Monthly Archives: November 2012

In pictures : Dubai then and now

Sheikh Zayed Road, 1995

Photographer: Gulf News; observed by Asad Azizi, 29, Iranian, who has lived in Dubai all his life.

This picture was snapped from the World Trade Centre, not long after the Crowne Plaza hotel was built – when they first proposed building it, everyone thought it was a mad idea to build a hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road. You’ll also notice that there were no interchanges on the old road.”

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Sheikh Zayed Road today

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Burj Al Arab, 1997

Photographer: Malcolm Murphy, 64, British, who has lived in Dubai for almost 18 years.

This is a fish-eye view from the sea, looking up at the enormous structure rising from the Arabian Gulf waters. It’s an interesting shot of the helipad under construction – I’d never have believed the likes of Roger Federer and Tiger Woods would eventually play on top of the building. The hotel officially opened in 1999.”

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Burj Al Arab today

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Dubai Airport, 1980s

Photographer: Graeme Wilson, 42, British, who has lived in Dubai for 22 years.

I took this photo on a visit to Dubai. The city was just starting to progress: Sheikh Zayed Road was still Abu Dhabi Road and there was one lane in each direction. The airport, as it looked then, was palatial – we wondered why Dubai needed such a plush airport. Dubai International Airport will become the world’s busiest international airport in the next few years. But I cherish the fact that I was here when Sheikh Rashid was just embarking upon his project to shape a 21st-century miracle. He did it.’

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Dubai Airport today

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Dubai Creek Yacht Club, 1995

Photographer: Lulu Skidmore, 49, British, who has lived in Dubai for 21 years.

Back then there wasn’t much around this building other than the creek on one side, the golf club and a car park. I remember thinking that not only was the Yacht Club built to look like a yacht, but it also had an amazing aquarium restaurant inside. It became my favourite place. Now it’s surrounded by the Park Hyatt hotel and other luxury villas and developments.’

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Dubai Creek Yacht Club today

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Emaar to add luxury apartments, hotel to Dubai Mall

Emaar Properties said it will expand Dubai Mall to include luxury homes, serviced residences and a new hotel as part of its 1m sq ft expansion.

Emaar Properties, Dubai’s largest property developer, said it will expand Dubai Mall to include luxury homes, serviced residences and a new hotel as part of its 1m sq ft expansion.

The developer, which in February announced plans to expand the world’s largest mall, will also add a shopping boulevard lined with restaurants and water attractions.

The sale of the residential units, which will feature direct access to the new shopping boulevard as well as views of The Dubai Fountain and the Burj Khalifa, will launch soon, the developer said in a statement Thursday.

“With the mall expansion to feature a modern hotel, luxury homes and serviced residences, designed to the world-class standards associated with Emaar, we are further contributing to strengthening Dubai’s powerful growth drivers – the tourism, retail, hospitality and business environments,” said Ahmad Al Matrooshi, managing director, Emaar Properties.

Emaar said it had completed the masterplan for the extension and expected construction work to begin soon.

Dubai Mall, which boasts 1,200 retail stores and 160 food and beverage outlets, was the world’s most visited shopping and leisure destination last year. Over 54m shoppers visited the mall between January and September, up 15 percent compared to the same period the previous year.

Dubai, home to some of the world’s glitziest shopping malls and an indoor ski slope, has staged something of a recovery this year, partly due a tourism and retail boom. Tourist arrivals increased 10 percent and hotel revenue 19 percent in the first half of the year.

Retail accounts for around 30 percent of GDP in the emirate, according to Standard Chartered estimates. Dubai is home to about 40 shopping malls.

Emaar last week said it would cooperate with Dubai Holding to build a new tourism and leisure development in the emirate, which will include an even bigger mall. Mohammed bin Rashid City will feature a retail complex ‘Mall of the World’ and more than 100 hotels able to accommodate up to 80m visitors a year.

“The current facilities available in Dubai need to be scaled up in line with the future ambitions for the city,” Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum said in a statement. Dubai aims to become a business and cultural capital for 2bn people in the surrounding region, he added.

The emirate also announced this week it had approved plans for a AED10bn (US$2.7bn) entertainment and leisure development to the south of Dubai in Jebel Ali, which will include five theme parks.

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Victorinox Swiss Army Launches Jetsetter USB for Apple Users

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Victorinox Swiss Army today announced the release of its first USB designed specifically for Mac users. Fittingly named the Jetsetter, the USB features flight-friendly Swiss Army implements along with a detachable flash drive, and is pre-loaded with security software specific to Mac devices.

“The Jetsetter offers Mac users a survival tool for a modern device-driven world,” said Rene Stutz, President of Victorinox Swiss Army North America. “The USB couples file security with the everyday functionality and beautiful design that users have come to expect from a Swiss Army product. Engineering the Jetsetter to be compatible with Apple devices and the Apple user’s lifestyle has been a fun and rewarding project that we are excited to see come to life.”

Available in an 8 GB, 16 GB or 32 GB version, the Jetsetter’s secure software allows users to encrypt files, securely store personal username and password information and browse the Internet in Swiss Army style, without leaving traces of browsing history, files or cookies. More information on each storage capacity is as follows:

8 GB Jetsetter ($39.95)
Available in Black
8 GB Removable USB 2.0 Flash Drive
Implements include: Scissors, Nail File with Screwdriver, Tweezers, Key Ring, Ballpoint Pen and Clamshell Opener
16 GB Jetsetter ($49.99)
Available in Red
16 GB Removable USB 2.0 Flash Drive
Implements include: Scissors, Bottle Opener, Magnetic Phillips Screwdriver, Wire Stripper, Tweezers, Key Ring and Ballpoint Pen
32 GB Jetsetter ($99.99)
Available in SilverTech
32 GB Removable USB 2.0 Flash Drive
Implements include: Scissors, Bottle Opener, Magnetic Phillips Screwdriver, Wire Stripper, Ballpoint Pen, Key Ring and LED Mini Light

The Jetsetter, available now, is being sold exclusively through the Apple Online Store.

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SEPHORA Announces The 2013-2014 PRO Artists!

Zee Report::Fashion news SEPHORA Announces The 2013-2014 PRO Artists!

SEPHORA is proud to announce the new SEPHORA PROs, a team of 17 elite beauty experts that will travel the Americas throughout 2013 and 2014, showcasing the highest level of beauty artistry on behalf of the brand. Selected from a nationwide search that included hundreds of SEPHORA sales associates from the U.S. and Canada, these lucky few have shown the talent, creativity, and drive to rise above the rest and earn their spot at the top.

After weeks of makeup demonstrations and challenging interviews, this biennial competition concluded with the SEPHORA PRO Finals in Las Vegas, NV on August 29, 2012. The judging panel was a mix of elite beauty insiders, including:

Dany Sanz, founder of MAKE UP FOR EVER
Ricky Wilson, Dior celebrity makeup artist
Eva Chen, former beauty director of Teen Vogue
Julia Cyboran, editor-in-chief of LOULOU magazine
Lina Kutsovskaya, Vice President, Executive Creative Director, SEPHORA
Sarah Lucero, Global Director of Creative Artistry for Stila

“The level of expertise this year allowed for an exciting and elevated competition,” said Melanie McGuire, Vice President of Education at SEPHORA. “Throughout this intensive judging process, our contestants continued to surprise us with their artistry skills and we are thrilled to announce one of the most talented roundup of PRO artists we have seen to date.”

While in previous years the competition has been tough, in 2012 the challenge took on a new level of intensity. The top 32 contestants created editorial, everyday, and runway looks and were judged on creativity, concept, innovation and style. This professional posse includes three permanent PRO Leads, seven veterans from previous years, and seven stellar new stars. From in-store, industry, and celebrity events to fashion shows across the country, SEPHORA PRO will represent SEPHORA nationally while also serving as local beauty experts in their hometown markets.

MEET THE PRO LEADS…

Gilbert Soliz, New York
Sara Biria, New York
Erik Soto, Los Angeles

THE RETURNING MEMBERS…

Annie Mercer, SEPHORA Southpoint (Durham, NC)
Jennie Carranza, SEPHORA La Cantera (San Antonio, TX)
Julie Tang, SEPHORA Fashion Valley (San Diego, CA)
Sheranda Curtis, SEPHORA Tysons Corner (McLean, VA)
Helen Philips, SEPHORA Fashion Square (Los Angeles)
Ilde Goncalves, SEPHORA South Beach (Miami, FL)
Julianna Sanchez, SEPHORA Bakersfield (Bakersfield, CA)

AND THE FRESH FACES…

Alexandra Linardi, SEPHORA Americana (Glendale, CA)
Alyx Bisler, SEPHORA Downtown Seattle (Seattle, WA)
David Thibodeau, SEPHORA Portland (Portland, OR)
Hector Espinal, SEPHORA Meatpacking (New York, NY)
Louise Swinden Payne, SEPHORA Powell (San Francisco)
Myiesha Sewell, SEPHORA Los Cerritos (Cerritos, CA)
Stephanie Smith , SEPHORA Scottsdale (Scottsdale, AZ)

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Tiffany Cuts Full-Year Profit Forecast, Earnings Missed

Tiffany Shares Tumble After Cutting Profit Forecast

Tiffany & Co. (TIF), the world’s second- largest luxury jewelry retailer, cut its annual profit forecast for the third time this year after higher diamond costs ate into margins and customers curbed spending in weak economies.

Enlarge image
A man pets a dog outside the Tiffany & Co. store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. Photographer: Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg

Profit in the year ending Jan. 31 will be $3.20 to $3.40 a share, down from a previous projection of $3.55 to $3.70, the New York-based company said in a statement today. Analysts projected $3.60, the average of 23 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Tiffany fell the most in six months.

Tiffany’s gross margin, a key measure of profitability, shrank more than analysts anticipated last quarter as precious- metals costs also increased. Sales, which also trailed the average projection, were “weak,” said Liz Dunn, an analyst with Macquarie Group Ltd. in New York, who rates the shares neutral, the equivalent of hold.

“They are continuing to struggle with higher costs for raw materials and that is likely to be an ongoing issue with people not feeling great about the economy,” Dunn said in a phone interview today. “They also are being hurt by the way customers are favoring the high-priced stuff, which happens to be the lower-margin business.”

The shares dropped 6.2 percent to $59.80 in New York, the biggest decline since May 24. They have decreased 9.7 percent this year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 13 percent.

China ‘Softness’

Sales of silver jewelry, which has lower prices and higher margins, fell, Mark Aaron, a Tiffany spokesman, said on a conference call with investors and analysts. Tiffany saw “softness” in China, particularly in Hong Kong, he said.

Net income in the three months ended Oct. 31 fell 30 percent to $63.2 million, or 49 cents a share, from $89.7 million, or 70 cents, a year earlier. Analysts projected 63 cents, the average of 20 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Revenue rose 3.8 percent to $852.7 million, trailing the $858.4 million average of analysts’ estimates.

In the Americas region, which accounts for almost half of annual sales, comparable store sales, which exclude new locations, gained 1 percent after jumping 15 percent in the third quarter of 2011. In Asia Pacific, comparable store sales, excluding the impact of currency fluctuations, dropped 4 percent after soaring 36 percent a year earlier.

