Monthly Archives: May 2012

Jacobs Coffee rolls back the years with Parkhurst pop-up store

The Jacobs Board Game Café, just off Parkhurst’s trendy 4th Avenue, is helping people make connections the old-fashioned way this winter. There’s no WI-Fi, no apps and not so much as an iAnything as far as the eye can see – just a wide selection of your best loved board games, some nostalgic favourites and comfy spots to sit and enjoy the unmistakable allure of the Jacobs Verwohnaroma.

The Jacobs Board Game Café officially opens on 24 May and will run through until the end of August, encouraging consumers to pop in, relax and rediscover the chance to connect the way people did before text alerts and social media check-ins – over a complimentary cup of quality coffee. The Café, the first of its kind in South Africa, seeks to give people a chance to slow down and connect over a cup of Jacobs – the obvious catalyst for connection.

Jacobs Senior Brand Manager Taki Tsanwani believes that this unique take on sampling will resonate with consumers. “The Jacobs Board Game Café concept is so simple. What more do you need than the taste of Jacobs coffee, the unmistakable Verwohnaroma – and a comfortable space to enjoy it?” she says. “A cup of Jacobs coffee is the ideal catalyst for connection, and we believe that the Board Game Café will become a sanctuary for people who appreciate the chance to relax – and a hub for those who value the opportunity to connect over a fine coffee.”

The Jacobs Board Game Café is situated at 69 11th Street Parkhurst and is open from Tuesdays – Sundays 10am-10pm until the end of August, with some exceptions. The venue will also be hosting several small events throughout the next few months such as ladies evenings and speed dating and is available for personal bookings such as birthday parties, hen’s parties, brainstorms, etc. A schedule will be available at the café and on the “Jacobs Krönung South Africa” Facebook page.

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Dubai’s Nakheel Has First-Quarter Profit As Market Recovers

Nakheel PJSC, the state-controlled builder of artificial islands off Dubai’s coast, reported a first-quarter profit after a year-earlier loss as it delivered more completed properties to buyers.
Net income totalled 362 million dirhams ($98.6 million) in the three months through March, compared with a 36 million- dirham loss a year earlier. Revenue more than doubled to 1.35 billion dirhams, Nakheel said in an e-mailed statement today.
The result, along with an increase in 2011 profit, “indicate a relatively more stable real estate market in Dubai where Nakheel is a dominant player,” the company said. Profit last year rose to 1.28 billion dirhams from 1 billion dirhams a year earlier.
Nakheel restructured $16 billion of debt after Dubai’s property market collapsed following the onset of the global financial crisis. The company wrote down $21 billion of assets from 2008 to mid-2010, as Dubai property prices slumped by more than 65 percent.
The developer issued 3.8 billion dirhams of Islamic notes in August as part of the restructuring. The yield on the 10 percent debt has fallen 534 basis points so far in 2012 to 12.97 percent at 12:13 p.m. in Dubai today.
First-quarter profit was also boosted by 22 million dirhams in cost cuts and recurring revenue from the company’s leasing and retail businesses, Nakheel said. The value of the company’s assets increased to 25.4 billion dirhams.

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Pound stretcher store opens in dubai

British bargain-basement store Poundstretcher has flung open its doors to savvy shoppers in Dubai who love a discount deal.

The iconic British high-street shop, which opened at Madina Mall in Al Qusais, Dubai, yesterday, has kept its ‘every penny counts’ motto on the signs and the £-stretcher logo above the door – even though every deal is in dirhams.

“We did some research and thought about calling it ‘Dirhamstretcher,” brand director Cliff Lomberg told 7DAYS. “There’s that affinity people have in the UK with Poundstretcher – a ‘mysticism’ to it – so the owner plumped for Poundstretcher here.”


• • •
With Dubai more renowned for pink Lamborghinis and gold-plated iPhones, how is Poundstretcher going to do business?

“That’s the point!” insisted Lomberg. “Sixty seven per cent of the population are low-paid workers.”

Hannah O’Connor, 25, from Portsmouth, England, was one of the first supersavers through the door.

“Dubai can be an expensive place,” she said.

“Poundstretcher is cheap and got everything under one roof.” Duncan Hare did a quick sweep of his own to fill 7DAYS basket with seven eye-catching goodies…

SHAMPOO SHINE: Because you’re worth it. Who needs L’Oreal when you can Rejoice with luscious locks for just Dhs3. This is one of the cheapest items in the store.

SWEATY PALMS: Anyone got a thermo­meter? 39 degrees, you say. Might have missed a trick here, Poundstret­cher, this isn’t Blighty…At Dhs6, gloves might be perfect for Ski Dubai though. (Pictured)

BACK TO YOUR ROOTS: Modelled by Brit Hannah O’Connor who was getting all patriotic. This Union flag wall hanging will make any room brighter. A snip at Dhs48. (Pictured)

TOP DOG: Pamper your precious pooch with a hot handbag perfect for every Jumeirah Jane’s little lovely. Make poodles pretty in pink for just Dhs12. Love it.

PENNYPINCHER: Ahead of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this weekend, what better way to keep your dirhams safe and sound than in Her Majesty’s very own moneybox, costing just Dhs6.

SUITS YOU SIR: Look like David Beckham without forking out LA Galaxy prices. These Calvin Classics will catapult a mere Dhs24 from your bank account. Pant-tastic.

FIRESTARTER: At Dhs720, a fireplace was the most expensive thing we could find in the store. Perfect for those freezing winter nights when you can curl up wearing your lovely pink mittens… hang on a sec! (Pictured)

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Ramadan month seen starting on July 21

A UAE astronomer has forecast the Muslim’s fasting month of Ramadan could start on Saturday July 21, with Eid Al Fitr falling on August 19.
Ibrahim Al Jarwan, astronomy researcher and supervisor of Sharjah Planetarium, said that the birth of the crescent moon will be on Thursday, July 19, at 8.24am (UAE time), and the sunset will be at 5.09pm, while the moon will set two minutes after sunset.
“The crescent moon of Shawwal 1433 will born on Friday August 17 at 5.54pm local time, and the sunset will be at 6.49pm same day,” he added in comments published by state news agency WAM.
Al Jarwan said sighting the crescent would be impossible on Thursday night, but it would be visible on Friday night.

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Gitanjali mulls jewelery vending machines for Dubai

India’s Gitanjali Group, one of the world’s largest jewelery retailers, is considering expanding its network of jewelery vending machines into Dubai as part of its investment in the region, the founder and chairman of the company told Arabian Business.
The firm launched jewelery vending machines in India last year, displaying a range of 36 gold, silver and diamond jewels, and the company is now planning to expand the network over the next three years.
Mehul Choksi, chairman and founder of the company, said the machines will soon be making an appearance in Dubai as part of their plans to invest up to US$75m in the Middle East.
“At the moment we are targeting of opening nearly 75 outlets in India and we are seeing great demand from other countries,” Choksi told Arabian Business in an interview.

Founded in India in 1966, Gitanjali Group has an annual turnover of over US$2.1bn and has around 4,000 points of sale in India, with additional outlets in China, the US, Japan and the UK.
A favourite with Bollywood film stars, it is in the process of expanding into the Middle East, having opened its first store opened in Lamcy Plaza in Dubai.
“We are opening a series of stores in the UAE… We have 50 shop-in-shop contracts all over the UAE. We want to be in 110 shops in the UAE within one and a half years time,” Choksi said.
“It is a total investment of up to US$50m to US$75m over the next two years,” he added.
The company is also planning to expand the brand in Saudi Arabia and is also looking at opportunities in Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain.
Net sales for the full year to the end of March 12 rose 33 percent to Rs12,498.3 crore (US$2.257bn), with jewelery sales up 40 percent to Rs7,007.5 crore (US$1.265bn) in the same period.
Listed on Indian stock exchanges since 2007, Gitanjali;s gems are a favourite with Bollywood superstars, with Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Sonakshi Sinha, Bipasha Basu, Kareena Kapoor already signed up as brand ambassadors.

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Kingfisher sees UK retail profit fall 9.8% in Q1

Home & DIY retail group Kingfisher has today blamed “record adverse weather” for poor results over Q1, as total sales fell 6.9 per cent.

Over the 13 weeks to April 28th 2012, the group saw total sales decline to £1.1 billion, a 10.4 per cent like-for-like (LFL) slide while UK retail profit also dropped by 9.8 per cent over the period.

B&Q, owned by the group which also has UK retailer Screwfix as well as international operations within its portfolio, saw total sales dive 8.9 per cent to £968 million, an 11.7 per cent LFL decrease and Ian Cheshire, Kingfisher CEO, explained that the unseasonably wet weather had impacted sales.

“We anticipated the first quarter would be challenging, compared with last year’s strong growth which was boosted by favourable spring weather and public holidays,” Cheshire commented.

“But an extremely wet April this year in the UK and France compounded the difficulty, adversely impacting sales of outdoor and seasonal categories.”

Seasonal product sales, which can represent as much as 30 per cent of total sales at the retailer over Q1, have plummeted 30 per cent over the period.

Despite cost initiatives implemented to offset the impact of this seasonal sales slump, retail profit at B&Q fell 13.8 per cent to £65 million.

Screwfix however, posted positive results following the introduction of new ranges and the continued roll out of new outlets.

Total sales rose 10.2 per cent to £137 million while retail profit jumped 31.7 per cent to £11 million thanks to strong sales growth and a focus on direct sourcing.

Strong sales at its French-based operations also buffered the figures, as total sales at businesses Castorama and Brico Dépôt grew by 1.3 per cent and 3.3 per cent respectively.

Looking ahead to the rest of the financial year, Cheshire believes that these mixed results offer reasons to be positive.

He commented: “With the first quarter typically one of the least significant of the year and with the key summer season still ahead of us, we remain confident that we are well prepared to capitalise on any improvement in conditions and deliver a solid full year result.”

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Fashion brands charge shoppers more in UAE

Shoppers across the UAE are paying as much as 25 per cent more for major fashion brands than elsewhere in the world.

Related

■ Emirati shoppers to save with Ramadan Ration
Topic Shopping

Despite lower rents, no added taxes and negligible customs duties in the UAE, the country is more expensive for brands such as H&M and Zara than in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy and the United States.

Only the fashion chain Mango was consistently cheaper in the UAE than elsewhere, according to an analysis by The National and Caxton FX, a currency exchange based in London.

Shoppers said brands could charge more because consumer spending was notoriously higher in the Gulf than other parts of the world. “I’m always shocked at how expensive clothes are,” said Lindsay Johnston, an avid shopper and Dubai resident.

“[Retailers] think they can charge more,” she added. “Everything is more expensive. The majority of stuff I buy now is online.”

A look at more than 20 items at Zara, H&M and Mango found that prices were as much as 25 per cent higher in the UAE than other countries.

A Zara shirt in the UAE costs Dh195, but in the UK it is selling for Dh174, at current exchange rates. A men’s jacket from Zara is 25 per cent cheaper in France, where it costs Dh112 – compared with Dh150 in the UAE.

