Retail round up The Sunday Papers
The country's biggest newsagent WH Smith has banned children from buying shooting magazines, even though it is legal for them to hold a shotgun licence. It is a sport enjoyed by thousands of children, and one which gained Britain a gold medal at the Olympics. But children have been banned from buying shooting hobby magazines by Britain’s biggest newsagent - even though it is entirely legal for them to own a gun. WH Smith has banned youngsters from buying copies of country sports magazines after a campaign by animal rights activists. The retailer says it has introduced an age limit on such magazines as Shooting Times because children are not allowed to obtain a firearms certificate until they are 14.
As big new developments become rarer, John Lewis Partnership plans compact stores on affluent high streets. "That is a good omen," says John Lewis boss Andy Street, pointing to the small rainbow breaking through the grey drizzle obscuring the majesty of Exeter cathedral's imposing Norman towers. The 100 shoppers queuing around the block to get into the shop are also a good sign for middle Britain's favourite department store, which has just opened in the well-heeled university city. The compact five-storey John Lewis, at what one person described as the "grotty" end of the high street, is a departure from the company's usual sprawling interiors.
The Sunday Times
Virgin Money is poised to swoop on a network of 316 Royal Bank of Scotland branches after the collapse of their sale to Santander. The Spanish bank walked away from the £1.65 billion deal last week after more than two years of negotiations. RBS now has 15 months to find another buyer. It was ordered to sell the branches by the European commission as a condition for receiving state aid during the financial crisis.
Google faces legal action from American and European regulators over alleged breaches of competition and privacy laws. America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering suing the Silicon Valley giant for stifling competition on the internet by manipulating search rankings to favour its own products, according to leaked documents. In Europe, meanwhile, a regulatory probe has found that Google rode roughshod over privacy laws. The findings may pave the way for expensive lawsuits.
The City grandee Alan Parker is to shake up the board of Darty by bringing in two heavyweight new directors. Parker, who has chaired the electricals group since August, is expected to appoint Pascal Bazin, former chief executive of Avis Europe, the car rental company, as an independent non-executive board member. A second French businessman is also expected to become a part-time director at Europe’s third-largest electricals retailer, which formerly owned Comet.
Some of Britain’s most historic hotels, including the Lygon Arms in the Cotswolds, could soon be in the hands of the Irish state. The agency responsible for the wind-down of Anglo Irish, the nationalised lender, may be forced to call in a large loan made to Puma Hotels. Puma owns a string of four-star hotels but is struggling with debts of more than £300m borrowed from Anglo Irish before the financial crisis.
Independent on Sunday
The incoming financial services regulator will punish insurers and banks that make "excessive" profits, according to a report due out this week detailing its powers and structure. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), one of the two watchdogs that will replace the Financial Services Authority next year, will have a powerful role ensuring that there is suitable competition in these markets.
Signs of life in the great British boozer should emerge this week when the Spirit Pub Company cheers the sector with upbeat profit figures. The most depressed voices in the saloon bar have been predicting the end of the pub trade for some time, given the huge number of closures that followed the financial crisis and the recession. Spirit Pub Company – made up of around 800 managed pubs – reports full-year results on Tuesday with City analysts predicting a 16 per cent jump in profits to £51m.
Making and exporting luxury goods could be a route out of Europe's economic decline, according to Brussels. Latest figures show that fashion and high-end industries are a significant contributor to the economy, each accounting for 3 per cent of the EU's GDP, with the latter expecting to employ more then two million people by 2020. The European Commission vice-president, Antonio Tajani, said: "The world high-end market is dominated by European entrepreneurs, such as Bernard Arnault-led Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, that have continued to drive growth and create jobs in Europe."
Mail on Sunday
Sir Philip Green, billionaire owner of Topshop and BHS, is ramping up his use of British manufacturers, stoking hopes of a revival of the UK clothing industry. In a rare interview, Green told Financial Mail he was giving more work to British suppliers and cutting his dependence on overseas manufacturing centres such as China, where costs are rising. Green’s Arcadia Group has already increased the number of British factories it uses by 20 per cent in the past year alone to 47 from a negligible base several years ago.
High Street retailers are braced for a body blow this week when figures are released that could pave the way for another crippling rise in business rates. September’s Retail Prices Index is expected to have risen 2.7 per cent in a year and this inflation figure is likely to be used as the level by which business rates will rise in April 2013. That would mean rates will have risen 13.4 per cent over three years.
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