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Sunday News Roundup

Sainsbury's thrives after a decade of Justin King, Dear Abercrombie & Fitch, is 'larger sizes' all you've got? Questor share tip: Growth is getting harder to come by for Wetherspoon, Burberry’s new CEO to face City analysts, Halfords rides Olympic glory to pedal on ahead, As The Cambridge Satchel Company grew, so did the counterfeit websites, Sainsbury’s closes in on second spot as sales grow, Ray of hope for M&S, Green mulls BHS sale as bidders circle, House of Fraser’s speedy sale, Co-operative Bank's troubles force group to suspend dividend payment, Premier Foods forces small firms to cough up £5,000, Dixons launches £180 tablet in Christmas war against Tesco and Argos, Seasonal advertising: As John Lewis well knows, commerce is the gift that keeps on giving


Sunday News Roundup


After 10 years, Justin King is set to put Sainsbury’s back at No 2.  J Sainsbury is close to reaching two notable milestones that mark its fightback under Justin King. First, it is about to reclaim its position as the second-biggest grocery retailer in Britain for the first time in a decade. Sainsbury’s has already overtaken Asda in Nielsen’s market share data. The data show that, after 35 consecutive quarters of growth from Sainsbury’s, its market share rose from 16.4pc to 16.6pc in the 12 weeks to October 13, while Asda fell from 16.7pc to 16.4pc.

So Abercrombie & Fitch has finally woken up and admitted it needs to sell larger sizes. Whoop-de-do - is that it, asks Louisa Peacock, who hails Debenhams and its new size 16 mannequins as a far better way of revolutionising the high street. In the same week that Debenhams launched size 16 mannequins in its stores, A & F said it would introduce larger size clothing. Both stories hit the headlines. The first is to be applauded: it's the only mainstream retailer to have taken the plunge. The second ... is that it? What's taken them so long?

Pub group continues to increase sales, but at the expense of its profit margin. Questor says hold. JD Wetherspoon last week proved that the UK has not lost its appetite or its thirst if the price is right. The company said that like-for-like sales in the first quarter, ending in October, were 3.7pc higher than the same period last year. The pub group is paying for that growth through lower profit margins. The company said that profit margins had slipped by 0.3pc, to 8.3pc, as it had invested in more staff and made repairs to the pub estate.

 Christopher Bailey to make City debut in speech ahead of company's half-year results on Thursday. The chief executive designate of Burberry, Christopher Bailey, will face the City for the first time this week as the luxury brand tries to reassure investors about its future. Burberry is scheduled to report half-year results on Thursday and the company is planning for Mr Bailey to make a short speech at the start of the analyst presentation on the morning of the results.

 The popularity of cycling is stepping up a gear. Questor says buy. Shares in Halfords, the autocentre and bikes group, soared by almost 15pc last week on the day the retailer reported better-than-expected profit growth during the first six months of the year. The company reported strong sales of bicycles as customers, enthused by the Olympics success and a warm summer, got on two wheels.

 Julie Deane, founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company, reveals the challenges she faces now her company is successful, Self-taught businesswoman Julie Deane started The Cambridge Satchel Company from her kitchen table with £600 when her children hankered after the bags worn in the Harry Potter films. She also wanted to work out a way of supporting her children through school. But international recognition of her product didn’t happen as if by Hogwarts magic.

 Euan Sutherland says the organisation “urgently” needs to reduce its debt, while revealing a revamp to group's food stores. The Co-operative Group is to actively consider selling off parts of its sprawling empire in order to bring down its £1.3bn of debt. The group is also planning to spend hundreds of millions of pounds redeveloping its food stores. In his first interview since taking over as chief executive of the embattled mutual, Euan Sutherland said that the food retail business was core to the group’s strategy. The Co-op is already closing down larger stores inherited through its Somerfield acquisition.

 J Sainsbury profits set to overtake rival Morrisons for first time in seven years this week, highlighting the revival of the retailer under the chief executive, Justin King. J Sainsbury profits could overtake its rival Morrisons for the first time in seven years this week, further highlighting the revival of the retailer under the chief executive, Justin King. Sainsbury’s results will show it is continuing to attract new shoppers with a 1.5pc increase in like-for-like sales for the last six months, a contrast to the drop in sales suffered by rivals Tesco and Morrisons.