At H&M, a children’s blouse is 25 per cent cheaper in the US, and 24 per cent cheaper in Italy than in the Emirates.

“It’s not just a notion. If you compare clothing brands here and in Europe for instance, there is quite a change,” said Mo Heathcote, a shopper in Dubai.

All the major fashion brands in the UAE work under a franchise structure or joint venture with a local partner.

H&M is operated by Alshaya, who declined to comment. Azadea operates Mango and also declined to comment.

Zara’s pricing structure throughout the world is determined by head office in Spain. It said a number of different factors determined prices in each country.

“We can clarify that Zara’s commercial positioning is exactly the same in all markets: offering our customers quality products with latest fashion trends at affordable prices,” a spokesperson for Zara said. “We fix prices in each markets taking into consideration different factors, local costs structure, operative costs, local fashion sector prices, but always keeping attractive prices for our customers.”

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Clinton Cards deal to be struck within days

Clinton Cards looks likely to be bought out of administration by the end of next week if not earlier as would-be suitors jostle to take control.

Administrator Zolfo Cooper aims to sell the business by June 8, it is understood. At the time of publication, sources indicated that a sale could come even earlier.

Clinton Cards supplier American Greetings, which bought the retailer’s £35m bank debt before forcing it into administration last month, remains the front-runner and, as the largest creditor, has some influence over the administration process.

Any other bid would have to top £35m for American Greetings to step aside because that would ensure the US firm clawed its money back. However, it is understood that Clinton Cards is being widely valued by potential buyers at between £10m and £20m, so an offer of that scale is unlikely to materialise.

Dominique Schurman, the boss of US greetings cards retailer Schurman Retail Group, which is 15% owned by American Greetings and runs the US Papyrus cards chain, has flown to the UK to lead talks with Clinton Cards’ head office team about how it might take the retailer forward if American Greetings secures a deal.

Former Clinton Cards boss Darcy Willson-Rymer hoped to attempt a buy-out of the business but was unable to raise funds, sources said.

Up to a dozen parties lodged first-round bids last week, including Card Factory and WHSmith as well as investment firms Endless and OpCapita.

A “small number” of interested parties were still in the frame a source said. “American Greetings is not the only bidder,” he insisted.

American Greetings has a vested interest in acquiring Clinton Cards – the retailer is an important route to market in the UK, and the supplier was already owed $25m (£16m) by Clinton Cards at the time of its administration.

A leap into UK retail by American Greetings could put its other supplier relationships here in jeopardy, according to industry sources. It is thought some grocers have warned American Greetings that they may stop doing business with it as it would be regarded as a direct retail rival.

Separately, Hilco has been hired to manage the closure of almost half of Clintons’ 750 shops, affecting 2,800 jobs.

All parties declined to comment.

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Saudi closes in on minimum wage deal

Saudi Arabia aims to complete a study on setting a minimum wage for private sector workers within four months, local media quoted the labour minister as saying, part of a government drive to make jobs more appealing to nationals and cut unemployment.

The jobless rate in the world’s top oil exporter is now running at 10 percent and is a potential source of discontent as private companies prefer to hire foreigners, mainly from Asian countries such as Pakistan, who agree to work for wages as low as SR1,800 ($480) a month.

That is less than the monthly unemployment benefit of SR2,000.

Saudis have favoured government jobs, which offer security and higher salaries.

“There was a royal order for the labor ministry to study this issue in collaboration with the private sector,” Labour Minister Adel Faqih was quoted as saying in daily Okaz newspaper on Monday.

“We are now in the final stages of this study, which will be announced within the next four months,” he said.

Media reports have suggested the government could set a minimum wage of SR2,000-3,000.

Last year the government tightened rules introduced in the mid-1990s to try to increase the employment of locals through a “Saudization” scheme that set quotas for the number of Saudis each company must hire.

Foreign workers, including labourers and expatriate professionals, account for a third of the desert kingdom’s population of 27 million and Saudi nationals account for only 10 percent of the private sector workforce.

Saudi Arabia has not seen the mass uprisings that rocked other parts of the Arab world last year, facing only small protests by a Shi’ite minority in its oil-producing Eastern Province.

Still, last year hundreds of university graduates and teachers staged rare protests in Jeddah and Riyadh to demand jobs and better wages and vowed to continue demonstrating until the government produces jobs.

The groups later dispersed after government officials pledged to deal with the complaints.

King Abdullah promised last year to spend about SR400bn ($110bn), or more than 18 percent of gross domestic product, on housing, new jobs, health care, salary bonuses and other benefits.

The kingdom’s deputy labour minister said last week the largest Arab economy would start licensing expatriate labour companies within a month in a first move away from a sponsorship system, wh e reby employers bring in foreigners on a work visa for a certain job only.

Authorities hope that shifting from the sponsorship system will help more Saudi citizens fill jobs previously filled by foreigners.

Thanks to a decades-long population boom, the Saudi government can no longer afford to reduce unemployment by creating public sector jobs. Last year’s revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria were blamed by some on high youth unemployment.

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KSA economy grew 7.1% in 2011 on high oil prices – IMF

Saudi Arabia’s economy grew 7.1 percent last year, while its non-oil sector accelerated 8 percent, the highest since 1981, the International Monetary Fund said.

“Economic performance has been exceptionally strong and the outlook remains buoyant,” Masood Ahmed, the IMF’s Middle East direct said in a statement on the Washington-based organisation’s website.

“Oil production has been raised to ease pressures on global oil prices, and increased government spending coupled with accommodative monetary policy has supported continued acceleration in non-oil activity.”

The kingdom, which has one-fifth of the world’s proven oil reserves, and maintains the world’s largest oil production capacity, increased its output to 10.1m bpd this month, the highest in decades, according to Reuters.

Saudi Arabia has increased capacity to make up for shortfalls brought on by a decline in Libyan output and infrastructure constraints in Iraq.

“Higher imports and increased workers’ remittances linked to the strong growth of the Saudi economy, together with expanded financial assistance have exerted a positive spillover and helped support other economies in the region and beyond,” Ahmed said.

The kingdom’s economy is projected to grow by 6 percent this year with inflation forecast at 5 percent, according to the IMF.

“Fiscal and external surpluses are expected to remain very strong at almost 17 and 27 percent of gross domestic product, respectively,” Ahmed said. “However, given the current external environment and possible spillovers to global oil markets, the outlook is subject to some uncertainty,” he added.

Accelerating the pace of reform, and continuing to diversify the economy will help sustain growth in the future as the kingdom remains dependent on oil exports, and growth has been driven mainly by factor accumulation, Ahmed said.

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PayPal rolls out barcode payments in the UK

EBay’s CEO John Donahoe has called 2012 a year of testing and learning for PayPal’s in-store payments as it gears up for a big push next year. And the company is making good on that with the roll out of its first barcode-based payments in the UK at four major retailers. Starting Thursday, British consumers will be able to use a new PayPal InStore app to pay at 230 retail locations for Coast, Oasis, Warehouse, and Karen Millen.

The app, available initially for iOS and Android, allows users to pay at check-out by generating a barcode and transaction number, that can be scanned by retail employees. The money is deducted from a user’s PayPal account with a receipt sent to their email account. Users can also apply discounts through the app and they don’t have to have a cellular or Wi-Fi signal to complete the transaction. Purchases made online can also be brought in-store and returned using the app.

The barcode payment tool is just the latest test for PayPal, which is throwing a lot of ideas against the wall as it looks for the right tools to unlock in-store payments. It has also launched tests of QR-code based payments in Singapore, Australia and France and it tried a small pilot for NFC payments in Sweden at the end of last year. And with PayPal Here, its small business tool, it’s also shown how consumers can make proximity-based payments when they enter a store. It’s unclear what PayPal will actually offer its customers for in-store payments and it’s possible that different countries might get different tools.

“We’re not betting the farm on any one technology,” PayPal spokesman Anuj Nayar told me. “The advantage of a wallet in the cloud is all of these tools can access the same wallet and we’ll see what works.”

Nayar said PayPal is also still looking at NFC though it’s a technology that is slower in adoption. Starbucks, on the other hand, has proven that a QR-code based payment app can be hugely successful and can work on the phones that people already have. PayPal is also working on apps for BlackBerry and Windows Phone devices.

Mobile payments are expected to hit $171.5 billion in 2012, up 62 percent over last year, according to Gartner. By 2016, the market will be worth $617 billion with most of that coming from web-based payments in North America and Europe. NFC isn’t expected to play a big role in payments by 2016, said Gartner, which suggests that PayPal might be wise in looking at non-NFC payment options.

But more than anything, I think this shows how PayPal can become a huge player not just in the U.S. but worldwide with its in-store payment campaign. It already operates in 190 markets and that gives it the ability to test and launch all around the world over a short period of time. It recently announced a joint payment venture in Japan with Softbank and last week, it unveiled its first set of big retail partners in the U.S. This kind of scale can ultimately be beneficial in getting a lot of merchants and consumers on board though execution will still be critical. EBay’s CEO Donahoe is right in that this year is not the big year for in-store payments. Not with Google Wallet still slow out of the gates and Isis set to launch in only two markets this summer. But next year will be when the sparks start to fly and PayPal is getting some good experience as it gears up for battle.

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UK retailer Waitrose to strengthen Dunnes link

Irish chain will stock more goods from British supermarket giant

HIGH-END UK grocery chain Waitrose is planning to deepen its relationship with Dunnes Stores by supplying the Irish retailer with more products, the Irish Independent has learned.
Dunnes has been selling Waitrose-branded goods in some outlets here since last November.
A spokesman for Waitrose said that the UK multiple, which is part of the John Lewis group, is currently supplying Dunnes with 69 lines of products, ranging from wines, to ambient (products that sit on shelves and don’t require refrigeration) to frozen food.
He said that the Waitrose team was currently looking at also supplying Dunnes with a “number of seasonal lines at seasonal times of the year”.
The marriage between Dunnes and Waitrose is an unlikely one. Waitrose’s main competitor in the UK is Marks & Spencer, with shoppers willing to pay a premium for the chain’s goods.
Waitrose, which was named the best supermarket chain in the UK last year by the influential consumer magazine ‘Which?’, also holds a so-called Royal Warrant from the Queen, having supplied her household for a number of years.
Retail sources expressed surprise that Waitrose is supplying products to Dunnes Stores. They noted that even from a logistics point of view, shipping the goods first to the UK from source, and then on to Ireland does not appear to be cost-effective unless large quantities of goods are being imported.
Also, while Waitrose-branded goods have a strong reputation in their domestic market, Irish consumers would be largely unaware of their perceived quality.
Dunnes Stores, which in its advertising says ‘The Difference is We’re Irish’, has not promoted the fact that it’s stocking some Waitrose goods. The British chain uses people such as celebrity chefs Heston Blumenthal and Delia Smith to advertise its food products.
While Dunnes Stores has a handful of outlets in Britain, it doesn’t sell food there, just textiles.
Challenge

In Northern Ireland it has about 24 stores, many of which do sell groceries. Waitrose has already said that it would like to open as many as 20 stores in Northern Ireland, where it does not currently have a presence.
Dunnes has been fighting to maintain market share in Ireland, where Tesco dominates. German discounters Aldi and Lidl have also made significant headway in capturing consumer spending.
Musgrave, which controls the SuperValu and Centra brands, is also likely to pose a further challenge to Dunnes when it eventually gets Superquinn shipshape after acquiring the distressed retailer last year.

