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Sunday News Roundup


The Restaurant Group's shares already price in much of the growth, says Questor. Increasing consumer confidence is feeding profit growth at The Restaurant Group. The owner of brands such as Frankie and Benny’s and Garfunkel’s is benefiting from people treating themselves not only to a trip to the cinema, but a bite to eat and maybe a dessert too. First-half results beat market expectations with pre-tax profits up 15pc to £30m, and revenue growth up by 11.5pc to £280m. Andrew Page, chief executive, said sales were up across all the brands adding: “More people are coming into our restaurants and they are spending more per person.”

Revitalising the UK’s high streets will be the centre of attention this week as Mary Portas updates her rescue plan.When Mary Portas faces MPs on the communities and local government select committee on Monday afternoon, she will be her usual confident self. It is 21 months since the self-styled Queen of Shops outlined her blueprint for the future of the high street, and she believes that solid progress is being made in regenerating some of Britain’s failing town centres.

Burton’s boss remains positive as firm faces sale. British factories making Jammie Dodgers may not have the glamour of other sites in Lancashire assembling the Typhoon fighter jet, but they are set to become an appetising meal for one private equity group. Burton’s Biscuit Company, the maker of Jammie Dodgers, Wagon Wheels, and Maryland cookies, has put itself up for sale after owners Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and private equity group Apollo Global Management decided it was time to cash in on the growth of the group.

Half of all high street chains in Britain are at “serious risk of failure” a major report on the future of British retailing will claim this week. Bill Grimsey, the former chief executive of Wickes and Iceland, will release the report on Wednesday and say that Britain’s high streets are in a “deep decline” and there is an “arms race for new ideas”. However he says that there is a “frustrating sense of policy being conducted in the margins”. Mr Grimsey will say that previous initiatives such as Mary Portas’s government-backed review into the high street were too “nostalgic” and failed to grasp the extent to which the internet has changed shopping patterns.

Sunday Times

The buyout firm behind Jack Wills clothing stores is snapping up a sun-and-sea holiday specialist for about £75m. Inflexion has entered exclusive talks to buy On the Beach, an online company that allows customers to build their own package holidays by booking flights and hotels separately. A sale would generate a tidy profit for Isis, a rival buyout firm, which has backed On the Beach for six years.

Richard Caring is edging closer to a deal to sell his Côte brasserie chain for about £100m. CBPE, the private equity firm that was once part of Close Brothers investment bank, is in talks to buy the 45-strong chain. It has leapfrogged Bridgepoint, a rival firm best known for backing Pret A Manger sandwich bars, which had been in exclusive negotiations. Bridgepoint has not ruled out making a fresh offer.

Naked Wines, the supplier funded by its customers, is raising cash through a bond that will pay interest in booze. The £3m fundraising is part of a plan to bring heavily discounted fine wines, priced from £10 to £20, to a wider audience. Investors willing to put up between £500 and £10,000 for three years will be paid 10% interest, as long as they take it in credits for future purchases. If they want cash, the rate will be 7%.

The former boss of Aquascutum and Pringle is to bring her online fashion range to Harvey Nichols. Kim Winser, 54, who launched Winser London in February as an internet-only business, has agreed to open a concession at the Knightsbridge flagship shop of the upmarket department store chain. It will start trading tomorrow and stay for eight weeks. Winser is the latest web entrepreneur to experiment with selling on the high street.

Amazon, the online retail giant, has installed collection lockers in shopping centres and is thought to have flirted with the idea of opening stores. The supermarket giant is converting its out-of-town stores into bespoke shopping centres complete with hair salons and knitting clubs.

A ceasefire has been declared in Chesterfield, the Derbyshire market town known for its crooked church spire and medieval streets. For nine months residents have been campaigning against plans to convert the Crispin pub, on the road to the Peak District, into a Tesco Express store. With a torrent of letters, several emotional speeches and protests outside the beer garden, they have persuaded the council to reject much of the supermarket giant’s planning application. Now both sides are backing off while Tesco prepares an appeal. “It’s an absolute joke,” said Karen Bagnall, 54, pointing out that there were already nine Tescos in the area, including One Stop convenience stores. 


Luxury-handbag maker Mulberry will face shareholder anger on Wednesday at its annual meeting over a £2m long-term incentive scheme for its bosses. Corporate-governance body Pirc has issued a statement opposing the remuneration and said it "has not been put to a vote which is considered to be a serious governance failure". Although it is not a requirement for an Aim-listed company it is "considered to be best practice".

As pubs give way to supermarkets, is it a case of adapt or call time. The local pub has long been the place where people drink, eat, watch sport, meet their long-term (or immediate) partners and even get into bar-room brawls.But these days the British are almost as likely to bump into neighbours at the grocery store as they are at their local.This is because Tesco is understood to have converted up to 160 former boozers into supermarkets, amid an alarmingly fast rate of pub closures during the economic downturn.

Bringing our town centres back to life requires some radical thinking, a new study will warn this week. If the present looks bleak for west London's latest retail casualties, which join 40,000 more empty shops across the UK, then the future could be rather more exciting. That's according to one veteran retailer, Bill Grimsey, who has spent the past three months investigating Britain's high streets and will set out a blueprint this week for how to reinvent even the least prosperous stretches of pawnbrokers and pound shops.

Mail on Sunday

A staggering 20,000 independent retail businesses are on the brink of collapse, according to a report due this week that will demand a radical overhaul of Britain’s ‘ugly’ town centres.The call follows growing anger over what is seen as the failure of a Government flagship scheme fronted by retail guru Mary Portas to tackle decline. Bill Grimsey, the former boss of DIY chain Wickes and food retailer Iceland, launched his own review earlier this year, the results of which will be handed to MPs on Wednesday.

Debenhams is gearing up for an autumn battle against big rival Marks & Spencer with a TV advertising campaign aimed at younger buyers. It launches tonight with a cameo from British pop singer Foxes, also known as Louisa Rose Allen, whose songs have featured on the American TV hit Gossip Girl. Debenhams aims to emphasise its fashion credentials and appears to be targeting younger, fashion-conscious shoppers. It is also likely to be seen as an attempt to shake off the store’s discounting image.


Bill Grimsey, once head of Iceland and the now defunct Focus DIY, is offering us his thoughts on reviving the high street. It has been a few months since we last had a review of the British high street, so we are long overdue another. This week it's the turn of Bill Grimsey – once boss of Iceland owner Big Food Group and DIY chain Focus – who, in that self-effacing way of his, is volunteering his own retail manifesto. History teaches us that these reports usually end up looking as homogeneous as most UK town centres, but even if Grimsey has decent ideas, one wonders if he's the man to present them. 

Supermarket-built schemes may ease housing shortages, but will they actually be good places to live?In Streatham, south London, builders are hard at work addressing the capital's dire housing shortage on a site next to the suburb's railway station. Their employer, however, is not a housebuilder such as Bovis or Barratt but Britain's biggest supermarket: Tesco. Tesco alone is building more than 800 homes in London in 2013, close to 5% of all the non-local authority homes being built in the capital. Its huge projects in Woolwich, Highams Green and Streatham are merely paving the way for a wave of supermarket-led home building projects which will flood across the south-east.

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