Sunday Times

 Marks and Spencers’ embattled chief executive received a fillip this weekend as research commissioned by a Japanese bank showed signs of tentative recovery in its crucial womenswear division. More than two years of falling fashion sales have piled pressure on Marc Bolland, who has spent billions of pounds trying to haul the high street bellwether into the 21st century. Last week, M&S reported a 9% slide in half-year pre-tax profits to £261.1m, with sales of clothing and homeware down 1.5%, although food sales rose 2.5%.

South African billionaire leads list of suitors for retail tycoon’s struggling high street chain BHS. A pack of hungry suitors has begun circling BHS in an attempt to lure Sir Philip Green into offloading the struggling department store chain.  A New York vulture fund, a South African retail mogul, and a number of turnaround specialists are hoping to persuade Green to part with the high street stalwart. If he were to sell it would herald a break-up of one of Britain’s best-known business empires.

House of Fraser is pushing ahead with its ambitious plans to go public at the beginning of next year. The department store chain, which has 61 sites in Britain and Ireland, is understood to be close to hiring Rothschild to spearhead the move, which is expected to value it at about £350m. Banking sources said the investment bank would pick several other advisers before Christmas to help handle the share sale. Founded in Glasgow in 1849, House of Fraser employs 7,300 people. Last financial year it generated underlying earnings of £61.1m on sales of £1.2bn.

The maker of bottles for Johnnie Walker and Macallan whisky has changed hands for more than £120m. Allied Glass has been bought by the private equity firm CBPE, the second time it has backed the company. In 2002, it acquired the business from Associated British Foods, selling it eight years later to fellow investment firm Equistone for £75m. It has now bought it back, hoping to cash in on growing demand for expensive spirits around the world.

This Christmas could be make or break for the revival of M&S clothes sales. Excited at the prospect of an early September holiday in Portugal, Eleanor London paid a visit to her local branch of Marks & Spencer in Camberley, Surrey. The retired fitness instructor was underwhelmed. “In 29-degree heat, the place was full of their winter range,” said London. “It all looked very drab, very frumpy and there was lots of thick material. I bought a jumper but nothing else appealed to me.”


Co-op Group chairman Len Wardle tells half-yearly meeting payout can't be made while bank is making massive losses. Problems at the Co-operative Bank have taken their toll on the wider group of supermarkets, pharmacies and funeral homes, which have been forced to abandon their traditional pre-Christmas dividend payments to the group's seven million members. At the Co-op Group's half-yearly meeting on Saturday in Manchester, Len Wardle, the chairman of the UK's biggest mutual organisation, told delegates that payments to members could not be sanctioned while the bank was exacting losses on the group, whose origins date back to the Rochdale pioneers in 1844.


As John Lewis well knows, commerce is the gift that keeps on giving. Despite this predilection for humbug, though, I hadn't expected to be sick of the festive season by the first week of November. My grudging respect goes to Craig Inglis, marketing director at John Lewis and the man credited with that company's extraordinary stranglehold on seasonal advertising hype.  Asked to explain the message behind this year's offering, a sad story of a hibernating bear forced from his well-earned slumber by a manically acquisitive rabbit, he gave a truly grisly explanation. John Lewis's hopes for Christmas, he said, was best summarised by one simple phrase: "thoughtful gifting".

Mail on Sunday

The troubled Co-operative Bank could be stripped of its name after Business Secretary Vince Cable launched a consultation on whether it still has the right to call itself a co-op. The bank – which has 1.6million current account customers – last week announced a restructuring plan that will see it list on the Stock Exchange and hand over most of its shares to hedge funds and City firms. Its parent, the Co-operative Group, will retain only a 30 per cent stake.

Britain's largest food manufacturer has been slammed for demanding that small firms pay £5,000 if they want to remain on its list of prospective suppliers. Critics believe that cash-strapped Premier Foods, whose brands include Oxo, Sharwood’s and Ambrosia, is trying to ease its financial problems by leaning on small business suppliers that have little power to resist. Premier has debts of £890million, more than double its stock market value of £360million. It is facing an increase in the rate of interest it pays on that debt next year and will have to find new loans to replace at least part of that lending.

Electricals giant Dixons Retail will join the tablet computer war against Tesco and Argos when it launches its own version this week. The £180 Dixons handheld product – while far cheaper than the £250 Apple iPad mini – will be more costly than tablets with 7inch screens being sold by other retailers. Tesco charges £119 for its Hudl. Insiders at Dixons told The Mail on Sunday that the group has learnt from last year when it launched a £119 tablet that proved so disappointing that almost half were returned by unhappy customers.

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