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May 30, 2012, 10:50 a.m. ET Morrison Shifts Focus To Opening New Stores In South England -CEO

LONDON (Dow Jones)–Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC (MRW.LN) Chief Executive Dalton Philips Wednesday said the retailer will shift its focus to opening stores in the underrepresented south of England, even as he conceded there is no foreseeable lifting of the current retail gloom.

Philips said that by the end of fiscal 2014, 60% of new retail space opened by Morrison will be in the south, compared with 15% in fiscal 2012.

The new opening space equates to around 1.25 million …

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Starbucks coming into India as a partnership with the Tata Group,

When Starbucks announced that it was coming into India as part of a partnership with the Tata Group, there was a lot of excitement in the country’s coffee shop segment. The first Starbucks outlet is scheduled to open in August. Meanwhile Dunkin’ Donuts, another U.S. coffee and baked goods chain, beat the Seattle-based company to the punch: On May 8, the Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin’ Donuts opened its first restaurant in India, in city center Connaught Place in Delhi. “We are confident that Indian consumers will love our format and our product offering,” says Dev Amritesh, chief operating officer and president of Dunkin’ Donuts India.

Cafes have the potential to become big business in India. The entire restaurant sector is growing rapidly at around 25% annually, according to a National Restaurant
Association of India (NRAI) white paper. But the cafe segment is growing faster at 30% to 35%. This is even before the entry of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, which should catalyze further demand. “Cafes or coffee shops are a relatively recent phenomenon in India,” notes the NRAI paper. “There are more than 1,500 coffee shops in the organized segment, spread all over the country and of which 50% are accounted for by just two companies [Café Coffee Day and Barista].”

Dunkin’ Donuts, however, aims to be more than a coffee shop. Its branding in India is Dunkin’ Donuts & More, a designation that is unique among the 32 countries (10,000 restaurants) where the company currently has a presence. “We believe Dunkin’ Donuts will occupy the sweet spot in between cafés and quick service restaurants, as we offer elements of both,” says Amritesh. “[It has] a great all-day menu of food and a fantastic range of beverages, along with a chilled out, modern and relaxed environment.”

The “& More” in the positioning statement indicates that the company has learned from the experience of other international chains that have previously tried to break in to the Indian market. The world over, Dunkin’ mainly features donuts on its food menu, with a few breakfast options. In India,

however, there will be a whole range of sandwiches and a large number of new flavors in donuts — mango and lychee, for instance.

When Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) came into the country in 1995, it arrived with an identical menu to what was available elsewhere. Kellogg launched its cold breakfast cornflakes in India, unmindful of the fact that the nation’s consumers preferred their breakfast hot. Kellogg languished for more than a decade. KFC ultimately had to set up shop, in part due to anti-multinational agitation (It has reopened since.)

By contrast, McDonald’s quickly adapted to local palates. It introduced items that fit local palates, like the McAloo Tikki (a potato burger minus meat and even onions). These items are now being added to the fare in other countries. By adding the variety — sandwiches, milkshakes, smoothies and other yet-to-be-decided snacks — Dunkin’ hopes to hit the ground running.

Dunkin’ Donuts comes to India in a joint venture with Jubilant FoodWorks. The Indian partner already has a similar agreement in place with Domino’s Pizza. As of December 2011, the company had a network of 439 Domino’s Pizza stores. Dunkin’ is looking at opening 10 stores in 2012-2013 with another 100 the next year.

The two partnerships complement each other, notes Jubilant chairman Shyam
Bhartia. “India is a key strategic market with immense potential for growth in the food service business,” Bhartia said at the launch. “Our team has been working very hard over the past year to come up with a differentiated value proposition and the result has been very gratifying.” Indians are now ready for a new menu and a new lifestyle he said.

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Tesco launches Ocado style online delivery offer

Tesco has rolled out its Delivery Saver offer which allows online customers to save on delivery charges by signing up to a subscription service nationwide today.

The new offer allows Tesco shoppers to receive free delivery for a three-month or a six-month period.

Shoppers signing up for six months could save up to £100 on delivery charges, based on one £6 delivery per week and one extra delivery for a special occasion.

The nationwide roll-out of the Delivery Saver follows a successful trial of the service South West, covering 37 stores.

The move will put pressure on online grocery rivals Ocado which launched its similar Savings Pass last year and has reported strong uptake on the loyalty scheme.

Tesco claims to be the world’s largest online grocery retailer and has sales of £2bn through the channel.

Internet retailing director Ken Towle said: “We listened to what our customers told us they wanted, and Delivery Saver is the result. It’s simple to use and will save money at a difficult time for many families. Customers can choose from all available delivery slots, so shopping arrives at the most convenient time.

“Best of all, if you get regular home deliveries it will quickly pay for itself – and the more you use the service, the more you save.”

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Special Report: Ras Al Khaimah ….UAE

Ras Al Khaimah, the fourth-largest emirate in the UAE, today boasts a rapidly growing economy, thanks to the ambitious process of economic diversification adopted by the government that primarily focuses industry, trade and commerce, tourism and real estate. While Ras Al Khaimah’s business-friendly policies have ensured a brisk increase in foreign direct investments, it has also helped the emirate steadily increase its global appeal as a superior choice destination for business and leisure.
The natural topography of Ras Al Khaimah which consists of 65km of sun-kissed sandy beaches, the Al Hajar Mountain range, the vast desert plains in the central region and the green belt in the southern region, have added to the success of Ras Al Khaimah as a destination of choice.
Ras Al Khaimah has been witnessing impressive economic growth in the past few years under the visionary leadership of HH Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qassimi, the Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah.
In recent years, Ras Al Khaimah has witnessed an increase in GDP figures with growth in manufacturing, services, and tourism sectors, along with the increase in foreign trade and per capita income, a rise in the standard of living, growth in education, development in world-class housing and healthcare facilities among other positive developments that point towards the all round socio–economic prosperity of Ras Al Khaimah. Ras Al Khaimah was recently rated the best investment destination by the FDI magazine.
The RAK Government encourages development through the private sector and believes that the role of the government is primarily to create an optimum environment for enterprises, providing enabling infrastructures, utilities and services and making sure that the government is an effective partner- supporting and empowering the private sector.
Ras Al Khaimah has negligible deposits of hydrocarbons, unlike some of the other emirates or countries in the GCC. As a result, it has sought to diversify its economy over the course of recent decades by opening up to foreign investors and industries. The aim was to make the best use of the emirate’s strategic positioning by improving its infrastructure and creating the right incentives and liberal business environment to attract major industrial enterprises from around the world.
Although the drive to attract foreign companies has been a recent development, RAK has long been one of the industrial centres of the UAE. The industrial sector has been dominated by the three main industries of cement, ceramics and pharmaceuticals. The sector has diversified in the recent years especially since the creation of free zones as well as partnerships between government and foreign investors.
Ras Al Khaimah has a natural advantage when it comes to the production of cement as the Al Hajar mountain range holds vast supplies of high quality limestone, which is a key raw material for cement manufacturing. The emirate is also rich in other raw materials such as clay, quartz and other minerals.
The pharmaceutical industry in RAK is about 30 years old and has been one of the key focus areas of government plans for a number of years. The industry in RAK is dominated by the Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries, known as Julphar. The company has grown into a pharmaceuticals giant by Middle East standards and now exports to over 80 countries. Julphar is the biggest pharmaceuticals manufacturer in the UAE.
What RAK lacks in oil is somewhat compensated for by its natural mineral water resources. RAK is the origin of Masafi mineral water brand, the region’s leading mineral water brand, with its source lying in several rich underground springs in the mountainous city of Masafi. Masafi Water has developed into an international brand which exports bottled water and fruit juices to more than 20 countries.
RAK Ceramics is the single largest, state-of-the-art, ceramic tile manufacturer in the world with its twelve plants spread across the UAE, India, Bangladesh, Sudan, Iran and China, producing over one hundred million sq m of tiles and 3 million pieces of sanitary ware annually, exporting to 135 countries. The UAE operation is the largest single-location ceramic manufacturing facility in the world with more than 6,000 active models in the ceramic and porcelain tiles segment, and an exclusive range of more than 600 active models of sanitary ware to offer with a wide choice in designer bathroom sets, wash basins, bathtubs and related items. RAK Ceramics has diversified horizontally by forming several joint ventures including Kludi RAK LLC, RAK Porcelain LLC, Laticrete RAK LLC and many more in Ras Al Khaimah.
RAK is well connected to most of the neighbouring countries by air, sea and roads The emirate has an excellent road network making overland trans-shipment throughout the Middle East a realistic possibility. With an excellent telecom system RAK airport is one of the six international airports in the country, and Saqr Port in RAK is one of the largest bulk-handling ports in the region, and it also has additional container-handling facilities.
The Government of Ras Al Khaimah’s constant endeavour to enhance infrastructure facilities across the emirate has been a major factor in attracting major foreign investments to Ras Al Khaimah. With a well-planned road network, an international airport, fully equipped seaports, and advanced communications network, Ras Al Khaimah is well-positioned for rapid socio-economic growth.

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UK retail recruitment is highest for a decade

RETAILERS took on more staff for the first time in nearly a decade in May as stores geared up for an anticipated sales boost this summer.

The CBI, whose latest survey of the retail sector covered the first two weeks of May, said responses indicated the recruitment drive will continue into June.

It also found that some 43% of retailers saw an increase in sales volumes compared with a year ago, while 23% reported a fall. The balance of plus-21% was the best result since April last year and was accompanied by an upturn in sentiment about trading conditions over the next three months.

The sales improvement was driven by grocery stores, department stores and furniture and carpet retailers, although the CBI noted that the majority of respondents said sales were still below average for the time of year.

The number of people employed in the retail sector increased on a year ago, ending a decline dating back to February 2003, and a majority expect to recruit more staff compared to a year ago in June, the industry group added.

The optimism comes as retailers hope for a busy summer, with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Olympics set to boost sales.

Judith McKenna, chairwoman of the CBI’s retail survey panel, said: “It’s encouraging to see high street sales up compared to a year ago, and that business sentiment about the next three months has improved.”

However she warned that high unemployment, slow wage growth and weak consumer confidence would keep retailers under pressure in the short term.

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Five arrested following Qatar mall blaze

The daughter of Qatar’s Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage has been arrested along with four others following the fire at Doha’s Villaggio Mall, which killed 19 people.

