Monthly Archives: January 2013

QE2 to become luxury hotel in Asia

One of the world’s most famous passenger liners, the Queen Elizabeth 2, is destined for Asia to become a floating luxury hotel, according to its owners.

The deal marks the latest twist in the fate of the QE2, which has been docked in Dubai since it was purchased by the state investment company Istithmar World in 2007 at the height of the city-state’s boom.

In July, plans were announced to keep the vessel in Dubai as a hotel and part of a maritime centre.

A statement today from Dubai officials did not give any details on the ship’s destination in Asia, but a map at the port shows a route taking the vessel to China.

It said the QE2 will become a 500-room luxury hotel after undergoing checks in Dubai.


Shoprite sales disappoint, shares drop

Johannesburg – Shoprite Holdings [JSE:SHP], Africa’s biggest grocer, reported a 14% increase in first-half sales on Monday, disappointing investors who had expected a bigger increase from the fast-growing retailer.

Shares of Shoprite tumbled more than 3% after it said sales totalled R46.7bn in the six months to end-December.

The Cape Town-based company, which operates in 17 African countries outside South Africa, said sales in those stores grew by 28% while its core South African business increased sales by 11.5%.

“The general view is that the numbers are little bit light; not quite at the levels people were expecting,” said Reuben Beelders, chief investment officer at Gryphon Asset Management.

“Also the trend is down. Retailers have reported so many years of growing revenues, I think at some point there should be a slowdown. The price has run incredibly hard.”

Domestic retailers, which are also expanding into the rest of Africa, have been the darlings of investors in recent months but many analysts have said shares have been pushed to unjustifiable levels.

South African consumers are also battling with high personal debt levels, rising electricity prices and chronic unemployment but above-inflation wage hikes, government grants and decades-low interest rates have somewhat softened the blow.

Shares of Shoprite were down 3.7% at R192.46, making it the biggest negative contributor to the benchmark Top 40 – (Tradeable) [JSE:J200] index.


Hugo Boss goes infra-red to beat luxury gloom

METZINGEN – German fashion house Hugo Boss is feeling confident for 2013, even in crisis-hit Europe, thanks to some tricks it has up its well-tailored sleeve to entice customers and take more control over how its suits are sold.

Although the group foresees a slow start to 2013, it is optimistic for the rest of the year, Chief Financial Officer Mark Langer told Reuters in an interview.

“What we expect is an improvement over the course of the year,” he said at the group’s headquarters in the small German town of Metzingen near Stuttgart. “I’m more cautious for the first quarter.”

While sales of pricey clothes, bags and watches held up well during the financial crisis thanks to demand from Chinese fans of luxury brands, growth has tailed off over recent months.

Consultancy Bain forecasts growth of 4-6 percent a year for the luxury market through 2015, after 10 percent in 2012. Hugo Boss wants to outpace this growth again, as it did in both 2011 and 2012, Langer said.

One way it has done this is to move away from selling only to wholesalers and instead becoming more of a retailer, opening its own stores and taking over concessions in department stores, to better control how its products are sold and benefit from the higher profit margins from selling directly to customers.

It is also testing a range of measures in a bid to improve sales, such as infra-red sensors in its store on London’s Regent Street, which track body heat to show which parts of its stores are most popular, thus allowing it to better place products.

In addition, Hugo Boss has increased to four collections per year from previously only two, and ensures stores have new products every 8-9 weeks.

“We want to make customers feel that they’re missing out if they don’t come into the shop regularly,” Langer said.

Hugo Boss expects 55 percent of its sales will come from its own retail operations by 2015, but Langer said that share could also be bigger by then.

The group will continue takeovers of “shop-in-shops” in department stores in 2013, Langer said, in addition to a target to open around 50 new stores a year.


In China, Langer said like-for-like sales – which strip out the effect of new store openings – should return to positive growth after falling in the second and third quarters of 2012.

He also said he expected “very solid” growth in the United States, currently Hugo Boss’s fastest growing region, as its clean European stylings attract affluent professionals there.

Hugo Boss’s sales rose 13 percent in the United States in the third quarter, while overall group sales were flat at 646 million euros (530 million pounds).

Hugo Boss currently gets around 60 percent of its sales from Europe, 22 percent from the Americas, and 15 percent from Asia.

Langer also confirmed its 2012 target for currency-adjusted group sales growth of around 10 percent and core profit growth of 10-12 percent, and indicated investors could expect a similar increase in the dividend.

Shares of Hugo Boss rose 2 percent to 82.99 euros by 0955 GMT, outperforming a flat German midcap index.

In the United States, where Hugo Boss says it is achieving higher growth rates than the department stores it sells to, such as Saks, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, the group is pleased with the early results of a new Made to Order service.

The scheme, in place since October, allows customers to customize a suit in-store by choosing the buttons, lining and fabric they desire.

“It works from a technical point of view of actually getting the desired suits to customers within the two week timeframe and the price premium of an extra $100 is accepted,” Langer said.

The manager, whose simply-styled office was decorated only with a bunch of flowers to celebrate his 10 years at the company, said he expects the European market to remain varied in 2013 but said the impact of the debt crisis on Hugo Boss was limited thanks to spending on suits by tourists from Asia.

“We see a better growth dynamic in countries such as the UK, Benelux and Germany,” he said.

In those countries where the economic outlook is tougher, such as France, Italy, Greece and Spain, Langer sees an opportunity for buying up retail space.

“We’re in talks for a new location in Rome and we’re looking for stores in France along the Mediterranean coast,” he said, explaining that having stores in tourist hotspots helped to keep the customer base stable even when locals were spending less.

Blockbuster calls in administrators

The US-backed company is the third major retailer to go into administration in less than a week following the failures of HMV and Jessops.

Together, the retailers employed 10,330 staff and have almost 1,000 stores in the UK.

