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Sunday News Roundup

Consumer power forces wave of panic price cuts, German Aldi and Lidl crush British Big Four at checkouts over Christmas, Hedge funds back Co-op Bank through offshore tax havens, Zapp it, Pingit or snap it... the new ways to pay, Shaken Domino's to reassure investors as it is set to post strong sales figures, Cheers! Craft ale and spirit fans get a cyber shop with, How ghd is getting ahead, Travelodge checks in for £10m relaunch, Iceland settles 'fun tax’, Sainsbury’s culls DVDs, M&S sales lack festive sparkle, Osborne’s family business hit by the poor global economic climate, EasyFood: Stelios goes from the check-ins to checkouts, Marc Bolland prays for some magic and sparkle in M&S's results, M&S in Christmas sales disaster, Lovefilm founder backs fashion start-up


Sunday News Roundup

Mail on Sunday

Shoppers forced many high street stores into panic sales in the last few days before Christmas as they refused to pay top prices, exclusive figures for The Mail on Sunday reveal. But even discounts failed to spark a final spree. Consumer spending growth nearly ground to a halt in mid-December and there was no late surge as retailers and shoppers engaged in a stand-off. Only a handful of key retailers have reported sales so far and the data from Barclaycard provides the most comprehensive picture yet of what consumers spent over the key festive period.

German discounters Aldi and Lidl took Britain by storm at Christmas and will force their homegrown rivals to issue a string of disappointing trading statements over the next fortnight. The pair are believed to have increased combined sales by about 20 per cent in the festive quarter, taking total turnover to an estimated £8billion in the 12 months to December, according to industry sources. A spokeswoman for Lidl said: ‘We are extremely pleased to announce that 2013 has seen our best performance to date over the Christmas period.’

Almost all of the 20 hedge funds that now own 30 per cent of the battered Co-op Bank have channelled their investments through offshore tax havens. Companies House documents show that following the ‘ethical’ bank’s restructuring, 18 out of the 20 mainly US hedge funds keep their holdings in companies based in the Cayman Islands, Jersey, Luxembourg, Ireland or the British Virgin Islands. News that the holdings are based in offshore tax havens could cause further disquiet among the bank’s customers, who are already upset about the hedge funds’ involvement.

Soon you will be able to pay cheques into your bank account by sending a picture, shop without taking a wallet out of your pocket and give cash to anyone by using their mobile phone number. Whether you Zapp it, tap it, Pingit or snap it, the way we use money is changing, writes Laura Shannon. There are 32million 'contactless’cards in circulation in the UK, according to the UK Cards Association. And by the end of last year an estimated 300 transactions a minute were completed with them. They are ordinary debit and credit cards but they have a logo of four bold lines making a wave symbol. Unlike standard cards, they can simply be waved over a payment terminal without you having to enter a PIN. There is a limit of £20 per transaction…

Domino's Pizza UK hopes to reassure nervous investors with strong sales figures this week following the sudden resignation of its chief executive Lance Batchelor. The takeaway and delivery chain is expected to announce like-for-like sales up 4.5 per cent when it issues a trading update on Wednesday. Shares fell more than 9 per cent early last month after Batchelor announced his departure.

Drinkers searching for small craft producers of ales, wine and spirits are flocking to an online marketplace. Thirty independent producers across the UK now sell through, including several micro-breweries, wine and cider brandy producers and several small gin and vodka companies. Sales are growing by more than 80 per cent month on month, with Christmas providing a healthy boost.


ghd boss Paul Stoneham has improved his company's supply chain and volumised sales. The hair straightener manufacturer ghd is barely recognisable after a makeover from its chief executive, Paul Stoneham, who will launch 20 new products over the next five years. The Canadian has pumped up sales volumes by 24pc since June 2009, and plans to introduce a new volumising tool in the spring – a first for the ceramic hair irons company.