Iman Al-Kuwari, who ran the Gympanzee childcare facility in the retail centre, was arrested along with the mall’s manager, assistant manager and the assistant director of security, Qatar News Agency reported.
Hundreds of mourners gathered in a Doha park yesterday to hold a vigil for the victims of the fire, which claimed the lives of 13 children along with four teachers and two firefighters.
Among the victims were two-year old New Zealand triplets, Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, whose parents Jane and Martin Weekes attended the vigil.
The Wellington-couple, who have lived in Doha since 2007, described the triplets as “the joy of our lives” in a statement.
Qatari authorities have ordered a probe into mall fire, which has prompted questions about safety standards in the Gulf state.
The fire broke out at around 11am on Monday and up to 180 civil defence personnel were said to be involved in extinguishing the blaze and rescue efforts.
No casualties were initially reported but by 4pm local press reported that a number of children had died after a fire in the nursery.
Qatari authorities have yet to confirm how the fire was started, although reports from the Ministry of Interior highlighted a “lack of floor plans, thick smoke and heat and malfunctioning sprinkler systems hindered rescue efforts” during the fire.
The Villaggio opened in 2006 and is one of the emirate’s most popular shopping and amusement destinations.

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Ramadan night market to open in Dubai

A night market is set to launch in Dubai during Ramadan with retailers from around the region selling a variety of quirky products and speciality foods.

The Ramadan Night Market will host up to 300 independent retailers over 10 days in the Dubai World Trade Centre and will sit alongside the Majlis tent and the Sports World complex.

“It’s going to be a hustling, bustling place,” said Sunil Jaiswal, chief executive of Sumansa Exhibitions, the organiser of the event. “It’s going to be a different shopping experience than going to a mall.”

The market will have a number of different categories of retailers, including food from around world, garments, accessories, electronics and health and beauty.

The organisers expect 2,000 visitors per day and have already had double the amount of requests from retailers to open stores than the space available.

“We are targeting retailers from the Middle East and further afield because a lot look at this as a good opportunity to come to Dubai when spending is high,” said Mr Jaiswal.

So far, the organisers have had interest from retailers in the Gulf and the Indian subcontinent.

Spending on gifts often increases during Ramadan as shoppers buy presents for loved ones ahead of the Eid-Al-Fitr celebration.

The night market is expected to attract customers looking for a bargain on products or for something out of the ordinary.

“My gut feeling is that it’s going to be the prices that draw people in and the bargains that are available,” said Mr Jaiswal.

The launch of the market also comes as retail spending in the UAE is on the increase, with retailers reporting sales growth this year of 15 per cent on the back of a buoyant market.

“There will be a number of events at [Dubai World Trade Centre],” said Mr Jaiswal. “It’s going to be a place to go and we will begin marketing to bring people in.”

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London Designer Outlet secures retail anchor brands

London Designer Outlet (LDO), currently under construction at Wembley City, has announced that it has secured Gap and Nike as its first anchor tenants. Sportswear brand Nike has taken a 9,182 sq ft in a prominent location on the ground floor of the Outlet facing Wembley Stadium, while global fashion brand GAP has signed up for an 8,235 sq ft unit on the centre’s first floor.

In addition, Quintain Estates and Development, the property investment and development company, has also secured deals with Marks & Spencer, Superdry and Guess who will all take units at the site.

Marks & Spencer has taken the biggest share of the 350,000 sq ft area in the North West London outlet with a 21,108 sq ft unit, followed by Guess with 3,636 sq ft of space and Superdry with a 3,676 sq ft unit.

Phil Cottingham, Head of Retail at Quintain, commented: “LDO has been designed as a leisure and lifestyle destination that will serve the local catchment as well as ‘day-trippers’ and tourists visiting London, which will be reflected in the tenant mix.

“The initial phase of the leasing programme focused on establishing a strong food and beverage offer at LDO, followed by securing the cornerstone retail brands. We are delighted to have secured Marks & Spencer, one of the UK’s leading retailers, alongside Nike and Gap, as well as established fashion brands Superdry and Guess.”

George van Vugt, Director Real Estate and store Construction at Nike EMEA said: “Offering proximity to and association with one of the UK’s most important sporting landmarks and a designer fashion retail focus, London Designer Outlet is a perfect fit for the Nike brand. We are extremely pleased to have signed up on such a prominent anchor unit in this world-class retail, leisure and lifestyle destination.”

The complex which is London’s first bespoke designer outlet and the only one within the M25, opens in 2013, and will comprise of up 85 designer retail units, 15 restaurants, cafés and coffee shops as well as a nine-screen Cineworld.

The London Designer Outlet’s catchment statistics are impressive, it claims that it will be the closest outlet centre for 5.8m people – the highest of any in the UK, and that an estimated 10.4m people live within a 60-minute travel time, and there is a total of £3.4bn projected catchment spend. Visitor numbers to Wembley City are currently estimated at 9m a year and these could reach up to 12m once the centre is open.

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Dubai Duty Free Q1 sales increase 14% to US$390m

Sales at Dubai Duty Free increased 14 percent during the first quarter of the year to AED1.42bn (US$390m), setting it on track to achieve sales of AED6bn by year end.
The world’s largest airport retailer said liquor, perfume and gold remained the top three most sold items with perfume sales up 22 percent to AED213m.
“We have had a very good start to the year and are very much on track for our sales forecast of AED6bn,” Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman of Dubai Duty Free said in a statement.
“Terminal 3 continues to be the biggest in terms of accumulative sales and accounts for almost 58 percent of our total turnover, however, the average spend of passengers in Terminal 1, which accounts for 35 percent of sales, is higher,” he added.

Sales in Terminal 1 increased 15 percent year to date compared to 21 percent in Terminal 2 and 12 percent in Terminal 3, said the retailer. Confectionary sales rose 20 percent to AED112m while electronics increased 19 percent and cosmetics 23 percent.
Dubai Duty Free, which operates 18,000 sqm of retail space at Dubai International Airport, is reported to be in the process of raising a US$1.1bn loan backed by the airport retailer’s future cash earnings and hired lenders.
Parent company, Investment Corp of Dubai, the emirate’s main state-owned holding company, also mandated HSBC Holdings, Dubai Islamic Bank and Emirates NBD to help with the fundraising, Bloomberg said last month, citing people familiar with the deal.
The retailer, which reported a 15.6 percent rise in 2011 revenue to US$1.46bn, is also part-financing the building of a fourth concourse at the airport in AED28bn deal.
It will require around new 3,000 employees to staff its retail operations there in 2015.

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South Africa GDP Growth Slows As Mining Production Slumps

Growth in South Africa, which has the continent’s biggest economy, slowed less than expected in the first quarter as a rebound in manufacturing compensated for a slump in mining output.
Gross domestic product expanded an annualized 2.7 percent from 3.2 percent in the previous three months, Pretoria-based Statistics South Africa said on its website today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 16 economists was 2.3 percent.
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Customers shop for garments in Johannesburg, South Africa. The economy is growing at less than half the 7 percent pace the government estimates is needed to meet a target of creating 5 million new jobs by 2020. The jobless rate of 25.2 percent is the highest of more than 60 countries tracked by Bloomberg. Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg
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The economy is growing at less than half the 7 percent pace the government estimates is needed to meet a target of creating 5 million new jobs by 2020. Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg
“We expected growth to be a little weaker, largely because of manufacturing, but that seems to have come through a little bit better than expected,” Adenaan Hardien, an economist at Cadiz Holdings Ltd. (CDZ), said by telephone from Cape Town. “The weak recovery is continuing.”
Manufacturing, which makes up 15 percent of the economy, expanded an annualized 7.7 percent in the first quarter compared with a 4.2 percent gain in the previous three months. Mining production contracted an annualized 16.8 percent after increasing 0.7 percent in the previous three months. Safety stoppages, maintenance halts, and labor action slowed mining output, Gerhardt Bouwer, the agency’s executive manager of national accounts, told reporters in Pretoria.
Slower growth in Europe, where a debt crisis that began more than two years ago may lead to Greece leaving the monetary union, is curbing demand from a region that buys about a fifth of South African exports. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in February cut his growth forecast this year to 2.7 percent from an earlier estimate of 3.4 percent.
Not Denting Unemployment
“Global uncertainty is weighing on the economy,” Madalet Sessions, an economist at Cape Town-based wealth manager, BoE Private Clients, said in a telephone interview today. “South Africa is dependent on global growth and needs things to go well offshore, and they are clearly not going as well as we would like them to. You are not going to make a dent in unemployment numbers with growth like this.”
The rand pared gains to trade little changed at 8.3446 as of 2:12 p.m. in Johannesburg. The yield on the R157 bond due 2015 was unchanged at 6.39 percent.
The economy is growing at less than half the 7 percent pace the government estimates is needed to meet a target of creating 5 million new jobs by 2020. The jobless rate of 25.2 percent is the highest of more than 60 countries tracked by Bloomberg.
The Reserve Bank has kept the benchmark lending rate at 5.5 percent, the lowest in more than three decades, since 2010 to help stimulate the economy.
Rates on Hold
“The risks posed to the global and domestic economy from the crisis in Europe have intensified,” central bank Governor Gill Marcus said on May 24, when the bank cut its growth forecast for this year to 2.9 percent from 3 percent. The central bank was prepared to move rates either up or down, depending on the prevailing circumstances, she said.
Today’s growth data won’t have any major bearing on the direction of interest rates, which will probably remain unchanged until the fourth quarter of next year, said Hardien.
“A combination of relatively weak domestic growth, ongoing concerns about downside risks to global activity and a more favorable local inflation outcome would continue to weigh on monetary policy,” he said in e-mailed comments.
Growth in the retail industry slowed to 3 percent from 5.2 percent in the period, while financial services increased 4.1 percent, compared with 2.3 percent.
“GDP growth is still forecast to grow by 2.8 percent in 2012, assuming no further significant weakening in the global economy,” Kevin Lings, a Johannesburg-based economist at Stanlib, the money management unit of Standard Bank Group Ltd. and Liberty Holdings Ltd. (LBH), said in e-mailed comments. Greece’s possible exit from the euro area “poses a significant downside risk for South Africa.”

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Spanish retail sales show record fall in April

May 29 (Reuters) – Spanish retail sales fell 9.8 percent year-on-year in April on a calendar-adjusted basis, official data showed on Tuesday, 6 percentage points greater than the revised fall of 3.8 percent in March.

The data from the National Statistics Institute marked the 22nd month in a row of falling retail sales data and was the greatest fall since the series started in 2003.

Without adjusting for calendar effects, retail sales fell 11.3% in April having dropped 4% in March.
It is the latest bad news from the Spanish economy, which saw the level of risk attached to its government bonds hitting record levels on Monday after it emerged on Friday that banking group Bankia was going to need a bigger bail-out than had been expected.
Spanish shoppers are being discouraged by government austerity measures, rising taxes and Europe’s highest rate of unemployment.
Employment in the retail sector was down 1.2% in April from the same month in 2011.
The unemployment rate is over 24%, while the economy is back in recession having contracted in the last three months of 2011 and the first three months of 2012.
On Tuesday, a report from the Bank of Spain predicted that the recession would continue in the second quarter of 2012.

