Fat Face ramps up festive closures

Lifestyle retailer Fat Face will extend its closing times during the festive break and plans to shut 40 stores on Boxing Day, Drapers has learned.

The Boxing Day closures, which take place on the same day its winter Sale period starts, are four times greater than last year’s pilot, when 10 shops shut on the day. The exact store locations are expected to be confirmed next week.

Fat Face boss Anthony Thompson told Drapers it is also closing stores at 2pm on Christmas Eve to prepare for its Sale period, marking the first time the retailer will shut its doors earlier than its high street rivals.

Meanwhile, 210 of Fat Face’s 222 UK stores will close on New Year’s Day. Thompson said that although it has closed some stores on 1 January in previous years, it has “not been done on such scale” before.

The retailer outlined its plans to staff in an internal conference last week.

Thompson said: “We are preparing to go into the season at full price, as we believe customers want price integrity at Christmas.

“Family and price integrity are very important issues to us. We’re taking the opportunity to give time back to both our customers and our teams to spend with their families, as well as reassuring customers they can buy from us with confidence, and get real value with their purchases.”

The retailer has also vowed not to slash prices during discounting extravaganza Black Friday (24 November) and in the lead-up to Christmas again this year.

If any of the retailer’s prices change in the period from 15 November to 23 December, it has said it will refund the difference for customers.

It emerged in January that Fat Face’s stance against discounting before Christmas delivered 7.9% growth on full-price sales for the 54 days to 24 December 2016, compared with the same period in the previous year.

The retailer said in January that it had a record week of full-price sales in the week to Christmas Eve, and had 22% less inventory going into Sale than 2015.

Fat Face also operates six stores in the US, bringing total store count to 228. These will remain open on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

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Deacons plans sale of Mr Price franchise to SA firm

The firm’s chief executive, Muchiri Wahome, says the move comes after South Africa-based Mr Price Group Ltd approached Deacons with a proposal to purchase the chain of stores.

“The proposed transaction will be subject to various conditions that include requisite approvals from regulatory authorities and the shareholders of Deacons through a shareholders’ meeting to be convened once the sale agreement has been finalized,” said Mr Wahome in a statement yesterday.

Mr Price Group Ltd plans to purchase the Mr Price Home and Mr Price apparel brands which have been operating in Kenya since 2007, effectively ending Deacons’ 10-year franchise deal with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed South African company.

The deal, if approved by regulatory authorities, will see the South African firm take over all 11 Mr Price Home and Mr Price apparel stores in Kenya.

The proposed deal comes amid a 12 per cent drop in earnings for the Johannesburg-based firm, marking its first drop in annual profit since 2001 as South African consumers slowed purchases in a struggling economy.

Deacons suffered a similar fate this year after posting a half-year net loss of Sh180 million citing a tough operating environment. Net loss for the period (June 30) deepened by 242.81 per cent as inflation ate into the spending power of consumers amid rising expenses.

Deacons’ principal business is to operate retail establishments including franchise and department stores selling ladies, men’s and children’s clothing, footwear and accessories among other items in East Africa.

Deacons’ exclusive franchise deal with South Africa’s luxury fashion brand Woolworths ended in 2013 after the multinational took full ownership of its Kenyan subsidiary.

“We had a franchise (agreement) then it moved to a joint venture and Woolworths will now be an independent brand run by them (Woolworths Holdings),” said Mr Wahome at the time.

Dubai-based Lulu group launches India’s first Toys”R”Us store

Dubai-based Lulu group launches India’s first Toys”R”Us store in Bengaluru

The store opened to a huge crowd, with the first customer buying toys worth more than Rs. 1 lakh.

Abu Dhabi-based LuLu Group has launched the global retail toy brand Toys“R”Us in India, with the first store being opened in Bangalore, today.

The first store, touted to be an experiential one, has opened at Phoenix Market City, Bangalore and was met with a huge crowd on its opening day. Tablez India, a division of LuLu group, will run the stores.

In India, the brand has launched the store in two formats – Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us, a one-stop destination for baby essentials.

The store offers a full range of toys for both boys and girls in the age group 3 to 11 years and will sell everything from action figures to dolls, books, role play kits, remote-controlled cars, blasters, plush, wheel goods and bikes,

On the occasion of the launch of the store, Adeeb Ahamed, Managing Director, Tablez India, said “We are delighted at setting up the first Toys“R”Us store in Bengaluru.  India is among the fastest growing market for toys retail and is growing at a rate of 15 to 20% percent annually. We are planning to expand our stores in other parts of the country. We are aiming to have our second store in Delhi by November this year and by end of this financial year we will have two more stores in Chennai and Mumbai.”

H&M profits dive 20% on heavy retail discounts

Swedish fashion retailer H&M said third-quarter profits were adversely affected by heavy discounting of the retailer’s summer collection, in a bid to boost sales over the warmer months.

The world’s second-largest clothing retailer said net profits fell 20 percent in the three-month period ending August 2017. Net profit in the third quarter fell from SKr4.8bn a year earlier to SKr3.8bn ($470m). Sales increased 5 percent to SKr59.4bn.

Moreover, in the first nine months of its business year, sales rose just 4 per cent in local currencies. The fast-fashion firm’s new annual target is 10-15 per cent growth, according to Karl-Johan Persson, chief executive of the family-controlled group.

Persson told the Financial Times he was hopeful that the company could reach the target next year. “It is an ambitious goal but it’s realistic. We have to be humble not having reached it this year or last. Also it is a challenging market,” he added.

Helping H&M recover, the affordable European retailer – who’s suffered at the hands of online stores Asos and Zalando, as well as cheaper fashion chains such as Primark – plans to close 90 stores globally in 2017. In return, H&M will focus on its e-commerce.

The group said online sales should increase by at least a quarter in 2017. It added that in some markets, online sales already make up 25-30 percent of its revenues.

H&M plans to invest more in online shopping, including giving customers different and faster delivery options and increasing the product range. It is also investing in its supply chain in an attempt to reduce the amount of inventory it holds and cut the time it takes to get products into shops.

H&M recently opened its first shops in Colombia, Iceland, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. It operates more than 380 stores worldwide.

Gucci opens new Gucci Kids store in Dubai at Dubai Mall

Italian luxury house of Gucci has recently opened a new children’s clothing store in Dubai at the Dubai Mall. The store features Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele’s signature style. The store stocks the complete range of products for kids of the brand.

Sweaty Betty has opened its first European flagship at No. 1 Carnaby Street in London

Fitness brand Sweaty Betty has opened its first European flagship at No. 1 Carnaby Street in London. The prominent 204 sq m store is located at the south entrance to Carnaby Street and is the result of the brand upscaling from its existing store on Beak Street where it has been a resident since 2002.

’19 years and over 50 shops later, I’m so excited to introduce our flagship: No. 1 Carnaby. We spent years dreaming up this concept, I have even handpicked all of the partners to ensure they had a similar value and ethos to the Sweaty Betty brand, to live a balanced life that goes beyond fitness,’ says Tamara Hill-Norton, founder of Sweaty Betty.

The shop is arranged over ground and basement floors allowing the brand to expand and offer its full clothing, accessories and equipment collections, as well as housing a studio space for exclusive wellness events, giving a wider customer experience.

‘Our brief was to design a location filled with fashion, food, fitness and beauty, where you could come with your friends do a workout, grab a smoothie bowl, shop and get pampered,’ says a spokesperson on the Sweaty Betty in-house store design team. ‘Design wise we wanted to encourage our customer to spend time in store, bringing the fun side of our brand alive with unexpected touches including neon and graphic illustrations. My favourite example of this is the lockers in The Studio; from the outside they are really minimal and chic, then once you open the door you’ll find a fun feminist quote hand-illustrated by Lo Parkin.’

The design team wanted to stay true to the brand using its signature grey tones and fluoro pops that it has become known for. The space is really industrial, so to take No.1 Carnaby to the next level, the designers used bright neon installations throughout the space inspired by the lights of Soho. In the shop area itself, the shopping experience has been simplified using blackened steel fixtures and touches of marble and concrete.

As the main concept of the space was to create an area where women would come and want to hang out, homely touches were added, including hanging plants, oak furniture and lots of cushions and rugs.

‘In retail spaces designers now have to think, is this Instagrammable? At Sweaty Betty we love motivational quotes, so you will notice these throughout the store; on a mirror, or a big neon, as they are a huge part of our brand. To ensure these stayed true to our look, we used stencilling for a premium, long-lasting finish,’ says the spokesperson.

‘Our visual merchandising in-store has really elevated our retail space, we love telling a story of the collection with a selection of beautiful imagery, typography and at the moment a vase filled with eucalyptus all displayed on a shelf like a collage. You’ll also see this reflected in the windows; to launch our new Power Leggings we’ve got three girls acting out the store through really fun props.’

The café area has a huge communal table and hanging chairs, to encourage customers to sit and enjoy the space. ‘We’ve tried to think of everything, from organic Bamford products in the showers to specially designed cups in Farm Girl to ensure the ultimate customer experience.’

Sweaty Betty joins other recent additions including Urban Decay, G.H. Bass and Estee Edit who have all chosen Carnaby for their first global or UK flagship store.

Saudi jeweller L’azurde signs deal to buy rival

Saudi jeweller L’azurde signs deal to buy rival

Retailer says agreement inked to acquire 100% equity stake of Izdiad Commercial Company of Arabia

Saudi jewellery giant L’azurde has announced plans to buy a competitor operating in the affordable luxury sector in the Gulf kingdom.

L’azurde for Jewelry Company said in a statement that the board has approved the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Tamkeen Industrial & Trading Company to acquire 100 percent equity stake of Izdiad Commercial Company of Arabia.

L’azurde, which raised SR477.3 million ($127 million) from its initial public offering in 2016, makes gold and diamond jewellery in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and distributes to wholesale markets in 52 countries, mainly in the Middle East.

The statement said the duration for the MoU is for a period of eight weeks from the signing date, extendable on the parties’ agreement.

It added that the transaction final price is subject to certain conditions and the outcome of the legal, financial and commercial due diligences and signing the final share purchase agreement between the parties.

The transaction is expected to be financed by bank credit facilities and cash generated from operational activities.

Topshop and Topman New Zealand to close stores

Topshop and Topman New Zealand to close stores

Topshop and Topman New Zealand are closing its Auckland and Wellington store  after a failed attempt to find a buyer for the fast-fashion retailer.