Britain is now on course for a record number of store closures this month — more than the 807 that closed due to the demise of Woolworths in January 2009, according to the Local Data Company, which measures the number of empty shops on the high street.

Administrators Deloitte said it had already had three expressions of interest in Blockbuster.

It also thought that supermarket chains including Wm Morrison and Tesco are considering bids for Blockbuster sites to use them as convenience stores.

Lee Manning, joint administrator and partner at Deloitte, said Blockbuster’s 528 stores will remain open as the administrators try to find a bidder to rescue the business.

Deloitte will also honour Blockbuster gift vouchers after a customer backlash against HMV for its refusal to accept vouchers.

Mr Manning said he hoped that up to 70pc of the company’s portfolio can be rescued. “We want to preserve a viable core that has not been damaged in anyway,” he said.

Blockbuster, which is owned by US pay-TV provider Dish Network, called in administrators after failing to meet profit targets at the end of last year.

Blockbuster UK has no secured creditor but owes its US parent £23m, which includes unpaid royalty fees. It also has £90m in unexpired leases outstanding.

The company still has 2m rental customers and in the final quarter of 2012 it was hoping to generate £4.3m in earnings.

However, instead it only broke even, meaning it did not have the funds to press ahead with a company voluntary arrangement, which would have allowed it to exit loss-making stores.

“The company just reached the point of no return,” said Mr Manning. “After this it risked more and more asset erosion.”

Blockbuster opened its first store in south London in 1989. Despite having 2m customers it managed to transfer only 35,000 across to online.

In 2010 the US parent went bankrupt and was rescued by Dish Network.

“A loss of around £10m a year is not sustainable,” said one insider. “The company simply could not go on.”

Like many retailers, Blockbuster has struggled to keep up with online competition and failed to adapt quickly enough to changing consumer habits.

In recent years sales have slumped dramatically, with the company moving from a £1.7m profit in 2010 to a £8.4m loss in 2011 and a £11.2m loss last year.


QR20bn shopping malls to come up in Qatar

DOHA: Qatar will soon have more cozy shopping malls and commercial complexes with at least nine such facilities costing a whopping QR20bn planned in the next three years.

Most of the new facilities will be built in Gharafa, Kharatiyat, Wakra and Al Khor and some will be based in the new township to be developed on the location of the existing Doha International Airport, according to Al Sharq.

The UAE-based Al Futaim Group has already announced plans to open its first shopping mall in Qatar, Doha Festival City, which is expected to cost QR6bn. Industry sources expect the facility to be ready in two to three years.

Ezdan will build three malls in Gharafa, Wakra and Wukair under its new arm Ezdan Mall Company to be launched very soon, said the daily.
The North Gate Mall, a luxury shopping facility in Khartiyat is expected to be completed by next year, while work on the Marina Mall would start this year. The Doha Mall in Mesaimeer costing QR2.5bn and the Tawar Mall are among the other projects in the pipeline.

Industry experts believe that there is still space for big shopping malls in Qatar, with a booming market and growing population.
“Qatar still do not have many big shopping malls. Over the past three years, only one such facility was opened in Al Khor,” said a senior official of a leading hypermarket chain.

“The market will become more vibrant with opening of more commercial facilities,” he added.

The success of a new facility depends on many factors, mainly the location, the way it is managed and the nature of its business.

“Professionalism in management is a very important factor. There are many shopping facilities in key locations that are struggling to win customers,” he said.

The increase in the number of facilities may not necessarily bring the prices down since the market in Qatar is already competitive.

“Commodity prices in Qatar are mainly dependent on the prices in international market. Local factors have only limited impact on the prices,” he said.


South African retailers seen as overpriced

SHARES of Mr Price, Woolworths, Shoprite and other blue-chip South African retailers fell on Tuesday, hit by concern that they are overbought after months of aggressive gains.

Sentiment may be souring after Shoprite, Africa’s top grocer, on Monday reported first-half sales that fell short of market expectations, sending its shares down nearly 6%.

“There’s a switch from the retailers into the mining stocks. There’s a recognition that these sectors (retailers) are way overbought in this market at the moment,” Thebe Stockbroking’s Bruno van Eck said.

Retailers were leading the falls on the top 40 index on Tuesday. Mr Price was down 3.9% at R128.11 in intraday trade on Tuesday, while Woolworths had fallen 3% to R64.38. Shoprite was down 1.9% at R184.53.

Woolworths gained 80% in 2012 while Shoprite notched up 50%.

“They’ve seen some massive profits. It’s good to see something coming off the table. Markets have got to be flattened out, you can’t have one sector just flying, some kind of bubble will start to appear,” Mr van Eck said.


GCC planned projects hit $2,000bn, up 12%

GCC planned projects hit $2,000bn, up 12%

An artist’s impression of Mohammed Bin Rashid City.

Projects planned and underway across the Gulf region now total more than $2,000bn, up 12 percent on the year-earlier period, according to Citi’s MENA Construction Projects Tracker.

The Citi report said all markets across the GCC had risen, mostly driven by new project announcements.

It said this is the first period since the first quarter of 2010 that the UAE has shown growth in its construction market which is up six percent to $614bn.

“This is driven by the recently announced Dubai mega real estate projects,” the Citi report added.

In November, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced plans to build a new multi-billion dollar city project called Mohammed Bin Rashid City.

It will include the world’s biggest shopping mall, 100 hotels, a Universal family theme park and a park that is a third bigger than Hyde Park in London.

In the same month, Dubai approved the development of a AED10bn destination that will feature five distinct theme parks based on movies, animals and fun characters that shall appeal to all demographics.

Citi’s report said: “For the UAE focus is now on a potential revival in Dubai. While real estate development spend is rising we believe the key bottleneck for the emirate remains financing.”

It added that preliminary stage projects in the UAE now stood at $199bn, up 127 percent from Oct, driven by Sheikh Mohammed’s announcement.

“To note, this project is yet to reach the feasibility stage. Given Dubai’s upcoming major debt refinancing we believe this project is at risk of delay,” Citi said.

