Sunday News Roundup
Mail on Sunday
Britons enjoying the heatwave covering most of the country have helped retailers reporting a leap in sales of meat, disposable barbecues, fruits, booze and sun creams. With temperatures rising, likely to reach 30C in some parts of southern England, and Wimbledon coming to the end, supermarkets have stocked their shelves and expect a boom in sales over the weekend. Waitrose said sales of fresh meat and vegetarian equivalents surged this week, with burgers sales soaring by almost 90 per cent.
Staff at tea rooms group Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate will find a rich slice of profits on the menu this weekend after being awarded a record bonus of £2.7 million, equivalent to six weeks’ wages. The business, which owns Yorkshire Tea as well as six tea rooms across Yorkshire, handed out the bonus to its 1,293 employees, an average of more than £2,000 each. Group turnover grew 14 per cent to £133.2 million in the year to October 31, 2012, with pre-tax profits up from £8.1 million to £10 million for the first time. The company, owned by descendants of founder Frederick Belmont, paid £1.6 million in dividends last year.
Wimbledon fortnight is a crucial time of year for Simon Litherland, not only because he is a tennis fan but also because he is chief executive of Britvic, the soft drinks drinks group whose Robinson’s Barley Water is as synonymous with the tennis tournament as champagne and strawberries and cream. Robinsons has been an official supplier to the championships since 1935 – which means bottles of its famous Barley Water on prominent display by the umpire’s chair on every court.
ChemistDirect has won investors thanks to its bold vision, writes Christopher Williams. ChemistDirect and its chief executive Stuart Rowe. They attracted £6.7m last week in funding from Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström’s venture capital firm, Atomico, the merchant bank Lepe Partners and DMG Media, owner of the recruitment website Jobsite. According to Rowe, ChemistDirect will use the cash to take a larger slice of the UK’s £35bn health and beauty market, which he says is exactly the sort of underdeveloped sector in which an innovative online company can still make a big impact.
The head of Coca-Cola in the UK talks to Kamal Ahmed about cutting calories, launching a smaller 250ml can and why Britain is still a growth market. The timing was a little unfortunate. At the end of last month, a report from Coca-Cola Enterprises revealed plans to promote the company’s products to the under-served “breakfast market”. The headlines immediately screamed “Coke for breakfast plan”.Jon Woods, the general manager of Coca-Cola for the UK and Ireland, laughs when the proposition is put to him. “No, I’m not asking you to have it with your cornflakes,” he says.
WH Smith has begun a trial franchising of its brand to independent newsagents in a bid to expand its network. The stationer and bookseller is testing the model to see if there is potential to try it on a national basis to increase its market penetration and revenues. For WH Smith, which recently saw chief executive Kate Swann stand down and replaced by Steve Clarke, the future benefit would be an increased number of stores in its network, therefore increasing economies of scale. It also reduces the costs of expansion, and could be the way forward for WH Smith’s non-travel business on the high street.
Growing demand for Burberry’s accessories and beauty products is shielding the British premium brand from a faltering luxury market around the world. Burberry, which has hired actress Sienna Miller and her fiancé Tom Sturridge to be the new faces of the brand, is enjoying growing sales outside its core clothing division, with men in China driving a boom in male accessories.The company, which was founded by Thomas Burberry in 1856, is also focusing on increasing the size of its fragrance and beauty division after terminating a licence agreement and bringing the business in-house in April.
Marks & Spencer is set to continue its fightback from a slide in sales and profits by posting its best clothing performance for two years and another rise in food sales. The 129-year-old high street retailer has been suffering from declining sales in its general merchandise division for two years, putting pressure on the chief executive, Marc Bolland. However, sales figures from M&S on Tuesday, on the same day it hosts its annual meeting at Wembley Stadium, are set to suggest its performance in clothing is stabilising.
Topps Tiles:72p - Questor says HOLD. Last week we had four positive updates from major house builders: Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey, Galliford Try and Redrow. The future seems bright, as there is no question that the UK needs more homes.However, Questor believes the valuation of a lot of the sector players is looking a bit full, with much good news priced in. So, as Britain seems likely to get moving building more houses over the next few years, other players are likely to benefit too. Topps Tiles is one such company.
MPs will hold a debate on the future of gift card regulation this week as pressure grows on the Government to improve protection for shoppers following a string of retailer collapses. Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt said it was "totally immoral" that retailers sold gift cards as they approached administration. "Hopefully by raising awareness of the problem and the alternatives, consumers can become more savvy about what to buy and retailers will be prodded to come up with more ethical products," she said. The debate on Tuesday follows the collapse of several high street retailers, most recently Nicole Farhi, the fashion and homeware retailer.
Major institutional shareholders in the struggling high-street giant Marks & Spencer have warned that the chief executive, Marc Bolland, is "in the line of fire" ahead of this week's annual meeting. Investors told The Independent on Sunday that Mr Bolland, who succeeded Sir Stuart Rose three years ago, faces a pivotal few months as he battles to restore the group's fortunes.
Empty shops in Ashford, Kent, reflect wider crisis for retailers who are calling on government to overhaul the rates system. where high street retailers once pointed the finger solely at the internet for their demise, they are increasingly blaming business rates, claiming these leave new stores unable to open, and existing retailers unwilling to expand. The issue is so serious that the British Retail Consortium is calling it the biggest problem now facing retail. Helen Dickinson, the director general of the BRC, has summoned 25 chief finance officers and tax experts from the biggest retailers to her offices in central London on Monday to thrash out how to tackle the issue.
A listed landlord that owns convenience stores and shopping arcades is to put up the shutters after struggling with the slide in property values outside London. Local Shopping Reit, whose tenants include Sainsbury’s and Tesco, is understood to be planning to sell off its £173m portfolio and return the proceeds to shareholders. Internos, the specialist fund manager, is believed to have been lined up to oversee the process.
The retail tycoons Mike Ashley and John Hargreaves are among a large field of suitors vying to buy Nicole Farhi out of administration. Ashley, founder of Sports Direct, and Hargreaves, who made his fortune with Matalan, the discount clothing chain, are both weighing up rescue bids for the fashion label. JD Sports, Ashley’s biggest rival, and Edinburgh Woollen Mill are also in the running.
Marks and Spencer is poised to reveal falling clothing sales for the eighth successive quarter, putting more pressure on its chief executive, Marc Bolland. Analysts expect the high street stalwart to report a 1.5% drop in like-for-like fashion and homeware sales next week. Food sales are tipped to rise 1.6%, although the three-month numbers this year do not include Easter — typically a lucrative time.
One of Britain’s biggest washing machine and cooker retailers is finalising plans for a stock market float of more than £300m, delivering a multimillion-pound windfall for its founder. John Roberts, 39, is set for a paper fortune of at least £60m only 13 years after setting up Appliances Online following a bet over a drink.
Two university friends who started out selling taps and showers on eBay have netted £8.5m by selling a share in their bathroom business to a private equity investor. Chris Lee and Vicky Wang plan to use the cash from Isis Equity Partners to expand the product range at Bath Empire and build a new distribution centre. Isis will take a minority stake, with the rest held by Lee.
A Scottish start-up that makes luxury handbags and accessories has raised funds to expand overseas. Strathberry of Scotland, which employs six staff, has raised £500,000 from five angel investors to open a store in Edinburgh’s Old Town this month. Bags costing between £600 and £1,500 are handmade of silk, linen and equestrian leather at a mill in Peeblesshire, in the Borders.
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