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Shares in Greggs rise in early trading

Shares in Greggs rose in early trading after the government was forced to make a U-turn on ‘pasty tax’ last night.

The unpopular pasty tax, which would have raised the VAT on pasties from 0 per cent to 20 per cent, had contributed to a 15 per cent fall in Greggs’ share price since the Budget in mid-March.

In a trading update last month, the firm reported a 1.9 per cent decrease in like-for-like sales for the 19 weeks to 12 May 2012 and struck a cautious note due to the pressure on consumers’ disposable income.

Whereas most foods and drinks are exempt from VAT, it is levied on takeaway food that is sold hot and the original tax was designed to correct what Chancellor George Osborne termed an ‘anomaly’, by charging VAT on heated baked goods.

Greggs, and other bakery firms, had attacked the plans as unworkable and claimed they would lead to job losses and further store closures on the high street.

Osborne yesterday amended the proposed tax so that it excluded food that was ‘cooling down’ after having been taken out of the oven.

In response, Greggs’ stock is currently trading up 5.92 per cent at 494.2 per cent at 9.19am, still some way off the high of 558p before the pasty tax was proposed.

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61% of premium online shoppers say they will not reduce spending in 2012

Tuesday May 29th 2012

A survey of consumers’ online shopping habits has revealed that as the UK economy slides back into recession a significant 61% of consumers buying premium products and services say they will not reduce their online spending in 2012.

Conducted by online retail marketing agency Leapfrogg, the survey found that 30% of respondents said they will purchase more online this year due to good service and increased confidence in using online channels.
Leapfrogg said this was surprising considering the average household income of those surveyed was £23,000 per annum.

The survey also revealed the significance of understanding the online shopping journey, with over a third of consumers saying that they used the internet to compare and check prices. For 20% of respondents, online search was used for product inspiration and research. Surprisingly, only 14% used online to search for offers or vouchers, which Leapfrogg said emphasised the need for premium retailers to provide quality products, competitive pricing, useful information and good service over quick-win approaches such as voucher codes.

39% of the survey’s respondents said that lower prices would encourage them to shop with a premium brand but for 21% of consumers quality of product and good service was enough of a pull to encourage a luxury spend.

Rosie Freshwater, managing director of Leapfrogg said: “Premium and high-end brands shouldn’t be tempted to undersell themselves by overusing voucher codes and heavy discounting. Consumers are willing to commit to higher prices as long as the shopping experience and customer service is as premium as their purchase.”

Commenting on the importance of the shopping experience, Freshwater added: “Considering customer needs and optimising the online shopping journey at every stage is paramount for increasing customer acquisition and sales. Premium brands need to know their customers inside out and consider every angle of the shopping experience from the perspective of the consumer; this should be a core aspect of retail marketing strategy for high end brands. Premium retailers need to make the whole consumer journey easy, from start to finish, not overlooking the importance of offline interactions such as delivery options and of course post-purchase customer care.”

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Foschini earnings rise… Eyeing expansion into africa

JOHANNESBURG, MAY 29 – South Africa’s second-largest listed clothing retailer, Foschini Group, on Tuesday reported a 24 percent rise in full-year profit and said it plans to open 140 new stores over the next year.

All but 16 of the new stores it will open in the next year with be in South Africa.

The company also said it will be expanding into Mozambique and Nigeria over the next 2 years – two fast-growing economies fueled by commodity booms. The group operates in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Lesotho and Swaziland.

The company has reaped rewards from decades-low interest rates and above-inflation wage hikes that have spurred consumer spending.

Foschini, which also sells home products and furniture, said diluted headline earnings per share rose almost 24 percent to 766.1 cents, just above an estimate of 764 cents in a poll of 14 analysts by Thomson Reuters.

The company said retail turnover increased 17 percent to 11.63 billion rand.

South Africa retail sales grew 6.8 percent year-on-year in March, the latest official data showed, beating a 6.6 percent growth economists polled by Reuters had expected. (Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Jon

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Jaguar Land Rover report higher profits and record sales

Jaguar Land Rover, the Indian-owned car manufacturer, has reported a 34% rise in profits after sales hit a record high.

In 2011-2012 the group made pre-tax profits of £1.5bn, up from £1.12bn the year before.

Retail sales were up 27% to 305,859 units, with parent, Tata Motors, attributing the significant increase to strong demand from China and other emerging markets.

Chinese sales jumped 76% to 50,994.

JLR is now in rude health, just four years after it was sold to Indian industrial conglomerate Tata, amidst fears about its ability to survive.

Since then, Tata has invested billions of pounds to make the company what it is today, namely a vital contributor to the parent company’s bottom line, as well as a large and growing employer of some 21,000 people in the UK.

Recently launched models, such as the Range Rover Evoque and the Jaguar XF, have been vital to JLR’s revival, especially in Asia where its sales growth has been the strongest.

In the years ahead, JLR will speed up its new model roll-out as part of a broader effort to cultivate an image of a technology-inspired carmaker with heritage to boot.

The company’s new Range Rover Evoque, a compact 4×4, has proved particularly popular, the company said.

Pre-tax profits for the quarter ended 31 March were £530m, up from £299m for the same quarter last year. Revenues were up 51.5% at £4.14bn.

Although the UK remains Jaguar Land Rover’s biggest market, with retail sales of 60,022, up 3.2%, the group now exports 80% of its production.

Sales to India rose 153.3% to 2,138, while sales to Brazil rose 62.2% to 9,027, as buyers in emerging markets warmed to the luxury brand.

Commenting on the results, Ralf Speth, JLR chief executive, said: “Today’s announcement… is a positive reflection of the continued level of consumer confidence in both of our brands.

“These record earnings, driven by strong product demand and operating efficiencies, give JLR the financial impetus to sustain its ongoing investment programme.”

In March, the luxury car maker announced a joint venture agreement with Chinese manufacturer Chery Automobile, to build vehicles for the Chinese market.

But the agreement has yet to receive regulatory approval from the Chinese authorities.

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Pound Approaches 3 1/2-Year High Versus Euro On Spanish Concern

The pound approached a three-and-a- half-year high against the euro after Spain said it may need to sell bonds for a banking rescue, increasing demand for alternatives to the 17-nation shared currency.
The pound extended its 4.3 percent advance against the euro this year as speculation that Greece may leave the currency bloc bolstered the appeal of British assets as a haven. Sterling rose against the yen after an index of U.K. retail sales climbed to its highest level in more than a year in May. The data followed a report last week that showed the U.K.’s double-dip recession was deeper than initially estimated. Gilts were little changed.
“The pound is regarded by continental investors as a relative safe haven,” amid Europe’s turmoil, said Michael Derks, chief strategist at FXPro Financial Services Ltd. in London. “The numbers coming out of the U.K. have been a bit discouraging but that’s not limiting the currency at the moment. Gilts will continue to attract strong demand from investors who are keen to diversify out of local currencies.”
Sterling was little changed at 79.97 pence per euro at 12:29 p.m. London time, after reaching 79.51 pence on May 16, the strongest level since November 2008. It was also little changed at $1.5678, and appreciated 0.1 percent to 124.79 yen.
Derks said the pound may appreciate to 75 pence per euro within three or four months.
Spanish Recapitalization
A spokesman for the Spanish economy ministry said the nation’s preferred option for raising funds to recapitalize Bankia group is via debt markets. Spain considers that using treasury bonds instead of cash to recapitalize Bankia is now a “marginal” option, the spokesman said.
The pound has appreciated 3 percent this year, the best performer of the 10 developed-nation currencies tracked by Bloomberg Correlation-Weighted Indexes. The dollar advanced 2 percent and the euro dropped 1.8 percent.
Wolseley Plc (WOS), a U.K.-headquartered plumbing- and heating- products supplier, said today that the stronger pound is hurting its earnings. “If current rates apply throughout the period then fourth-quarter profit growth will be adversely impacted” as it repatriates earnings from the euro region, the company said in a statement, referring to the three months through the end of July.
Ten-year gilts were little changed after Bank of England policy maker Ben Broadbent said the decision not to increase stimulus this month was justified by the outlook for inflation. Loosening policy again “remains a possibility” if needed to counteract threats from the euro-area debt crisis, he said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Linda Yueh in London.
Inflation Forecast
“We still anticipate a decline” in inflation, “but it looks to be taking slightly longer than we had first thought it would,” Broadbent said. “My answer to the questions as to why policy didn’t change in May: the forecast didn’t warrant it.”
The yield on 10-year bonds slipped was at 1.76 percent. It reached an all-time low of 1.738 percent on May 24. The price of the 4 percent bond maturing in March 2022 was 119.985.
A gauge of annual U.K. sales growth jumped to 21, the highest reading since April 2011, from minus 6 the previous month, the Confederation of British Industry said today. Data last week showed the U.K. contracted a revised 0.3 percent in the first quarter, deeper than an initial estimate of 0.2 percent.
An index of U.K. consumer confidence fell to minus 32 in May from minus 31 in April, economists forecast before a report to be published by GfK NOP Ltd. on May 31. A U.K. manufacturing index released on June 1 will show output shrank for the first time since December, according to a separate survey.
To contact the reporter on this story: Emma Charlton in London at echarlton1@bloomberg.net

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U.S. Spending on Luxury Goods Slows as Global Financial Concerns Grow

Growing fears of an economic crisis in Europe has had a significant impact on the sales of luxury goods. “The environment is getting more difficult,” SpendingPulse vice president Michael McNamara said in a recent telephone interview. “It doesn’t seem that the wealth effect is enough to hold the sector up against economic headwinds.

MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse has said that in the U.S. spending on luxury goods have decreased. Jewelry sales had the worst performance falling 3.7 percent in April. All other luxury sales climbed just 1.8 percent in April from a year earlier. Luxury sales in the first quarter had previously gained 6.7 percent, and 13 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. Growth has been slowed as tourists have restrained from spending as a result of the stronger dollar and growing concerns of Europe’s economic troubles, McNamara said.

“In Europe, a softening macro environment toward the end of the first quarter and changes in our merchandising and assortment strategies across certain categories negatively impacted both our wholesale and retail sales in that region,” Fossil’s CFO Mike Kovar said in the company’s earnings release. The company’s 2012 earnings-per-share of $5.30-$5.40 fell short of analysts’ expectations of $5.56.

Coach, a leading marketer of modern classic American accessories, last month announced sales of $1.11 billion for its third fiscal quarter ended March 31, 2012, compared with $951 million reported in the same period of the prior year, an increase of 17 percent. The company also announced that its Board of Directors has voted to increase its cash dividend by 33%, raising it to an annual rate of $1.20 per share starting with the dividend to be paid to stockholders in July 2012.