Elsewhere in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia’s planned projects are up 19 percent but has slowed. It remains the largest GCC market with projects totalling $790bn.

“To some degree we would expect some slowing of growth given the size of the market,” Citi said.

The report showed that Kuwait projects were up 16 percent to $206bn but added that delays were a key risk due to geo-political factors.

Qatar’s planned projects are up six percent year-on-year to $228bn while growth in Bahrain has slowed to stand at $64bn and Oman is up six percent to $122bn.

For the main markets in the Middle East and North Africa, the project pipeline was up five percent to $308bn since October, Citi’s report said.

It added that the growth was driven by Iraq (up 29 percent), the UAE (up 15 percent) and Saudi Arabia (up four percent).

Early stage projects were up 17 percent to $655bn over the same period, mostly driven by the UAE (up 127 percent).

Citi said the value of cancelled and delayed projects in MENA currently stands at $1,449bn.


Burberry Sales Beat Estimates on Demand for Expensive Lines

Burberry Group Plc (BRBY), the U.K.’s largest luxury-goods goods maker, reported third-quarter revenue that beat analyst estimates, sending the shares above the price they traded at before the company warned on profit in September.

Sales rose 7 percent to 613 million pounds ($985 million), London-based Burberry said today, exceeding the 601.4 million- pound average of nine analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The shares surged as much as 7.1 percent to 1,419 pence.

“These results should reassure and improve sentiment after last September’s blip in trading when Burberry was affected by the industry slowdown rather than anything company specific,” Kate Calvert, an analyst at Seymour Pierce, wrote in a note.

A 13 percent increase in underlying retail sales, led by demand for higher-priced styles, more than offset weaker wholesale revenue that caused Burberry to cut its forecast for sales from that division. Outerwear contributed about half of the growth in retail sales.

Burberry benefited “from a particularly strong week in the run up to Christmas” in an otherwise difficult quarter, Chief Executive Officer Angela Ahrendts said in the statement.

Sales climbed 16 percent in the Asia-Pacific region, led by Hong Kong and China, and advanced 4 percent in each of Europe and the U.S., excluding currency swings, Burberry said. Korea and Italy remained weak, the company said.

Uneven Trading

“Trading patterns are still very uneven” and “we see footfall being softer on a global basis,” Chief Financial Officer Stacey Cartwright said on a call with reporters. Still, more customers are buying in stores rather than looking and the company is “encouraged by a rebound” in China, she said, echoing comments over the weekend by Ermenegildo Zegna SpA.

Wholesale revenue fell 5 percent on an underlying basis because of lower sales to small specialty accounts in Europe. Revenue from the division in the six months ended March 31 will decline by a low- to mid-single-digit percentage excluding currency swings, Burberry said. It previously estimated broadly unchanged wholesale sales in the second half.

“There is a heightened concern on our part about the robustness from a credit perspective of some of those accounts in Italy,” Cartwright said. “We’re taking a very prudent stance.”

Sales at department stores and airports outside Europe are expected to show continued growth, Burberry said.

Licensing revenue climbed 4 percent, excluding currency swings, Burberry said, maintaining its forecast for unchanged sales in the full year. The plan to move Burberry’s fragrance and beauty business in-house from April is on plan, the company also said.


Gucci Unveils First Store in Rio de Janeiro

Zee Report::Fashion news Gucci Unveils First Store in Rio de Janeiro

Gucci will open a new store today in the Village Mall in Rio de Janeiro. The 3,498-square-foot shop will feature a range of women’s and men’s accessories, as well as the Gucci children’s collection.

“This is our fifth store in Brazil and the first in Rio de Janeiro, underscoring our belief in the long-term potential for this market,” said Patrizio di Marco, president and chief executive officer of Gucci. “In fact, from the beginning of this year we have established a fully dedicated team and structure in São Paulo to support the growth of our business in Brazil and the rest of Latin America.”

Designed by Frida Giannini, Gucci’s creative director, the store incorporates open space and luxurious materials such as marble and rosewood, along with ribbed glass, warm polished gold, bronze mirrors and bronze glass as a nod to the Art Deco era. Geometric lines, including Gucci’s signature web striping, define the space. In addition, materials and accents indigenous to Brazil have been incorporated into the store’s design. “Black cosmic” marble, mined from quarries native to Brazil, is used throughout the floor of the perimeter facade and storefront display areas. The handbag display area features custom black panels covered by ivory wood veneer or ivory lacquer.

The store features handbags, small leather goods, jewelry and luggage, in addition to the children’s wear. The Brazil series of the GG Flag Collection, an exclusive line of accessories identified by the green, yellow and blue Brazilian flag and a new stylization of the interlocking GG logo, is also offered in the Rio de Janeiro store. Twenty-five percent of the retail price of each GG Flag Collection item sold will be donated to UNICEF education initiatives.

Gucci presently has stores at the Iguatemi shopping centers in São Paulo and Brasília, which opened in 2009 and 2011, respectively, and at Cidade Jardim and JK Mall, both of which opened last year.


Net-A-Porter sees sales increase by 55 per cent

Net-A-Porter, the online luxury fashion destination, experienced a 55 per cent rise in sales last year, from £238 million to £368 million, reports the Mail on Sunday .

However, the site also made a loss of £27 million following investments in the business – including the purchase of Asian online fashion dealer Shouke for £6.6 million, which was bought to help the British-born site crack the Chinese market, and £22.9 million spent on setting up automated distribution centres in the U.K. and US.

The expansion also meant the number of employees has almost doubled.

Net-A-Porter was set up by former fashion editor Natalie Massenet in 2000 after she realised there was no way of purchasing designer labels online. Luxury goods group Richemont, which previously held a 33 per cent stake in Net-A-Porter, acquired a majority stake of the company from a group of private shareholders for around £225 million in 2010, with Massenet remaining as executive chairman.

