Retail round up the Sunday papers
Senior business leaders have warned that last week's riots could send some of Britain's most troubled high streets into a downward spiral if traumatised shopkeepers decide to walk away. Hundreds of stores were looted and in some cases destroyed by fire during the spree of violence and theft that insurers say will cost £200m to mop up. The recession has accelerated high street decline, with a government-sponsored review, led by retail guru and TV presenter Mary Portas, charged with coming up with ideas of how to foster "more prosperous and diverse" town centres. With one in seven UK shops lying empty, the clock is ticking.Stephen Robertson, the director of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), says: "Our biggest fear is that otherwise successful retailers are pushed into insolvency by the events of last week. The retail sector has been battling difficult trading conditions for much of this year and sadly for some shops these attacks will be the final straw."
After several years of giving beleaguered British shopkeepers a stern dressing down on her TV show Mary Queen of Shops, Mary Portas has decided to open her first shop, which is aimed at what she believes is a much neglected demographic. "Over 50% of women in this country are over 40, so why hasn't anyone gone, 'I'm going to dress and style you, and create the shop for you.' That's what I'm doing. There's only one rule in my shop: it's not for girls, it's for women." The shop, called Mary & House of Fraser, opens this Thursday in London at the department store's Oxford Street branch.
Morrisons will fund the degree studies of 1,000 A-level students in a move to recruit its future senior managers straight from school. The Bradford-based supermarket chain said the initiative, to be announced this week, would offer young people with the "right drive and attitude" the chance to get a management education from one of the UK's top business schools without the attendant student debt. It aims to enrol 1,000 people in its "Futures" programme within the next 18 months, with the first 100 in place by the end of the summer.
Lord Harris has pledged that his Carpetright chain will reopen in Tottenham after the rioting that destroyed the company’s store. The Tory peer, who has invested his own money in 13 academy schools for underprivileged pupils, said he was horrified by the scenes of violence and looting on the streets of London and other English cities. The carpet tycoon insisted: “We will reopen in Tottenham — we will be back to help these people. They will be scarred for a long time.”
Thomas Cook is mulling plans to close hundreds of shops and shrink its airline as it fights for its future as a travel agent. Directors may also decide to scale back the sale of low-end package deals as they conduct a root- and-branch review of its troubled British division, where margins tumbled. Thomas Cook is reeling after three earnings downgrades in a year that led to the exit of chief executive, Manny Fontenla-Novoa, two weeks ago. It is expected to rethink the number of shops it needs once a merger with Co-operative Travel is completed. The deal could win final approval from the Competition Commission as early as Tuesday.
Independent on Sunday
Ben Sherman, one of Britain's oldest menswear brands, has poached Burberry merchandising chief Adrian Ward-Rees as part of a makeover for the 48-year-old business. Mr Ward-Rees joins the firm as commercial director. The brand, famous for its 1960s Mod associations, wants to do a "Burberry" or a "Mini" and reinvent itself as a top global menswear brand.
Mail on Sunday
Betting shops are poised to outnumber bank branches on Britain's ailing High Streets for the first time, statistics from both industries show. Bookies are opening at a rate of 11 a month according to the Gambling Commission. It says betting shops number 8,927, with the biggest two chains – William Hill and Ladbrokes – accounting for 67 new shops in the last ten months of 2010.
Ocado came under renewed fire this weekend after the dire performance of its share price last week and amid fears that the online grocery delivery sector will struggle to be profitable. Ocado's stock plummeted 14 per cent last week to 125.4p – half the value of six months ago. The company was hit by a report on Thursday by investment bank Goldman Sachs warning that profits may disappoint because of capacity constraints at its distribution centre in Hatfield, Hertfordshire.
Comet, which has been put up for sale by its parent group Kesa, has filed documents that illustrate how unprofitable electrical retailing on the High Street has become without relying on the sale of extended warranties. The figures, retrieved from Companies House by Financial Mail, show that the 249-store chain made a loss of £40 million in the year to April on sales of £1.5 billion before money from selling extended warranties was included. This is understood to have cut the group's total losses to below £10 million.
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