Travelodge the low-cost hotelier plans to put an 'annus horribilis’ behind it after staving off administration. Budget hotel chain Travelodge is preparing to usher out the old and bring in the new in 2014 with a £10m brand relaunch. The hotelier, which started 2013 with pre-tax losses of more than £71.1m following an “annus horribilis” in 2012, will unveil a fresh image in the spring – the latest part of its recovery plan under new owners GoldenTree Asset Management, Avenue Capital and Goldman Sachs. The relaunch will be accompanied by a £10m TV advertising campaign 

Iceland has finally settled the £2.5m tax bill it received for taking 800 senior staff on a trip to Disney World in Florida.It was branded “a nit-picking attack on fun” by Iceland boss Malcolm Walker, but the retailer has finally settled the £2.5m tax bill it received for taking 800 senior staff on a trip to Disney World in Florida. “We’ve since settled that bill with the Inland Revenue and we’re very happy with the outcome,” the Iceland founder disclosed in an interview.

Sainsbury's is to abandon the sale of CDs, DVDs, and books through the internet in an admission of the difficulties facing retailers trying to sell physical media online. The supermarket retailer will stop taking online orders for physical media products from the end of February. The move is a boost to high street entertainment retailers such as HMV, but underlines how difficult it is to sell CDs, DVDs, games and books at a profit over the internet.

Marks and Spencer set to report third poor Christmas in a row. M & S has suffered its third disappointing Christmas in a row with a much-vaunted revamp of its clothing range failing to stop sales declining, figures are expected to show this week. The 130-year-old high street retailer is set to report a drop in general merchandise like-for-like sales of at least 0.5pc for December, with some analysts forecasting a 1.5pc drop. However, food sales are forecast to rise 2pc.

The luxury wallpaper and furnishings company majority-owned by the Chancellor’s family, has seen losses widen amid difficult market conditions. Osborne & Little, the luxury wallpaper and furnishings company majority-owned by the Chancellor’s family, has seen losses widen amid difficult market conditions. The international business, in which George Osborne owns a 15pc stake held in a blind trust, generated a loss before tax of £746,000 in the year to March, up from £268,000 in the prior year.


Serial entrepreneur Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is cautiously making plans to enter the budget supermarket sector. Last year was the year the food ran out. Not at the supermarkets, bursting with produce, but for thousands of people hit by rising prices, low wages and welfare cuts. Despite Britain's reviving economy, many found themselves unable to afford basic food in 2013. In response, the number of food banks in Britain has soared and the implications of that growth were debated in parliament. Last month, Britain's first social supermarket opened its doors, selling food and drink in damaged packaging at a 70% discount to people on the brink of food poverty.

The under-pressure Marc Bolland has done well selling food, but not fashion. Will this Christmas have been different for M&S? So, Next had a stellar Christmas. John Lewis and House of Fraser too. Can it only be Debenhams that emerges as a clear loser in this space? That is one of the key questions being pondered by the City's number crunchers this weekend as they gear themselves up for the Marks & Spencer trading pantomime on Thursday. Under chief executive Marc Bolland, the retailer has been flogging plenty of its posh nosh, but not nearly enough of its once essential threads. The unconvincing boss will have asked Santa for just one present thisChristmas: a strong showing in fashion.

Sunday Times

High street bellwether to reveal dire trading despite price cuts of up to 30%. Marks and Spencer will admit to dismal Christmas trading this week, after frantic price cuts failed to halt a slide in sales. City sources believe clothing and homeware sales dropped by up to 1.5% over the crucial festive quarter, in spite of discounts of up to 30%. The figures are worse than expected. At the start of last month, analysts forecast that like-for-like general merchandise sales would fall 0.5% for the three months to December 31, with food takings predicted to grow by 2%.

A young tech entrepreneur has secured £1.6m of investment from high-profile businessmen to grow his personal shopping venture. Kieran O’Neill, 26, has raised cash from 16 investors for Thread, which allocates users a free personal stylist who suggests purchases based on specified tastes. Backers for the business, which went live last month, include William Reeve, co-founder of Lovefilm, Michael Birch, co-founder of Bebo, and Edgar Bronfman Jr, the former boss of Warner Music.




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