Topshop and Topman is operated by Top Retail in New Zealand, with the firm entering voluntary administration in early September on the back of consecutive losses.

The UK-based retailer came to New Zealand in 2014, with Kiwi clothing firm Barkers, Christchurch property investor Philip Carter and fashion designer Karen Walker taking the rights to own, develop and operate the brand locally.

Topman/Topshop opened on Auckland’s Queen Street and on Wellington’s Lambton Quay, with plans to add two more stores as well as an online store by the end of the year 2017.

Conor McElhinney and Kare Johnstone of McGrathNicol said in a statement that “after conducting a detailed assessment of the business and following conclusion of a sale process for the business and assets in whole or in part”, the stores would close after 1 October 2017, but could close earlier if they run out of stock, according to local media.

“It is with regret that we have had to inform staff today that the business is unable to continue trading and that Topshop and Topman will no longer have a presence in New Zealand from Sunday,” the receivers said.

“We would like to thank the directors of Top Retail for their support, which has enabled gift cards to be redeemed during the receivership trading period, and staff for their commitment since our appointment.”

Topshop’s Australian arm was put into receivership in May 2017.

The biggest Primark ever is opening in the UK next year

(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Primark fans, take a deep breath, because we’ve got some amazing news for you.

Primark is set to open a brand new store – and it’s going to be bigger and better than ever. The biggest in the UK, in actual fact.

The new store, which is going to be inside centre:mk shopping complex in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, will be opening its doors to customers next year.

The store is going to be spread across 75,000 square feet and will feature every single item in the Primark range.

Think hooded unicorn blankets. The Beauty and the Beast bedroom range. Minnie Mouse-inspired heels. Mickey Mouse Christmas baubles.

We can’t cope.

Of course, we’re sad that the store is only opening in Milton Keynes – we’d like to have a gigantic Primark everywhere we go.

But apparently, it’s come in response to lots of requests by shoppers who were asked where they would most like to do a bit of Primark shopping.

Kevin Duffy, centre manager of centre:mk, is excited about adding the Primark store to the shopping complex.

He said: ‘We are thrilled to announce that Primark will be joining our fantastic selection of fashion and beauty brands at centre:mk next year.

‘Primark is a firm fashion favourite, and so we look forward to attracting more visitors by expanding the centre’s fashion retail mix.’

Currently, we’re unsure of when the store will be opening and how many floors it’s going to include.

So right now, we’re just going to have to sit back, attempt to relax, and pray that there’s going to be an entire section dedicated to Primark’s false nails

COS to open online mall in Korea

Hyundai Department Store announced that it will open COS brand mall at The Hyundai.com.

COS also launched the official online store in Korea. Price at online mall is the same as the offline mall.

COS is a fashion brand that offers a collection of high quality at reasonable prices based on modern and practical design.

Launched in London, UK in 2007, it currently operates stores in 35 countries around the world, including Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas, and is being sold online in 20 countries.

In Korea, there are 11 offline stores, including Hyundai Department Store Trade Center and Pangyo Branch.

Hyundai Department Store expects to have more young customers in their 20s and 30s, which are the main target of online shopping, through the launch of the course brand on Hyundai.com.

According to the analysis of the sales by age group of COS in Hyundai Department Store trade center and Pangyo branch, 30s (31.9%) and 20s (28.8%) were ranked first and second respectively.

The official of Hyundai Department Store said, “As competition in online shopping mall gets tougher, sole products that do not sell at other online malls are attracting attention as major competitiveness.”

“We will introduce various brands to offer shopping experiences for customers in the future,” he added.

In the meanwhile, H&M Group’s premium spa brand, & Other Stories, is also in the process of launching an online store. In 2017, & Other Stories opened three stores in Apgujeong, Starfield Hanam and Starfield Goyang in Seoul.

Since & Other Stories launched the first online mall in2013, it is currently operating in 14 countries and Korea becomes 15th online selling country.

The online mall is scheduled to open in Korea this autumn and the date is not yet confirmed.

Harvey Nichols to open new store in Doha

Harvey Nichols to open new store in Doha

Luxury retailer Harvey Nichols has confirmed plans to a new store in Doha. The department store group said it has signed a licence agreement with Saleh Al Hamad Al Mana Group to open an outlet in Doha Festival City.

The 7,432 square-metre store is scheduled to open early 2018 and will sell an “exclusive edit” of fashion, homeware and beauty brands. It is the first high-end, international department store to be confirmed as a tenant by Doha Festival City. Upon completion, Doha Festival City Mall will be Qatar’s largest shopping mall with a gross leasable area of some 250,000 square metres.

It will house 550 outlets including 85 restaurants and cafes, the country’s first-of-its-kind Entertainment Zone, which will include VOX Cinemas and a snow park and will feature around 8,000 parking spaces. Phase one of the mall was completed last March and included the construction of Qatar’s first IKEA store.

Doha Festival City

Primark takes biggest letting in 25 years

Primark takes biggest letting in 25 years at Centre:MK

Primark is set to take over the former BHS store at Centre:MK in Milton Keynes, marking the shopping centre’s largest letting in quarter of a century.

The discount fashion retailer has penned a deal to move into the 75,000sq ft space, a year after BHS vacated the premises.

Of the 160 BHS stores which now stand vacant, only around 40 per cent have been filled as demand for large retail spaces falters.

Brands like Primark and Sports Direct have taken around 25 of the 160, while a further 35 have planning permission or have secured tenants for the near future.

The space will see the former BHS location on Silbury Arcade extended and is set to be handed over to Primark for fitting next year.

Over £60 million has recently been earmarked for investment in the shopping centre in what is being dubbed the “re-imagining an icon strategy”.

Joint owners Hermes Investment Management and AustralianSuper said the letting was a milestone in their rejuvenation strategy, following repeated visitor surveys highlighting Primark as the most requested brand.

Amazon invests $27.6m in Indian retailer

CEO Jeff Bezos has allocated $5 billion toward Amazon’s expansion in India

Amazon.com  is set to buy a 5 percent stake in Indian retailer Shoppers Stop, valued at $27.6 million (1.79 billion-rupee), as the US company steps up efforts to gain ground in the fast-growing consumer market.

Shoppers Stop’s board approved the issuance of 4.4 million shares to a unit of Amazon for 407.78 rupees ($6.28) each, the Mumbai-based company said in an emailed statement late Saturday. As part of the deal, Amazon experience centres – which let customers test out the products available online – will be set up across Shoppers Stop’s network of 80 bricks-and-mortar stores in India.

CEO Jeff Bezos has allocated $5 billion toward Amazon’s expansion in India as it seeks to secure an advantage over local rivals in the South Asian nation. The e-commerce giant has a lot riding in the country after its washout in China, where the dominance of Alibaba Group and other domestic players made Amazon’s entry difficult.

Shoppers Stop, which sells cosmetics to clothing and home appliances at its outlets, will have an exclusive flagship store on Amazon’s Indian site where it will retail its entire portfolio of more than 400 brands, the company said. Shares of Shoppers Stop have gained 45 percent this year and closed at 418.1 rupees on Friday in Mumbai.

The deal will be Amazon’s first investment in a publicly traded retailer in India.

New Balance to open 40 new stores across Gulf

New Balance to open 40 new stores across Gulf by 2020

The athletic shoemaker sees strong demand for its style of trainer throughout the region

New Balance, the Boston-based maker of trainers and running shoes, is planning to aggressively expand its presence in the Gulf region, increasing its store count to 50 by 2020, its regional manager has said.

The announcement came as the footwear and athletic clothing manufacturer opened its first flagship store in the Middle East at Dubai Mall.

“The launch of this store is the pinnacle of our progress in the Middle East, but it is also just the start,” said Stuart Henwood, Country Manager for the Middle East and India, New Balance.

Henwood says he has been very encouraged by what he has seen since the store had its soft opening around one month ago.

“This is a prime mall, and for the brand to be in this location is key from a sales perspective and also from a marketing perspective,” he said.

The senior executive, who has previously run the company’s Asian business, refused to confirm how long New Balance had to wait for the highly sought-after retail space (Dubai Mall has a waiting list of years in some cases for brands looking to open stores there), or how much New Balance was paying to be in Dubai Mall.

“It’s an important statement to be here,” Henwood said.

New Balance, founded in 1906 in the United States, currently has 10 stores across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, Henwood said.

“Opening this store in Dubai Mall has encouraged us to open more stores, and working with the Apparel Group has been a big benefit,” he said.

Aggressive push

The Apparel Group is a franchisee partner that operates brands such as Tim Hortons, Tommy Hilfiger, and Nautica, holding exclusive relationships with different malls throughout the region.

“We are always looking at expanding our global footprint, and looking at emerging markets,” Henwood said, in reference to the brand’s aggressive push throughout the Middle East.

“There’s good business to be done here,” he added, noting Saudi Arabia’s large population and the willingness of young people in the Gulf to spend significant amounts of money on shoes.

As a result, Saudi Arabia will see at least one new store open in the next three months in Riyadh, whilst the further 39 that Henwood has touted to arrive in the next three years will be across locations in Saudi, Kuwait, and Egypt among others, according to Henwood.

Microsoft is opening its first retail store in London

Tom Warren

Microsoft is opening its first UK store in London. RetailWeek first reported that the software giant is in talks to secure a building at Oxford Circus, a popular shopping venue in the heart of London. Microsoft has confirmed that it plans to open a store in London. The building is currently occupied by United Colours of Benetton, but Microsoft is set to sign a 10-year lease on the property in the coming weeks. As has become tradition, Microsoft’s new store is just a few doors away from Apple’s own retail store on Regent Street.

Microsoft has tried to secure locations in the heart of London’s shopping district for years. The company was originally planning to open a store in the UK back in 2013 after registering its own limited company. Microsoft found it difficult to secure the building it wanted, and ultimately shelved its plans to open a store in London. This new deal means the retail location will be the first Microsoft store in the UK and Europe. Microsoft has stores across the US, a few in Canada, and one each in Puerto Rico and Australia.

Max Mara opens redesigned flagship store in New York

Max Mara opens redesigned flagship store in New York at Madison Avenue

The opening event of the Max Mara flagship in New York unveiled not only the stunning reimagined space, but saw the release of a special edition mini Whitney Bag. While the bag boasts vibrant, jewel-tone colors and a luxe velvet material, the newly conceptualized store boasts approximately 5,000 square feet in the Victorian-style building located on Madison Avenue and 68th Street.