Gross margin, or the percentage of sales left after the cost of goods sold, shrank to 54.4 percent from 57.9 percent a year earlier. Analysts estimated 56.5 percent. The drop shaved 8 cents off per-share profit, Chief Financial Officer Patrick McGuiness said on the call.

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Express, Inc. Reports Third Quarter Results

Express, Inc., a specialty retail apparel chain operating more than 600 stores, today announced its third quarter 2012 financial results for the thirteen and thirty-nine week periods ended October 27, 2012, which compares to the same period ended October 29, 2011 last year.

Michael Weiss, Express, Inc.’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer commented: “The third quarter was a very challenging one for our Company. We were disappointed with our results, which included a net sales decrease of 4% and a comparable sales decrease of 5% compared to the prior year third quarter. However, we believe we have identified the issues impacting our performance and have developed, and begun to execute, a plan to fix them. To that end, we re-balanced our sweater assortment, introduced entry price point fashion items in key categories, and began to set and communicate clearer pricing and promotional strategies for our customers. We believe that these actions will position us well for the future. We also continued to focus on our four growth pillars. We saw continued positive momentum in our men’s business, experienced double digit growth in e-commerce sales versus the prior year, and achieved our store expansion goals with the opening of eight new stores, including one in Canada. In addition, we continued our international expansion with the opening of four additional franchise stores in the Middle East. As we begin the fourth quarter, we are pleased to report that our clear promotional messaging contributed to a record Black Friday performance that exceeded our expectations. However, we remain cautious on the overall performance of the fourth quarter given that the majority of the holiday season lies ahead. We expect to make sequential improvement as our corrective measures get further underway. We remain confident in, and committed to, our strategies and four pillars of growth, which we believe position us for improved results over the long term.”

Third Quarter Operating Results:

Net sales decreased 4% to $468.5 million from $486.8 million in the third quarter of 2011;
Comparable sales decreased 5%, following a 5% increase in the third quarter of 2011;
Gross margin was 32.3% of net sales compared to 36.2% in the third quarter of 2011, driven by a 240 basis point increase in occupancy costs and a 150 basis point decline in merchandise margin;
Selling, general, and administrative (SG&A) expenses totaled $117.7 million, or 25.1% of net sales, compared to $115.1 million, or 23.6% of net sales, in the third quarter of 2011;
Operating income was $34.4 million, or 7.3% of net sales, compared to $60.9 million, or 12.5% of net sales, in the third quarter of 2011;
Interest expense totaled $4.8 million compared to $6.3 million in the third quarter of 2011;
Income tax expense was $12.3 million, at an effective tax rate of 41.4%, compared to $22.0 million, at an effective tax rate of 40.3%, in the third quarter of 2011; and
Net income was $17.4 million, or $0.20 per diluted share, compared to net income of $32.7 million, or $0.37 per diluted share, in the third quarter of 2011.

Thirty-Nine Week Operating Results:

Net sales increased 1% and year-to-date comparable sales were flat, following a 6% increase in comparable sales in the prior year period;
Gross margin was 34.3% of net sales compared to 36.0% in the prior year period, driven by a 60 basis point increase in occupancy costs and a 110 basis point decline in merchandise margin;
SG&A expenses totaled $347.2 million, or 24.5% of net sales, compared to $342.2 million, or 24.4% of net sales, in the prior year period;
Operating income decreased 13.5% to $140.2 million, or 9.9% of net sales, compared to $162.0 million, or 11.6% of net sales, in the prior year period;
Interest expense totaled $14.3 million compared to $27.8 million in the prior year period, which included a $7.2 million loss on extinguishment of debt related to the repurchases of $49.2 million of Senior Notes and the amendment of the $200 million Revolving Credit Facility;
Income tax expense was $50.6 million, at an effective tax rate of 40.2%, compared to $54.1 million, at an effective tax rate of 40.2%, in the prior year period; and
Net income was $75.3 million, or $0.86 per diluted share. This compares to net income of $80.3 million, or $0.90 per diluted share, in the prior year period, which included the following non-core operating costs after tax: (i) $0.3 million, or $0.01 per diluted share, of costs related to the secondary offering completed in April 2011; and (ii) $4.3 million, or $0.04 per diluted share, loss on extinguishment related to the repurchases of $49.2 million of Senior Notes and the amendment of the $200 million Revolving Credit Facility. Net income in the prior year period adjusted for non-core operating costs noted above was $85.0 million, or $0.96 per diluted share (see Schedule 4 for discussion of non-GAAP measures).

Third Quarter Balance Sheet Highlights:

Cash and cash equivalents decreased $42.6 million and totaled $102.4 million compared to $145.0 million at the end of the third quarter of 2011, primarily driven by $65.1 million of cash used to repurchase 4.0 million shares of the Company’s common stock since May 2012, including $15.0 million used to repurchase 1.3 million shares in the third quarter of 2012;
Inventories were $286.9 million, an increase of 3.0%, compared to $278.5 million at the end of the third quarter of 2011, and inventory per square foot decreased 1.3% compared to 2011; and
Debt declined by $119.4 million to $198.8 million compared to $318.2 million at the end of the third quarter of 2011, driven by the $119.7 million prepayment of the $125 million Term Loan outstanding balance in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Real Estate:

During the third quarter of 2012, the Company opened 8 new stores, including 1 in Canada, and closed 1 store. At quarter end, the Company had 618 locations and 5.4 million gross square feet in operation.

2012 Guidance:

Fourth Quarter:
The Company is revising its fourth quarter 2012 guidance and currently expects fourth quarter comparable sales to decrease low single digits compared to an increase of 5% in the fourth quarter of 2011. The effective tax rate is expected to be approximately 40% for the fourth quarter of 2012. Net income is expected in the range of $53 million to $58 million, or $0.62 to $0.68 per diluted share on 85.2 million weighted average shares outstanding. This compares to adjusted net income of $62.1 million, or $0.70 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter of 2011 (see Schedule 4 for a discussion of non-GAAP measures). The Company expects to open 8 new stores in the fourth quarter, including 5 stores in the United States and 3 stores in Canada, and close 1 store to end the quarter with 625 locations and approximately 5.4 million gross square feet in operation.

Full Year:
The Company is revising its full year 2012 guidance and currently expects full year comparable sales to decrease low single digits compared to an increase of 6% in 2011. The effective tax rate is expected to be between 39.9% and 40.2% for the full year 2012. Earnings for the fifty-three week period in 2012 are currently expected in the range of $1.47 to $1.53 per diluted share on 87.2 million weighted average shares outstanding. This compares to adjusted earnings of $1.66 per diluted share in 2011 (see Schedule 4 for a discussion of non-GAAP measures). The Company notes that 2012 is a fifty-three week period compared to a fifty-two week period in 2011 and expects the positive contribution from the fifty-third week to be in the range of $0.03 to $0.04 per diluted share. The Company now expects to open 28 new stores in 2012, including 23 in the United States and 5 in Canada, and close 12 stores to end the year with 625 locations and approximately 5.4 million gross square feet in operation. Consistent with previous years, this guidance excludes any non-core operating items that may occur, such as debt extinguishment costs.

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Pick n Pay opens fifth store in Zambia

SOUTH African grocery retailer Pick n Pay on Thursday opened its fifth Zambian store in Kitwe, the country’s second-largest city.

The retailer, which opened its first store in Zambia in 2010, already had three stores in Lusaka and one in Ndola. Next year it plans to open more stores in Luanshya, Lusaka and Ndola.

Pick n Pay operates 94 stores on the continent outside South Africa, including one in Lesotho, 10 in Swaziland, nine in Botswana, 17 in Namibia, one in Mozambique, where a second store opens next month, two in Mauritius and 48 in Zimbabwe under the TM brand.

Next year it expects to open a store in Malawi and, in 2014, one in Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The International Monetary Fund’s Survey magazine said earlier this year that the odds were in Africa’s favour as it sought to sustain its impressive growth of recent years that had already lifted millions out of poverty.

Last year, against a threatening global backdrop, most economies in sub-Saharan Africa turned in a solid performance. Growth in the region averaged more than 5% and export shares stayed high.

A World Bank report, De-Fragmenting Africa: Deepening Regional Trade Integration in Goods and Services, has shown that African countries lose out on billions of dollars in potential trade earnings every year because of high trade barriers with neighbouring countries, and that it is easier for Africa to trade with the rest of the world than with itself.

According to the report, regional fragmentation could become even more costly for the continent, with new World Bank forecasts suggesting that economic slowdown in the eurozone could shave Africa’s growth by up to 1.3 percentage points this year.

Trade and regional integration are core elements of the World Bank’s new Africa strategy, launched in March last year, to help countries create opportunities for their transformation and sustained growth. By July last year, the bank had already doubled its investment in regional integration from $2.1bn in 2008 to $4.2bn.

Persistent barriers include trade permits, export taxes, import licenses and bans.

World Bank trade research showed that retailer Shoprite, for example, spent $20,000 a week on securing import permits to distribute meat, milk, and plant-based goods to its stores in Zambia alone.

For all countries in which it operates, it applies for about 100 single-entry import permits every week, and this can rise up to 300 per week in peak periods.

As a result of such documentary requirements, there can be up to 1,600 documents accompanying each Shoprite truck that crosses a Southern African Development Community (SADC) border.

That is in part why the new 3,500m² Pick n Pay store located in Kitwe’s Copperhill shopping mall is sourcing most of its range from local suppliers.

“One of the most gratifying features of our presence in Zambia has been the extent to which we have been able to source much of our produce from local suppliers,” said Dallas Langman, head of group enterprises for Africa at Pick n Pay.

“When we first ventured into the Zambian market, we gave an undertaking to the government that we would procure 50% of our goods from local suppliers, as part of our commitment to developing indigenous enterprises and entrepreneurs,” he added. “In fact, we have considerably exceeded this target and are now sourcing 75% of our stores’ goods from Zambian manufacturers, agents and importers.”

Pick n Pay undertook to source 50% of its fruit and vegetables for the Zambian store from local producers. This proportion of fresh produce is now between 60% and 70%, depending on the season.

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Franchising in South Africa ‘growing steadily’

FRANCHISING in South Africa has grown steadily, especially in the fast-food industry, but franchises still face challenges when expanding to other African countries and globally, says First National Bank (FNB).

At FNB’s first franchising leadership summit in Sandton on Wednesday, the bank estimated that franchising in South Africa was growing between 5% and 7% a year, and contributing to more than 10% of retail sales.

FNB chief marketing officer Bernice Samuels said much potential economic growth would come from franchising.

“Franchising gets people involved with big brands and allows them to get into a framework, into training and into support, and enables economic growth,” she said.

Ms Samuels said companies looked five years ahead when considering in which countries to develop franchises, and that profit motives also drove franchises to “fish where there is fish”.

Nando’s founder Robert Brozin said the franchise had more than 1,000 restaurants in about 26 countries around the world.

