is expected to pay between £15-20m for Titan. According to Titan's latest filings at Companies House the firm posted a turnover of more than £131m for the year to the end of September 2007. However, the firm posted a meagre profit on sales of just £211,144 over the year. The company, which is led by managing director Martin Coe, sells a broad range of holidays including trips to the US and China.

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