The refurbished space, designed by Duccio Grassi Architects, highlights the spirit of the Max Mara brand through a manifestation of its Italian heritage and contemporary energy.

House of Fraser H1 profits and sales hit by heavy discounting

British department store chain House of Fraser half-year earnings fell to an 8.6 million pound loss for the 26 weeks to July 29, 2017, down significantly from its EBITDA profit of 900,000 pounds for H1 2016.

House of Fraser’s like-for-like sales and profits for the first half of the year dropped after being heavily disrupted by HoF’s new online platform launch and “significant discounting” of its in-house womenswear labels. Like-for-like sales fell 5.2 percent compared to 2016 and online sales dropped 9.8 percent during the 26 week period following the roll-out of House of Fraser’s 25 million pounds revamped online store in April. Gross profit slipped 5 percent from 207.2 million pounds in H1 2016 to 196.9 million pounds in H1 2017 as HoF cut prices to move old stock.

HoF sees 5 percent decline in profits for H1 2017

However, in spite of the sales and profits hit HoF remains upbeat about achieving growth in its final quarter, as the impacts caused by its new online platform and womenswear ranges were mainly over. House of Fraser’s new ecommerce system is said to be “working well” as “good progress” has been made to recover sale volumes. The department store group announced that it aims to be trading normally by the beginning of its final quarter in its trading update.

HoF also announced that it has completed the launch of its new womenswear in-house labels, which saw five existing womenswear brands dropped and the remaining four relaunched for AW17. The new collections have been “well received” so far, with “initial revenues” exceeding expectations” added the company. In addition, HoF also began its 18 million pound investment scheme in its distribution centre to increase capacity, drive operational efficiencies and improve profitability during the first half of the year.

The department store chain predicts this investment will deliver 5 million pounds of efficiency savings during the second half of the year, increasing to a run rate benefit of 15 million pounds of efficiency savings by the time the project is completed by mid-2018. House of Fraser also opened its first new store in the UK in nine years time during the first half go 2017. Located in Rushden Lakes, the store opened its doors on August 24. HoF also closed a loss-making store in Leicester and aims to shut an additional location in Aylesbury.

“My observations after a few weeks are that since Sanpower acquired the business in 2014 the primary focus has been on stabilising an enterprise that had been starved of investment for many years,” said Alex Williamson, CEO of House of Fraser. “Whether it be refinancing the business, the investment of over 100 million pounds in capital expenditure since the acquisition or a root-and-branch upgrade of the executive team, much has already been done to prepare us for significant transformation.”

“House of Fraser has much to be optimistic about. This is just the start of our journey with several other projects designed to provide additional sales and costs savings as part of the overall Transformation Programme due to commence shortly. I am excited about what lies ahead for the business and I am optimistic for the future. With the support of Sanpower, we are building the right foundations that position us well to deliver on our ambitions for sustainable profit growth.”

Fat Face makes four internal senior promotions

Fat Face has promoted four of its senior staff to director level as part of an ongoing investment drive to improve its products and ecommerce divisions.

Emma Shaw has been promoted from head of design to design director, while Kate Brown was promoted from head of buying and quality to buying and quality director.

Shaw and Brown have been with the lifestyle and fashion retailer since 2011 and 2014 respectively.

Meanwhile, Nick Stevenson has been promoted from head of merchandising and sourcing to director of the same area, and Paul Wright has been promoted from head of ecommerce to ecommerce director.

Both Stevenson and Wright have been with Fat Face since 2011.

Fat Face chief executive Anthony Thompson: “I always think that internal promotions are a reflection of the talent in any organisation, and I am delighted for Emma, Kate, Nick and Paul.

“This announcement also reflects our determination to continue to invest in product and develop a truly multichannel business.”

Profits at House of Fraser under pressure from web platform launch

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half-year earnings sunk to an £8.6m loss

Profits at House of Fraser have come under strain after the launch of a new web platform and “significant discounting” took its toll on the retailer.

The department store chain said half-year earnings sunk to an £8.6m (€9.7m) loss, down from a £900,000 profit in 2016, as website sales suffered from the roll-out of a £25m online sales platform.

Gross profits also slipped 5pc to £196.9m over the period, as the group slashed prices on old stock to pave the way for a new womenswear brand.

Gross transaction value hit £545.8m, with like-for-like sales dropping 5.2pc compared to last year.

However, the retailer said it was optimistic about delivering growth in the final quarter, as the impacts of launching the new online platform and womenswear range were largely behind it.

Chief executive Alex Williamson, who joined the firm earlier this year, said: “My observations after a few weeks are that since Sanpower acquired the business in 2014 the primary focus has been on stabilising an enterprise that had been starved of investment for many years.

“Whether it be refinancing the business, the investment of over £100m in capital expenditure since the acquisition or a root and branch upgrade of the executive team, much has already been done to prepare us for significant transformation.

“And House of Fraser has much to be optimistic about.

“Our new House Brand Womenswear collections for autumn/winter have been launched and our customers’ response to date has been very encouraging.

“Our new web platform greatly improves our customers’ experience and online margins whilst our investment in the distribution centre will deliver cost savings through improved operational efficiencies.”

House of Fraser, which employs 5,000 people and has 59 department stores in the UK and Ireland, opened its first store for nine years in August at Rushden Lakes in Northamptonshire.

Toys ‘R’ Us forced to file for US bankruptcy

Toys ‘R’ Us forced to file for US bankruptcy

September 20 2017 2:30 AM

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Toys R Us Stock

US retail giant Toys ‘R’ Us filed has for bankruptcy, under a debt load piled on the business in a private-equity buyout a decade ago.

The company listed debt and assets of more than $1bn each in Chapter 11 documents at the US Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Virginia.

Prior to filing, the chain secured more than $3bn in financing from lenders including a JPMorgan-led bank syndicate and certain existing lenders to fund operations while it restructures, according to a company statement.

The funding is subject to court approval.

US debtor-in-position loans allow a company to tap new lenders who get preferential security, while it goes through Chapter 11, helping the business trade throughout its insolvency process.

Toys ‘R’ Us didn’t announce plans to close stores, and said its locations across the globe would continue normal operations.

“Like any retailer, decisions about any future store closings – and openings – will continue to be made based on what makes the best sense for the business,” a spokesman said.

The bankruptcy filing is the latest blow to a brick-and-mortar retail industry reeling from store closures, sluggish footfall and the rise of Amazon.com.

A dozen big US retailers have filed for creditor protection this year. (Bloomberg)

Kuwait’s Alshaya invests in Alabbar’s e-commerce platform Noon

Kuwait’s Alshaya invests in Alabbar’s e-commerce platform Noon

Retail franchise operator acquires stake in soon to be launched online marketplace

Kuwait-based retail franchise operator MH Alshaya Co has acquired a strategic stake in Noon, the region’s new e-commerce platform, it said on Thursday.

Additionally, Alshaya said it will become a seller on Noon’s marketplace platform, listing a portfolio of international brands covering the fashion, health & beauty and home and lifestyle categories.

The company did not say how much it paid for the stake in Noon, which is set to launch later this year.

Alshaya becomes the latest large retailer to list its products on Noon, which serves as a digital platform for retailers to reach online customers in the Middle East.

Mohammed Alshaya, executive chairman of Alshaya, said: “We see great value in our partnership with Noon, which complements our existing online channels. We are impressed by Noon’s capabilities, and we are excited to partner with the Noon team to present a winning value proposition for the region’s online shoppers.

“Our partnership with Noon will allow us to expand our customer base, reach new market segments, and participate in the next level of growth in regional e-commerce.”

Mohamed Alabbar, founder of Noon, added: “It is our privilege to partner with Alshaya and give our customers access to Alshaya’s leading international brands. Noon brings a new business model for e-commerce, developing a strong supply chain that benefits regional businesses. We will work with the region’s leading brands and retailers to help them grow their business through Noon.”

In July, Faraz Khalid, the former co-founder and managing director of fashion online retailer Namshi, was appointed CEO of Noon.

SOUQ.com to purchase Wing.ae marketplace for merchants and couriers in the UAE

SOUQ.com today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase Wing.ae, a marketplace for merchants and couriers in the UAE, providing innovative mobile and web-based user-friendly delivery solutions for businesses and individual consumers. SOUQ.com previously invested in Wing.ae and will be acquiring 100% of the company.

Wing.ae now has the full backing of SOUQ.com, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, and this investment demonstrates the continued commitment of all three companies to provide SOUQ.com customers with a world class experience. Wing.ae will continue to invest in growing its same and next day delivery service in the region, enabling greater convenience for Wing.ae’s customers, including SOUQ.com.

Ronaldo Mouchawar, SOUQ.com CEO & Co-Founder, comments: “At SOUQ.com, our customers will remain our key focus and we will continue to deliver an exceptional online shopping experience. Fast dependable delivery is key to this, and Wing.ae provides SOUQ.com customers with more convenience for their same and next day delivery. With Amazon’s support, we are putting all our efforts in providing an ever-improving shopping experience for customers in the Middle East.”

“The UAE is a leading e-commerce and smart hub in the region, and in this demanding business we work to fill the logistics supply gaps to offer customers the excellent service they want as fast as possible,” says Muzaffar Karabev, CEO and Co-Founder of WING.ae. “With the support of SOUQ.com, Wing will accelerate investments into our technology, infrastructure and regional coverage to provide innovative delivery solutions and to make online shopping for SOUQ.com customers and merchants even more convenient.”

BHS.com sales soar 35%

Online sales at BHS grow 35% thanks to new start-up mentality.

The MD of BHS.com has revealed sales at the online retailer have increased by over a third in Q2.

Speaking to the Press Association, BHS.com MD Kevan Mallinder said sales grew 35%, bolstered by its womenswear clothing range which increased 350% over the period.

Mallinder said the business was treating the brand like a “disruptive start-up” after it was bought by the Middle-Eastern Al Mana Group in June 2016.

He told the Press Association: “Because we are privately owned by the Al Mana Group, they want to see the business succeed over the long term, which brings a different aspect to the decisions.”

Mallinder was bought in to direct the e-tailer six months ago, coming from food delivery firm Abel & Cole.

The much-loved British brand, BHS, entered administration in April 2016 leading to the loss of 11,000 jobs. An ongoing enquiry is investigating the controversy surrounding the retailer’s pension deficit.