Nando’s marketing manager Guy Carter said the fast-food chain had a strong footprint in African countries, including Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland.

McDonald’s South Africa MD Greg Solomon said franchises looked to grow their wealth and create opportunities for investment, and that thriving businesses had to duplicate their successes, which could be achieved through franchising.

“What got you where you are in the past 10 years is not going to keep you in the same position in the next 10 years,” he said.

“Every time your organisation grows in revenue, size and footprint by a multiple of 10 you need to make a fundamental change in your brand and organisational capabilities.”

Mr Solomon said McDonald’s 24-hour services had been well received by consumers and now contributed 5% to the company’s total South African revenue. He said there was a sizeable market for McDonald’s coffee, and that the company would continue to “find different ways to do the same thing”.

FNB head of franchising Morne Cronje said in a statement that despite difficult economic conditions, South Africa’s overall performance in the franchising industry had “held fairly steady, with the average annual growth of around 5% to 7%.”

He said there were about 30,000 franchise outlets in South Africa, held by more than 550 companies.

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Dunnes stores faces winding up petition

Ireland: Dunnes stores faces winding up petition

Ireland-based retailer Dunnes Stores is facing a wind up petition over sunnesnon-payment of about €21.6 million for a shopping centre development in county Kilkenny. The retail chain is facing uncertainty after it failed to pay the money to development company Holtglen Ltd, which is now insolvent with loans gone to the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA).

Dunnes chief Margaret Heffernan said the business is “robustly solvent” but is unwilling to pay the fees to Holtglen Ltd on several grounds, including concerns about the viability of the Ferrybank shopping centre. In letters to NAMA chief executive Brendan McDonagh, Heffernan described the shopping centre as “an unmitigated disaster” and the winding-up petition as “an abuse of process”. She added that a petition to wind up Dunnes Stores, which employs 18,000 people, on grounds of insolvency is unjustified and publicising it will damage both the business, and Ireland.

Considering the implications if the major employer were to cease trading, and the large sum involved, the petition has been fixed for hearing on 14 December in the Commercial Court.

Last March summary judgment for €20.4 million was granted to Holtglen against Dunnes after upholding an arbitrator’s award to the developer arising from an agreement in 2007 to build the Ferrybank centre for €37 million. To date, some €18 million has been paid out by Dunnes on the back of this agreement, and it has indicated in correspondence that it will pay another €7.5 million, along with the transfer of its rights in the shopping centre to NAMA, if it is agreed as the end of its obligations.

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Irish retail sales hit 2012 high

Nov 28 (Reuters) – Irish retail sales volumes posted their largest growth this year in October, climbing 3.1 percent from a year earlier, government figures showed on Wednesday.

Volumes were 1.7 percent higher in October than in September, also their largest monthly rise of the year, provisional data from the Central Statistics office showed.

The statistics office confirmed provisional data that retail volumes climbed 1.4 percent in the year to September. Sales volumes increased 1.0 percent in September from August, compared to 0.9 percent growth indicated in provisional figures last month.

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J.Crew Opening in London on Regent Street

Store on Regent Street Marks New Phase in Retailer’s International Expansion

J.Crew Group, Inc. has announced that it will open its first store outside of North America on Regent Street, in the heart of London’s premier shopping district. The retailer secured a 17,000-square-feet location on the corner of Regent Street and New Burlington Street. The site is currently under development and will open its doors in late 2013.

The Regent Street location will house separate women’s and men’s stores-each with its own designated entrance-along with crewcuts, J.Crew’s destination for kids. The women’s store will feature a carefully edited selection including J.Crew Collection in the most special fabrics and prints, Italian cashmere and a dedicated shoe and handbag salon. The Men’s Shop will offer the full range of the renowned Ludlow suit, shirting, shoes and everything in-between alongside items from J.Crew’s “In Good Company”-a collection of brand partnerships hand selected by the design team.

“London was an easy decision-it’s a place where people understand and respect the integrity of great style and great design. We share this appreciation and are excited to introduce J.Crew to more customers throughout the UK,” said Millard Drexler, Chairman and Chief Executive of J.Crew Group, Inc.

Over the last decade, J.Crew has gained international attention through its dedication to quality, timeless design and customer service. From its partnerships with the finest European mills and fabric houses to its Italian cashmere and shoes made in Italy, J.Crew has built a loyal following all over the world. J.Crew launched online (http://www.jcrew.com) in over 100 countries globally in late March 2012.

J.Crew acquired the lease from The Crown Estate.

About J.Crew Group, Inc.

J.Crew Group, Inc. is an internationally recognized multi-channel retailer of women’s, men’s and children’s apparel, shoes and accessories. As of November 27, 2012, the company operates 295 retail stores (including 250 J.Crew stores 8 crewcuts stores and 45 Madewell stores), the J.Crew catalogue business, jcrew.com, jcrewfactory.com, madewell.com, the Madewell catalog and 106 Factory stores. J Crew merchandise was first made available in the UK in May 2010 with a partnership with Net-a-porter.com. Additionally, certain product, press release and SEC filing information concerning the company is available at the company’s website, jcrew.com.

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Tommy Bahama is opening a restaurant at its new flagship store

Next month, Tommy Bahama is opening a restaurant at its new flagship store in Manhattan. Shoppers will be able to buy one of the chain’s signature tropical print shirts and then order the Macadamia-nut encrusted snapper.

More and more retailers are following the Tommy Bahama model these days, using food and drink to lure customers into stores as sales increasingly migrate online. Urban Outfitters Inc. (URBN), known for selling hipster threads in college towns, has served lamb merquez and striped bass at its Terrain home-and- garden store in Westport, Connecticut. J.C. Penney Co. plans to add juice bars and coffee shops. Gap Inc. (GPS)’s Banana Republic has served cocktails to debut new clothing collections, while Ann Inc.’s Loft brand held Friday happy hours.

Tommy Bahama has become a model for other retailers because its restaurant-stores generate two-and-a-half times the sales per square foot of the apparel chain’s regular locations, Chief Executive Officer Terry Pillow said in an interview. Fellow CEOs often ask about the food-and-beverage business, he said.

“They’re fascinated first of all that we have it, and the second thing they’re fascinated about is we run it ourselves and we’ve chosen not to license it,” Pillow said.

Putting restaurants inside stores has a long history. In the 1900s, many U.S. department stores ran restaurants and tea rooms. Some even achieved iconic status and continue to serve customers today, including Chicago’s Walnut Room at Macy’s Inc. and the Zodiac restaurant at a Neiman Marcus Group Inc. store in Dallas. More recently, Nordstrom Inc., which has offered food for many years, has tested a contemporary diner concept called Sixth & Pine and added espresso bars. The department store has seven restaurant concepts.

‘Top Chef’

Retailers are looking for ways to attract customers to their brick-and-mortar locations as the National Retail Federation forecasts online sales may rise to 16 percent of $586 billion in holiday revenue this season. Food is an opportunity as U.S. consumers show more interest in farmer’s markets and amid the popularity of such cooking shows as cable network Bravo’s “Top Chef.”

Eating is a memorable experience “and a lot of lifestyle retailers have been exploring it,” said Aaron Spiess, co- founder and co-head of Big Red Rooster, a brand consulting firm based in Columbus, Ohio. Spiess says he has spoken with three specialty brands about incorporating food into stores.

Tommy Bahama, owned by Atlanta-based Oxford Industries Inc. (OXM), is renewing the bet on its retail-restaurant “Island” locations with the 13,000-square-foot Manhattan flagship. While the retail part of the store debuted this month, superstorm Sandy pushed back the restaurant opening until December.

Sugarcane Press

The bar will have a sugarcane press for cocktails and the menu will feature such vacation-style New York dishes as pineapple cheesecake and grouper Reubens.

The first Island store, which opened in Naples, Florida, in 1996, generates about $2,000 per square foot, CEO Pillow said in an interview. That’s similar to the productivity of a Coach Inc. or Lululemon Athletica Inc. store, which are industry leaders, according to RetailSails, a consulting firm.

Tommy Bahama says the restaurants generate about 12 percent of its $452 million in annual revenue.

With $18 grilled steak salads, $12.50 seared scallop sliders and $12 cocktails, Tommy Bahama’s restaurants aren’t cheap, at least compared with the fast-food at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) and Target Corp. (TGT), and neither are the brand’s $98 polos and $118 shorts. The food and service are in line with the brand’s messaging and Tommy Bahama executives have made a point to oversee it themselves, Pillow said.

Farm to Table

The two Urban Outfitters Terrain stores — in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, and Westport — offer a trendy farm-to-table spread. In Westport, the dinner menu in July included $36 striped bass, $39 ribeye and a $19 vegetable plate.

Customers typically spend 1.5 hours browsing Terrain, and that can double to three hours if they’re visiting the café and shopping between glasses of wine or lunch, Wendy McDevitt, president of Terrain, said in a telephone interview. The menus at each restaurant are different because the food is sourced locally, said McDevitt, who is a fan of the Stonington scallops and Brussels sprouts at the Westport location.

Decades ago, the first Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie stores originally had a restaurant and a cafe, respectively, McDevitt said.

“The one thing you can’t get in the cyberworld is the tactile experience and that won’t go away,” she said. “Food is becoming bigger and bigger in terms of entertainment value.”

J.C. Penney, based in Plano, Texas, plans to replace cash registers with coffee and juice bars and add tables and chairs, so “no one has to leave the store if they want to refresh,” Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson said in an Aug. 10 earnings call. A Caribou coffee café and a gelato shop were shown to analysts in a September tour of the company’s prototype store.

Cocktail Shopping

Some retailers are holding shopping events featuring food and cocktails to draw shoppers in, adding the dining component without a dedicated café or restaurant.

Banana Republic has served hors d’oeuvres and cocktails at loyalty shopping events and to introduce new collections, such as its Anna Karenina line this month. Loft held Friday happy hours this summer at its New York Rockefeller Center store.

Tommy Bahama plans to open another Island in Tokyo next year and is assessing locations elsewhere.

“You have the opportunity to lose a guest with every single meal and they’ll look at that meal as an extension of every product you sell, so to fail is to fail big,” said Doug Wood, the chain’s president. “It’s the difference between ‘‘I just bought this Tommy Bahama shirt and I don’t like it as well as the other ones I have,’ versus ‘I just had a meal and I got sick and I’m never going to go back again and I’m not going to buy their clothes,” he said.

“It’s challenging to operate but if you execute it right it’s magic,” he said.

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REVEALED: 11 new mega projects coming to Dubai

Dubai Modern Art Museum and Opera House District

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in March announced plans to establish a cultural district which will include a museum, two art hotels and an opera house.
The Dubai Modern Art Museum and Opera House District will be located in Emaar’s flagship Downtown Dubai and aims to build on Dubai’s 50 art galleries and festivals such as Art Dubai.
The complex will include an Opera House, modern art museum, galleries and design studios, as well as two new art hotels and several residential apartments and design studios.

