Retail Round up - The Sunday Papers
The Mail on Sunday
Harrods kicks off the shopping season with a festive parade
Street dancers, Christmas characters, giant Harrods teddies and real-life reindeer filled the streets of Knightsbridge London yesterday to kick off the festive season. The extravaganza was put on to welcome Father Christmas to Harrods and celebrate A Christmas Crystal inspired by Swarovski at the luxury department store. The parade kicked off at 8am before Father Christmas entered almost an hour later and thousands of children and parents descended to the streets to get a glimpse of their magical idol.
Luxury brands buck the gloom
Despite the economic gloom, luxury brands continue their slightly baffling trend of being able to float above it all, like a champagne cork in a bowl of punch.
French group Hermes raised its full-year sales forecast yesterday after third-quarter growth beat its initial target, pulled by buoyant demand for the 174-year-old brand in Europe, the Americas and Asia. The maker of leather bags that can cost up to £8,500 said it expected full-year sales growth at constant exchange rates to reach 15-16 per cent this year, against a previous forecast of 12-14 per cent.
'Banks' hidden card fees are driving us to oblivion', say petrol retailers
Independent petrol retailers are being pushed closer to the brink by costly bank card transaction fees, an investigation by Financial Mail has disclosed. The garages are seeing significant amounts of their profits wiped out because of the fees charged by banks and card acquirers when they process card payments. The increase in charges, combined with the rising cost in fuel and the competition threat posed by supermarkets, is causing more independent petrol retailers to go out of business. There are now fewer than 9,000 petrol stations, of which about 5,200 are independent.
Co-op bond may fund Lloyds branch bid
The Co-operative Group is considering launching its first retail bond to part-fund its expected bid for Lloyds’ Verde branches in a radical departure for the mutual organisation. The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that the Co-op, led by chief executive Peter Marks, has carried out a detailed study of the benefits of making a move into the increasingly popular retail bond market.The study was sanctioned by the Co-op’s board, but due to the complex nature of the Co-op’s ruling structure, it would need to be sanctioned not only by its group board, but also go to a vote of the Co-op’s members.It is thought the bond could raise several hundred million pounds for the group.
Alliance Boots joins the race to buy Healthcare at Home
Alliance Boots is in talks to buy Healthcare at Home, one of Britain's largest providers of in-home medical care.The retail and wholesale giant is vying with several bidders in the second round of the auction.Alliance Boots came close to acquiring Healthcare at Home in 2007 as part of a joint venture with United Drug. However, investment firm Hutton Collins beat Alliance Boots in that auction, paying about £260m for the business from buy-out firm Apax.
Babyfood company Ella's Kitchen prepares for £50m sale
One of Goldman Sachs's most senior figures in the UK is in line for a big cash windfall if a sale goes ahead of Ella's Kitchen.The company, which makes organic baby food, has been talking to financial advisers with a view to appointing one of them to work on "strategic options" for the business, which could include private equity investment or an outright sale.
Some sources say it has already appointed Stamford Partners, a boutique advisory firm. Bankers said any deal is likely to value it at about £50m.
Paul Lindley, who set up the firm in 2005, and his wife, Alison, will make the most from any deal as they own almost all of the share capital
Asda and Farmfoods join in bid for Iceland
Asda has teamed up with the Scottish frozen supermarket chain Farmfoods for a £1.4bn bid for Iceland.Asda, advised by Barclays Capital, is competing against five bidders aiming for the second round of the sale process this week.
The supermarket is planning to sell almost 200 stores to Farmfoods, which is headed by chairman Eric Herd, is one of Scotland’s fastest growing and largest privately owned companies.
Asda and Morrison’s have both made bids at the top end of the £1.3bn-£1.5bn price range expected, thanks to the £100m of synergies they could each reap. However, they would each have to sell 200 of the 800 stores to avoid competition hurdles. In Asda’s case, most of those 200 stores will be sold to Farmfoods. Morrisons, being advised by Credit Suisse, is lining up Waitrose, Lidl, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Tesco to take between 20-50 shops each.
M&S close to securing more stores in Paris
Now the retailer has set its sights on an outlet beneath the capital's most famous art gallery...Marks & Spencer is stepping up its European expansion. It is currently involved in talks to secure more stores in Paris and is close to agreeing a deal in the Netherlands.The company confirmed it was re-entering Paris earlier this year, after a 10-year gap. It will open stores in the French capital and service the rest of the country via the internet.
US retailer Crate & Barrel puts British expansion plans on ice
Caution over instability in Europe leads American chains to concentrate on internet marketing.Crate & Barrel, the American homewares chain, has put its plans for the UK on hold. It is thought the group was concerned about current European volatility and the competitiveness of the UK market. Earlier this year Cushman & Wakefield property agents were hired to search for stores. The group held talks for a store in the Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City shopping centres and also looked at Regent Street. American retailers are viewing the UK and Europe with caution due to fears over the economy.
The Sunday Times
Selfridges’ warm glow
Mixing high-end luxury brands with the cheapest on the high street has helped Selfridges to beat the retail gloom with a near 20% rise in profits.
The department store, owned by billionaire Galen Weston, will report a 19% lift in profits to £127m this week. Sales across its stores in London, Manchester and Birmingham rose 11% to £950m for the 12 months to the end of January.
Leahy’s food swoop
An American private equity house advised by Sir Terry Leahy has been revealed as the mystery bidder for Irish food supplier Greencore.The mystery bidder is Clayton Dubilier & Rice, the American private equity house where Sir Terry Leahy is a senior adviser, The Sunday Times can reveal. The company, which makes own-label products for the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Weight Watchers, announced two weeks ago that it had received an approach from an unnamed party.
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