Massenet, who was recently appointed chairwoman of the British Fashion Council replacing Harold Tillman, was said to have personally made in the region of £50 million from the deal.


Swatch buys into Harry Winston in $750m deal

Swatch Group is buying the luxury jewellery arm of Canada’s Harry Winston in a US$750m cash deal to expand into high-end bracelets, rings and necklaces.

“Harry Winston does brilliantly complement the prestige segment of the group,” Chairwoman Nayla Hayek said in a statement. “We are proud and happy to welcome Harry Winston to the Swatch Group family – diamonds are still a girl’s best friend.”

Consolidation has picked up in the luxury goods industry as strong Asian demand for pricey items boosts earnings in the sector, giving companies the firepower to expand their portfolios.

The world’s biggest luxury goods group LVMH bagged Italian jewellery maker Bulgari for US$5.2bn in 2011 and took a stake in Hermes in 2010. Rival Richemont acquired online retailer Net-a-Porter in 2010.

Swatch Group is already the biggest watchmaker by sales, including brands such as Omega, and the acquisition of the prestigious diamond jewellery maker allows it to enter high-end jewellery, a market dominated by Richemont with its flagship brand Cartier.

“From a strategic perspective it is positive – Swatch Group has long said it wanted to expand in jewellery,” Kepler Capital Markets analyst Jon Cox said. “Details are sketchy but it might also give it a long-term deal on supply of diamonds, something the company has also looked for.

“At first glance it does not look cheap, but that is probably more a reflection of the profitability of Harry Winston at this stage, which is in ramp-up stage in terms of expansion,” Cox added.

The acquisition amounts to US$750m plus the assumption of up to US$250m of pro-forma net debt.

The two companies will also explore the opportunities for a joint diamond polishing venture, bringing together the manufacturing and diamond expertise of the two companies.

Reuters reported in October Harry Winston was looking to sell its luxury business and had been approached by potential buyers.

Swatch Group said the transaction, which is subject to the approval of regulatory authorities, did not include the mining activities of Harry Winston Diamond Corp. It comprises 535 employees and a production company in Geneva, Swatch said.

“The Harry Winston brand now has a new home that can provide the skills and support that it deserves to realize its true potential,” said Robert A. Gannicott, chairman of the board and chief executive of Harry Winston Diamond Corp.

Harry Winston, which started as a small jeweller in New York in 1924, was made famous by a reference in Marilyn Monroe’s song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the film “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”.

Every year the firm lends out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of jewels to be worn by movie starts on the red carpet at events like the Oscars.

In addition to its luxury retail brand, Harry Winston also owns a 40 percent stake in the Diavik diamond mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Rio Tinto holds the remaining 60 percent.

Mergers and acquisitions in the watch making industry have also been boosted by Swatch Group’s decision to cut back on watch component and movement deliveries, forcing peers to improve their access to watch making know-how.

Swatch Group itself has bought more than a dozen component makers over the last 10 years, its most recent buys being watch case maker Simon & Membrez and a 60 percent stake in case polisher Termiboites last year.

The last watchmakers it took over were high-end brands Glashuette Original and Jaquet Droz in 2000.


JC Penney shares slide as UBS sees worse holiday sales

J.C. Penney Co Inc slid as much as 8 percent on Friday after UBS published a research note saying holiday quarter sales have likely been worse than expected and questioned the retailer’s ability to roll out its new shops on schedule.

Penney, which operates 1,100 department stores, last January announced a bold turnaround plan that called for the elimination of most coupons and sales events, along with the eventual transformation of each of its 700 largest stores into a collection of 100 shops for brands like Levi’s and PVH Corp’s Izod.

But customers, trained for decades to respond to discounts, balked at the new pricing, leading to a dramatic deterioration in business, including a 26.1 percent drop last quarter in Penney’s sales at stores open at least a year.

UBS analyst Michael Binetti lowered his forecast for Penney’s fiscal fourth quarter, which is still underway and includes the holiday period, and expects same-store sales to decline 28 percent, from an earlier projection of a 20 percent decline.

Penney is expected to report quarterly sales and earnings numbers in late February.

UBS downgraded Penney stock to sell from neutral and set a price target of $13, down from $21.

Shares of Penney were down 5.5 percent to $18.10 in noon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. They fell as low as $17.61 earlier in the day.

Pressured to improve its performance, Penney did relent on its no-discounts approach last month, with signs in stores clearly showing markdowns, and offered shoppers “gift” coupons, moves Binetti said would dent gross profit margin.

“A reversion to in-store discounting in (the fourth quarter) suggests that same-store sales plans are below plan,” Binetti wrote in his note to clients.

Worsening sales numbers could hurt its ability to carry out the roll-out of the next shops, which have been well received and so far proved to generate more sales per square foot.

“We believe JCP may have to slow the roll-out of new high productivity shops,” he wrote.

So far the shops, which also include spaces for the new ‘jcp’ private brand, account for only 11 percent of the selling space at the stores being transformed.

The company will open shops for homegoods designer Jonathan Adler and fashion retailer Joe Fresh among others this spring.

The retailer, which declined to comment, said in November it would have $1 billion in cash on hand at year-end and could self-fund its transformation. But its sales performance casts doubt on that, Binetti said.

Still, J.C. Penney Chief Executive Ron Johnson told trade publication Women’s Wear Daily this week that Penney’s transformation was on track and would be completed in 2015 as planned.

Concerns about Penney have grown as evidence mounted that the holiday season proved to be difficult, with many retailers forced to offer deeper than expected discounts.

Kohl’s Corp last week lowered its holiday quarter profit forecast because of the need to clear unsold merchandise and Macy’s Inc (M.N) lowered its quarterly sales and profit forecasts.


REVEALED: New mall projects planned for Dubai

The total amount of new mall-based retail space handed over in Dubai last year declined by 72 percent compared to 2011, according to report by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).