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QE2 Hotel & Port Rashid Cruise Maritime Museum

Dubai in July announced it is to relaunch the iconic QE2 cruise liner as a 300-room luxury floating hotel, as part of plans to transform its current home at Port Rashid into the emirate’s newest tourist attraction.
The 293m long vessel was bought from Cunard for around US$100m in June 2007 by Istithmar, an investment company owned by the government of Dubai.
The cruise terminal at Dubai’s Port Rashid is now set to become the liner’s permanent home and it will be converted into a 300-room luxury hotel, with the terminal developed to include a maritime museum. The refurbishment work is expected to take 18 months to complete.
According to Bloomberg, Istithmar is currently in talks with three hoteliers, including Jumeirah Group, to manage the property.

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Mohammed bin Rashid City

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced this week plans to build a new multi-billion dollar project called Mohammad Bin Rashid City.
The new city project will be built by Dubai Holding and Emaar Properties in what is being described as the biggest real estate joint venture in the region.
No value has been given for the project but plans include building the world’s biggest shopping mall, a Universal family theme park and a park that is a third bigger than Hyde Park in London.
The project will comprise four key components and will feature “world class leisure facilities and provide an integrated environment for the development of entrepreneurship and innovation”, a statement said. It is not clear how this project will impact the much-delayed Dubailand project.

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Hadaeq Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid

Meydan’s new development spanning a total 5,088,959 sqm across the Nad Al Sheba landscape, it will feature a collection of neighborhoods centered on ‘garden living’, with infrastructure designed to resemble modern residential locales that imitate those found in the English and French countryside and the Japanese gardens of the East.
Connected by canals and lagoons, the entire water network will run over 190,000sqm alongside a horse riding trail, walking and jogging paths, a bio-dome, bicycle track and sports facilities.

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Madinat Jumeirah expansion

Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed announced in November a AED2.5bn ($680m) plan to expand the Madinat Jumeirah tourism development in the emirate.
The fourth phase of expansion, which will face the Burj Al Arab area, will include a luxury five-star hotel, villas complex, restaurants, a commercial centre featuring retail stores and an open walking area.
The work is due to be completed before the end of 2015.

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Meydan Tower

Located along Sheikh Zayed Road, this is Meydan’s first foray outside the iconic sporting arena. The new skyscraper will include Sky Gardens, nine pools, an indoor running track, tennis courts and the ‘Club House’ – a new rooftop nightclub in Dubai with its own infinity pool.

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Taj Arabia

Falconcity of Wonders (FCW), a Dubai-based project which will include global iconic architecture from around the world, such as The Pyramids of Egypt, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, The Eiffel Tower, The Great Wall of China, and The Leaning Tower of Pisa, in October announced the latest addition will come from the Indian subcontinent.
The new project will be named the “Land of India and the Taj Arabia” and will include a replica of the iconic Agra tourist attraction. Set to be themed as the “New City of Love” and due to be completed by end of 2014, the developers behind Falconcity said it has already attracted interest from Bollywood.
Announced in 2005, Dubai’s Falconcity will be part of the 41m sqft Dubailand entertainment complex.

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Business Bay Canal Project

Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in October annoucned AED1.5bn ($408m) plans to extend the Business Bay Canal Project.
Work on extending the canal from Sheikh Zayed Road to the Arabian Gulf will be completed in two years.
Longer-term, Dubai’s Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) said floating hotels and restaurants could be built to line the canal, creating a new attraction for visitors and residents.

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Dubai Theme Park Project

The Ilyas and Mustafa Galadari Group (IMG), developers behind the much-delayed City of Arabia project, announced in May they had secured funding for a new indoor theme park in Dubai.
Construction of the entertainment project was expected to be completed by the end of 2013 and IMG Theme Park said it had entered into agreements with world renowned brands to use their concepts and characters.
The theme park is planned to have a total built up area of approximately 1.2m sq ft, and will include one of the region’s largest rollercoasters.
Originally launched in 2005, it was slated to be completed by 2010 but was put on hold when the impact of the global economic crisis hit Dubai’s real estate and construction industries.

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World Discus Hotel

The shipbuilding arm of Dubai World has announced plans to build a series of underwater hotels in the emirate.
In May, Drydocks World said it has signed an agreement with a Swiss contractor to develop the World Discus Hotel, which is partly submerged under the sea.
As well as providing leisure facilities, the development will also include a laboratory for ocean environment protection and research.
Drydocks World, part of government-owned holding company Dubai World, is currently in the process of restructuring US$2.2bn worth of debt.

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Habtoor Palace

Dubai’s Al Habtoor Group in January announced plans to demolish its 34-year old Metropolitan Hotel and redevelop the area into a tourism complex in a plan valued at $1.3bn.
Demolition of the existing site began earlier this year. The conglomerate, one of the UAE’s largest, said it would build three luxury hotels and a string of tourist attractions including a theatre to stage Broadway-style shows.
Construction of the complex, which will include a shopping arcade, a tennis and sports academy and themed restaurants, is set to begin in the first quarter and be completed in 48 months.

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ASOS enters luxury resale market with Covetique deal

LONDON – ASOS, the fast growing British online fashion retailer, said it had invested in a firm that buys and sells pre-owned designer clothing as it seeks to extend its reach to the luxury resale market.

ASOS said on Monday it had made “a significant minority investment” in Covetique, appointed a senior representative board member and will help the firm’s management grow the business over the next few years.

Covetique’s website buys and sells clothing, shoes, handbags and accessories from labels such as Burberry, Mulberry, Alexander McQueen and Christian Louboutin that are pre-owned but in pristine condition.

The firm offers free courier collection, quality-checking, authentication, pricing, photo production, editorial and shipping.

ASOS, which has bucked the gloomy trend in the UK retail sector with a 40 percent jump in year profit, targets young women looking to emulate the designer looks of celebrities such as Nicole Scherzinger, Tulisa Contostavlos and Pixie Lott.

Customers can buy ASOS’ own label products and a selection of third-party brands, as well as boutique brands and previously-owned product on ASOS Marketplace. The Covetique deal represents its first foray into the luxury resale market.

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Abercrombie seen as early winner in Thanksgiving clothing sales

Abercrombie and Wal-Mart Stores Inc were among the perceived winners in a four-day weekend when some stores opened on Thanksgiving night and people shopped online in greater numbers than ever before.

The National Retail Federation trade group reported on Sunday that total sales for the four days from Thanksgiving through Sunday had risen 12.8 percent to $59.1 billion. That is down from a 16.4 percent increase last year.

Abercrombie, which operates the Hollister chain in addition to its namesake stores, “was the clear winner,” with the longest lines and units per transaction during the weekend, according to Oppenheimer analyst Pamela Quintiliano.

Quintiliano said Ann Inc, which specializes in women’s clothing, “may potentially prove to be the most disappointing as traffic never fully materialized on stable promotions.”

UBS analyst Roxanne Meyer said the specialty retailers with the most foot traffic over the four-day weekend included Limited Brands Inc, American Eagle and Gap Inc, with relatively weaker traffic at Aeropostale, Cold Water Creek Inc and Chico’s FAS Inc.

Like Ann, Cold Water Creek and Chico’s focus on mature women shoppers, whereas American Eagle and Abercrombie target younger people.

Despite early signs of strength, analysts cautioned against reading too much into the results. Four of the five busiest shopping days of the season will come in the 10 days leading up to Christmas Day, according to ShopperTrak.

Janney Capital Markets analyst Adrienne Tennant downgraded shares of Aeropostale on Monday to “neutral” from “buy,” citing increased competition from American Eagle and Abercrombie.

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UAE mulls 100% foreign ownership of companies

Officials in the UAE are reviewing a draft commercial law that will allow 100 percent foreign ownership of some companies.

Officials in the UAE are reviewing a draft commercial law that will allow 100 percent foreign ownership of some companies, Bloomberg reported, citing the undersecretary of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development.

The Abu Dhabi government and others within the UAE are reviewing the draft legislation, which would allow some sectors to operate outside of free zones, said Mohamed Omar Abdulla.

“We recognise the importance of the foreign companies to have 100 percent ownership, but within specific rules and conditions,” he said.

Companies that are eligible would “have to be within the industries that have certain priorities within the economy, like petrochemicals, communications, logistics, aerospace, financial, and others,” he added.

Under UAE law, only nationals are allowed full ownership of companies operating outside of free zones. The law currently requires foreign citizens to have a UAE national as a partner or sponsor to conduct business.

The Gulf state has been trying to diversify and modernise its economy, developing areas including tourism and finance, in a bid to reduce its dependence on oil exports.

The UAE’s state news agency in December said the cabinet had approved a draft companies law that may allow foreign ownership above 49 percent.

The legislation lays down a framework for the governance of public companies, ensuring transparency and disclosure of financial data as well as the efficiency and integrity of the board of directors, WAM said.

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Phase one of $2.7bn Dubai theme park to open in 2014

Phase one of Dubai’s newly approved AED10bn (US2.7bn) entertainment and leisure development, which will include five theme parks based on movies and characters from Hollywood and Bollywood movies, will be completed in 2014, it was confirmed on Monday.

Dubai master developers Meraas Holding have been appointed to develop the project, located at Jebel Ali, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s office announced online.

Dubai Adventure Studios, a Meraas-backed project which was originally announced in 2011, will anchor the new expanded development. Set to be completed in 2014, it will include popular Hollywood brands and a range of rides and attractions, the statement said.

There will be five theme parks in total, including Bollywood Parks, which will partner with major Indian film studios to showcase Broadway-style Bollywood musicals and attractions.

In addition, the water and marine life park will feature aquatic life, rides and live shows, while a children’s theme park will include entertainment designed for toddlers, preschoolers and primary school children. A night safari will showcase wild desert themed attractions, the statement said.

“Meraas has been working with several industry experts to bring together a powerful mix of components that fulfill the need for a pure entertainment-based destination. The new initiative comes in response to Dubai’s status as a top global touristic destination which will contribute to the growth of the economy,” said Abdulla Ahmed Mohammed Al Habbai, Chairman of Meraas Holding.

“Featuring first-of-its kind rides and attractions, as well as innovative food and beverage concepts, and themed hotels, the theme parks are set to complement Dubai’s existing leisure and entertainment components,” he added.

The announcement comes just days after Sheikh Mohammed launched plans to build a new multi-billion dollar project called Mohammed Bin Rashid City.

The new city project will be built by Dubai Holding and Emaar Properties and will include the world’s biggest shopping mall, a Universal Studios theme park and a green space a third bigger than Hyde Park in London.

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Edcon Q2 loss narrows

Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) — Edcon Holdings (Pty) Ltd., South Africa’s largest clothing retailer, said second-quarter sales rose and losses narrowed compared with last year as the retail environment improved slightly from the first quarter.

The loss was 592 million rand ($67 million) in the three months through September, versus 1.2 billion rand a year earlier, the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement today. Sales advanced 3 percent to 5.8 billion rand.

“Retail-sales growth for the second quarter of 2013 was marginally improved when compared to that of the first quarter,” said the company, controlled by closely-held Bain Capital LLC.

Bain, based in Boston, bought Edcon in May 2007 for 25 billion rand in an effort to tap rising consumer spending in Africa’s largest economy. Growth in South African retail sales slowed to an annual 4.3 percent in September after reaching a 12-month high of 8.6 percent in June.