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Dubai economy grows by 3.4% in 2011

Dubai’s economy expanded by 3.4 percent in 2011, helped by strong trade flows and rising tourist numbers, Arif Obaid al-Muhairi, executive director of the Gulf Arab emirate’s statistics office was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
One of seven UAE saw its gross domestic product rise to AED306.2bn (US$83.4bn) last year from AED296.1bn in 2010, Muhairi was quoted as saying at Dubai Statistics Center’s website.

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Why are so few Chinese retailers entering the UK?

With China’s economic power continuing to swell it’s perhaps surprising that more Chinese retailers haven’t made their way to the UK.

Menswear retailer Bosideng is gearing up to open its first store on South Molton Street in London, but this is the first Chinese name to make its mark on the British high street and few have tried to crack the market via the web.

But while the general economy may be motoring, China’s retail offer is still relatively undeveloped, meaning most retailers lack the experience to attempt foreign markets.

“The retailers out there simply haven’t got the decades of experience that many of the western brands have got,” says Planet Retail global research director Rob Gregory.

And it’s not just a lack of experience that are putting Chinese retailers off expanding – there’s also the allure of the huge domestic market.

With so much potential growth at home, Chinese retailers will be a long way off needing to look elsewhere for growth – unlike UK retailers, whose domestic growth prospects are decidedly less exciting. “It makes sense to keep adding stores in China,” Gregory says. “It’s a great market and they know the consumers there.”

Once Chinese retailers do reach a stage where they’re ready and willing to expand, they may not even choose the UK. Other Asian countries are more similar in terms of cultural norms and consumer behaviour, making it easier for Chinese companies to make inroads into those markets.

And the UK is no longer the growth prospect it once was. “There’s often a perception that to make it big Asian companies have to have a presence in Europe and North America,” says Gregory. “But 10 to 20 years down the line there’s no doubt the more mature markets are going to be relatively low growth. That’s why everyone’s moving to Asia.”

While Chinese retailers might aim to have a handful of British flagship stores to widen their customer base as well as cater for the growing numbers of Chinese tourists, Gregory says we are unlikely to see large scale expansion in the UK even in the longer term. “The UK is very competitive and relatively low growth,” he says. “I wouldn’t imagine them coming over with a massive expansion plan.”

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Volvo's self-drive 'convoy' hits the Spanish motorway

A convoy of self-driven cars has completed a 200km (125-mile) journey on a Spanish motorway, in the first public test of such vehicles.

The cars were wirelessly linked to each other and “mimicked” a lead vehicle, driven by a professional driver.

The so-called road train has been developed by Volvo. The firm is confident that they will be widely available in future.

The project aims to herald a new age of relaxed driving.

According to Volvo, drivers “can now work on their laptops, read a book or sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch” while driving.

The road train test was carried out as part of a European Commission research project known as Sartre – Safe Road Trains for the Environment.

The convoy comprised three cars and one lorry.

Special features
“Driving among other road-users is a great milestone in our project. It was truly thrilling,” says Linda Wahlstroem, project manager for the Sartre project at Volvo Car Corporation

“We covered 200km in one day and the test turned out well. We’re really delighted,” she added.

The cars are fitted with special features such as cameras, radar and laser sensors – allowing the vehicle to monitor the lead vehicle and also other vehicles in their immediate vicinity. Using wireless communication, the vehicles in the platoon “mimic” the lead vehicle using autonomous control – accelerating, braking and turning in exactly the same way as the leader.

The vehicles drove at 85km/h (52m/h) with the gap between each vehicle just 6m (19ft).

“People think that autonomous driving is science fiction, but the fact is that the technology is already here. From the purely conceptual viewpoint, it works fine and road train will be around in one form or another in the future,” says Ms Wahlstroem.

“We’ve focused really hard on changing as little as possible in existing systems. Everything should function without any infrastructure changes to the roads or expensive additional components in the cars.

“Apart from the software developed as part of the project, it is really only the wireless network installed between the cars that set them apart from other cars available in showrooms today.”

The three-year Sartre project has been under way since 2009. Other partners include UK car technology firm Ricardo UK, Tecnalia Research & Innovation of Spain, Institut fur Kraftfahrzeuge Aachen (IKA) of Germany and the Technical Research Institute of Sweden.

All told, the vehicles in the project have covered about 10,000km on test circuits.

The eventual aim of the project is to have lots of cars “slaved” to a lead vehicle and travelling at high speed along specific routes on motorways.

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NAMA to fund €13m Charlestown project …

NAMA is funding the €13m extension of the Charlestown Shopping Centre in north Dublin, which is being undertaken by the Bailey brothers.

About 200 people are expected to be employed in the construction of part of the project, a new UCI/Odeon cinema complex and leisureplex due for completion in November 2013.

The funding also includes the cost of building two drive-thru restaurants for KFC and McDonald’s, which open at the beginning of next month and will employ 120 people full time.

A spokesman for NAMA declined to discuss individual projects but said the agency was always willing to commit funds to support developments where they would enhance the value of the asset and ultimately return a greater amount of money to the taxpayer.

Building work has commenced on the nine-screen cinema and the 3,700sqm Leisureplex with bowling alley and family entertainment centre.

Up to 130 full-time jobs are expected to be created in this combined facility which will extend to 9,290sqm and will also include a creche.

The last retail unit was let in phase one of Charlestown around the beginning of this year at €377 per square metre.

The developers are now seeking pre-letting agreements for the development of a further 9,290sqm of retail space and they are hoping to sign up a major clothing store chain for a chunk of this space.

Located near junction 5 of the M50, Charlestown has over 30 retailers, including Dunnes Stores, Heatons, Boots, Lifestyle Sports, Mothercare, ELC, Ulster Bank, Eddie Rockets, O’Briens, Euro Giant and Maple Moose.

Meanwhile, KFC is set to relocate another of its Dublin northside outlets within Clarehall Shopping Centre.

Currently occupying a food court unit on the second floor at the centre, KFC is relocating to a more spacious ground level premises and the 270sqm unit will also accommodate a 100-seater restaurant in addition to its takeaway.

The new KFC unit is not only about three times the size of the existing one, but also occupies a prime position, being located beside one of the primary shopping centre car park entrances.

The new premises are being leased from Clarehall Shopping Centre anchor tenant Tesco, with Knight Frank Ireland having secured the unit for KFC at a rent of approximately €70,000 per annum on a new 20-year lease.

“KFC is a worldwide brand and we are delighted to secure this new unit, however, the primary focus is still for drive-thru sites and we are still actively seeking a suitable drive-thru site in the Clarehall, Coolock, Donaghmede or Baldoyle region of north Dublin,” said Paul Shine, retail surveyor at Knight Frank Ireland, who handled the acquisition for KFC.

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Tesco boss declines £372,000 bonus

Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke’s pay was cut by 49% after he declined a bonus amid slumping earnings at the British retailer. The Irish Times reports the executive’s total pay was €1.2 million in fiscal 2012, compared with €2.3 million a year earlier. Clarke declined a bonus payment of approximately £372,000, stating that “I wasn’t satisfied with the performance in the UK and I won’t take the bonus.”

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Aldi sues Tesco over display of retailer's trademark logo

Aldi is suing rival Tesco Ireland over alleged infringement of its trademarks in an in-store campaign. According to The Irish Times, Aldi alleges Tesco has failed to compare like with like, misstated the prices and failed to compare the relevant quantity of the Tesco product with an equivalent Aldi product. The recent use of Aldi marks in banners displayed in Tesco stores was apparently “the final straw” for the German group.

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UK retail sales improve in May

CBI poll of its retailers finds that 43% reported an increase in sales on a year ago, but sales remain below average for May

Retail sales improved in May, but remain below average for the time of year, according to a survey by the CBI.

The business lobby group said a poll of its retailers found that 43% reported an increase in sales on a year ago, compared with 23% that said they experienced a fall, giving a ’rounded’ positive balance of 21%.

The rebound in May following a downbeat April will cheer the Treasury, which is keen to see signs of a recovery in consumer confidence and a revival in spending.

However, the better-than-expected figures are unlikely to make up for lost ground in the first four months of the year and defy a raft of surveys showing a dearth of shoppers on the high street.

Judith McKenna, Asda chief operating officer and chair of the CBI distributive trades panel, said the survey shows business sentiment about the next three months has improved.

“However, sales are still below the average for the time of year and the combination of high unemployment, slow wage growth and weak consumer confidence means that the retail sector is likely to remain under pressure in the short term.”

Official figures last week revealed that Britain’s double dip recession is deeper than first thought. The ongoing euro crisis has also proved unsettling and is likely to delay the major spending plans of some consumers, though anecdotal reports from London and the south east point to a degree of crisis fatigue among shoppers and a return to higher levels of spending.

The majority of retail sectors saw sales increase, said the CBI, notably grocers, department stores and shops selling furniture and carpets.

There was also encouraging news of a rise in the number of people employed in the sector. The number of jobs increased on a year ago, for the first time since February 2003, after a balance of 12% of retailers reported taking on more staff. The majority of employers plan to maintain staffing levels or increase them next month.

Looking ahead, retailers are less downbeat than they were a few months ago at the height of the euro crisis, with most expecting the business situation to be stable over the next three months.

A rival survey by the British Retail Consortium found that April was responsible for the biggest monthly plunge in retail sales volumes. While heavy rain undoubtedly played a part in the figures, analysts expect sales to remain depressed while the UK struggles to grow and the eurozone’s woes persist.

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Amazon to hire 100 staff in Dublin

More than 200 new jobs are to be created across four companies in counties Dublin, Limerick and Carlow.

Online retailer Amazon today announced plans to hire about 100 new staff to work at its development centre in Dublin.

The company said it was seeking to recruit support engineers, systems engineers, network engineers, software developers and technical managers. The roles are to be filled before Christmas.

The development centre opened in 2005 and relocated to its current offices in Kilmainham two years ago.

The centre is home to engineers and developers who support the design and deployment of Amazon websites as well as technical assistance staff providing advice on Amazon services such as CloudFront, Amazon RDS and Amazon DynamoDB.

“Dublin has proven to be an excellent location for finding the top talent we need to support our continued growth and we are delighted to be expanding here,” said Paul Conlon, managing director of the Amazon development centre in Dublin.

Separately, Limerick based software developer Action Point Technology today said it planned to hire 50 new staff between now and 2014 as part of an expansion plan.The company designed the autocue system used by US President Barack Obama during live television speeches. The system has also been used on programmes such as the MTV music Awards, American Idol and Dancing with Stars.

Seven of the positions are currently being filled and recruitment of a further 30 staff is to begin immediately. Action Point Technology also has offices in Dublin and Cork.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has announced the creation of 40 new jobs at Irish start-up company BuyersClub.ie.

The firm, which helps small Irish producers to sell their products online at competitive prices, will fill the posts in the next 12 to 18 months. It is run by PDQ Distribution Ltd and based in Blanchardstown, Dublin.

Elsewhere, global healthcare firm MSD is making a seven million euro investment at its Carlow facility with the creation of 20 new jobs. The contract-based posts in engineering, automation and project management will be added to the 146 workers already on site.

