Sunday News Roundup
Optical Express saved at 11th hour by founder, £200,000 tailor made for a visa, Asos rocked by new top-level departure, Tesco boss says cheap food era is over, B&Q owner Kingfisher cashes in on the heatwave, Bathrooms.com now taps the UK for its production instead of China, Thomas Cook takes big step to recovery, Debenhams signs popstar clothes designer Todd Lynn, Next boss fury over supermarket plea for online sales tax, Triumphant comeback for Marks and Spencer as sales at French shops quadruple
The Sunday Times
Optical Express was saved from collapse by its founder this weekend after lenders threatened to pull the plug on the nationwide chain. David Moulsdale was forced to mount a last-ditch rescue after Royal Bank of Scotland refused a request for emergency cash. Last week the retailer, which has 130 stores in Britain and operations on the Continent and in America, asked for a multimillion-pound loan to pay staff. Optical Express already owed RBS more than £30m. The bank responded by threatening to call in its debt and sell the business on to new investors waiting in the wings. RBS declined to comment.
A young Iranian has put family money into a tailor backed by the pop star Robbie Williams so she can stay in Britain on an entrepreneur visa. Sammy Noori, 23, has invested £200,000 in Spencer Hart, which sells men’s and women’s fashion on Savile Row. Under the rules of the visa, she was required to invest cash in a venture of her own or a small business within three years.Last year just 702 entrepreneur visas were granted.
The human resources director of Asos has quit, the latest senior departure at the online fashion powerhouse. The news of Michelle Emmerson’s exit comes days after the resignation of Kate Bostock, the former Marks & Spencer executive hired amid fanfare seven months ago. The move will fuel concerns of management churn at Asos, which has grown from a £2.4m start-up to an international clothing player worth £3.7bn in little more than a decade
Philip Clarke admits prices will rise as poll finds UK shoppers would pay more to back farmers. Major food price rises are all but inevitable, the chief executive of Britain's biggest supermarket chain has admitted. Speaking exclusively to the Observer, Philip Clarke of Tesco which was heavily implicated in the horsemeat scandal, said that rising global demand means the historic low prices to which British consumers have become used are now unsustainable. "Over the long run I think food prices and the proportion of income spent on food may well be going up," he said. "Because of growing demand it is going to change. It is the basic law of supply and demand."
B&Q owner Kingfisher will this week reveal that demand for garden furniture, barbecues and water sprinklers has soared during the heatwave, pushing its UK sales back to growth. The hot spell and a mini-revival in the British housing market have also seen investors warm to Kingfisher, which saw shares hit a 12-year high last week. On Wednesday, Kingfisher UK, which also includes the trade format Screwfix, is expected to post underlying sales growth of 2.1 per cent over the 10 weeks to 13 July, according to Nomura.
It can now be cheaper, quicker and easier to get goods made in the UK, reports Andrew Cave. British companies discovered more than a decade ago that they could increase efficiency and save money by moving production to China. Now the flood of “offshoring” announcements has actually become a trend in the opposite direction as Chinese labour rates rise and British firms discover that the logistical challenges of sending products halfway across the world are not always easy to surmount. To be a nimble business, shorter supply chains are often better. Bathrooms.com is the latest example. The business was the idea of Ian Monk, a former computing expert. The company was set up in 2004 as a project for his wife, Rebekah, a former teacher.
Thomas Cook is close to reaching a crucial milestone in its recovery amid expectations that Britain’s oldest tour operator will have broken even for the third quarter, following heavy losses last year.The group has been undergoing a transformation under Harriet Green, who was brought in last summer from electronics group Premier Farnell to rescue the ailing holiday giant. The business came close to collapse in 2011 when it sought an emergency bail-out from its lenders.As Britain’s great summer getaway kicks off, next week’s third-quarter trading statement from Thomas Cook is expected to herald another significant breakthrough for the company, when leading leisure analysts believe it will announce it has broken even, compared with losses of almost £30m at the same point last year.
A Canadian-born tailor who has dressed some of the biggest names in pop music – including Bono, Mick Jagger, and Beyoncé – has signed up to sell his clothing at Debenhams. Todd Lynn is the latest name to join “Designers at Debenhams”, which is at the heart of the department store’s strategy for a range of clothing produced by some of the country’s best-known designers such as Jasper Conran, hat-maker Stephen Jones and John Rocha. Mr Lynn’s 12-piece range will include outerwear, knitwear, leather and denim designs. It will go on sale in October.
Mail on Sunday
The boss of Next has lashed out at supermarket chiefs, warning their call for a tax on online shopping would drive up prices and wipe out some of Britain’s fastest growing small firms. Lord Wolfson, chief executive of the high street clothing retailer, said calls for a web shopping tax were intended to stop supermarkets facing proper competition. Britain’s leading online retailers have joined the backlash against the proposal and are preparing to write to the Chancellor pleading with him to ignore the supermarkets’ calls. Ocado, Littlewoods’ owner Shop Direct and online clothing retailers Boden and N Brown are lead signatories to the letter, to be sent to George Osborne this week.
Marc Bolland is having trouble convincing British shoppers that his stores are the last word in fashion – but in the home of haute couture it seems M&S is tres chic. Sales at the chain’s fledgling French shops have quadrupled to €28million (£24million) in the year to the end of March. The figures mark a triumphant return to France after previous management at M&S closed its entire French operation in 2001 after 26 years, in a wholesale retreat from the Continent that Bolland’s predecessor Sir Stuart Rose called ‘tragic’.
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