Consumer spending in the nation of 51.8 million people is under pressure amid unemployment of 25.5 percent and economic growth that slowed to to 1.2 percent in the third quarter from the previous three months, the lowest since the 2009 recession. The Reserve Bank cut interest rates to a more-than 30-year low of 5 percent on July 19 to support economic growth.

“Edcon’s sales are significantly lower than other players out there,” Chris Gilmour, an analyst at Johannesburg-based Absa Asset Management, said by phone today. “It suggests they’re losing market share.”

Competitor sales

Truworths International Ltd., a competitor, said Nov. 8 sales for its first 18 weeks of trading through Nov. 4 rose 16 percent. The Foschini Group Ltd., another apparel retailer, said its first-half sales through September climbed 13 percent.

Edcon has 24.4 billion-rand debt of which 13.1 billion rand will mature in 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Edcon this year sold its private-label store cards in South Africa for 9.5 billion rand to Barclays Plc’s Absa Group Ltd., a South African bank. The company has used the proceeds to settle 4.3 billion rand of debt.

“The balance of the proceeds will be used to reinvest in the business for refurbishing, but the majority will go to repay debt,” Mark Bower, chief financial officer, said during a conference call today.

Chief Executive Officer Jurgen Schreiber said Aug. 21 that listing the company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange remains an option “but isn’t a focus.”

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Microsoft plotting UK retail stores, says report

The technology giant has been in discussion with a number of landlords in the UK, with its first outlets expected to open next year.

Microsoft already has more than 50 retail stores in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, selling devices such as its Xbox console and Surface tablet.

The move into retail comes shortly after Microsoft’s chief executive hinted that it would be making a greater hardware play earlier this month, following the launch of its first tablet device.

Last week, reports emerged about Microsoft’s plans to build a set-top TV Box next year, dubbed ‘Xbox TV’, to compete with Apple TV.

A move into retail stores would mirror Apple, which has used its stores to sell its devices.

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment on the report at the time of publication.

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Dunnes Stores faces winding-up petition over €21.6m judgment

Dunnes Stores faces a petition for winding up over its failure to honour a €21.6 million court judgment. The Irish Times reports that in 2009, Holtglen Ltd completed building The Ferrybank shopping centre in Kilkenny in which Dunnes had agreed to be the anchor tenant. However when Holtglen later became insolvent and its debts were transferred to Nama, Dunnes failed to pay the €20.4 million judgment plus interest.

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Giordano to invest USD5m in 20 new stores in the region by 2013

Dubai Giordano International will open a Dh5 million logistics centre in the Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza) in January to service a growing number of stores in the GCC, Middle East and Africa, the company chairman and chief executive, Dr. Peter Lau, told Gulf News.

The apparel retailer is also investing $5 million in opening and maintaining 20 new stores in the region by the end of 2013 including Saudi, Qatar, Pakistan, Srilanka and South Africa, said Ishwar Chugani, managing director of Giordano Middle East. They plan to open a total of 300 stores in the region and India by 2015.

About 10 to 15 percent of the Hong Kong-based company’s global revenue comes from the operations of Giordano Middle East in 23 countries, Lau said during a visit to the UAE yesterday. He expects revenue to at least double over the next three or four years from the Middle East, Eastern Europe and African markets.

The 15,000 square foot service centre, Giordano Middle East Free Zone Establishment, will provide support, logistics, and management to Giordano’s franchise stores in the region.
In the next three years, the centre is expected to house $5 million to $10 million worth of merchandise as the company focuses on Africa and Eastern Europeans markets, Lau said.

“We will be a bit more aggressive in terms of developing our franchises there,” Chugani said, adding they are in franchise discussions with companies in southern, east and west Africa.
“Our vision is to make Dubai a command centre for our international business, it’s going to be the brain… the directives will come from the logistics centre,” he said, adding that Dubai has the advantage of a concentrated managerial talent pool of multicultural background. “This is an advantage that will help Giordano to expand globally.”

The company is also looking to open an online store in Saudi Arabia, its biggest market regionally, to serve second-tier cities where they currently have no presence, Chugani said.

Giordano is also open to tie-ups with other multi-brand online retail channels, Chugani added.

Asked about ways to improve customer service, a major hassle for UAE residents when shopping in general, Lau said: “The days of smiles is over. The customer is looking for information… in the past there was a focus on etiquette, the next stage will be knowledge-based customer service.”

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Dubai to Build World's Largest Shopping Mall

“The current facilities available in Dubai need to be scaled up in line with the future ambitions for the city,” said Sheikh Mohammed. Though he did not reveal the cost of the project, it is expected to be several billions of dollars.

The emirate, which developed the world’s tallest skyscraper Burj Khalifa and the Palm Jumeirah artificial island, intends to become a prime business and cultural destination with its new development projects.

The plans also indicate Dubai’s recovery from the debt crisis triggered by a crash in the property market three years ago. Property prices fell by 50 percent and state-owned conglomerate Dubai World was forced into a $25bn (£15.59bn) debt restructuring.

Nevertheless, Dubai’s economy experienced an improvement in 2012, especially the real estate market, on the back of a tourism boom. Tourist arrivals increased by 10 percent, while hotel revenue rose by 19 percent in the first half of 2012.

Inspired by the recent growth, the emirate has also revived its stalled real estate projects, including a $1bn replica of India’s Taj Mahal that will include a 300-room hotel, among other facilities.

Dubai International Airport is also undergoing expansion, in line with a projected increase in passenger traffic to over 50 million people in 2012. Traffic is expected to top 90 million in six years, according to Sheikh Mohammed.

“Our development initiatives concerning infrastructure in all sectors should be aligned with this growth rate and we have the determination to reach our objectives and be the first in the region to achieve them,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

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Dubai Duty Free posts $1.29bn sales so far in 2012

Dubai Duty Free posts $1.29bn sales so far in 2012

Dubai Duty Free said on Sunday it is looking to achieve double digit sales growth for the year after sales up to the end of October reached AED4.71bn ($1.29bn).

This represented an 11 percent increase over the same period last year, putting the operation on track for year-end sales of an estimated AED6bn.

The perfumes category, which accounts for 15 percent of total sales at Dubai Duty Free, retained the number 1 spot as sales rose to AED727m in the ten-month period.

Dubai Duty Free said sales at Terminal 1 recorded a nine percent increase, while Terminal 2 sales rose by 16 percent and Terminal 3, which is dedicated to Emirates Airline, saw sales grow by 12 percent.

Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman of Dubai Duty Free said: “2012 is shaping up to be a fantastic year and I am pleased that our sale per head, which is around $49, and our penetration level of close to 50 percent, continues to be so strong.

“We are looking forward to a busy few weeks ahead and closing the year with record sales.”

Notable increases were seen in confectionery which rose by 18 percent to AED377m while electronics showed an 11 percent increase to AED367m.

Subcontinent passengers made up the biggest group of spenders, accounting for 24 percent of total sales at Dubai Duty Free, followed by Far Eastern passengers, primarily Chinese.

Despite the economic gloom in Europe, European passengers came in third place, accounting for 16.4 percent of sales.

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Qatar's Harrods hires wife of former PM

Qatar-owned Harrods has announced that the wife of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been appointed to its board

Sarah Brown has returned to the world of business as a non-executive director at the luxury department store retailer.

Brown has been appointed to advise on developing marketing plans, including corporate social responsibility programmes, UK media reported.

Harrods owner Qatar Holding, the investment fund of the Gulf state, acquired the group for £1.5 billion in 2010.

Harrods said she would draw on her “extensive experience” across a range of businesses and not-for-profit organisations.

Brown was quoted as saying: “I look forward to my return to business in joining the Harrods Group board and welcome the opportunity to work on the marketing and corporate social responsibility plans for this world-renowned British brand.”

Earlier in her career, Brown worked at brand consultancy Wolff Olins and co-founded the PR firm Hobsbawm Macaulay.

Last month, the UK’s Financial Services Authority gave approval for Qatar Holding to buy a controlling stake in Harrods Bank, the private banking arm of the luxury department store.

The investment fund of the Gulf state’s royal family has appointed a new board for the lender and plans to expand its operations.

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New Group CEO for Al Ghurair

Al Ghurair (also known as Al Ghurair Investment LLC) — one of the largest UAE conglomerates with diversified businesses — on Wednesday announced the appointment of Constantin Salameh as Group CEO.
Salameh will lead multiple business units including Foods, Construction, Resources, Properties, Energy, Printing, Retail and Education.

AbdulAziz Al Ghurair , company chairman expressed that the appointment of a Group CEO was part of a strategy to enhance business and organisational capabilities. “Given the diversity of our operations, it was significant to appoint a Group CEO. Each of our sectors has its own CEO – and, in challenging times, they should be allowed to focus solely on their own areas of expertise,” he said.

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Clarks, to offer click and collect service by CollectPlus network

Leading UK footwear brand, Clarks, is launching a click and collect service through the CollectPlus network of stores.

CollectPlus will also be providing a returns service for those customers shopping with Clarks.

With 5,000 CollectPlus stores and petrol stations in the network, all of which open early until late and often seven days a week, it has never been so easy and convenient for customers to collect Clarks products purchased online, said CollectPlus.

The Click&CollectPlus service offers customers that do not live close to one of Clarks’ 400+ shops, greater convenience enabling them to incorporate the collection of their new shoes into their everyday journey, said CollectPlus. Customers will also have complete peace of mind, being able to track their parcel every step of the way with CollectPlus, the company added.

Mark Lewis, CEO of CollectPlus, said: “We are delighted to announce this new partnership with Clarks, providing their customers with CollectPlus’ efficient, flexible and reliable delivery and returns services.

“By giving Clarks’ customers greater ease and flexibility of additional touch points, we are together offering added convenience and greater choice in their shopping experience.”

Kelly Smirk, operations manager at Clarks, said: “Like Clarks, CollectPlus continues to grow and innovate at a great pace so they are an obvious choice to partner with. Our customers rely on us for quality and stylish shoes for the whole family and now, with CollectPlus, we’re making it even easier for them to collect this season’s selections at a location best suited to them.”

According to CollectPlus, 87% of the UK’s online shoppers are now within a mile of a CollectPlus store in urban areas, and 88% within five miles in rural locations.

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Mothercare's three-year plan cuts losses to £600,000

International retail sales were up from £338.3m last year to £374.8m while UK sales fell from £262.7m to £240m. But the UK fall, representing 3.4pc, was far less drastic than the 7pc over the same period the year before.

Mothercare currently runs 1,400 shops globally, with 280 in the UK. Earlier this year it admitted that it had been “squeezed in the middle” between supermarkets offering cheap ranges and specialist baby equipment retailers at the top end.

The group posted a collapse in profits in the year to March 31 and a new chief executive, Simon Calver, joined from Lovefilm. A turnaround plan was laid out that included shutting around 100 stores, slashing prices and lowering head office costs by 16pc. The company is now six months into this three-year plan.