MSD employs 2,300 people in Ireland across eight sites in Cork, Dublin, Wicklow, Tipperary and Carlow, where €2.2 billion has been invested in the last five years. The Carlow plant manufactures vaccines and biological products for a range of areas including rheumatology and oncology.

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Landmark mulls deal with Auchan in India

Dubai-based retailer the Landmark Group is mulling a joint venture with French supermarket chain Auchan in India.
The company, which already operates Dutch retail chain Spar in the sub-continent, said talks were still in the early stages.
“[The deal] is very preliminary; there is a long way to go, we have only just started talking to them,” said Vipen Sethi, CEO of Landmark.
The deal was unlikely to happen soon, he said, given the complexities of working in India.

“It won’t be this year. It is going to take time because India is a very complicated country.”
Media reports say a deal will most likely depend on whether India reviews its controversial proposal to allow foreign companies to operate in the multi-brand segment.
In December 2011, the government was forced to shelve its plans to open up the $450bn market amid a huge political backlash.
Opposition parties said the new rules could be extremely harmful to India, putting millions of small shops out of business and creating significant job losses across the region.
French international retail group Auchan is a multinational corporation based in Croix, and competes with European giants such as Carrefour and Casino.
Should Landmark secure a deal with Auchan in India, it would significantly boost the retailer’s presence in the country.

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Bahrain to build China-themed mall

Bahrain’s Diyar Al Muharraq has signed a deal with Chinamex to develop a 334,000 sq ft China-themed shopping mall in the Gulf state.
Dragon City, slated for completion in September 2014, will have an initial capacity for up to 100 Chinese companies and businesses. The mall, located in the downtown area of the Diyar Al Muharraq development, will be managed by Chinamex.
“This agreement comes as a concrete step forward in the establishment of bilateral cooperation between Bahrain and China and marks a significant push towards solidifying an economic and cultural exchange that will benefit the future of both countries,” Diyar Al Muharraq said in a statement.
Dragon City is expected to attract more than half a million visitors a year, said the company.

China’s fast-emerging middle class is boosting tourists and shoppers to the GCC. Dubai developer Nakheel is doubling the size of its Dragon Mart Mall, adding an additional 1.7m sq ft of retail space and 5,000 parking spaces at the China-themed mall.
Qatar’s Barwa Real Estate last year signed a deal with Chinese retail giant Dragon Mart to open a market for Chinese products in the Gulf state.
Diyar Al Muharraq is a US$3.2bn mixed-use development being developed by Kuwait Finance House Bahrain and several other private GCC-based investors.

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Qatar retailer inks deal for MENA mall expansion

Qatar’s Al Meera Consumer Goods Company has signed an agreement to ensure its presence in key shopping mall projects in the Gulf state and abroad.
The retail unit of Al Meera Holding Company said it has inked a deal with Qatar’s Business Trading Company (BTC).
BTC is the company behind real estate projects such as the Landmark and Villagio malls in Qatar.
The agreement with Al Meera will also guarantee the retailer’s presence in all of BTC’s projects in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, and other markets.

The MOU is in line with Al Meera’s aggressive expansion plan, initiated earlier last year, the retailer said in a statement.
“We are delighted and honoured to join forces with BTC, a pillar of the Qatari economy,” said Al Meera’s deputy CEO Dr Mohammed Nasser Al Qahtani.
“BTC has an untarnished record of delivering successful real estate projects in the country and we know that success will be translated to their projects outside of Qatar as well. We look forward to playing a role in their successes.”
He added: “Our expansion strategy calls for increasing our presence both in Qatar and abroad. Therefore, it is in our interest to partner up with well-established companies such as BTC to see our plan through.”
Al Meera Consumer Goods Company said last month that its net profits rose by 80 percent during the first quarter of 2012, compared to the same period last year.
The firm said that the profit increase had been driven by higher sales earnings.
Sales have increased as the Qatari company continued an agressive expansion strategy.
In March, Al Meera hired QNB Capital to study financing alternatives and capital restructuring.
The company said in an announcement to the Qatar Securities Exchange that it had appointed QNB Capital.
In December, Al Meera signed a deal to develop Geant hypermarkets in Qatar and Oman as part of Casino’s bid to boost its presence in fast-growing regions.
It has also inked agreements recently with Thai retailer Index Living Mall to establish and operate home furnishing stores in Qatar.
In February, Al Meera also entered into a joint venture agreement with Saudi Arabia’s United Electronics Company (eXtra) to launch the brand in Qatar.

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British brands find hope in the Gulf

They did it before and had their fingers burnt. Who can forget the ignominious retreat from France by Marks & Spencer, which 11 years ago had to lower the Union Jack on its European stores.

But now British retailers are pushing overseas again and the Middle East is one of their priority markets.

Faced with low growth or even no growth at home, they are looking overseas to counter the chill on the British high street. Familiar brands like M&S have been taken to heart by the local Gulf communities: the company sold 160,000 bras in the region last year, a 74 per cent increase on 2010.

“With the current financial landscape in the West, retailers are looking for alternative sources of sales,” says David Macadam, the head of retail for the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) at the property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle.

“The region has great spending capacity and the demographics are in retailers’ favour. Shopping is part of the culture. There is a relatively small population in the UAE, but it has some of the highest earning malls in the world,” Mr Macadam says.

M&S, which works with its franchise partners Al-Futtaim and Al Hokair, opened five stores in the region last year, taking its total to 30.

“We’re committed to building our presence in the Middle East as one of our priority international markets,” says Mark Koprowski, M&S’s regional director for Mena.

Sales in the region jumped by 19 per cent last year compared with 2010, and the company’s rivals have been quick to notice.

This year, the supermarket chains Asda and Tesco have announced they will expand in the region.

The bookseller WH Smith is also making a big push, as is the Scottish fashion retailer M&Co, which plans to open 12 stores in the UAE during the next five years and 30 around the Gulf in Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

House of Fraser, another major brand, is moving in. The department store chain will open its first store in Abu Dhabi next year, while Mothercare, which sells baby clothes and supplies, has expanded happily into the region.

The upmarket food group Waitrose is also expanding in the Middle East. Even Poundstretcher, the recession-busting shop where a range of plastic general goods, toys and stationery is sold for a £1 per item, has opened in the Madina Mall in Dubai, bringing its motto “every penny counts” to local shoppers.

John Stevenson, the general retail analyst at Peel Hunt, a brokerage specialising in medium-sized companies in the United Kingdom, explains that this time around, the brands have found a way to expand with significantly less risk.

“In the early [2000s], British retailers were not too adept at expanding internationally, and there were a number of high-profile disasters,” he says. “This time, they are using joint ventures and franchising to access high-growth markets such as India, China and the Gulf states.”

In a franchise agreement, the retailers will typically take a royalty on any sale made. The franchise partner will also fund any capital investment. This allows British retailers to quickly roll-out international outlets, without any capital constraints and without the risk of entering markets that they do not understand.

Franchise partners tend to have good access to space in prime new developments, which a UK retailer, working alone, might struggle to secure.

The downside to franchising is that the potential returns are limited, unless the parent company later decides to buy out the agreements and move to a joint venture.

Tesco is working with Fawaz Abdulaziz Al Hokair Group and opened its first F&F clothing store in Jeddah this year. The store will be based on its core F&F clothing collection for men, women and children.

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George Osborne forced into pasty tax U-turn

The government’s reputation has suffered a series of fresh blows as the chancellor, George Osborne, was forced to make two climbdowns over his budget, including scrapping the “pasty tax”, and ministers prepared to make a series of new concessions over secrecy.

Osborne is to reverse plans to charge VAT on food that is designed to cool down, such as sausage rolls and pasties, and will also reduce the new VAT charge on static caravans from the standard 20% rate to 5%. The climbdowns follow weeks of protest, including by Tory MPs, and will together cost the cash-strapped Treasury as much as £70m annually.

The budget concessions, announced by the chancellor in a letter to the Treasury select committee, were deferred until the Commons was no longer sitting.

Following intense lobbying by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, the justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, is to drop plans to include closed inquests with evidence heard in private in his secret courts bill due to be published on Tuesday.

Clarke admitted he was making “substantial changes” to his original green paper, while senior Liberal Democrats claimed the balance between liberty and security had been transformed.

Ministers will doubtless claim the latest rash of U-turns are an occupational hazard of coalition government, or the sign of a government willing to listen, but they will add to the sense of incompetence that appears to have gripped the government ever since the ill-starred budget, an event that has led to a precipitous decline in David Cameron’s personal poll ratings.

The two taxes were also seen as symptomatic of a government out of touch with ordinary working people. Cameron had defended the move, designed to put 20% VAT on all food sold “above ambient temperature”, insisting he loved a pasty.

George Eustice, a Tory MP from Cornwall who campaigned against the tax, said: “This welcome announcement means all pasties will be exempt from VAT, and shows this has been a genuine consultation.”

Under the changes, the government will charge VAT on food designed to be eaten warm, for example on rotisserie chickens sold hot by supermarkets.

The VAT, due to be enforced from October, would have added 50p to a £2.50 savoury food item. The Treasury had been planning to raise £110m from the measure, but will now only raise £70m.

Critics said the proposals were incredibly complex since it would be hard to define ambient temperature.

In the other change, VAT will be set at 5% for static caravans used for holiday purposes. That means an expected income of £40m falls to £10m-15m.

Labour said it showed the government was a shambles. The shadow Treasury minister, Chris Leslie, said: “I think they were forced to listen to the total bewilderment of the public who were completely astonished at these rather odd decisions. The other reason they have made this decision is the Commons is in recess, so there is no ability to challenge them in parliament.

“On the Wednesday when the Commons returns, there is scheduled to be a vote that we have put down on the caravan tax – it was a narrow majority of only 25 last time, so they were facing defeat.

“They are not U-turning out of the kindness of their hearts; it is because they are being forced to do so.

“What a chaotic way to run a country. How on earth can you have a budget process that unravels in a day when you’ve got this kind of shambolic business?”

On Twitter, the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, said: “After tonight’s budget U-turns, we need rethink on biggest budget blunders – tax cut for millionaires and lack of jobs and growth plan.”

A Treasury spokesman said: “At the budget, we announced proposals to address anomalies that have built up in the VAT system and have led to similar products being taxed differently.

“We have now finished the consultation on these proposals and are taking on board the points made, while still making sure we meet the objective of a clearer and more consistent system that we set out at the time.”

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Saadiyat Island's (AbuDhabi) first retail complex '75% leased'

The Collection is set to open on Saadiyat Island in Q3.
Abu Dhabi’s Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) on Monday announced that more than 75 percent of space at The Collection retail complex has been leased.
Located within The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, The Collection will consist of a mix of 22 restaurants and retail outlets.
It is the first retail complex on the island and is slated to open in the third quarter of 2012.
Ahmed Al Fahim, executive director of Marketing, Communications, Sales and Leasing, TDIC, said: “This complex will offer a carefully selected mix of shops and restaurants to the discerning residents of the villas and apartments, and visitors from both Abu Dhabi and further afar.”