The total stock of retail space in the emirate’s malls stood at approximately 2.9m sqm at the end of 2012, with no major completions at recorded in the last quarter of the year.

However, this is all set to change with a large number of new projects announced in late 2012 and a series of prominent projects due to enter the market in the coming years.

Over a dozen retail projects are set to be developed in Dubai going forward, while rents in new malls remain strong. Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates continue to outperform the industry in terms of record footfalls, sales volumes and occupancy, JLL said.

By comparison, rents in secondary and old malls have either remained flat or dropped marginally, widening the differential between primary and secondary centres, the report added.

Of the projects coming on-stream, JLL said several new projects are likely to perform well, such as the Jumeirah Beach Village Mall in Jumeirah Beach Residences, which it believed will “benefit from the strong population density in Dubai Marina, the inflow of tourists as well as the upcoming tram project in the area.”

Overall, the retail market in Dubai continues to perform well, supported by a strong tourism industry and the perception of Dubai as a “safe haven”, JLL concluded.

The Avenue by Meraas
One of the first projects due for handover in 2013 is the Avenue project by Meraas, which will come on stream in the first quarter of 2013.
Located at the junction of Al Wasl Road and Safa Road, phase 1 of The Avenue will cover over 350 metres of retail frontage and a grand European-style, tree lined walk.
Over 85 percent of the project is currently leased, according to Meraas’ website.

Madinat Jumeirah expansion
Announced in November 2012, the AED2.5bn ($680m) plan to expand the Madinat Jumeirah is the fourth phase of development at the popular tourism magnet.
The new development, which will face the Burj Al Arab area, will include a luxury 420-room, five-star hotel, villas complex, restaurants, a commercial centre featuring retail stores and an open walking area.
The project is slated to be completed before the end of 2015.

Dubai Mall expansion
Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa developer Emaar Properties in November announced it will expand the world’s biggest mall to include luxury homes, serviced residences and a new hotel as part of its 1m sq ft expansion.
The residential units will feature direct access to the new shopping boulevard as well as views of The Dubai Fountain and the Burj Khalifa.
Emaar said in November it had completed the masterplan for the extension and expected construction work to begin soon.
Dubai Mall already boasts 1,200 retail stores and 160 food and beverage outlets and attracted over 54m shoppers between January and September 2012, up 15 percent compared to the same period the previous year.

Mall of the World – MBR City
One of the largest developments to be announced last year was a new multi-billion dollar project called Mohammad Bin Rashid City.
The new city project, which will be built by Dubai Holding and Emaar Properties, will also 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.
While no details have been given yet, the new mall will be named Mall of the World and will overtake current record-holder Dubai Mall.
The project will comprise four key components, with the mall in the second phase.

Jumeirah Beach Village Mall, JBR
September 2012 saw the announcement of plans for a 1km-long mall along the popular Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) area of Dubai. The new retail area will also include a number of F&B (food and beverage) options, details of which are yet to be revealed.
The development, to be built by Meraas Holding, will be a low-rise building running from the Hilton Hotel at one end to the Sheraton Hotel at the other and is expected to be completed in 2014.

Dragon Mart expansion
In August 2011, Nakheel announced plans to more than double the size of the Dragon Mart Mall, which at 1.2km long already makes it the largest trading centre for Chinese products outside mainland China.
Kele Contracting has been contracted to undertake the development, along with a nine storey, three-star, 246-room hotel alongside it.
The hotel is part of the 177,000 sq m Dragon Mart Phase 2 development, the builder said in a statement.
The AED600m project will also include a new four storey car park for 1,894 additional cars.

The completion of Phase 2 will bring the total size of the Dragon Mart complex to 335,000 sq m.
Construction had been expected to start in the first half of 2012.

Dubai Pearl Mall
The 112,000 sqm retail facility Dubai Pearl Shopping Mall is due to open in 2015 and developers modestly claim it will rival LA’s Rodeo Drive and New York’s Fifth Avenue for elegance.
It will also include 60 restaurants, sidewalk cafes and bars, an entertainment district and will be 100 percent pedestrian-friendly.

Palm Mall, Palm Jumeirah
The new retail outlet on the Palm Jumeirah went into design in 2012 and is set to be launched in early 2013, with construction expected to be completed in 2014, Nakheel’s CEO Sanjay Manchanda said earlier this month.
In October, Nakheel launched a tender for the construction of its 160,000 sqm shopping development. Architectural practice RSP was appointed to design the mall under a US$6.8m contract in April 2012.

Ibn Battuta Mall expansion
Nakheel CEO Sanjay Manchanda said earlier this month the developer plans to double capacity at the popular Ibn Battuta Mall.
Last month, Nakheel invited tenders for contractors to carry out the work, with a deadline set at January 16 this month.
Construction had been expected to start in the first half of 2012.

The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah
In mid-2012, Nakheel announced plans for The Pointe at Palm Jumeirah, a retail project which will be located across the water from the Atlantis hotel and will include 120 restaurants, 75 shops, a marina and a public walk on the tip of the palm-shaped island.
Chairman Ali Rashed Lootah said Nakheel was in talks with banks to raise at least AED300m (US$82m) for the project, which will be operated by the company when it’s completed.
The plan includes a new station for the monorail running up the center of the palm-shaped island and parking for 1,200 cars.
Nakheel said once construction starts. It expects the new project to be completed within 18 months.


HMV expected to call in administrators within hours

The 92-year-old store has seen its sales eroded by online music retailers and digital downloads, and has been attempting to manage £220m of bank debt.

It warned last month that its future was in “material uncertainty” and that it was likely to breach banking covenants at the end of January.

The company was due to issue a crucial Christmas trading update as early as this week.

The decision to call in administrators is understood to have been taken at a meeting late on Monday night.

Deloitte is expected to be appointed to handle the administration as early as Tuesday.

The retailer has 238 stores across the UK and Ireland and 9 Fopp stores.