Mr Calver said: “My first six months as CEO have been both challenging and exciting. We are starting to see the impact of our actions to ensure that Mothercare can deliver what our customers want – better value, choice and service.

“Our results show early signs of progress despite the challenging trading conditions in the UK and the eurozone. International profits have grown by 20pc, while the like-for-like sales trend in the UK has improved and losses have reduced. Ahead of our peak trading period over Christmas, we are working hard to serve our customers better and focusing on the delivery of our plan.”

Alan Parker, chairman of Mothercare, said: “We have made good progress over the last six months in implementing the cost and efficiency measures of our three-year transformation and growth plan for Mothercare. These are early days and while there is much still to do, I remain confident that we are on track.”

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Ikea one step closer in $1.9bn plan for stores in India

Ikea is a step closer to launching wholly owned stores in India as part of a US$1.9 billion (Dh6.97bn) investment plan.

The Swedish furniture giant has been given the go-ahead by India’s foreign investment promotion board.

A reform announced in January by the government removed a cap at 51 per cent for foreign investment from retailers that sell only one brand to allow 100 per cent investment.

Ikea raised concerns about a clause that stated 30 per cent of sourcing had to be through small and medium-size enterprises. This requirement has since been relaxed.

“They’ve gone ahead with disclaimers and they’ve asked for some concessions, especially on sourcing norms,” said Ankur Bisen, the vice president of retail for Technopak, a consultancy.

Ikea has proposed to open 25 stores in the country. The investment plan must still be approved by a cabinet committee before Ikea can launch in India.

The British footwear chain Pavers has also applied to set up wholly owned stores in India.

In September, the government announced it would open up the multi-brand retail sector to up to 51 per cent investment by foreign investors, as part of its efforts to boost foreign investment flows into India, which have fallen as the country grapples with slowing economic growth.

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New Look's earnings rise as recovery plan pays off

British value fashion retailer New Look posted a 25 percent rise in underlying first half earnings as it removed costs and improved margins as part of a recovery plan following a slump in earnings in 2011-12.

The firm, owned by private equity groups Apax, Permira and founder Tom Singh, also said on Tuesday its current sales performance is now showing year-on-year growth.

A spokeswoman for New Look said the firm hoped to refinance its net debt of 1.05 billion pounds ($1.67 billion) within the next 18 months.

The firm reported earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of 86.9 million pounds in the 26 weeks to Sept. 22, up from 69.4 million pounds in the same period last year.

Group sales from over 1,100 stores in 16 countries fell 1.7 percent to 710.5 million pounds, with sales at UK stores open over a year, excluding VAT sales tax, down 3.1 pct.

However, New Look said it saw “significant” gross margin improvement, reflecting less markdowns and fewer discount sales.

British retailers are mostly struggling as consumers hold back spending in the face of job insecurity, rising prices, subdued wages growth and government austerity measures.

“The next stage of our recovery should see sales growth return based on the product improvements being made and the better presentation of product in store,” said Chairman Alistair McGeorge.

In the first half New Look extended some senior debt maturities to April 2015 and repaid 73.8 million pounds of debt.

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Mulberry warns on year profit

LONDON – Mulberry has become the latest luxury brand to warn on profit, blaming both lower-than-expected international retail sales and a shortfall on wholesale revenue.

“Mulberry now expects group revenue growth for the year to March 31 2013 to be below market expectations,” the firm said on Tuesday.

“As a result of this, combined with the previously highlighted investment being made in international retail expansion, we now expect full year profits to be below last year.”

The firm, famous for its leather bags, said it continued to be “strongly profitable” and generate significant cash to fund future expansion.

It said total revenue rose 6 percent to 76.5 million pounds ($122.7 million) in the six months to September 30.

Retail revenue rose 13 percent to 46.5 million pounds and was up 7 percent on a like-for-like basis.

Wholesale shipments to third parties fell 4 percent to 30.0 million pounds.

Shares in Mulberry, down 41 percent over the last six months, closed Monday at 1,320 pence, valuing the business at 787 million pounds.

UK peer Burberry (BRBY.L) warned on profit last month but issued a more reassuring update earlier this month.

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Arcadia-Owner Philip Green May Spend $8 Billion on Acquisition

Philip Green, the billionaire owner of the TopShop fashion chain, said he may spend 5 billion pounds ($8 billion) on an acquisition should the opportunity arise.

“If something turns up that we like, we might do it,” Green, 60, said in a telephone interview today. “We’re in a position where we could look at anything. The fact is that everybody comes to see us at some point, so I think we’ve got a seat at the table to see things.”

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Billionaire owner of the TopShop fashion chain Philip Green said, “Running more stuff in the same space, not attractive.” Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The Monaco-based businessman, who failed to land Marks & Spencer Group Plc (MKS) in 2004 with a 9.1 billion-pound offer, said he’s not interested in buying more U.K. fashion chains.

“Running more stuff in the same space, not attractive,” said Green, who hasn’t made a major acquisition since 2005, when he purchased the Etam chain in the U.K.

The billionaire said he plans to pursue expansion internationally and online for his Arcadia empire, which he acquired in 2002 for 850 million pounds. The U.K. retailer, which includes the Dorothy Perkins and Burton chains and has 615 international franchised outlets, today reported a 25 percent profit gain as fewer markdowns offset stagnant sales.

Arcadia will open its fourth U.S. store in Los Angeles next year and is adding language-specific websites and flagship stores such as a recently opened Sydney outlet.

Arcadia, which has a presence in 112 countries, said it focused on managing inventory and product originality last year to drive earnings as sales were hurt by weak consumer spending.

Higher Profit

Pretax profit rose to 166.9 million pounds before one-time items in the year ended Aug. 25, the London-based company said today in a statement. Revenue was almost unchanged at 2.68 billion pounds, while sales at stores open at least a year fell 0.7 percent, led by a 3.2 percent drop in the U.K.

“Trading conditions remain challenging, therefore exciting and engaging our customer across multi-channels is at the top of our agenda” Green said in the statement.

Green said he’s closed about 60 outlets this year, having said last year he had 260 store leases up for renewal.

“The closure of shops, the shake-up, you talk to every retailer that has a lot of shops, all of them will tell you they’d like to get rid of some stores,” he said.

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UK retailer Halfords first half profit slumps

LONDON (Reuters) – British bicycles-to-car-parts group Halfords posted a 23 percent slump in first half profit as a better second quarter sales performance failed to offset a poor start to the year.

The firm, which trades from over 460 Halfords stores in the UK and Ireland as well as over 260 Autocentres, said on Wednesday it made a pretax profit before one off items of 41.9 million pounds ($66.7 million) in the 26 weeks to September 28.

That was in line with company guidance of 40-42 million pounds issued last month but down from 54.7 million pounds made in the same period last year.

First half sales rose 0.4 percent to 455.6 million pounds, with a weather-impacted first quarter fall in sales at stores open over a year of 5.6 percent reversing to a rise of 5.6 percent in the second quarter, as demand for bikes rose on the back of Britain’s success in the Tour de France and Olympics.

British retailers are mostly struggling as consumers hold back spending in the face of job insecurity, rising prices, subdued wages growth and government austerity measures.

Halfords, which last month appointed Matt Davies, the former Pets at Home boss, as its chief executive, said its second-half planning assumptions were unchanged and it maintained full-year profit guidance of 66-70 million pounds.

The group ended the period with net debt of 107.9 million pounds and, as expected, is paying an unchanged interim dividend of 8 pence a share.

Shares in Halfords, up 45 percent over the last three months, closed Tuesday at 345 pence, valuing the business at 387 billion pounds. ($1 = 0.6284 British pounds)

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Topshop owner Philip Green tells UK retailers to stop moaning

Philip Green with Kourtney and Kim Kardashian at the launch of their clothing line at Dorothy Perkins this month. Photograph: Chris Helgren/Reuters
Retail tycoon Sir Philip Green, who owns the Topshop-to-BHS Arcadia group, has urged fellow retailers to stop moaning about the economic climate and get on with it.

“We’ve got to trade. I can’t keep listening to all these people making it up as they go along,” Green told Reuters on Wednesday, as his Arcadia chain reported flat sales for the last year. “We’ve got to up our game. If we sit there and cry and put on my front window the Bank of England said X, it isn’t going to help me take any money.”

Last week the Bank of England warned of a “long and winding” road to recovery, with years of sluggish growth and rising prices.

Arcadia posted a 25% rise in profits before tax and one-off items to £166.9m for the year to 25 August as a drive to raise efficiency in stock management boosted margins. However, total sales were flat at £2.68bn while like-for-like sales edged down 0.7% overall and fell 3.2% in the UK. Group like-for-like sales have inched up 0.7% in the first 10 weeks of the new financial year.

For the seventh year running Green, who is based in Monaco, did not pay himself a dividend. In 2005 he received a £1.2bn payment.

In a slew of figures from retailers on Wednesday, Halfords suffered a 23% slump in first-half profits as the “summer of sport” and better weather in the second quarter were not enough to offset a poor start to the year.

Sales in the first quarter were affected by bad weather but the retailer, which sells bicycles and car parts from more than 460 stores in the UK and Ireland and 260 Autocentres, said it made up much of the lost ground in the second quarter. Better weather coupled with the success of British cyclists such as Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton in the Tour de France and the London Olympics boosted sales of bikes and accessories.

Halfords made a profit before tax and one-off items of £41.9m in the 26 weeks to the end of September, down from £54.7m a year ago. It stuck to its profit guidance of £66m-£70m for the full year.

Fashion chain French Connection said UK and European store sales had improved thanks to more typically autumnal weather than last year, which has led to it selling more coats and knitwear. But it noted that the market remained inconsistent. Like-for-like revenues were flat during its third quarter, the 16 weeks to 20 November, following a 9.5% fall in the first half of the year.

JD Sports said it remained on track to deliver full-year profits in line with expectations, although a lot depends on Christmas. Like-for-like sales growth in the UK picked up to 1.5% in the 16 weeks to 17 November from 1.1% in the 26 weeks to the end of July.

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UK supermarkets say no to Naas

TWO major UK supermarket chains have ruled out the possibility of taking space in the unopened Naas Shopping Centre development in the centre of the town.

The multi million development is now part of NAMA’s portfolio of commercial properties.

Neither Sainsbury’s, which has a store in Newry, nor Asda have any plans to open a unit in the centre, despite some persistent local speculation.

John Parrott of Sainsbury’s told the Leader that the supermarket has no plans to open a store in Naas or anywhere else in Ireland. “There are no proposals to open in the Republic of Ireland, that I am aware of,” Mr. Parrott told the Leader.

“We’ve no current plans to enter the ROI,” Asda representative Clair Hufton told this newspaper.

Meanwhile Musgraves, which operates both the Super Valu and Superquinn shops, declined to say if it has any interest in the property.

“We still do not have any comment on the matter,” the company said in a brief statement yesterday (Monday).

Liam O’Farrell, a director of Marshalsea Property, the company which developed the centre, told the Leader that “there is some interest” in the centre by at least one retailer but he would not elaborate.

