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Retail round up – the Sunday papers

Wish you were online with Thomas Cook, WH Smith brings back DVDs after HMV failure, Get contracts fit for purpose, gyms told, Thomas Cook set to offload brands, HMRC loses £1m as Jessops folds, Drinks industry suffers as high tax bites, Invesco buys in to Morrisons’ online vision, Shopkeeper blows the whistle on traffic wardens, Profits sink at Morrisons, Ladbrokes plots online boost, Goldfinger helps Jurys Inn, Ashley wants to trade up from tracksuits, Morrisons needs Ant, Dec to put on a show, Coffee shop Harris + Hoole stirs in London, Foreigners keep UK champagne sales up, Debenhams joins the big squeeze, Consumers start to spend again, but largely on leisure and travel rather than in stores, Vince Cable backs scheme to sell British luxury


Retail round up – the Sunday papers

Sunday Telegraph

Kate Swann had dramatically reduced WH Smith’s exposure to the entertainment sector in one of the most high-profile strategic moves of her decade-long tenure as chief executive. However, the retailer is understood to have restored CDs and DVDs to some WH Smith stores after the closure of 107 HMV sites since Christmas left many high streets and travel destinations in the UK without any entertainment retailers.

The Office of Fair Trading announced last week that it was forcing three leading gym chains to treat their customers fairly when they want to cancel their contracts. Three leading gyms, including David Lloyd Leisure, have now agreed to make their contract terms more transparent for consumers following a year-long investigation by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

Luxury travel agent Elegant Resorts and long-haul specialist Gold Medal are among the brands that could be put up for sale by Thomas Cook as the new chief executive, Harriet Green, unveils her revival strategy this week, according to analysts. Online sales will play a major part in the overhaul and the group has created a digital advisory board, involving independent experts, to help it close the gap on rivals that have been quicker to invest in the internet. 

Jessops, the photography retailer which was placed into administration in January, collapsed under debts of £81m, a third higher than original estimates. The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that the bulk of creditors – including HM Revenue and Customs and the Government’s Pension Protection Fund (PPF) – will receive no payments as a result of the company’s collapse.

High taxes on wine, spirits and beer are having such a detrimental impact on Britain’s alcohol industry that the Chancellor will receive £3.4bn less in duty than expected by 2018, according to new research. British drinkers have seen taxes on wine rise by 42pc since 2008 while duty on spirits has jumped by 37pc during a period when the UK has been through two recessions.

One of Britain’s most respected fund managers has become the largest shareholder in Wm Morrison, the retailer which has seen its share price rise following the horse meat scandal. Neil Woodford, from Invesco, now holds nearly 8pc of the retailer’s stock. Morrisons is due to update the market on its plans for growth this week in its end-of-year results. The development of an online service and a push into the smaller, convenience store market are thought to be at the heart of the strategy.

When Andy Blackwell decided to take a stand against traffic wardens he became something of a cult hero among motorists around Britain. Armed with just a megaphone Mr Blackwell, a barber in the Cornish town of Liskeard, began warning shoppers that wardens were on the prowl, giving them enough time to return to their cars and move them elsewhere. Mr Blackwell, however, was forced to stop his campaign when the council listed him as a threat to its employees. Wetherspoon boss wants a chain of motorway pubs

Sunday Times

Wm Morrison will reveal a £60m drop in profits this week, underlining the scale of the challenge facing Dalton Philips, its chief executive. The slump has been expected since the supermarket chain emerged as the big loser of the Christmas period, with like-for-like sales down 2.5% in the six weeks to December 30.

Ladbrokes is poised to strike a deal with Playtech, a gaming software supplier, in a move to boost its online operations. The two are in advanced talks about a tie-up that would hand Playtech a bigger role in running the bookmaker’s internet casino and bingo games. It may also help with online sports betting. 

The future of Jurys Inn, the struggling hotel chain, has been secured by a colourful band of new investors including a hedge fund tycoon nicknamed “Goldfinger”. A consortium led by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has pledged to inject £160m into the business in return for a big cut in its debts.

When Mike Ashley cashed in Sports Direct shares worth £100m last month, Newcastle United fans licked their lips, expecting a spending spree on new players by the club’s secretive owner. Sadly for football-mad Geordies, the tracksuit tycoon may have other plans for the cash pile. According to senior retail sources, Ashley is eyeing a string of possible deals in 2013 as he attempts to bolster his reputation as one of Britain’s foremost retailers.

The Observer

Replacing Freddie Flintoff with Ant and Dec for your television ads might seem a bit desperate, but Morrisons clearly has to do everything it can to get shoppers back into its stores. Even though its fresh meat sales benefited from the horsemeat scandal, it has continued to lose out to rivals. The latest Kantar Worldpanel figures showed sales falling by 1.3% in the 12 weeks to mid-February, and market share dropping from 12.4% to 11.8%.

Independent on Sunday

Harris + Hoole, the coffee shop chain backed by Tesco, is to launch an opening blitz in central London this year that will see it more than double in size.  The chain will launch its first outlet in the foyer of Tesco Metro near London Bridge. Harris + Hoole, which currently has 13 outlets including a few outside the capital, plans to open 15 more in central London before the end of the year.

Super-rich oligarchs and wealthy tourists are propping up the champagne market in Britain, which historically has the greatest thirst for bubbly outside France. On Wednesday, the largest champagne tasting in the world will take place in London, with more than 68 brands being sampled by the industry.

Mail on Sunday

Department store giant Debenhams has been slammed for forcing some of its suppliers to cut their prices by at least two per cent, and even backdating reductions for orders that are already agreed. Debenhams has hit other suppliers by delaying their payments to 120 days instead of 90. The squeeze on Britain’s high streets is driving some big retailers to raise the pressure on smaller suppliers to cut prices, increasing the pain of the downturn for those least able to cope, say critics.

Consumer spending jumped by 4.2 per cent last month, the fastest rate in more than a year, according to figures from Barclaycard provided exclusively to Financial Mail. The rise in comparison with the same month in 2012 was greater than the rate of inflation at 2.7 per cent, indicating real growth in consumer spending, with airlines and restaurants among the biggest beneficiaries. But the figures showed that some stores were still suffering severely. 

Business Secretary Vince Cable will this week launch a campaign to promote exports of British luxury goods to emerging markets. The scheme, to begin on Wednesday, includes campaigns to sell brands such as Jimmy Choo and Burberry to growing countries such as India and China. It comes as figures this week are expected to show tentative signs that exports are picking up

Tim Martin, maverick founder of the pub chain J D Wetherspoon, is known for opening in locations such as former banks, cinemas, fire stations and even funeral parlours. But Martin, 57, now has his sights on motorway service stations. ‘There are so many great routes,’ he told Financial Mail, though they turn out to be American rather than British. ‘There’s Route 66, Highway 61 – there’s something very appealing about a road trip.’


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