Monki announces new UK store openings

Following the openings of Arket and Weekday on London’s Regent Street in August, parent company H&M has announced plans to open two new Monki stores, one at Westfield Stratford and the other at Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow. Both stores will adopt the Monki World concept, leading customers into an imaginery universe that has inspired 115 stores.

With fitting rooms decorated across a spectrum of rainbow colours, Sea of Scallops tables, shimmering features and exclusive Monki World facade, the new stores will offer the full storytelling experience.

Although technically the Swedish fashion brand’s debut in the Scottish market, the 480 sq m Glasgow store will cater to an existing fan base that already gets its fashion fix online.

The 370 sq m Westfield Stratford store will mark Monki’s third retail space in England, alongside its Carnaby Street and Bristol stores.

UAE’s Al-Futtaim said to be in talks to buy M&S business in Hong Kong, Macau

UK retail giant Marks & Spencer reportedly in discussions over deal for Hong Kong and Macau operations

UAE-based conglomerate Al-Futtaim is reportedly in talks with UK retail giant Marks & Spencer for the possible purchase and franchising of its business in Hong Kong and Macau.

The UK’s Financial Times said the talks could see Al-Futtaim become the sole franchisee for M&S in Hong Kong and Macau, adding that M&S has operated in Hong Kong since 1988 and has 27 stores in the city.

Al-Futtaim has worked with M&S since it opened the British retailer’s first store in Dubai in 1998.

The deal covers only the company’s retail business and its Hong Kong sourcing operations will remain wholly-owned, the FT added.

Mr Price wins in battle against slowdown

“As reported at the year-end results presentation in May 2017, given the current low-growth economy and resultant poor retail environment, the most significant near-term opportunity is to regain lost market share in the two divisions, MRP Apparel and Miladys, which underperformed in the previous financial year,” the group said.

The group reported in the trading update that for the first four months of its 2018 financial year, total retail sales were up 6.2% in the 18 weeks to August 5. For April, May and June, MRP Apparel and Miladys reported sales growth of 10.1% at current prices, far ahead of the 4.8% growth that Statistics SA reported for the retail sector.

The trading statement was well received, with Mr Price’s share price closing 3.45% higher at R187.50 on Friday.

Sales growth in the overall apparel segment, which includes MRP Sport, was 8.7% in the 18 weeks to August 5. The homeware division struggled, however, with sales declining 1%, due to a 2.1% fall in sales at MRP Home, partially offset by a 1.7% increase at Sheet Street.

Online sales were 6.4% higher. Those at MRP Sport and MRP Home growth tracked physical store sales growth, while MRP Apparel recorded very strong growth of 20.1%.

Group cash sales increased 6.3%, making up 82.6% of total sales. Credit sales increased 5.4%. Weighted average trading space was 2.6% higher.

Other income grew 3.4%, to R372.0m. Debtors’ interest and fees grew 7.7% and insurance revenue climbed 18%.

A temporary slowdown in cellular revenue growth, which fell 8.1%, resulted from a focus on process improvements and product mix changes.

Commentators expect some respite for the retailer sector in the last quarter of 2017.

McDonald’s workers on strike in the UK for the first time

McDonald’s workers are staging their first UK strike since the US burger chain opened in Britain over forty years ago, amid a heated row over zero-hours contracts and claims of workplace bullying.

The 24 hour strike began at midnight at two outlets owned by the fast food giant which has been selling its burgers to Britons since 1974.

The Baker’s, Food and Allies Workers Union (BFAWU) said the staff had been left no alternative but to take “the historic step” after McDonald’s management failed to meet calls for better job security by ending controversial zero-hours contracts.

<img class=”responsive article-body-image-image” src=”/content/dam/business/2016/02/18/McDonalds_Burger_E_3299494b_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqpJliwavx4coWFCaEkEsb3kvxIt-lGGWCWqwLa_RXJU8.jpg?imwidth=480″ alt=”Burger”>

Credit: Fir Mamat/Alamy

The fast food workers in Crayford, near Dartford, and Cambridge are not officially unionised but are being represented by the BFAWU on this matter. The union’s ballot found 95.7pc in favour of strike.

“Despite all the attempts to change McDonald’s approach and help them become a fairer employer, nothing has been done on their side. Nothing has changed. Empty promises have been made. Yet nothing has been delivered,” said Ian Hodson, national leader of the BFAWU.

The staff are calling for pay to be increased to £10 an hour, up from the minimum wage of £7.50 for staff aged 25 and above. BFAWU said the fight for higher wages follows a campaign in the US, where staff are fighting for $15 an hour.

McDonald’s, which employs about 85,000 people in the UK, said it gave its staff the choice of flexible or fixed contracts with minimum guaranteed hours, but 86pc chose to stay on flexible contracts.

A spokesman for the fast food giant said the grievance is related solely to internal procedures and would affect less than 0.01pc of its workforce across just two of its 1,270 UK restaurants.

“McDonald’s UK and its franchisees have delivered three pay rises since April 2016, this has increased the average hourly pay rate by 15pc,” the spokesman added.

Mr Hobson said the voice against low pay “will not go away”.

“There is growing global movement calling for the fair and decent treatment of workers. In the US for example, the Service Employees International Union have shown the importance of collective action – with their ‘Fight for $15’ campaign having seen more than 10 million workers move towards a $15 minimum wage, and with 20 million workers in total having won wage increases since 2012,” he said.

“Hopefully, senior figures at McDonald’s will be listening,” he added.

Burberry to open new flagship store in Knightsbridge, London

The ew store is part of the first phase of The Knightsbridge Estate K1 development (1, Sloane Street) and will see Burberry relocating its local flagship from nearby Brompton Road where it currently trades from twin men’s and women’s shops. The new move to a site not far from Harvey Nichols will give it the chance to consolidate all men’s and women’s product into one flagship location on four floors and covering an area of over 15,000 sq ft.

The fashion brand and the property company have worked together before with Chelsfield having been responsible for the label’s Bond Street flagship back in 2005.

Despite a raft of openings in recent years, Burberry is carefully targeting its investment at present and only recently scrapped plans to revive the Temple Works mill in Leeds as well as delaying a decision about building a new factory on a neighbouring site. It is also reported to be looking at its London offices with a view to cutting costs.

But the brand is clearly still investing where it can see major returns. It has invested heavily refining its product offer, adding new star bags that appear to be making a major impact on its balance sheet. And it has licensed its beauty ops to specialist Coty, as well as opening a China-specific website.

The new Knightsbridge store is part of this very focused strategy with the area being a key beneficiary of the booming luxury tourist trade in London.

Burberry new store London at 1 Sloane Street

Radley to target America with Macy’s deal

British handbag and accessories brand Radley is set to return to the American market, following its withdrawal six years ago, after signing an exclusive deal with US department store chain Macy’s.

The deal, will see Radley opening concessions in 100 Macy’s stores by Christmas, with as many as 300 possible within the next 12 months, as the handbag brand attempts to crack the US market, according to reports in The Times.

“It was poorly thought through and the execution was even worse,” chief executive Justin Stead said in an interview with The Times. “This time around we’re going back with a very well thought through plan. I think it’s going to pay huge dividends.”

The move follows the private equity-backed company selling its products on TV shopping channel QVC, which was declared a success as Stead told the newspaper that during its hour-long show it sold out of its 750,000 dollars of product in just 30 minutes.

Acquired by private equity house Bregal Freshstream last year, it said at the time it saw “significant potential” in expanding Radley to the international market.

Radley was founded in 1998 and has around 32 standalone UK stores, it is also sold in John Lewis, House of Fraser and other department stores and independent retailers, as well as via its website.

Poundland given one of the biggest ever retail food safety fines

Poundland given one of the biggest ever retail food safety fines as mouse droppings found on baby clothes

The discount chain had to close one of its busiest stores when evidence of mouse droppings and urine were found on food shelves alongside gnawed and soiled packets of biscuits, nuts, sweets and popcorn

Poundland has been fined one of the biggest ever retail food safety fines (Image: PA)

A mouse infestation – with droppings found on baby clothes – has landed Poundland with one of the biggest ever retail food safety fines.

The discount chain had to close one of its busiest stores when evidence of mouse droppings and urine were found on food shelves alongside gnawed and soiled packets of biscuits, nuts, sweets and popcorn.

The problem, at the shop in Wandsworth, London, was deemed to be a widespread and uncontrolled rodent infestation by health inspectors.

Droppings were found throughout the store and the behind-the-scenes storage areas of the discount store, including on baby clothes.

The retail giant is now counting the cost of ignoring the major mouse infestation at its store in Wandsworth, London, after being hit by magistrates with what is believed to be one of the country’s heaviest ever retail food safety fines.

The problem was found to be widespread (Image: EyeEm)

The company copped the whopping fine after a court heard the London shop had to be closed using emergency powers in January last year after food safety inspectors uncovered the infestation.

Cllr Jonathan Cook, community safety spokesman, said: “This was a very serious rodent infestation in a busy and popular retailer so there was a very real and significant risk to public health.

“When our inspectors uncovered the scale of the problem they had absolutely no option other than use their emergency powers to order the entire store’s immediate closure.

“It was not permitted to reopen until the company was able to prove it had dealt with the problems and taken adequate steps to prevent it happening again.

“This episode showed a complete lack of regard for customer’s health and welfare and is reflected in the very substantial fine imposed on the company by the court .

“Food retail businesses must ensure that they do not jeopardise public health in any way if they don’t want to suffer a similar fate.”

Wimbledon magistrates court heard that Poundland Limited had been previously prosecuted on three occasions for similar outbreaks at other stories, including a £73,000 fine at Birmingham crown court, a £12,000 fine at Highbury Corner magistrates’ court and a £33,000 fine at Luton magistrates’ court.

In this case Poundland Limited pleaded guilty to four offences and in addition to the £100,000 fine the company was also ordered to pay £12,368 towards Wandsworth Council’s costs in bringing the case to court, reports the Daily Record .

Virtual reality: the Middle East mall of the future

Digital innovation is revolutionising the retail landscape in the Middle East – and not only online

The growth of retail in the Middle East has been nothing short of remarkable. London, Paris, Milan and New York still inevitably dominate the global shopping scene, but as pioneers in the retail space, emerging markets such as the Middle East are becoming very much the watchword for innovation.

