Retail round up the Sunday papers
J Who? America's J Crew set to send pulses racing, Tesco expands click-and-collect in Asia, 2,000 Merlin staff to share £200m IPO windfall, , £1bn sale on Pizza Express menu, Shoe chain on the brink, Staveley buys Bond Street jeweller, South African billionaire puts BHS on shopping list, Shoppers aiming to put Christmas spending on credit cards, Tesco in the soup, New Argos boss targets the middle class, Al Sharpton threatens boycott of Barneys, Ministers in dark on business rate relief.
The biggest shake-up in Britain's high street fashion scene for years begins next week when the American "geek chic" clothing chain loved by First Lady Michelle Obama opens its doors in London. J Crew will open for business on Regents Street on November 1, bringing with it a reputation for smart, kooky, and expensive, clothing that has already proved a huge success on the other side of the Atlantic. After starting out 30 years ago as a mail order specialist, J Crew today runs 249 stores in North America and generates £1.2 billion of sales a year.
Tesco is stepping up its efforts to be the world’s leading online grocery retailer and fighting back from a decline in global sales by launching a click-and-collect service in Asia. The retailer is to open the service at its hypermarket at Ramindra in Bangkok, Thailand. It will be the first time that a retailer has launched a click-and-collect service in Asia which allows customers to collect their online food orders from supermarkets.
About 2,000 senior managers and other long-standing staff at Merlin Entertainments will share in a £200m windfall when the owner of Legoland Parks and the London Eye floats on the stock market next month.
The owner of the restaurant empire behind Pizza Express is finalising plans for a £1bn sale or float. The private equity backer of Gondola Holdings, which also owns the Zizzi and Ask restaurant chains, are expected to appoint an investment bank in the coming weeks to draw up exit plans. The move follows Gondola’s sale of the Byron burger chain for £100m this month
More than 1,000 jobs are on the line at Barratts, the high street shoe chain, as it scrambles for an emergency loan. It is understood that the Bradford-based retailer is seeking £3m in short-term funds to help pay for stock in the run-up to Christmas. Retail sources said Barratts’ owner and boss, Michael Ziff, has approached asset-based lenders and turnaround investors for the cash.
Amanda Staveley, the financier who helped to broker a deal to save Barclays from a bailout during the banking crisis, is preparing to snap up a stake in one of Bond Street’s most prestigious jewellers. Her investment vehicle, PCP, is thought to be teaming up with Qatar First Bank to buy a 50% share in David Morris. The deal is expected to value the business at between $60m and $80m (£37m-£50m).
Mail on Sunday
The BHS department store chain, owned by Sir Philip Green, has been sized up as a potential takeover target by South African billionaire Christo Wiese. The chain is one of several retailers on a list of possible British acquisitions being considered by Wiese, who has a personal fortune of £2.2 billion. He has formed an alliance with former Asda chief Andy Bond, who has been given the task of finding possible British acquisitions.
Shoppers aiming to put Christmas spending on credit cards can take advantage of new and competitive offers as companies fight for their custom. From this Friday, Santander will start paying rebates of 1 per cent to its 123 cashback credit card customers who use their plastic for shopping via online retailer Amazon. This seasonal deal will last until the end of January and is available to new and existing customers.
Tesco has been forced to make an embarrassing U-turn by scrapping some of its own range of groceries in favour of branded products from other suppliers. The supermarket has created a number of products to compete with branded goods from other companies, but has now trimmed back the range, in one case reintroducing rival products that it had dropped from its shelves. The supermarket has removed its own-brand range of New York Soup Company products from its shelves in the past fortnight after it failed to fulfil sales expectations.
Green shoots in the economy are still few and far between, according to Argos managing director John Walden. But despite his cautious outlook, the boss of one of Britain’s most distinctive retailers has an ambitious plan – to take Argos upmarket and shed its image as a store for those who are short of cash. Walden is as keen as ever to cater to the company’s price-conscious shoppers. The new £99.99 Argos tablet computer is one such example. But he also wants to move away quietly from Argos’s image as a destination purely for the masses buying cheap jewellery and to attract more high-spending, middle-class consumers. That includes more expensive tablets and televisions, Stoves cookers, which sell for up to £2,500, and Denby kitchenware.
Civil rights activist says black shoppers were detained by police after making expensive purchases at luxury retailer. "We've gone from stop and frisk to shop and frisk, and we are not going to take it," Sharpton said on Saturday, adding that black New Yorkers "are not going to live in a town where our money is considered suspect and everyone else's money is respected". Two black Barneys customers, Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips, said this week they were detained by police after making expensive purchases. Christian sued Barneys, saying he was accused of fraud after using his debit card to buy a $349 Ferragamo belt in April.
The Government has admitted it has no idea how many small and independent retailers have benefited from business-rate relief, despite claiming changes to the system are saving the high street. As a result of this poor information, critics argued this weekend that ministers are not taking the issue of rates reform seriously enough. Retailers have been calling on the Government to reform the business-rate system to regenerate the high-street, which is losing out to online retailers who do not pay the same levels of this levy, and claim the current tax system is not fit for purpose.
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