The centre was due to open prior to Christmas 2009 with Dunnes Stores as the anchor tenant on two floors. The centre plans has 45 retail units on two levels along with 800 car park spaces.

However, it’s understood that Dunnes was subsequently involved in litigation with Marshalsea.

Dunnes Stores have declined to respond to numerous requests for information about its intentions.

There has been no town centre supermarket in Naas – apart from Eurospar at Fairgreen – since the closure of Superquinn in February 2011.

This came about three months after the opening of one of the biggest Tesco stores in the country off Monread Road, Naas .

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Saudi's Jarir plans major retail expansion

Saudi Arabia-based bookstore chain Jarir Marketing Co plans to expand the number of its stores by at least 70 percent in the next five years to take advantage of the Gulf region’s rapid population growth.

The kingdom’s largest listed retailer plans to spend SR120-150m ($32-40m) a year, or about 20 percent of retained earnings, on the expansion, chairman Muhammad al-Agil told the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit on Monday.

“It’s low-hanging fruit … We are growing in Saudi and in the Gulf, and we want to see that we populate the GCC,” he said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council, which also includes the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

“Between Saudi and the GCC, it will allow us to (almost) double our size in the coming five years.”

Jarir’s experience underlines how population growth, not just oil wealth, is fuelling corporate expansion in Saudi Arabia and the six-member GCC.

The company has grown from a single store on a Riyadh street in 1979 into a chain with 32 stores in the kingdom. It sells books and office supplies, and has also become a major electronics retailer.

For the next decade or so, population growth may support Jarir’s growth almost regardless of fluctuations in oil prices.

The GCC’s population is projected to climb by 30 percent over a decade to more than 50 million in 2020, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. Most of the 27 million people of Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy, are under the age of 30.

“The growth in consumer numbers means growth for a long time. There are a lot of young people,” said al-Agil, who co-founded the chain with his family.

He predicted the company would have more than 55 stores by 2017, which would roughly double its sales volume.

The firm expects to open about 80 percent of its new stores in Saudi Arabia and says it already owns most of real estate needed for this expansion – an important advantage in a country where rising land prices have often crimped development plans.

The company’s stock price has risen 10 percent so far this year, outperforming a 4 percent gain for Saudi Arabia’s main stock market index.

Stocks focused on domestic demand have outperformed this year as concern about the shaky global economy dampens stocks with major international exposure, such as petrochemicals.

In 2009, al-Agil said Jarir would consider expansion in North Africa after 2012, with Egypt a primary target. But he delayed those plans in 2011, after Egypt and other countries in the region were hit by the Arab Spring uprisings.

Given the boom in the Gulf, al-Agil said, Jarir is not in a hurry to move into North Africa.

“We just keep looking at it and delaying it because we have the opportunities to open here … We have not finished in the GCC.”

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Foschini Expands Outside South Africa to Boost Retail Growth

Foschini Ltd., a South African clothing and household goods retailer with nearly 2,000 stores, said it plans to open its first stores in Mozambique and Ghana as it accelerates an expansion drive outside its home market.

Foschini operated 1,920 stores at the end of September, of which 62 were in Namibia, 16 in Botswana, 12 in Zambia, two in Lesotho, four in Swaziland and two in Nigeria. It intends to open another 56 stores in those countries over the next two years to boost growth.

“Expansion into the rest of Africa is a longer-term growth strategy,” the Cape Town-based company said in an e-mailed statement earlier this month.

“By the 2015 financial year, the Foschini Group will be trading out of in excess of 150 stores in Africa” with expected sales of more than 1 billion rand ($114.9 million).

Foschini is following the example of other South African retailers such as Shoprite Holdings Ltd. (SHP) and Massmart Holdings Ltd. (MSM) in expanding across Africa to tap rising consumer spending.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, offers the greatest opportunity for expansion, said Ronnie Steyn, Foschini’s chief financial officer.

“Nigeria has up to 100 shopping centres in the planning stage,” he said by phone from Cape Town. “We have got 15 brands. We can have 400 stores there quite comfortably.”

More Customers

Foschini’s net income rose 19 percent to 834.7 million rand, or 3.96 rand a share, in the six months through September, from 699 million rand, or 3.33 rand, a year earlier, the retailer said earlier this month

in a stock exchange filing. Sales rose 14 percent to 7.7 billion rand, with stores outside South Africa generating about 670 million rand.

Steyn attributed the increased profit to Foschini winning more customers, cutting costs and improving its buying.

The shares rose 2.65 rand, or 2.1 percent, to 129.66 rand at 3:37 p.m. in Johannesburg, giving the company a market value of 31.2 billion rand.

Truworths International Ltd. (TRU), another South African clothing retailer, earlier this month, revenue for the 18 weeks through Nov. 4 rose 16 percent to 3.3 billion rand. Sales at stores open for at least a year, rose 10.7 percent while prices increased by an average 3 percent, the Cape Town-based retailer said in a stock exchange filing.

Truworths shares rose 2.11 rand, or 2.1 percent, to 98.98 rand in Johannesburg, giving it a market value of 45.7 billion rand.

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Gap posts bigger quarterly profit, shares rise

CHICAGO – Gap Inc posted a bigger quarterly profit on Thursday and quelled fears of a possible slowdown ahead of the holiday season as the retailer raised its profit view for the year, sending its shares up 3 percent after the bell.

The owner of the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic chains expects to earn between $2.20 to $2.25 a share, up from its August forecast of $1.95 to $2.

Wall Street was expecting it to make $2.27 a share, according to analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“When you’re giving guidance, what’s the point of being wrong on the upside? I think they are giving conservative guidance,” said retail consultant Jan Kniffen.

“The stock’s traded up because people were concerned about a slowdown in sales last month and thought it might be affecting their quarterly numbers,” he said.

The company missed October same store sales estimates, after topping them for many months before that.

Gap has staged a turnaround after a decade of critics derided its fashions as boring and it lost out to rivals such as Zara parent Inditex and homegrown competitors such as Forever21.

Banana Republic’s tie-in with television show Mad Men was a big success. Redoing Gap’s classic Khakis in bright colors proved to be a crowd pleaser.

The company said all three brands posted positive comparable sales in North America, with Old Navy rising 9 percent.

For the third quarter, Gap earned $308 million, or 63 cents a share, compared with $193 million, or 38 cents a share, in the same quarter last year. Analysts were expecting the company to earn 63 cents.

Sales for the third quarter ended October 27 rose 8 percent to $3.86 billion.

Gap shares were trading up at $34.21 after the bell. They closed at $33.26 Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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More than one in 10 uk shops standing empty

The High Street’s fortunes have hit a new low, with more than one in ten shops across the country now standing empty. The situation is expected to get even worse as more closures will result from the winding down of failed electrical retailer Comet.

The UK town centre vacancy rate was 11.3pc in October, according to data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and customer monitoring group Springboard. This is the highest figure since they began to monitor empty stores in July 2011.

The highest vacancy rate was in Northern Ireland, where one fifth of retail space was empty. This was followed by Wales, where 15.1pc of retail space was unused, with the North & Yorkshire region in third place, with a vacancy rate of 14.6pc.

“This new high in empty shop numbers really sets alarm bells ringing,” Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said. “It confirms that financial challenges for both customers and retailers are far from over.”

The number of people entering shops fell 0.4pc in the three months to October, but this was better than the 3.3pc fall in the previous quarter. The high street suffered a 0.9pc fall in the number of shoppers, with shopping centres benefiting. The number of people visiting out-of-town retailers rose 0.2pc and other shopping centres saw a 0.1pc rise. Northern Ireland, the West Midlands and Greater London were the only regions to show increased footfall.

“Many retailers are battling stagnating sales and rising costs, and next year’s threatened business rates increase can only make matters worse,” Mr Robertson added. “If the government wants to breathe life back into our town centres and ensure the retail industry can play its full role in job creation it needs to freeze rates in 2013.”

“The best thing government can do to help businesses is to provide them with a stable economic environment, which is why we want to protect local firms from soaring tax bills,” a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government, said. “We’ve postponed the revaluation, which will stop soaring tax bills for 800,000 firms, and given businesses the option of spreading this year’s increases out over three years.”

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Sheikh Mohammed receives first 2013 Range Rover

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum has taken delivery of the world’s first all-aluminium Range Rover.

Al Tayer Motors, the official distributor for Range Rover in the UAE, on Sunday confirmed it had delivered two of the world’s first 2013 Range Rovers to the Dubai royal family.

Sheikh Mohammed’s limited edition Range Rover features the license plate DUBAI 1 while the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, received a second vehicle featuring a DUBAI 11 plate, said Al Tayer.

“This is a great honour for Land Rover, and we are delighted that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum has taken delivery of the first new Range Rover globally,” Phil Popham, director of group sales operations for Jaguar Land Rover said in a statement.

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Vacant NI shops twice the UK average

One in five local shops is empty, according to the NIRC Shop Vacancy survey.

It’s the highest rate in the UK – and if not for charity and pop up shops high streets would look pock marked with empty premises.

With the Christmas shopping season getting into full swing, Aodhan Connolly from the Retail Consortium told UTV many business owners will be concerned.

“The good news is that footfall is up – but by the same token questions need to be asked as to why that is not translating into sales,” he said.

“We did have a bit of growth for September but now, coming into Christmas, it is a very worrying time for retailers as far as what people are spending goes.”

The news comes after new national figures revealed disappointing trading in October.

But some shops are fighting back.

Delicatessan Sawers invested £100,000 recently to expand their offering in central Belfast.

“Times are tough,” the store told UTV.

“What we’ve done is move into new premises and it has been like starting a new business. We have attracted a new clientele and taking that risk seems to be working for us.”

Donald McFetridge, retail analyst with the University of Ulster said that the real threat to high street shopping is online.

“Advertising campaigns and potential traffic chaos are not going to be the key determinants of Christmas success or failure in the retail trade this year,” he said.

“Online sales are already booming and this trend is set to continue. International analysts are predicting that, this year, online will really knock the socks of the high street and, for this reason, I can understand why city traders are, not unnecessarily, worried.”

Meanwhile the NI Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) is pushing for the Executive to take urgent action in light of Monday’s “alarming” figures.

“Belfast already has one in four shops vacant and the overall trend is moving toward a quarter of all shops being vacant by the middle of 2013,” Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said.

“While these figures are alarming, our focus has to be on solutions to this growing problem. The Executive is making good progress on Rates and Car Parking but has still not produced a strong planning policy to support town centre retailing.

“The Executive needs a new joined up strategy to tackle this problem, alongside comprehensive retail development plans for each town and city to reverse this decline. NIIRTA has already published a 50 point plan, Town Centre First, setting out our ideas and we will continue to bring solutions to Ministers on this issue.”

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Penélope Cruz will be the new face of Loew

Penélope Cruz will be the new face of Loewe come January 2013. The Oscar-winning star has signed a three-year contract with the LVMH brand, proving her desire to work with the label in the long term. The first campaign will be released this Spring.