But whilst the retail scene is a crucial catalyst for attracting footfall in the Middle East, as the digital economy develops, bricks-and-mortar locations need to evolve to stay relevant for future decades. Technology clearly plays a central role in this. With the rise of e-commerce in the region, it is now more important than ever that the physical mall develops and keeps apace with the changing demands of the consumer.

Take the success story of Majid Al Futtaim’s Mall of the Emirates, for instance. One can easily spend a day inside Mall of the Emirates; you can eat, drink, go to the cinema and even go skiing all before you have even thought about shopping. And this experience is far from unique. The Beach in Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR) also seamlessly integrates commerce and entertainment, combining shopping, the sea and an outdoor cinema.

With the UAE’s population expected to grow to 10 million by 2030, aided by more expats and Expo 2020 tourism, the retail destination/proposition as an integrated social, entertainment and leisure destination is likely to boom. After 50 years of operating in the region, this is something Atkins is seeing more of — both in the retail space and wider sectors.

A blurring of lines, with buildings becoming multi-functional and multi-faceted can be seen in some of the region’s most important projects, such as the Burj Al Arab, Bahrain Trade Centre, Durrat Al Bahrain and the Dubai Opera. Creating an integrated retail and leisure centre destination is critical to fuse the social and urban space. And it is the customer experience that is driving this approach.

Motorola, for example, has created a personal shopping device where shoppers can scan their items as they select them, significantly reducing checkout time. Beauty retailers such as Sephora are experimenting with a virtual reality mirror, enabling shoppers to test different eyeshadows and lipsticks without applying them to their skin.

Big data will help retailers understand and market to their consumers better, suggesting products that may be relevant even before the customer has walked through the door.

All of these aspects will make the physical retail outlet more efficient. Checkout space will be reduced because customers will be able to complete transactions virtually from inside the dressing room or on their mobile phones, eliminating the need to queue.

Whilst e-commerce is growing in fortitude in the region (bolstered by the likes of Amazon’s acquisition of Souq.com), we still see the need for interaction with the product. The Middle East has a culture that favours the personal experience, and so whilst technology won’t replace this, it can still absolutely enhance it.

What we predict in years to come is how the experience will change. For example, instead of going to a car showroom to see a range of models, customers will be able to interact with virtual car models instead of physical ones. The need for an extensive physical stock may become redundant, thus streamlining and reducing the retail space to make it more profitable.

Car parks may also become redundant. The real estate footprint for car parks alone is currently extensive and costly. In the future, we will see more sophisticated transport offerings, with an increased choice of public transport, and autonomous vehicles reducing the need for large amounts of land dedicated purely to the housing of private cars. And less space for cars means more space for retail and opportunities to generate more revenue.

But of course, whilst there are numerous opportunities that technology presents to the Middle East retail sector, this is not without its challenges. Unlike their developed counterparts, shopping destinations in the Middle East have one major issue to contend with: the climate. With temperatures well into the mid-40s in the summer months, how should retailers respond to the natural environment?

This poses both a problem and an opportunity. Whilst shopper footfall increases in the summer as tourists and residents seek sanctuary in the cool environments of the malls, engineers and designers need to ensure that all adjoining infrastructure is set up to cope with the extreme temperatures.

Customer experience and comfort fundamentally remains key. Most amenities need to be enclosed, with covered walkways and transport infrastructure located close by. Those shopping areas that have outdoor elements, such as Citywalk and Boxpark in Dubai, require careful thought and planning to ensure they remain attractive, year-round destinations.

The future of retail in the Middle East is far from a one-size-fits-all approach. The digital world is fundamentally changing the way we shop. No longer are malls simply a collection of physical stores or somewhere to go for a few hours at the weekend; they are becoming fully integrated communities that fuse together social and urban environments. For the Middle East to compete on the world stage, it will be vital that the retail sector embraces digital innovation offline as well as online.

New Look chief Kristiansen to step down

The chief executive of New Look is to step down just over two years after his turnaround of the high street fashion chain paved the way for its £2bn sale.

Sky News has learnt that Anders Kristiansen is to leave the company, which is majority-owned by South African investor Brait, in the coming weeks.

His departure is expected to be announced on Friday, according to a person close to New Look.

Mr Kristiansen, who previously ran a major Danish retailer’s huge Chinese operations and also held a senior job at Staples, the office supplies group, is expected to move to an undisclosed role elsewhere in the coming months.

His nearly-five year tenure at the company was characterised by significant expansion of its store network in China, where New Look is targeting 500 shops over the next few years, and the stellar growth of its digital business into the UK’s third-largest online fashion brand.

He has also presided over a recent shake-up of his executive team, recruiting Paula Dumont Lopez from Zara-owner Inditex to sharpen its product offering.

Brait’s takeover of New Look in 2015 cemented the presence in the UK retail and leisure sectors of South Africa’s Wiese family, which also has interests in chains such as Iceland and Virgin Active.

News of the change in leadership at New Look will nevertheless come during a challenging period for the mid-market clothing retailer and many other British fashion retailers hit by weakening consumer spending and the weakness of sterling.

Earlier this month, New Look reported a 7.5% fall in UK like-for-like sales in the quarter to June 24, with underlying operating profit declining sharply to just over £12m.

Mr Kristiansen is expected to be replaced temporarily by Danny Barrasso, New Look’s UK and Ireland managing director, while its board hunts a permanent successor.

The company now trades from nearly 600 outlets in the UK and almost 300 more in international markets – including more than 125 in China.

Announcing the results this month, Mr Kristiansen described the UK as a “difficult” market, saying: “As expected, the UK market has remained difficult, which has resulted in a disappointing quarter of trading.

“We have managed the business accordingly by controlling costs, tactical investment in our strategic initiatives and enhancing our product proposition.

“We remain committed to our long-term strategy of diversifying the business and reducing our dependence on the UK high street, and are confident that we will see improvements, but expect these to take time.”

Mr Kristiansen, who has in recent weeks been a vocal advocate for improved clothing factory conditions in the UK, could not be reached for comment on Thursday night.

A New Look spokeswoman declined to comment.

Wishing all our readers a blessed Eid Mubarak

Abercrombie & Fitch to open first store in Jeddah

Abercrombie & Fitch to open first store in Jeddah as part of Middle East expansion

0The new store will launch in the Red Sea Mall in September and will offer the brand’s Autumn/Winter collection for men, women and children.

The expansion is part of a franchise agreement between Majid Al Futtaim Fashion and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Majid Al Futtaim introduced the Abercrombie & Fitch brand to Kuwait in 2015 by opening stores at 360 Mall and The Avenues, followed by a flagship store in Mall of the Emirates. Two further stores opened in Qatar at Doha Festival City and Mall of Qatar in March 2017. Including the launch in Saudi Arabia, Majid Al Futtaim partners with Abercrombie & Fitch on a total of six Abercrombie & Fitch and three Abercrombie kids stores in the Middle East in a mix of franchise and joint venture arrangements.

The 728 square metre store in Jeddah will open in a new extension of the Red Sea Mall.

Fran Horowitz, chief executive of Abercrombie & Fitch, said: “We are looking forward to bringing our unique Abercrombie & Fitch store-based brand experience to our customers in Saudi Arabia, and complementing our existing omnichannel capabilities, supporting our goal of providing our customers with the ability to engage with our brands, whenever, wherever and however they choose to do so. We are proud to have Majid Al Futtaim as a partner to drive and support our continued expansion throughout the region.”

The franchise agreement will see the brands eventually expanding into Oman and Bahrain.

UK Top brands in £6bn meltdown: M&S, Sainsbury’s, Dixons, Kingfisher and JD Sport suffer three months of hell

By Neil Craven for The Mail on Sunday 21:52, 26 Aug 2017, updated 14:09, 27 Aug 2017

The retail sector has suffered a chill that has wiped billions from some of Britain’s top firms.

It comes amid fears consumers are threatening to cut their spending to cope with inflation rises, low wage increases and Brexit uncertainty.

In the past three months a total of £6 billion has been wiped off Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Dixons Carphone, B&Q owner Kingfisher and JD Sport.

<img id=”i-b5abd2923d0fae5″ class=”img-share” src=”http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2017/08/26/16/1625BC37000005DC-0-image-a-2_1503763148075.jpg&#8221; width=”634″ height=”416″ alt=”Sainsbury’s is among several top high street firms to see their share price tumble over the past three months&amp;nbsp;”/>

Sainsbury’s is among several top high street firms to see their share price tumble over the past three months 

Debenhams, Mothercare and online electricals retailer AO World have suffered declines of around 20 per cent. Online firms Asos and Ocado fell 7 percent

Jobs are at risk too. Asda has begun consultation with more than 3,200 staff amid plans to close 18 stores. 

Discount retailer Wilko has said 4,000 jobs are at risk – around a fifth of staff – as it restructures its management to cope with a ‘challenging retail landscape’.

Tesco, the UK’s biggest retailer, is cutting 1,200 head office staff.

Shadows of wider economic concerns are also looming. Inflation continues to rise faster than wage increases.

Meanwhile, last month GFK said consumer confidence has slumped to the level seen after the shock Brexit vote. Last week, Dixons Carphone shares tumbled 23 per cent, cutting its value by almost half since the start of summer.

Inside Arket, H&M Group’s new store

Swedish fashion and lifestyle brand Arket, from the H&M Group, has unveiled its long-awaited debut flagship store on Regent Street, ahead of its official opening on Friday, August 25.

Located within the unit that once house Banana Republic, Arket has transformed the 17,000 square foot space into a calm, modern and very grey environment, with bespoke terrazzo stone floor, cement-grey walls and an OCD-neat layout that is light, airy and simple in its construction.

The interior has been developed by the brand’s in-house team and centres around the simplest of contraction elements – the plank, and features larch, birch, ash, stainless steel, aluminium, rubber, textile and bespoke terrazzo stone, all chosen for their “practical needs of the construction” explains Arket “in order to waste as little raw material as possible”.

“The plank creates the entire system vertically as well as horizontally and is reused on tabletops and mirrors. It is the repetition of this simple element and the monochrome palette that forms the concept,” the brand adds on the design on its Instagram.

The whole idea of Arket is to be a fast-fashion disrupter, the brand is looking to offer “durable products designed to be used and loved for a long time” with items geared around the whole family, which is why the store houses menswear, womenswear and childrenswear, as well as homeware and a cafe, which is based on the New Nordic Food Manifesto, featuring a vegetarian menu.