It is thought that HMV’s suppliers, which had thus far supported the company and provided financial help, may have turned down a request for further assistance.

Last week HMV began a massive sale in an attempt to boost revenues, sending its shares down more than a fifth on Friday.

Sources at the time claimed the promotion was “nothing to do” with the negotiations.

It had already raised cash by selling off book store Waterstones for £53m and the Hammersmith Apollo music venue for £32m.

It has also shifted its emphasis from the fast-declining CD and DVD market to new technology products.

Earlier on Monday sources told Reuters that private equity firm Apollo Global Management did not intend to take over HMV, despite having bought some of its debt.

The development at HMV is the latest blow to the high street which has seen the collapse of stores such as JJB Sports and Comet in recent months.

Camera retailer Jessops fell into administration last week.

At HMV’s interim results in December it revealed a 10.2pc fall in like-for-like sales and posted a total group loss of £36.1m.

HMV’s first store was opened in July 1921 by Edward Elgar.

The retailer floated on the London Stock Exchange in May 2002, valued at £1bn.

On Monday its shares closed at 1.1p, down 8.3pc on the day, valuing it at just £4.7m.

HMV’s chief executive Trevor Moore, who previously led Jessops, took over in September from Simon Fox, who had spent six years at the helm.

At HMV Mr Moore instigated a series of reforms that he said were intended to improve in-store service.

But he warned in December: “While I can see many future opportunities it is clear to me that the current market conditions, and in particular the volatility in the group’s core music, visual and games markets, create uncertainty as to the level of trading results that can be achieved in the year ahead.”


Burberry Appoints Jan Heppe

Burberry has named Jan Heppe president of the Americas. She succeeds Eugenia Ulasewicz, who served in the role for 15 years. Ulasewicz will continue as a non-executive director of the Burberry Foundation.

As one of Burberry’s three global presidents (Europe, Asia, Americas), Heppe will oversee all sales channels, including online, for all global products in the Americas. The region, which accounts for 25 percent of Burberry’s global business covers the U.S., Canada and Latin America.

Heppe joined Burberry in 2001 as vice president of stores for Burberry USA. Since March 2010, she has been chief operating officer for the Americas. During her tenure, she has been instrumental in developing the Americas business and strategically aligning its global positioning across all channels.

Angela Ahrendts, chief executive officer of Burberry, said, “Jan is an outstanding leader with deep operational expertise, and has played a key role in the successful transformation of the Burberry business in the region over the past decade. As an established member of our global senior executive team, Jan is ideally placed to drive further growth in the Americas, as we continue to realize the potential of existing channels and new markets in the region.”

Ahrendts added, “We thank Eugenia for her amazing partnership, the wonderful team and relationships that she has built. We wish her well in her retirement. We are [pleased] that she will continue to remain a non-executive director of the Burberry Foundation.”

Prior to joining Burberry in 1998, Ulasewicz was senior vice president of Saks Inc. Earlier, she was president and ceo of Galeries Lafayette in New York, where she opened the first and only branch of the French department store group in America. She began her career in the training program at Bloomingdale’s, where she spent 14 years in various merchandising and store assignments, rising to regional vice president/stores.


Northern Ireland retail plan puts John Lewis store in doubt

Alex Attwood spoke ahead of the government decision on a public inquiry into the store’s planning application.

“Sprucefield will play a key role as a regional centre which will complement rather than compete with Belfast and existing city and town centres,” he said.

A store at Sprucefield would be the first site in Northern Ireland for the retailer, and although the planning application was originally made in 2004, it has been delayed by long-running planning rows.

Traders claim the department store could damage city centre trading, and Alex Attwood said his comments are part of a “precautionary approach to retailing” considering the high vacancy rate.

He added that any plans for new shops must take into account the expansion of Sprucefield for only large items such as furniture and electrical goods.

“I have to do the right thing for all our retailers, all our shop workers, all our communities and the right thing is to allow Sprucefield to grow as a very successful big box retail centre and crucially, at a time of recession, and increasing shop vacancies protect city centres and town centres, most of all Belfast,” he added.

I have decided to restrict future retailing at Sprucefield to bulky goods only.

Alex Attwood

But Minister Attwood said he was not trying to prejudice the outcome of a public inquiry into the Sprucefield planning application, which is due to open in April.

“That planning application remains to be considered carefully following the Planning Appeals Commission Inquiry Report,” he explained.

“All the relevant issues within the public inquiry report will be interrogated carefully before a final Ministerial decision is made.”

A spokesperson for John Lewis said they were considering the Minister’s statement, but remain “fully committed” to opening a full-line department store at Sprucefield.

NI Independent Retail Trade Association Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said they want to see John Lewis in the region

“We have always emphasised the need for them to locate in a town or city centre rather than an out of town location”

“We need closure on the Sprucefield question and hopefully April’s Planning Appeals Commission will resolve this issue and not drag it out any further,” he added.

Meanwhile, Lisburn city centre is to be put forward for additional retail spaces and Mr Attwood said the centre of Belfast needs to be seen as the leading shopping centre in Northern Ireland.

“I am strongly committed to putting Belfast first in these difficult times. This is consistent with the revised Regional Development Strategy 2035 which aims to strengthen Belfast as the regional economic driver and the primary retail location in Northern Ireland,” he said.

Mr Attwood also wants to increase shops in Bangor, Carrickfergus, Ballyclare, Carryduff and Holywood town centres.

“I also want to see Lisburn City Centre and other town centres in the metropolitan area taking additional retail floor space,” he said.

His comments are part of the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan retail strategy, which it is hoped will be adopted by his department by the end of March.

Over the last nine years our consistent and clear position has been that the only suitable location for a John Lewis department store in Northern Ireland is at Sprucefield

John Lewis

Lisburn City Council warned that the move could have major repercussions and may curb future development in towns and cities across NI.