For Stuart Vevers, artistic director of the fashion house created in 1846 and bought by LVMH in 1996, Penélope Cruz is the designers reference for the “ideal of Spanish womanhood”

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Retailer Comet to close 41 stores

Stricken electricals retail chain Comet will close 41 stores by the end of the month unless a buyer can be found, administrators have confirmed.

Redundancies were “inevitable” although administrators Deloitte said they would look to place staff from closing stores into other nearby outlets.

Up to 500 jobs could be under threat at 27 of the stores where closing down sales have begun. A further 14 closing down sales will begin early next week.

Chris Farrington, joint administrator, said: “We are very grateful to the company’s employees for their professionalism, loyalty and support at this difficult time and all employees will of course continue to be paid for all the work they do while the company is in administration.”

Deloitte had already announced 330 redundancies at the company but there have been no job losses among shop staff as yet and all the chain’s 236 stores remain open at present.

The bulk of the staff cuts have been made in Comet’s head office in Rickmansworth, Herts, as well as its site in Hull and call centre in Clevedon, Somerset.

The collapse of Comet marks one of the biggest high street casualties since the demise of Woolworths in 2008 and came a month after the failure of JJB Sports.

The group was hit by weak high street trading conditions, competition from online rivals and being unable to secure the trade credit insurance needed to safeguard suppliers.

In particular, it was knocked by the lack of first-time home buyers, which had been key customers for Comet, according to Deloitte.

The high street electricals market in the UK has come under huge pressure as cash-strapped shoppers put off purchases of big-ticket items such as TVs and large appliances and online rivals take a bigger slice of the sector.

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Amazon chief Jeff Bezos would 'love to' open physical stores

“We want to do something that is uniquely Amazon,” said Mr Bezos. “If we can find that idea – and we haven’t found it yet – but if we can find that idea, we would love to open physical stores.”

Amazon’s success as an online retailer is reshaping the way consumers shop and exerting huge pressure on those brick and mortar retailers.

In the US, retailers including Best Buy, the biggest seller of consumer electronics, are shutting stores as other chains try to find ways to increase their online sales without hurting their physical stores.

In Britain, a slew of retailers are shutting shops and investing more in their online operations. The electronics retailer Comet put some of the blame for its demise last month on the growth of online retailing.

Mr Bezos, who founded Amazon in 1994, told the Charlie Rose programme that “the question we would always have before we would embark on such a thing is ‘what’s the idea?'” He added “what would we do that would be different? How would it be better?”

Amazon is aggressively expanding its warehouses as it tries to secure a large share of consumer spending.

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Woolworths records ‘pleasing’ sales, beats expectations

RETAILER Woolworths said on Thursday that sales increased 15.9% for the 20 weeks to November 11, compared with the same period a year ago.

Food sales advanced 11.2%, while clothing sales in South Africa gained 13.7% and general merchandise grew 11.5%, the Cape Town-based group said.

Avior Research analyst Michael Mcleod said the update was “very positive”.

“Looking at their top-line growth, it was a bit ahead of our expectations. Clothing at 13.7% is very good,” he said.

Woolworths‚ which until recently had been losing market share in its clothing business‚ had taken steps to shorten its merchandise cycle, therefore lifting performance in this division.

“We’ve reduced the length of time it takes from design through to store delivery. We’re injecting newness every two weeks. The things we needed to fix‚ we fixed‚” Woolworths CEO Ian Moir said in August.

Sales in Australia and New Zealand increased 36.9%, boosted by its purchase of the Witchery Group from September 30.

“They’ve been struggling in Australia and it’s quite good to see that while excluding acquisition space, they have actually contracted, which means they are focusing on the stores that are profitable rather than on just keeping on expanding,” Mr Mcleod said.

Country Road‚ Woolworths’s 88%-owned subsidiary, concluded the acquisition of 40-year-old fashion retailer Witchery Group from Gresham Private Equity for A$172m (about R1.5bn) in October.

The Witchery Group consists of two brands‚ Witchery and Mimco.

Woolworths said retail space, including stores in the rest of Africa, for the 20-week period grew by 5.2%.

“They have actually expanded relatively fast for the first 20 weeks because they originally anticipated 5.4% space growth for the full year. It could highlight that they will be able to beat those original targets of space growth,” Mr Mcleod said.

Vestact director Sasha Naryshkine said Woolworths’s update was “very pleasing,” in what most retailers continue to call a challenging environment.

“No real stress on the debtors book, I think that is a real relief for those getting anxious about the unsecured credit sector,” he said.

The Woolworths Financial Services debtors book reflected year-on-year growth of 10.9% at the end of October, with the impairment rate for the four months to October at 1.8%.

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Esprit shares surge 33 percent as ex-chairman raises stake

HONG KONG – Shares of Esprit Holdings Ltd jumped as much as 33 percent on Thursday after its former chairman increased his holding in the Europe-focused fashion retailer, fuelling hopes he would play a bigger role in the company.

Esprit, which sells everything from bed sheets to jeans and generates three-quarters of its sales in Europe, performed well under the leadership of Michael Ying, who stepped down in 2008 as a non-executive director.

Ying increased his total holding in Esprit to 10.33 percent, including a rights issue, as of November 7, according to a Hong Kong stock exchange disclosure. He previously held 4.79 percent of the company.

“We believe investors’ initial view will be positive, offering ‘comfort’ as Esprit performed strongly under his leadership,” Deutsche Bank said in a research note.

“We have to monitor developments as to whether Mr Ying will be a passive or active investor.”

Shares of Esprit, which has a market value of $2.7 billion, jumped to a six-month high of HK$14.08, outperforming a 1 percent drop in the benchmark index.

Ying was one of the founders of Esprit and steadily sold his stake in the fashion chain in the past few years to less than 5 percent before the latest share buy. He held a 30.8 percent stake in 2004.

Ranked as the 14th richest person in Hong Kong by Forbes this year, Ying is married to Taiwanese actress Brigitte Lin.

Esprit, which competes with and U.S. group GAP Inc and Japan’s Fast Retailing Co Ltd, said last year that it would invest more than HK$18 billion ($2.3 billion) up to 2015 as part of its restructuring plan.

Also competing with Swedish clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz and Spain’s Inditex, Esprit posted a net profit of HK$318 million ($41 million) for its second half ended in June, compared with a HK$2.06 billion loss a year earlier, based on Reuters’ calculations.

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H&M October like-for-like sales unexpectedly drop

STOCKHOLM – Hennes & Mauritz, the world’s second-largest fashion retailer, reported an unexpected 5 percent fall in comparable sales in October as it suffers from weak demand in crisis-hit Europe.

The fall in October sales in stores open for more than a year in local currencies compared with the average forecast in a Reuters poll for a slight rise of 0.4 percent.

Total sales, which includes new store openings, rose 4 percent, less than the 9 percent forecast in the poll. October is the second month of its fiscal fourth quarter.

“It’s a very weak figure,” said Cheuvreux analyst Daniel Ovin of October sales, which on a like-for-like basis came after a rise of 6 percent in September.

“I think the explanation lies in the fact it’s been an unusually warm autumn. There is also a negative calendar effect, and we know consumers have been weak for some time.”

October total sales were the weakest since April, when they were down 1 percent. In September, total sales grew 15 percent.

H&M has most of its business in Europe, where a sovereign debt crisis and austerity measures have dampened demand.

Apparel sales in Germany, H&M’s single biggest market, were down 4 percent in October, according to industry data.

H&M said it had 2,715 stores at the end of October, up from 2410 at the end of the same month last year.

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Nike Agrees to Sell Cole Haan to Apax for $570 Million

Nike Agrees to Sell Cole Haan to Apax for $570 Million

Nike Inc. (NKE), the world’s largest athletic-shoe maker, agreed to sell its Cole Haan fashion brand to private-equity firm Apax Partners for $570 million as it focuses on faster-growing businesses.

The transaction is expected to be completed in early 2013, Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike said today in a statement. Nike said in May that it was seeking to sell Cole Haan and soccer brand Umbro.

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Nike Agrees to Sell Cole Haan Brand to Apax for $570 Million

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

Nike Inc. , the world’s largest athletic-shoe maker, agreed to sell its Cole Haan fashion brand to private-equity firm Apax Partners for $570 million as it focuses on faster-growing businesses.

Nike Inc. , the world’s largest athletic-shoe maker, agreed to sell its Cole Haan fashion brand to private-equity firm Apax Partners for $570 million as it focuses on faster-growing businesses. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

Nike Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker is focusing on the business units with the most growth potential and profitability. Iconix Brand Group Inc. (ICON) agreed to buy Umbro in October for $225 million in cash.

“It frees Nike up to concentrate on the healthiest piece of the business,” Matt Powell, an analyst for SportsOneSource in Scarborough, Maine. “Putting all of management’s attention to driving athletic footwear worldwide is a good strategy.”

Nike rose 1.9 percent to $92.59 at the close in New York. The shares have dropped 3.9 percent this year.

The company bought Cole Haan in 1988 for $95 million, including debt. After a year of ownership, the division had sales of $87 million.

In the fiscal year ended May 31, Cole Haan increased revenue 2.7 percent to $535 million. That made up 2.2 percent of Nike’s $24.1 billion in total sales. The unit had 178 stores, including 109 in the U.S.

Decent Price

That means the sale price was about one times that of Cole Haan’s annual revenue, which is decent considering it sold Umbro for less than what it paid in 2008, according to Paul Swinand, a retail analyst for Morningstar Inc. (MORN) in Chicago.

The sales of Umbro and Cole Haan come after the units had a combined loss of $43 million before interest and taxes in fiscal 2012 and would lose as much as $75 million if owned for all of fiscal 2013, the company has said.

One potential hurdle to selling Cole Haan was what would be done with the Nike patents used in some of the unit’s shoes. Nike technology will continue to be used by Cole Haan during a transition period, Mary Remuzzi, a Nike spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. She declined to say what would happen after that.

Apax, based in London, partnered with Jack Boys, who left the CEO role at Nike’s Converse unit in 2009. Apax has experience in retail and fashion, buying Tommy Hilfiger in 2006 for about $1.6 billion and then selling it to Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. for about $3 billion in 2010.

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Tod's 9-month sales up 7 percent yet Italy still down

MILAN – Italy’s luxury shoemaker Tod’s said on Tuesday sales continued to fall in its core market in the nine-month to the end of September as the country is in a deep recession.

The maker of leather loafers said global sales grew 7.3 percent to 749.9 million euros ($953 million) in the nine months to the end of September. Sales in Italy fell 13.9 percent in the period.

Growth in the global luxury market is softening in 2012 as European customers rein in spending and China is experiencing a slowdown in economic growth.

Tod’s – which also owns the Hogan, Fay and Roger Vivier brands – is increasing its presence in fast-growing Asian market to reduce exposure to the declining Italian market.

Tod’s Chief Executive Diego Della Valle confirmed expectations of a significant growth in 2012.

In September, Della Valle said he expected full-year sales to reach 1 billion euros.

Tod’s also said it had extended its sunglasses licence with Italian group Marcolin until the end of 2018.

After the results shares in Tod’s extended earlier losses and were down 4 percent at 1406 GMT.

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