Arket aims to disrupt the UK high street with London launch

What instantly hits you when you walk into the store is the space, the design and OCD approach to the styling of the clothes and accessories means that you feel calm. There isn’t masses of rails to weave around, no huge displays of mannequins showcasing the latest trends, instead there are shelves not filled, racks are evenly spread out in colours, and tables are covered with individual items rather than piles.The design is definitely all about attention to detail, it makes you focus on the quality of the product and adds a more luxurious feel to the traditional high street shopping experience.

Also a surprise is that Arket has given menswear the unprecedented ground floor spot, with the men’s tailoring and knitwear being the first thing customers will see when they enter. The menswear then leads into the very Instagram-friendly homeware and beauty department at the heart of the store, which I’m sure will be a firm favourite with consumers. Rounding off the ground floor is the vegetarian cafe, which has its own entrance opposite Liberty’s, which is probably the most exciting prospect as they really are hoping that Arket will be more than just a clothes shop but rather a shopping destination.

Upstairs is dedicated to a womenswear and childrenswear, showcasing the curated edit of its ‘archive’ collection, which sets about creating the building blocks to creating a capsule wardrobe filled with an “everyday uniform” of quality staples in a minimalistic design in fabrics such as organic cotton, silk, recycled cashmere, wool, and polyester yarn made from used plastic bottles, all colour coded across the floor.

Essentially, Arket is billing itself as the “modern-day market” offering wearable pieces that focus more on quality, simplicity and functionality, rather than trend. While you won’t see the latest catwalk copies at Arket, like you would in H&M, you will see seasonal updates to the core collection, such as colour and material changes.

There will be comparisons made regarding the fashion offering to sister brand Cos, however, the aesthetic is more classic and traditional at Arket, with premium staples being at the core, from the organic cotton T-shirt to recycled cashmere jumpers, as well as functional items such as the two-in-one Series fish-tail parka that features a lightweight, weatherproof outer and a detachable padded lining designed for all-year wearing.

To ease customers through the ‘archive’ the layout features all the same colour together, and each style comes with a unique nine-digit ID code, identified by department, category, product and material, for instance anything in the women’s department has a 2, knitwear is 22, while cashmere is 087 and anything recycled is easily identified with an R at the end. This code also helps tie-in online with in-store, as shoppers can simple search online for the specific item to see if it comes in a new fabric or colour, and even to see if it their favourite items has been restocked.

In addition to Arket’s own-brand ‘archive’ collection, the store also features a number of “complementary” third-party brands mainly across shoes, accessories and homeware, such as Adidas, Nike and Veja, as well as less well known brands such as Danish toy brand Nature Zoo and stationery brand Deskstore of Sweden.

Arket opens debut store in London on August 25

The brand is also putting sustainability at the forefront of its proposition, with each piece featuring a tag displaying the country it was made in as well as the supplier and factory, and even informing customers about the care of the products in an attempt to prolong their lifespan and reduce waste.

On the brand’s website it states: “The starting point for each product is quality, building on the strengths of each production market. Value for money will be ensured by economies of scare, by initiatives like the yarn projects, and above all, by establishing enduring styles.

“The result will be a seasonless production flow, lower development costs, and the flexibility to refine over time. This will also help achieve strong, long-term relationships with suppliers working together towards the same goals.”

Such initiatives are showcased in its Merino Yarn Project, where Arket has designed a unique knitted fabric made from organic merino-wool fibres that runs throughout the collection, and the Cotton GSM programme that has developed four different weights from one fibre to create a core collection of jersey, meaning you can buy the same style in different weights for all-year round wearing.

The thing you notice most about H&M Group’s new brand is that it is very well-considered, from the design and layout of the store to the website and its ability to search by department, colour or even pattern, as well as material and where the piece was made, and the clothes itself, its pieces have literally been designed to be “widely accessible, well-made, and durable” for longevity.

Arket is being positioned as H&M Group’s most premium brand, trying to target a gap in the market between mid-priced and luxury, with fashion prices starting at 3 pounds for a pair of socks to around 300 pounds for a coat. It will sit alongside H&M Group’s other brands, which also happen to be its neighbours on Regent Street including fast-fashion brand H&M, & Other Stories, Cos, and Weekday, which recently opened, as well as Cheap Monday and Monki, both close by on Carnaby Street.

Coinciding with the Arket opening in London on August 25, the brand will also launch its e-commerce, shipping to 18 European markets including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden. Consumers who signed up to the brand’s website before August 23 were sent out preview access to the website, along with a 20 percent discount code.

Commenting on the opening, managing director Lars Axelsson, said: “We’re very excited to reveal Arket to the public. We’ve been working towards this day for over two years, and look forward to finally meeting our first customers in London as well as throughout Europe online.”

The Regent Street Arket flagship will be followed up by a further London store in Covent Garden on Long Acre by the end of the year, which will house a bigger cafe, as well as openings in Copenhagen in September, and Munich, Brussels, and Stockholm planned for 2018.

Images: Danielle Wightman-Stone

Sir Philip Green’s retail empire agrees to pay £30m to BHS creditors

Arcadia, which owned BHS until it was sold to Dominic Chappell-led consortium, reaches deal with store’s liquidators

Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia retail empire has agreed to pay £30m to unsecured creditors of BHS following the collapse of the department store chain with the loss of 11,000 jobs.

Arcadia, which owned BHS until it was sold to a consortium led by Dominic Chappell for £1 in 2015, on Friday agreed the deal with BHS’s liquidators, FRP Advisory, which will drop legal action filed against Green’s company.

A spokesman for FRP said: “The liquidators of SHB Realisations, formerly BHS, reached an agreement with Arcadia Group in relation to a number of matters, including Arcadia’s floating charge dated 14 April 2015.

“We can confirm that as part of the agreement, over £30m was released from reserves held in relation to Arcadia’s secured claim into the monies available for BHS unsecured creditors and the floating charge is to be released.”

The settlement avoids the prospect of the retail billionaire fighting a lengthy legal battle over the demise of BHS.

Green avoided another legal battle with the pension regulator by agreeing to pay £363m to rescue the BHS pension scheme.

Chappell is to be prosecuted by the pensions watchdog for failing to provide information for an investigation into its sale.

Chappell headed Retail Acquisitions, the company that acquired BHS. A year later, it collapsed with the loss of 11,000 jobs and a pension deficit of £571m.

The Pensions Regulator is prosecuting Chappell for failing to comply with three notices for information issued under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004. Failure to provide such information without a reasonable excuse is a criminal offence that can result in a fine.

Green, who was pictured on Instagram spraying bottles of champagne among women in bikinis, also on Friday announced a deal to buy four franchise-run Topshop stores in Australia which collapsed into administration in May.

Emaar announces plans for new Dubai Hills Mall

Emaar Properties has unveiled plans to build a new mall in the Dubai Hills Estate, one of the largest master-planned communities being developed in Dubai, UAE, in joint venture with Meraas.

Scheduled to open in late 2019, Dubai Hills Mall will feature 2 million sq ft of leasable space spread out over ground and first floor levels, more than 750 retail and food and beverage outlets, family entertainment.

The mall will also feature a cineplex, a 65,000-sq-ft hypermarket, seven anchor retail experience stores, and dedicated parking spaces for over 7,000 vehicles.

Located on the corner for Al Khail Road and Umm Suqeim street, the mall can be seamlessly accessed from Downtown Dubai, Emirates Hills, Dubai Marina, Arabian Ranches and other nearby communities.

The architecture and interiors take inspiration from the concept of a central courtyard with a series of interconnected streetscapes. The angular layout provides easy orientation and a clear focus on the central space for events and special features. The exterior boulevards and concert spaces offer more leisure options, making the mall a perfect escape for all types of visitors, Emaar said.

Abdulla Al Habbai, group chairman of Meraas, said: “As the centrepiece of Dubai Hills Estate, a Smart city of the future, the Dubai Hills Mall will bring incredible value to the mega-development and further energise Dubai’s retail sector.”

Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties, said: “Integrating advanced technology features with the principles of a regional mall, it will be a socially and culturally inspiring space for people, young and old, residents and visitors, to meet, connect and relax.”

The mall complements the destination’s high-end residential, commercial and office spaces, chic hospitality offerings, enriching leisure facilities and its prestigious golf fairways.

Dubai Hills Estate includes a championship golf course and a central park surrounded by 4,400 villas and townhouses, and 22,000 apartments. – TradeArabia News Service

Shoprite African retail giant eyes Poland, Europe

Shoprite, Africa’s largest food retailer, wants to expand to new continents and is eyeing Poland as its gateway to Europe, the Puls Biznesu daily has said, adding its scepticism.

Photo: Lars Frantzen/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Shoprite CEO Pieter Engelbrecht, who visited Poland last week and is in talks with two developers, said entering Eastern Europe would be easy because the African retail giant already has partners in the region, the Puls Biznesu daily said.

South African-based Steinhoff International, owner of the Abra furniture retailer which has 100 locations in Poland, is looking at a controlling stake in Shoprite, which has a market value of some PLN 35 billion (EUR 8 billion), the paper said.

The paper added that Steinhoff is controlled by South African businessman Christoffel Wiese, who is already Shoprite’s main shareholder.

Engelbrecht said Shoprite could use Steinhoff’s synergy in Poland, according to Puls Biznesu, but declined to give the paper details about its plans for expansion in Poland or how partnering with a furniture chain would benefit the food retailer.

Puls Biznesu said that the Polish market was saturated with well-established fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies and while a South African takeover of an existing chain would be a feasible way of entering Poland, building its brand from scratch in Europe would “not be easy”. (vb)

Tiffany & Co first half 2017 sales increased 2%

Tiffany reported its financial results for the three months (“second quarter”) and six months (“first half”) ended July 31, 2017. In both periods, modest net sales increases and improved operating margins contributed to growth in diluted earnings per share.

In the second quarter: Worldwide net sales increased 3% to $960 million, while comparable store sales declined 2%. Management noted an increase in wholesale sales of diamonds, increased wholesale sales in the AsiaPacific region and strong e-commerce sales growth. Overall, growth in fashion and designer jewelry sales contrasted with softness in other jewelry categories. Net earnings rose 9% to $115 million, or $0.92 per diluted share, from $106 million, or $0.84 per diluted share in the prior year.

In the first half: Worldwide net sales of $1.9 billion were 2% higher than the prior year, while comparable store sales were 2% below the prior year, due to similar trends as noted above. Net earnings rose 8% to $208 million, or $1.66 per diluted share, from $193 million, or $1.53 per diluted share, a year ago.

