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Sunday Retail News Roundup

Cigarette giants in plain packet fight, New hope for Odeon, Chill in China, Morrisons to sell its convenience stores, Tesco quivers as Amazon taps at door, Relief for shops as the surge in business rates is set to slow thanks to lower retail price inflation, Revamped M&S voted the most improved retailer in key annual survey, Bovis Homes and Persimmon's profits go through the roof as rivals are shut out, EU to hold emergency talks over crash in milk price as effect of Russia's import ban worsens, All of us should worry if China starts to tremble, Bidders vie to put own stamp on online greetings car website Moonpig in £400m auction, Betting firm Spreadex quadruples its dividend as turnover and profits rise, Supermarkets prepare to launch fresh price war, Morrisons close to convenience stores sell-off, Supermarket prepare to launch fresh price war,


Sunday Retail News Roundup

Sunday Times

Cigarette companies are poised to step up their fight with the government over plain packaging for tobacco products. An official Australian study, due for publication in the next month, is expected to be used by the British government as ammunition in its battle to remove branding from cigarette packets.

Odeon cinemas plunged to a loss of £119m last year and are relying on James Bond and Luke Skywalker to save the day. Receipts were down at the chain, with more people staying at home to watch cinema-style TV series, such as Breaking Bad and True Detective. But buyout baron Guy Hands, whose Terra Firma firm owns Odeon, is hoping help may be at hand. Odeon & UCI Cinemas is banking on a boost over the winter from the new James Bond film Spectre and the seventh instalment of the Star Wars franchise. But even 007 may not be able to do enough to spare the blushes of former EMI owner Hands, who has been looking to sell the cinema chain for a number of years.

Burberry shoulders currency losses. A range of FTSE 100 giants are counting the cost of China’s currency devaluation, which sent shockwaves through financial markets last week. Beijing’s surprise move to reduce the value of the yuan increased concerns over a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy — a key market for many big British companies. The devaluation will also make British goods more expensive for Chinese consumers. Luxury goods maker Burberry, which generates a tenth of its turnover in China, lost 7% of its value last week.

Smaller shops outperformed superstores during the recession, but Morrisons was slow to spot the trend. Morrisons is in talks to sell its convenience stores, a move that will end an ill-fated venture for Britain’s fourth-biggest grocer. Investment firm Greybull Capital is leading a deal thought to include a team of retail industry executives, according to reports last night. It is not known what will happen to the shops — or their employees — if they are sold.

The big supermarkets are already struggling. Now they fear Amazon is planning to sell groceries in Britain.Throughout his reign at Tesco, Philip Clarke fretted about the prospect of Amazon entering the British grocery market. His chairman, Sir Richard Broadbent, had encouraged him to think laterally rather than simply follow in the footsteps of his domineering predecessor, Sir Terry Leahy. Together they formulated the view that Amazon would pose one of the biggest threats to Tesco in the coming years. They even theorised that one of the big four supermarkets could be driven out of business.

Mail on Sunday

The high street is heading for a business rates reprieve after five years of painfully high increases, which forced many shops to close. Business rates have risen by 20 per cent since 2011 taking the total expected this year to £28 billion. However, analysts at consultancy Capital Economics predict that September’s Retail Prices Index measure of inflation, to which annual business rate rises are pegged, will rise by just 0.7 per cent compared with 2.3 per cent in September last year.That would raise the total take of the property-based tax by less than £200million across all business sectors.

Marks & Spencer has been named the country’s ‘most improved’ retailer in a key annual survey. Retail analysts at investment bank Morgan Stanley said its annual survey of 1,000 shoppers compared the top 15 fashion retailers including Topshop, ASOS, H&M and Next. The research found M&S had shown the ‘strongest improvement’ since last year. The chain ranked in the top three across almost half of the 13 benchmarks, including quality – where it ranked top – customer care, ethics and shop environment. It came 13th for ‘fashionability’ compared with bottom place a year earlier.

Two of Britain’s leading housebuilders will this week reveal surging profits, boosted by tight planning rules that have restricted competition from smaller builders trying to enter the market. Persimmon, the third-largest housebuilder in the UK, is on course for a 20 per cent rise in profits, analysts at Barclays said. And Bovis Homes is set to report profits up by almost 30 per cent, the bank believes, saying that competition for the large housebuilders is drying up.

An emergency meeting of European agriculture ministers has been set for next month to discuss the catastrophic fall in the price of milk and dairy products as the effect of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s import ban worsened. Farmers have warned they face financial ruin after the prices they are paid fell by as much as 25 per cent over the past year. The situation reached crisis point last week as British farmers descended on supermarkets, clearing shelves and demanding better prices for their products. Farmers in France and Belgium have also protested by blocking border crossings and roads, as well as supermarket entrances.

Officials at the People’s Bank of China have spent the past few days trying to reassure anyone who will listen that the devaluation of its currency, the yuan, for the first time in 20 years was just a matter of housekeeping. Nothing to see or hear, please move along… But when the world’s second biggest economy shudders, the rest of us are right to take fright. A weaker yuan offers an immediate boost to exports by making Chinese goods cheaper in other countries and that matters when China is responsible for 15 per cent of world output.

The owner of Moonpig, the online greetings card website, is on the verge of being sold to a powerful private equity firm for between £350million and £450million. It is part of Photobox Group, whose venture capital owners hired Goldman Sachs bankers earlier this year to work on a disposal of the firm, which sells personalized cards, mugs and T-shirts. Investors in Photobox, which bought Moonpig three years ago for £120million, are expected to provide feedback to potential bidders in the next few days, which could lead to a decision on which private equity firm has won the auction.

Shareholders at Spreadex, the spread-betting company which takes wagers on sports and financial markets, enjoyed a £20.1million windfall this year as turnover and profits rose. Results filed for the year to May 31, 2015, show that sales grew from £35.4million to £40.4million, while pre-tax profits increased by 19 per cent to £22million. The company – based in St Albans, Hertfordshire – bumped up its dividend payments four-fold from last year’s £5million to £20.1million in 2015.


Morrisons is in advanced talks to offload its convenience stores to the investment firm that orchestrated a dramatic rescue of Monarch Airlines. Greybull Capital is backing a deal led by a mystery team of industry executives to take control of all of Morrisons’ convenience stores, which trade under the name M Local. It is understood that Greybull, which saved Monarch from bankruptcy last year, will provide tens of millions of pounds to fund the takeover and provide the stores with working capital. Morrisons has received a series of approaches for the convenience stores since signalling earlier this year that it was reviewing their future.

Supermarkets are gearing up for a fresh price war in the coming weeks as they try to lure customers during the crucial back-to-school period. Sainsbury’s, which last month regained the title of Britain’s second-biggest supermarket, will roll out its “brand match” promise on thousands of items online for the first time. The initiative, which has been running since 2011, gives shoppers a coupon to the value of the difference if the branded grocery goods they buy would have been cheaper at Asda. Tesco is also preparing for a more aggressive attack following a review of the ranges and categories it sells.


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