“It is nonsensical that the PAC was tasked, as an independent body, to make impartial recommendations,” said Chairman of the Council’s Planning Committee, James Tinsley.

“This was duly done and it now appears that the Minister’s comments are at odds with these recommendations. We will be seeking urgent clarification on this.

“We are bitterly disappointed with the Minister’s announcement and we will continue to support the future retail development at Sprucefield.”

Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn said: “The Minister’s announcement today is bad news for Lisburn, Greater Belfast and Northern Ireland. Mr Atwood can justify his decision however he chooses but it is a fact, confirmed on many occasions by the developers and the John Lewis consortium that they are not interested in any sites in here except Sprucefield.

“The notion that they can be redirected to Belfast is unrealistic and frankly arrogant.”

Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann said: “While I am disappointed at this decision it is not the end of the matter and there is still a possibility that the store could get the go ahead at the site.

“Sinn Féin has lobbied for several years for John Lewis to come to Sprucefield. It would create much-needed employment opportunities to an area like Colin that has a high level of social and economic need. Sinn Féin will continue to push for the development to take place at Sprucefield despite this set back.”

Hugh Black, centre manager of Victoria Square in Belfast, said: “Planning policy which bolsters city and town centre environments is exactly what is required for Belfast city centre and the Environment Minister’s statement today clarifies a position that makes sense and is in line with good planning practice across the rest of the UK and the developed world.”

John King, chief executive of House of Fraser, said: “This decision is in line with planning policy across the rest of the UK which restricts out of town retail in favour of city centre protection and regeneration.

“Alex Attwood has made a responsible and wise decision to strengthen the policy which protects and enhances Belfast’s primary shopping role in Northern Ireland.”


Supermac’s boss confirms Australian franchise calls

SUPERMAC’S boss, Pat McDonagh, confirmed yesterday that he has already received six requests from Australia this week to start franchised Supermac’s operations there.

Mr McDonagh confirmed the immediate interest in his Australian expansion plan as he also confirmed pre-tax profits of €5m last year (2012) at his fast food group.

The managing director of Supermac’s was commenting on new accounts filed with the Companies Office that how that pre-tax profits dipped slightly from €5m to €4.98m in the 12 months to the end of December 2011.

New figures lodged by Supermac’s Holdings Ltd show that the group increased revenues in 2011 by 7pc, from €60.5m to €64.9m.

Mr McDonagh said yesterday that that 2012 and 2011 have been “positive years for the business and that is due to our customers and the hard work of staff and management”.

The former school teacher said that revenues last year increased by 3.5pc, with profits increasing by under 1pc on 2011.

Mr McDonagh added that the group will open up four outlets in Ireland this year, subject to planning. He confirmed that the group – between owner-operated and franchised outlets – operates 104 outlets in Ireland, employing up to 2,500.

On the planned Australian expansion, Mr McDonagh said that he hopes to open one outlet this year in either Sydney, Melbourne or Perth.

He said that he would hope to open a further two in 2014 and two in 2015.

Mr McDonagh said: “That is where the market is and we will be taking one step at a time until we find our feet.”

He added: “Taytos and Barry’s Tea export so why can’t we, and Irish people in Australia will be able to get the same curry chip or Supermac’s 5-oz burger they get at home in Ireland.”

The new accounts show that Mr McDonagh has a large amount of cash to invest in any new venture, with cash totalling €17m at the end of December 2011.


River Island invests as Hut prepares IPO

The Lewis family — which has increased the size of the fashion brand from a wool shop in 1948 in London’s East End to a chain of more than 300 shops — invested in the multi-website retailer as part of what is believed to be a £10m fund-raising.

As part of the investment, Clive Lewis, deputy chairman of River Island, is to join The Hut Group’s board as a non-executive director.

The Hut Group, the websites of which include music site and nutrition supplements site, is expected to float on the London Stock Exchange later this year with a value in excess of £300m.

Previous investors include retailers Sir Stuart Rose, the former chief executive of Marks & Spencer, and Terry Green, Tesco’s ex-clothing chief, and Balderton Capital, the venture capital firm.

It is understood that the new fund-raising will give the online retailer, led by chief executive Matthew Moulding, further firepower for bolt-on acquisitions and capital.

Details of the raising are expected to be announced next week alongside The Hut Group’s post-Christmas trading statement.

Ahead of the float, the retailer is due to make a decision on its chairman. Angus Monro is thought to want to step down, with Sir Terry Leahy, the former Tesco chief executive, in pole position to take the helm.


Shoprite results improve

The Shoprite Group has reported strong growth in the first quarter of its 2013 financial year despite the continuation of depressed market conditions, the mega-retailer said earlier this week at the release of its quarterly results. Total turnover increased by15,6% compared to 10,8% in the corresponding three months.

The high turnover growth was boosted by a strong performance by its non-RSA division which was also positively influenced by the weakening of the rand, as well as further market share gains in South Africa.

The Group’s core business, Supermarkets RSA, grew turnover by 12,2% with internal food inflation averaging 3,6% compared to 4,0% for the corresponding three months in 2011. Internal food inflation was below the official food inflation of 5,3% and real sales growth of 8,6% was achieved.

Shoprite CEO Whitey Basson said the performance of the Group’s non-RSA operations was boosted by the opening of 20 new food outlets since October 2011. Of these, eight were Shoprite supermarkets and 12 were Usave stores. In constant currency terms, turnover growth for the African operation was 26,4% compared to 13,9% in the corresponding three months. The increase in rand terms was 34,3% compared to 12,7% in 2011.

Although the highly competitive market conditions in which the furniture division traded remained virtually unchanged, turnover grew 11,9% despite the continuing deflationary environment. Other divisions in the Group which in addition to OK Franchise include Medirite and Computicket, grew turnover by 29%.

Basson said with consumers under increasing pressure, it was difficult to predict spending patterns going into the festive season.