Gant’s UK retail boss exits

The head of retail for Gant’s UK and Irish arm has resigned after almost five years in the position.

Darren Whelpton-Smith has moved on to rugby leisurewear brand Raging Bull as its head of retail, wholesale and ecommerce.

Whelpton-Smith is a former area manager for fashion chains Levi’s and Republic, and his last role before Gant was working as Fat Face’s area manager for nothern England for four years.

He joined Gant in 2012, and under his leadership he oversaw the opening of the brand’s new global flagship on Regent Street in London less than 12 months ago.

Meanwhile, Raging Bull was founded by former England rugby union player Phil Vickery and its collections are primarily sold through department stores and via its own website.

Emaar Launches New Retail Haven In Dubai Hills

In collaboration with Meraas, Emaar Properties has unveiled Dubai Hills Mall project, a family retail district within master development Dubai Hills Estate, slated to elevate the emirate’s retail offering upon completion in 2019.

The highly-anticipated destination will boast over 18.75ha of gross leasable area accommodating some 750 fashion and dining outlets.

Complementing the lifestyle landmarks of the location, the venue will also attract visitors with four major family entertainment and leisure centres, including a cineplex, outdoor concert area, hypermarket and seven anchor retail experience stores, among others.

Mohamed Alabbar, chairman, Emaar Properties, said, “Dubai Hills Mall will stand out in the retail sector, and support the tourism and hospitality sectors through highly engaging leisure and entertainment attractions.”

Former BHS owner Dominic Chappell to be prosecuted by pensions regulator

Dominic Chappell

Dominic Chappell, the former BHS owner, is to be prosecuted by The Pensions Regulator for failing to provide information to an investigation into the sale of the collapsed retailer.

Mr Chappell headed up Retail Acquisitions, the company that acquired BHS for £1 from billionaire Sir Philip Green in 2015.

The TPR said it is prosecuting Mr Chappell for failing to comply with three notices issued under Section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004.

Sir Philip Green sold BHS to Chappell in 2015 for just £1 (PA)

The notices were issued to Mr Chappell on April 26 2016, May 13 2016 and February 20 2017, it added.

Mr Chappell has been summonsed to appear at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on September 20 2017 to face three charges of neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents without a reasonable excuse.

BHS plunged into administration last year, impacting 11,000 jobs and around 19,000 pension holders, leaving a £571 million pension deficit.

BHS went into administration last year (Lauren Hurley/PA)

The Pensions Regulator has pledged to flex its muscles recently, saying in July that it “will not hesitate” to prosecute companies or individuals if they refuse to hand over information.

After a drawn-out saga that included a parliamentary inquiry and public outcry over both Mr Chappell’s and Sir Philip’s conduct, the Topshop tycoon agreed to pay £363 million to settle the BHS pension scheme in February.

Under Mr Chappell’s tenure as owner of BHS, £8.4 million was taken out of the chain by Retail Acquisitions, with £6 million still owed when it collapsed last year.

Retail Acquisitions was put into liquidation in May although Mr Chappell, a former bankrupt, said at the time he would challenge the court ruling.

Shoprite Profit Rises as South Africa Stores Prove Resilient

Earnings in line with estimates; Sales growth to continue

First financial statement after Steinhoff move to buy stake

An employee inspects a community notice board inside a Shoprite Holdings Ltd. supermarket in Johannesburg.

Photographer: Waldo Swiegers /Bloomberg

Shoprite Holdings Ltd. reported full-year earnings in line with analyst estimates as Africa’s largest food retailer boosted market share in South Africa ahead of a partial tie-up with clothing and furniture specialist Steinhoff International Holdings NV.

Headline earnings per share, which exclude one-time items, rose 12 percent to 10.07 rand in the 12 months through June, the Cape Town-based company said in a statement on Tuesday. The board declared a full-year dividend of 5.04 rand a share, an increase of 12 percent. Shoprite expects “positive sales momentum to continue,” the retailer said, after revenue advanced 8.4 percent.

Pieter Engelbrecht on Aug. 22.

Photographer: Halden Krog/Bloomberg

The shares rose 2.5 percent to 206.08 rand as of 9:23 a.m. in Johannesburg, extending the year’s gain to 20 percent and valuing the company at 123 billion rand ($9.4 billion).

“We believe there is room for further growth as we continue to improve efficiencies and profitability both in South Africa and beyond the country’s borders,” Chief Executive Officer Pieter Engelbrecht said. While the South African economy is in a recession, “the group remained resilient with growth in sales and market share.”

The earnings are the first to be reported by Shoprite since fellow retailer Steinhoff agreed to buy a 22.7 percent stake as part of the planned listing of its African assets including clothing chain Pep. This will be the first step taken by South African billionaire Christo Wiese, who chairs and is the largest shareholder in both companies, in combining his interests in the retail giants. A previous plan was called off in February.

What Benefits?

“We don’t really see the synergies between food and furniture and more information is needed on how these benefits are found,” Damon Buss, an analyst at Electus Fund Managers Ltd. in Cape Town, said by phone. “We also have questions about the difference in strategy between the two companies with Shoprite having been more organic growth traditionally and Steinhoff more acquisitive growth.”

The shares fell the most in almost four months on July 18 after Shoprite reported weaker second-half sales growth partly due to a slowdown in stores beyond its home market. Retailers including Shoprite have been relying on growth across sub-Saharan Africa to help offset sluggish trading in South Africa, where consumer confidence has deteriorated.

The company has been focused on capturing market share in three different tiers of customers, Charles Allen, a London-based analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, said by phone. Growth in Nigeria and Angola has been “very impressive” while South African chain Checkers has also performed well, he said.

COMMENT: Why has Aldi overtaken Waitrose and M&S?

Our most recent UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) reveals striking evidence that customers hold the power when it comes to business performance.

The index reveals Aldi as the highest performing supermarket for customer satisfaction, overtaking heritage brands M&S and Waitrose, while also making the largest gains in sales and market share.

The three supermarkets with the lowest customer service levels – Tesco, Asda and Co-Op Food – all saw small drops in market share. Our analysis finds food retailers with satisfied customers saw a sales growth of 10.7 per cent, compared to only 1.8 per cent for those with satisfaction falling below average. Indeed, in each of the last 11 UKCSI reports, we have consistently seen that, on average, supermarkets with the highest customer satisfaction outperform the sector for sales and market share. Customer service is a clear driving force behind those who reaped the benefits of this sector growth – and a clear issue for those who were left behind.

Retailers would do well to take note. Indeed, wider analysis from the Institute of Customer Service presents a clear correlation between customer satisfaction and business performance. It shows, for example, that in 60 per cent of cases, when customer satisfaction increases or decreases, share price follows suit. Ignoring this places organisations at risk of huge potential loss.

The UKCSI suggests that not only is Aldi satisfying its current customers and securing the repeat custom which comes with this success, but the retailer is also increasing market share through customer recommendation. In addition, the effort customers are having to make to get what they want is lower for customers of Aldi than both heritage brands – meaning that their customers are experiencing a more seamless customer experience.

The prospect of inflation rising faster than incomes may well lead to more exacting demands over both price and service, so it is also interesting to note that Aldi significantly outperforms the sector as a whole in two key areas: satisfaction with price and complaint handling. It does seem that if food prices continue to rise, Aldi appears well placed to satisfy the needs of price-conscious customers whilst widening its appeal to broader segments for whom service and the overall experience is a key concern. I hope other retailers recognise this – customer satisfaction is a crucial differentiator and the realigned expectations of consumers must be met, particularly in an environment where competition is so fierce.

For those supermarkets who recognise that there needs to be a step change in their approach and a commitment to the customer service agenda, our recommendations are as follows:

• Get it “right first time”

Making the customer journey even easier, straightforward and intuitive and maintaining a high focus on getting it “right first time” is essential to convert customer satisfaction to stronger loyalty and recommendation.

• Prevent problems

Organisations must focus on preventing problems at their source in key areas such as the availability, quality and reliability of goods and services, which account for the largest proportion of problems.

• Maintain relentless focus on complaint handling

Dealing with complaints quickly and effectively is crucial. Key expectations of staff include listening carefully, showing understanding of the problem, taking responsibility and following up complaints.

• Develop engaged, competent people

Employees’ attitudes and competence are amongst the most important attributes of the retail customer experience. Investing in employees’ knowledge, emotional intelligence and problem-solving skills is therefore central to improving customer service. Organisations should commit to employee engagement, training and development as proactive, ongoing business strategies.

It may seem obvious that customers are key to business performance, but service too often falls by the wayside in boardroom conversations. Our research offers a clear imperative: retailers should place the customer at the centre of their business strategy, or risk losing out to those who do.

Athleisure craze set to peak at £2.5bn in 2017

The athleisure trend sweeping the UK is predicted to drive the sportswear market’s value to £2.5 billion in 2017.

According to a new report from GlobalData, sports clothing has jumped eight per cent year-on-year as retailers rush to cash in on the trend and release their own athleisure ranges.

This is nearly four times the growth of the total UK clothing market, which rose 2.1 per cent.

The trend has seen a resurgence in brands like Kappa and Ellesse, while more contemporary retail giants like Boohoo, Topshop, New Look and H&M have released their own ranges in an effort to establish a foothold against sportswear specialists.

The popularity of athleisure fashion has been largely driven by the wellness trend, according to GlobalData’s retail analysts Fiona Paton.

“The health & wellbeing trend, influence of high profile fitness bloggers and continued investment from the government in initiatives such as improving cycle routes will increase consumer participation in sport and exercise – providing retailers with a larger, more varied activewear customer base,” she said.

“Sales growth in athleisure is set to peak in 2017 but it will remain a very popular category over the next five years, outperforming total clothing.

“As fashion retailers such as New Look, Primark and ASOS invest in affordable, trend-led own brand sportswear ranges, female shoppers have access to more choice, will spend more on impulse and will purchase athleisure pieces in replacement of core casualwear items.

“GlobalData believes non-sports specialists can lean on their fashion credentials and skills in interpreting seasonal trends quickly to ensure regular newness and that collections remain relevant, thereby forcing sports players such as Sports Direct to up their fashion game.”

30 Things You Didn’t Know About John Lewis

“Westfield Stratford City – John Lewis” by EG Focus is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Despite being a 150-year-old department store, the UK’s John Lewis brand has been quick to evolve with the times and set its own standards in retailing.

