Retail round up The Sunday Papers
The head of Sainsbury’s has stepped into the row over Sunday trading with a warning to ministers not to extend opening hours all year round. Justin King, the group’s chief executive, said the restrictions on opening hours — suspended during the Olympics and Paralympics — were “a great British compromise” and should not be abandoned. In a second attack, the Church of England teamed up with a union and a shopkeepers’ group to call for curbs on opening hours to remain in place.
The Carlyle Group is lining up a deal worth more than £50m to take control of online “snacks by post” business Graze. The American private-equity giant is understood to be interested in taking a controlling stake in the British mail-order food company, which is led by LoveFilm co-founder Graham Bosher. The planned deal, thought to be worth in the region of £50m, would provide an exit for Graze investors, including Octopus Investments, and angel backers such as Saul and Robin Klein, and William Reeve, a fellow LoveFilm founder. It would also represent another success for Mr Bosher, following last year’s £200m sale of movie rental business LoveFilm to Amazon.
Losses at fashion retailer White Stuff have risen almost tenfold to £67m as the value of the brand fell sharply last year. The high-street chain, which began by selling ski-wear in French resorts, posted a pre-tax loss of £67m in the 52 weeks to April 28. The loss was due to slower sales, compounded by the introduction of a new IT system, and a £60m goodwill write-off. The write-off came as the board agreed the carrying value of the goodwill – the amount the current holding company paid for its assets as part of an earlier restructuring – was worth less than its balance-sheet value.
Funds linked to Sheikha Mozah, the wife of the Emir of Qatar, can be revealed as the mystery purchaser of a £27m stake in luxury handbag and accessories manufacturer Anya Hindmarch. It is understood that Qatar Luxury Group, Sheikha Mozah’s luxury goods vehicle, bought the stake in the British company at the start of the month following a long period of negotiation. The Sunday Telegraph first revealed a fortnight ago that an unknown Qatari had invested in Ms Hindmarch’s business. It is understood that the investment was led by a vehicle called Mayhoola for Investments (Qatar), which buys stakes in luxury goods businesses on behalf of the Qatari royal family.
Ocado is to launch a price war against supermarkets and pledge that its groceries will be cheaper than other retailers in an attempt to shake off its image as an under-performing online business in danger of collapse. Speaking for the first time since an analyst note suggested that Ocado was at “the beginning of the end game”and could breach covenants, Tim Steiner, the chief executive, revealed plans for price promotions to encourage higher levels of growth would be put in place over the next year.
Consumers are to get new rights to stop them being hit with hidden extra charges including fees for using credit cards. The Government is setting out plans to help ensure that costs and contract details are clearly set out, so that consumers have all the information they need before spending their money. Under the new measures, customer service helplines will not be able to charge above the basic rate for calls.
Guinness stout-to-Veuve Clicquot champagne producer Diageo will announce that revenue has broken the £10bn mark in its annual results this week. Last year, Diageo fell just short of £10bn, but with rapid growth in emerging markets and Americans enjoying its spirits, sales growth will be around 8 per cent. Operating profit before exceptional, one-off costs, should be more than £3.1bn against nearly £2.3bn last year.
Glimmers of encouragement on the double-dip recession should emerge this week as number crunchers take a more upbeat view of the UK's performance between April and June. In news that will cheer Chancellor George Osborne, the Office for National Statistics' initial estimate of a 0.7 per cent second-quarter slump, due to the extra day off for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, looks to have been overly pessimistic.
An upmarket online grocer, backed by the former boss of Asda, has secured funding to expand and help attract more "foodie" customers. The venture capital firm, Finance Yorkshire, has invested £500,000 to take a minority stake in Farmison, which delivers premium produce, such as farmhouse cheeses and rare-breed beef, direct from farmers. Andy Bond, who was Asda's chief executive until 2010 and is now the chairman of the fashion chain Republic, and Chris Britton, the chief executive of the food company Findus Group, were among the original investors in Farmison at its launch last November.
Whistles boss Jane Shepherdson has wrested control of the high street fashion chain from a collapsed Icelandic bank. Documents filed with Companies House show that Shepherdson and the Whistles management team have reduced the majority stake held by Glitnir to less than 10%. The surprise move has sparked speculation that Whistles, favoured by Kim Sears, Andy Murray’s girlfriend, and the Duchess of Cambridge, is being prepared for a sale.
Business leaders are to submit a proposal to the UK Border Agency to boost the number of Chinese visitors to Britain and give the economy a shot in the arm. Their “one-stop shop” plan to streamline visa applications is designed to cut the amount of red tape involved in processing requests by Chinese tourists. The plan, drawn up by groups representing leading retailers and luxury brands, is designed to make it easier for Chinese visitors to come to Britain while maintaining strict entry requirements.
Mail on Sunday
Big retailers including Asda have been holding regular talks with the Government about a permanent easing of Sunday trading after what they claim was the successful relaxation of the law during the Olympics. Chief executive Andy Clarke told Financial Mail the supermarket giant was providing ‘regular feedback’ on the response of customers.Asda is in favour of allowing big shops to open for longer than six hours on Sundays. The traditional restrictions also limit the opening times to between 10am and 6pm.
Computer expert Ricky Thomas will net millions of pounds after selling his pet foods and medicine website to a private equity-backed rival. Thomas, 33, who founded petmeds.co.uk with £15,000 of savings in 2006, sold the company last week to medicanimal.co.uk. The terms have not been disclosed, but one source said MedicAnimal had paid ‘single figure millions’ for Petmeds, which was 83 per cent-owned by Thomas.
Relief for millions of household budgets from falling inflation could prove short-lived with warnings this weekend that petrol is heading for £1.50 a litre and a poor harvest will send food prices spiralling. With road fuel accounting for nearly five per cent of the Consumer Prices Index, any rise on the current price of about £1.37 a litre could reverse the decline in inflation. And with extreme weather disrupting agricultural production in Britain and abroad, higher prices at the pumps could be mirrored by more expensive food on supermarket shelves.
Potential bidders for the failed Allders department store are holding back as as doubts plague plans for the Croydon site. The third biggest department store in Britain went into administration two months ago. It emerged last week that it owed £ 3.4 million to trade creditors. Potential buyers are understood to be wary at the lack of clarity over development plans.
As it did for Team GB, this summer should have triggered a gold rush for JJB Sports. But instead executives at its Wigan headquarters are wondering if the chain's 40-year career on the high street is finally over. Last week, hopes for the struggling retailer faded further after US giant Dick's Sporting Goods, which had looked as though it might ride to the rescue, distanced itself from JJB, writing down the value of its £20m investment in the company – made just four months ago – to zero. Updating Dick's shareholders last week, chief executive Edward Stack was clear: "We have no further funding obligation to JJB at this time and will continue to monitor the situation."
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