With a total of 6,000 sq m of leasable space, The Collection features architecture inspired by old-world Mediterranean villages, with terraces, courtyards and piazzas.
The Collection is located adjacent to The Residences at The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, which consists 32 exclusive villas and 259 apartments.
The first phase apartments have now been fully leased and tenants have moved in with the second phase units now available for lease.
The retail area is also connected to the resort’s luxury hotel, which features 377 rooms, restaurants, a beach club, and the Iridium Spa.

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Irish retail sales fall sharply in April

Download the report here

May 28 (Reuters) – The volume of Ireland’s retail sales fell 1.5 percent in April and stood 2.7 percent lower on the year, Central Statistics Office figures showed on Monday.

Final figures for March showed a monthly rise of 0.1 percent volumes to give a 0.9 percent drop on an annual basis. That compared to earlier data showing a 0.2 percent increase in the month.

Economists expect retail sales to fall 1.6 percent this year, according to the latest Reuters poll.

Tesco is opening an F&F pop-up shop in Covent Garden piazza – but items are only available to buy online.

Tesco is opening an F&F pop-up shop in Covent Garden piazza – but items are only available to buy online.

The pop-up will be central London’s first glimpse of the collection, as the brand has never before been on sale there.
It will showcase the supermarket’s exclusive F&F online ranges, in the run-up to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Customers will be able to try garments on, then make purchases using an iPad station.
They will also be able to shop via their mobile phones, by scanning product QR codes, as well as watch catwalk shows after pointing their phone at one of the in-store images.
Along with standard delivery options, Tesco is offering a Click-and-Collect service through a nearby Covent Garden Tesco Metro, so customers can collect orders the next day.
Goody bags, special offers and various competitions are being used as further customer incentives.
The F&F pop-up, which will sell only the brand’s exclusive online collection, will be open from May 30 to June 2, 2012.

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New Online boutique showcases British designers

New website Itsmygeneration.co.uk sells womenswear, menswear, accessories and childrenswear

Online boutique itsmygeneration.co.uk launched earlier this month, selling a selection of womenswear, menswear, accessories and childrenswear.

Itsmygeneration is crafted by emerging designers from across the UK.

The website offers free insertion and low commission rates, to keep costs low for independent designers.

“As an independent online boutique, Itsmygeneration is an exciting new destination for online shoppers with a passion for the quirky and the stylish,” says managing director Katy Cox.

“By steering away from mass-produced and high-end designers, we’ve delved deep into the incredibly talented portfolios of recent design graduates to collate unique fashion and lifestyle ranges at prices that won’t break the bank,” Cox continues.

“There is so much untapped talent in the UK that every day is full of new discoveries. Feedback from shoppers and designers has been incredibly positive and we can’t wait for the Autumn/Winter 2012 collections to hit the site,” she concludes.

The new shopping experience offers unique fashion, accessories and gifts and is intended to showcase British designers from across the country.

“In the last few years we have seen a shift in people’s interested towards British products and that’s how the concept was born; to build an online boutique with the purpose of truly supporting new home talent,” explains co-founder William Bolivar.
“Equally important is giving the customer an experience at the moment of placing an order,” he adds.

Prices range from £8 to £350.

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670 UK Retailers Go bust in Q1 of 2012… Up 38 % from Q4

May 28 (Reuters) – The number of British retailers going bust jumped 38 percent to 670 in the first quarter of 2012, up from 486 in the fourth quarter, as the country slumped to a double dip recession, according to a survey from accountancy firm Wilkins Kennedy.

“Last year was bad but this year is even worse. Retailers are still struggling with rents that they feel are far above the market rate and banks are particularly reluctant to extend credit to struggling retail businesses,” said Anthony Cork, a partner at the firm.

“The double-dip has pulled the retail sector down sharply. It is hard to see consumer spending rebounding in the current environment of slow wage growth and worries over the Eurozone.”

High profile casualties in the first quarter included discount clothing retailer Peacocks, video games seller Game and cards and gifts retailer Clinton Cards .

Official data last week showed UK retail sales fell at their fastest rate in more than two years in April, while GDP numbers showed Britain fell even deeper into recession than initially thought in the first quarter.

Many UK retailers are struggling as shoppers are squeezed by prices rising faster than wages and government austerity measures. Consumers are also worried about job security, a shaky housing market and fallout from the euro zone debt crisis.

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Reports of casualties in Qatar mall fire Villagio Mall in Doha

Qatar’s interior ministry says that authorities are counting the casualties after a large fire broke out at a major shopping mall and entertainment complex in the capital Doha, but did not disclose any numbers.

The ministry said on Monday that officials were assessing the number of casualties and damage caused by the blaze at the Villaggio mall.

“The concerned authorities are taking toll of human casualties and material losses at Villaggio fire. All the details will be updated,” the ministry said in an update on Twitter.

It said that civil defence teams had managed to contain the blaze, and that a news conference later on Monday would “elaborate on the cause of the fire and human casualties”.

A spokesperson for the city’s main hospital said that updates on deaths and casualties would be given at the interior ministry press conference at 6pm local time.

Footage posted online showed black smoke billowing from the shopping centre as emergency vehicles rushed to the scene.

The Villagio is one of the country’s largest and most popular shopping malls, containing a cinema, an ice rink and an amusement park.

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Monsoon Accessorize on the hunt for new chief executive.

Monsoon Accessorize is on the hunt for a new group chief executive as managing director Peter Ridler is set to leave the business.

The new chief executive will help “breathe new life” into the Monsoon fascia and continue with the group’s international roll-out, particularly with the Accessorize brand.

Ridler, who is group managing director, is set to depart the business in July and will be replaced on an interim basis by Steve Back, currently chief commercial officer.

As part of the management reshuffle, executive director Nikki Hamwee role is set to change to focus fully on Accessorize’s development. The retailer is rapidly expanding overseas with 200 stores planned to open internationally this year.

It is understood that the group is looking for a candidate with a strong fashion retail background and experience of international markets. Headhunter MBS Group is undertaking the search.

Monsoon EBITDA before exceptionals dropped 11.7% to £121.4m in its full year to August 27, 2011 against revenue which was marginally ahead at £651m. Overseas sales rose 23.5% while sales in Britain and Ireland dropped by 4%.

Monsoon founder Peter Simon said: “This was a challenging year and trading was difficult. These are pleasing results given the economic conditions. While the UK retail market remains challenging, Monsoon is managing costs tightly and is, by necessity, reviewing its overall store portfolio to ensure it is properly configured to address today’s market.”

The group is now debt free, after paying off the £75.4m founder Simon borrowed when he took the business private three and a half years ago. The credit was repaid 18 months early.

Simon said: “The strength of the group’s balance sheet enables it to invest in the business further and look for possible opportunities elsewhere, whilst continuing to search for efficiencies whilst the outlook in the UK retail sector remains so gloomy.”

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Starbucks to sell beer and wine in as many as 25 locations by the end of the year

Bringing happy hour to Starbucks may be easier said than done.
After experimenting with alcohol sales at six West Coast stores, the world’s largest coffee-shop chain said yesterday that it will sell beer and wine in as many as 25 locations by the end of the year. Starbucks, which has 10,700 US cafes, will also sell fruit-and-cheese plates and focaccia with olive oil.
The strategy is part of a broader experiment to find ways to lure Starbucks customers and even non-coffee drinkers into stores during slow periods of the day, especially afternoons and evenings. The trick will be doing it without alienating core customers, said Bill Chidley, a Centerville, Ohio-based senior vice president at Interbrand, a brand consulting firm.
“It makes sense if you think of the way that McDonald’s grew its business by going into breakfast” and specialty coffees, Chidley said in an interview. Still, selling alcohol may turn off some families with children, he said.

“It certainly is going to be controversial,” he said.
The wine and beer initiative is part of an effort by chief executive officer Howard Schultz to cement a turnaround he engineered starting in 2008. Starbucks shuttered hundreds of cafes after overbuilding and a consumer-led recession sent sales and profits sliding.
Sales have rebounded since Schultz reclaimed the CEO post in 2008. Revenue rose 20 percent to $11.7bn worldwide in the year ended Oct. 2, from $9.77bn in 2009.
Profit more than tripled during the same time. Starbucks has captured 33 percent of the $26.5bn US coffee and snack shop market, according a July report from researcher IBISWorld Inc. Dunkin’ Donuts chain has 16 percent of the market.
The company’s shares climbed 43 percent last year, compared with a 16 percent gain for the Bloomberg US Quick Service Restaurant Index, which includes McDonald’s, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Wendy’s Co.
In recent years several restaurant chains have sought to boost growth by transcending their origins.
McDonald’s has successfully moved beyond fast food into coffee beverages, opening McCafe bistros with earth-tone decor and free Wi-Fi. McDonald’s also expanded its menu offerings – including fruit smoothies, salads and wraps – with the aim of attracting people around the clock.
Dunkin’ Donuts has introduced new food to lure folks after the morning hours.
Starbucks has “plenty of business in the morning,” said Sara Senatore, a New York-based analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. The chain isn’t making full use of its workers and real estate in the later part of the day, said Senatore, who rates the shares “outperform.”
“At a certain point, you need to grow revenue, you need to give people other reasons to come in,” Chidley said.
The new stores, which will be located in Chicago, Atlanta and Southern California, will be larger and seat more patrons than regular Starbucks cafes, Clarice Turner, senior vice president of US operations, said yesterday in an interview.
At the six stores that now sell alcohol in Seattle and Portland, Oregon, beer is $5 and glasses of wine are $7 to $9. Starbucks is creating the bar menu “so it’s relevant to local taste preferences,” Turner said, declining to be more specific.
In November, Starbucks acquired juicemaker Evolution Fresh for $30m and said it would open stores selling such drinks as pomegranate lemonade and protein shakes to broaden its market beyond coffee. San Bernardino, California-based Evolution sells organic and fresh-squeezed juices at grocery stores in the US, according to its website.
This month, Starbucks introduced blonde-roast coffee, its lightest blend yet, in an attempt to attract consumers who don’t want to drink Starbucks’ signature dark roasts. The company also revamped its coffee packaging to reflect the new categories – blonde, medium and dark.
Starbucks has had mixed success with new offerings in the past. The company pulled the plug on a yogurt-based fruit drink introduced in 2008 because it was too complicated to make. In 2006, Starbucks yanked Chantico drinking chocolate, a Spanish- inspired beverage served in 6-ounce cups, because the small size and thick drink turned off customers.
Starbucks isn’t considering bringing wine and beer to the whole chain, Turner said.
“It won’t be at every Starbucks store ever,” she said.
Still, Starbucks has the potential to put beer and wine in at least 10 percent of its stores, Peter Saleh, a restaurant analyst at Telsey Advisory Group in New York, said in an interview.
“I doubt that this is just an opportunity for 100 or 200 restaurants,” he said. “I don’t think they would distract themselves with something that would be so insignificant to their bottom line.”

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