The retailer is famed for its ‘fair’ approach to business from its ‘partnership’ status to its ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ promise to consumers.

Winning repeated accolades for its customer service, and consistent ‘quality’ product in the eyes of its consumers, John Lewis has openly adopted new technologies, new ranges, new services to its customers and new partnerships with industry-shapers to stay on top.

Find out more about its retail approach and tactics in our 30 facts below:

What are 5 Things Every Retail Strategy Needs?

Download our FREE guide to find out the 5 things every retailer needs to implement in 2016.

Image credit: John Lewis

1. John Lewis is a British department store and heritage retailer that opened its first store on Oxford Street, London in 1864.

2. The original Oxford Street store remains the flagship branch, and was refurbished in late 2007 at a cost of £60 million.

3. The Oxford Street store has its own roof garden and pub which reportedly had 171,000 visitors last year (2016).

4. John Lewis is owned by its permanent staff who are called ‘partners’ and the profits are shared amongst them every year.

5. There are 86,700 partners who collectively own 48 John Lewis shops, 354 Waitrose supermarkets, an online business, a catalogue business, a production unit – and a farm!

6. The business has reported annual gross sales of over £11bn.

7. The retailer is known for its ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ promise to customers which pledges to stock the ‘best quality products, responsibly sourced’. If a national high street competitor is offering a better price for the same product – John Lewis will lower the price on that product in all of their shops – even if it’s a ‘sale’ price.

8. John Lewis partners reportedly stay with the company twice as long as the industry average.

Image credit: John Lewis

9. John Lewis has acquired other stores throughout the years which continued to operate under their original names until 2002. The two exceptions are Peter Jones in Chelsea and Knight & Lee in Southsea.

10. The John Lewis Partnership was the first department store group in the UK to adopt central buying, launching the ‘Jonell(e)’ name for its own brand merchandise in 1937. Since 2001 own brand merchandise has been known as ‘John Lewis’ merchandise. Additional own brands include Collection by John Lewis, as well as John Lewis & Co. and Collection Weekend by John Lewis.

11. In March 2017, John Lewis announced the launch of its own denim brand AND/OR in 15 stores.

12. In 2009, John Lewis launched the first of 12 John Lewis at Home stores in pre-existing shopping regions focusing on Electrical, Home and Technology products.

13. John Lewis will hire its first ever manager of brand experience for its new Oxford store, which is due to open in October 2017.

14. The new Oxford store will dedicate 20% of retail space to services and will have a concierge to greet customers and help them book appointments.

15. John Lewis permanently added a visual search tool to its website after 90% of users reported it to be a helpful function, leading to higher sales. The retailer was trialling FindSimilar – an app which lets shoppers upload a picture to search products.

16. Online retail accounted for 36% of the business last year (2016) and is expected to rise to 50% by 2020.

17. Inspired by the success of a “click and collect” offering, John Lewis has announced an £8 million programme to equip staff with iPhones – boosting them with technology to better assist customers on the spot.

Image credit: John Lewis

18. For a competitive edge, John Lewis is aiming to boost its range of exclusive products from 30% to 50% (time frame undisclosed).

19. John Lewis’ Christmas TV advert has become ‘event TV’. Its 2016 Christmas advert was named the world’s biggest, attracting 21 million global views on YouTube. The campaign cost £7 million.

20. 40% of John Lewis’ profits are reportedly made during the five weeks before Christmas.

21. In December 2016, the retailer reported a 31% year-on-year sales increase in the run-up to Christmas compared to 2015. This is accredited to two extra days of trading afforded by the additional bank holiday and the fact the sales started at 5pm on Christmas Eve.

22. John Lewis has recently topped a UK ranking of consumer perceptions of quality and reputation, conducted by YouGov.

23. John Lewis was amongst the top 5 brands named as offering the best customer service in the UK alongside Amazon, ASOS, M&S Food and Waitrose. The survey was conducted by the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) from The Institute of Customer Service.

24. In May 2017, John Lewis joined the Timewise Scheme, designed to help part-time employees, particularly in senior roles, progress their career and combat the challenges of flexible working.

25. In 2014, John Lewis set up JLAB, a global start-up accelerator programme run in association with innovation specialists L Marks. Waitrose joined the programme in 2017 creating the UK’s largest retail technology accelerator.

26. The 12 week programme offers 5-10 successful recipients access to John Lewis’s resources, industry-leading insight, free workspace, senior mentors and the opportunity to apply for funding in exchange for equity.

“Bristol – Cribbs Causeway … retail outlet” by bazzadarambler is licensed under CC BY 2.0

27. The themes for this year’s JLAB applicants included: Amazing Food Experiences, Amazing Store Experiences, Effortless Shopping; Help Me Live a Healthier Life; Smarter Supply Chain and Surprise Us – for miscellaneous innovations.

28. The retailer is currently exploring the possibility of renting out empty floor space as co-working offices for freelancers. A decision will be made in early 2018.

29. John Lewis was recently awarded ‘Best In Store Experience’, ‘Best Furniture Retailer’ and ‘Best Homewares Retailer’ at the 2017 Verdict Customer Satisfaction Awards and ‘Retailer of the Year’ at the 2017 Sunday Times Style Beauty Awards.

30. John Lewis has a written constitution that sets out its principles, governance system and rules. The ‘happiness of its members’ is cited as the partnership’s ultimate purpose.

As you can see with John Lewis it always comes back to the customer. But in order to offer such dedicated service the company also focuses on empowering and rewarding its staff. If retailers are going to remain competitive in the future both of these things will be vitally important.  

UK luxury retailer Fortnum & Mason closes its Dubai store

The multi-level store in Downtown Dubai was opened in 2014

British luxury retailer Fortnum & Mason has closed down its store in Dubai, it confirmed on Thursday.

Located in Downtown Dubai, the multi-level store was opened in 2014 as Fortnum & Mason’s first location outside London.

However, the brand said in a brief statement that the slowdown in the economy had led to the outlet’s closure last month.

“Due to the well-documented ongoing challenges with market conditions in Dubai, we have made the considered decision with our partner Al Khayyat Investments (AKI) that we will cease trading on the 9th of July,” it said.

“Fortnum’s will continue to be an English brand with a global palate. Our products are available to our customers in Dubai and around the world as part of our offer on fortnumandmason.com,” it added.

The British brand started in London in the early 1700s, and is most famous for its tea, confectionery and hampers.

In a statement, AKI also confirmed the news but added that it will continue to be a “key market leader for our other international brands”.

According to its website, the other food and beverage brands in the company’s retail portfolio include Il Caffe di Roma, Espressions – that also features Lavazza products and Burger Fuel.

Despite the softening in regional economic conditions, consumer spending in the UAE is growing strongly, according to recent research released by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Spending is expected to exceed $261bn in 2021, compared to nearly $183bn in 2016, the report found.

The research, based on recent data from Euromonitor International, revealed that consumer expenditure per household during 2016 in the UAE (around $103,000) was the highest when compared to other GCC countries.

Looking at consumer spending in the UAE in 2016, while housing was identified as the top category with $75.7bn, food and non-alcoholic beverages came second with $24.8bn worth of spending during the year.

Argos among firms named and shamed for underpaying workers

Argos has been named and shamed by the government as one of more than 200 employers to underpay their workers.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has highlighted 233 firms which failed to pay their employees the minimum wage and national living wage.

More than 13,000 members of staff were underpaid by these firms and each will receive back pay from their employer.

A total of £2 million is due to be paid to workers and the government has also issued additional fines totalling £1.9 million to these businesses. Employees will be contacted by their employer regarding the underpayment.

The government says retail, hairdressing, and hospitality businesses were some of the most prolific offenders. A list of all 233 employers is available to {view online}.

Argos was by far the biggest firm named on the list of 233 companies. The retailer failed to pay £1,461,881.78 to 12,176 of its workers, according to the government.

Moneywise reported in February that 37,000 current and former Argos staff had been underpaid by their employer. That 37,000 figure includes the 12,176 workers announced today, as the government has only counted current employees of

‘The government will come down hard on those who break the law’

Business minister Margot James says: “It is against the law to pay workers less than legal minimum wage rates, short-changing ordinary working people and undercutting honest employers.

“Today’s naming round identifies a record £2 million of back pay for workers and sends the clear message to employers that the government will come down hard on those who break the law.

“Common errors made by employers in this round included deducting money from pay packets to pay for uniforms, failure to account for overtime hours, and wrongly paying apprentice rates to workers.”

John Rogers, chief executive of Argos – which is now owned by Sainsbury’s, adds: “Shortly after we [Sainsbury’s] acquired the Argos business last year it was brought to my attention that, as part of a routine visit, HMRC had uncovered an issue with some Argos store systems and processes, which meant that some colleagues had been paid below the national living wage.

“Sainsbury’s prides itself on being a trusted brand where people love to work and I was, therefore, very disappointed to hear this and launched an immediate investigation. I am pleased to say the issue was resolved quickly and processes have been updated to ensure this cannot happen again.”

Marks & Spencer’s flagship store has re-opened in Dubai

New dining options and food hall at British retailer in Dubai Festival City Mall

Following a major revamp, Marks & Spencer’s flagship store in Dubai Festival City Mall has re-opened. For the first time in the UAE, you can now take a swift break from shopping at M&S and experience what the retailer is calling a premium, table-waited dining experience at the M&S Café.

The new dining experience is offering up a range of mid-retail therapy goodies, including pastries, smoothies, soups, salads, sandwiches, pastas and even British favourites including fish and chips (see Pierchic’s claims to the world’s poshest fish and chips here) and afternoon tea.

But the relaunch hasn’t just focused on the café alone. M&S has also launched its Food Hall, showcasing more than 1,200 premium grocery brands and lines. From fresh fruit and veggies to oven meals and daily staples, M&S is bringing its signature British quality to Dubai Festival City.

There’s also a brand-new M&S Home department, with the widest range of the brand’s homewares in the UAE. Expect new bedding and towel ranges, crockery and crystal glassware, for example. All of which will go alongside the store’s existing range of fashion for men, women and kids.

We’re hoping the M&S Food Hall will be stocking its bottles of Belgian chocolate milkshake – they are unbelievable.

Open Sun-Wed 10am-1pm; Thu-Sat 10am-midnight. Dubai Festival City Mall, www.marksandspencerme.com (04 206 6466).