Tiffany Sees Profit at Low End of Forecast on Weak Sales

Tiffany & Co. (TIF), the world’s second- largest luxury jewelry retailer, said full-year earnings will be at the low end of its forecast after holiday sales growth slowed in the Americas and Asia. The shares fell.

Sales in November and December rose 4 percent to $992 million worldwide, the New York-based company said today in a statement. That was slower than the 7 percent gain Tiffany recorded in the same period a year earlier.

Enlarge image
Tiffany projects earnings growth in 2013 of 6 percent to 9 percent. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

High-income consumers’ confidence waned in the U.S. as the prospect of higher taxes approached, David Schick, an analyst at Stifel Financial Corp., who recommends holding the shares, wrote in a Jan. 7 note. Additionally, sales of lower-priced jewelry continued to be under pressure during a muted holiday season for most retailers, he wrote. China’s luxury spending also cooled.

Tiffany dropped 4.5 percent to $60.40 at the close in New York, the biggest decline since Nov. 29. Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, the world’s largest luxury jewelry maker, fell 2.1 percent to 76 Swiss francs in Zurich.

In the Americas, which includes the U.S., Canada and Latin America, Tiffany’s holiday sales rose 3 percent. Sales in the region increased 4 percent a year earlier. In Asia, sales growth shrank to 13 percent from 19 percent a year earlier.

European sales gained 2 percent, compared with an increase of 1 percent a year ago.

Annual Forecast

Profit excluding some items will be at the low end of its previous forecast of $3.20 to $3.40 a share in the year ending Jan. 31, the company said today. Analysts projected $3.31, the average of 21 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. The company earned $3.60 a share in the year ended January 2012.

“Due to uncertainty about general economic conditions in all our major markets, management is planning sales growth conservatively for 2013,” Chief Executive Officer Michael Kowalski said in the statement.

Tiffany projects earnings growth in 2013 of 6 percent to 9 percent.

“The shortfall in the fourth quarter and reasoning for the conservative 2013 outlook was primarily weakness in U.S. sales,” Liz Dunn, a New York-based analyst at Macquarie Group, said via e-mail. “This is particularly disappointing after multiple negative revisions to guidance throughout 2012 and the gross margin weakness acknowledged last quarter.”

Dunn, who has a neutral rating on the stock, said Tiffany may take several quarters to improve sales in its silver range.

Tiffany will report fourth-quarter earnings on March 22.


Dubai’s MAF awards $225m Lebanon project

Dubai’s Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) Properties has awarded an AED826m (US$224.8m) contract for the construction of the first phase of Lebanon’s Waterfront City project to a joint venture between Beirut-based contractors Arabian Construction Company (ACC) and Matta et Associes (MATTA).

Phase 1 of the 250,000 sqm project, which will line the Dbayeh seafront, is due to be completed in early 2015.

Designed by SB Architects, Waterfront City will include residential, retail, restaurants, amenities, public spaces, a large retail mall, two international hotels, a new office business park, public spaces and a marina promenade.

MAF Properties’ other project in the country, the US$300m Beirut City Centre shopping mall, began construction in September 2009 and is scheduled to be completed in early 2013.

Located in the capital’s Hazmieh district on the Damascus-Beirut road, it will house a total of 200 stores over three levels, plus 40 international food and beverage outlets.

It is the first shopping destination to be built by mall developer MAF in Lebanon and will also include a VOX Cinemas multiplex and a Magic Planet family entertainment centre.

Samer Bissat, a senior project director at MAF Properties, said that Beirut City Centre would create 1,500 jobs.


Swatch Sales Rise 14% in 2012

Swatch Group said sales rose 14 percent in 2012, and it expects to post good operating profit and net income for the year, despite unfavorable currency fluctuations and significant expenses linked to the Olympic Games in London.

The world’s largest watchmaker, parent of brands including Omega, Breguet, Blancpain and Swatch, posted sales of 8.14 billion Swiss francs, or $8.69 billion, in 2012 versus 7.14 billion Swiss francs, or $8.08 billion, in 2011.

“Again in 2012, the strong group brands performed convincingly in all regions and price segments, notably outside Greater China as well, and realized further conspicuous growth in market share,” Swatch Group stated.

It added that the trend continued into January, with the first 10 days of the month indicating positive growth in 2013.

Sales in the watches and jewelry segment were up 15.6 percent during the period, while the production division – which manufactures components – recorded a 10.1 percent increase as the company expanded capacity and eliminated bottlenecks.

The electronics systems segment fared less well, with strong price pressures and adverse exchange rates contributing to a 7.4 percent sales decrease.


Grafton expecting profit of €70m

The owner of the Woodies DIY and Atlantic Homecare chains expects to announce profits of at least €70 million when it publishes its 2012 results in March.

DIY and builders’ merchant group Grafton released a trading statement yesterday which said sales in 2012 increased by almost 6 per cent to €2.17 billion.

The figure included a €105 million boost from translating sales in sterling to euro. Around 70 per cent of Grafton’s revenues are in sterling.

Operating profits

The group said yesterday that it expected operating profits, before restructuring costs and other charges for 2012, would “not be less than €70 million”, a 22 per cent improvement on the €57 million reported for 2011.

The boost to operating profits was down to improved trading in the closing months of 2012, Grafton said.

During the year the High Court approved a restructuring plan for its Atlantic Homecare business which Grafton placed in examinership in June.

The arrangement resulted in a saving of between €4-5 million a year on its rent bill and a writedown of a portion of its debts. Atlantic owed €53 million to other group companies.

The figures released yesterday showed that conditions in its Irish business remained tough.

Sales in its retail operations – Woodies and Atlantic – were down 9.2 per cent in 2012, although the decline was around half that figure in the months of November and December.

Similarly, sales from its Irish builders’ merchants operations, including Chadwicks and Heiton Buckley, were down 8.5 per cent, but the rate of decline eased to 2.7 per cent during the final two months of the year.

Sales rise

Its UK builders’ merchants operations, including Buildbase, Plumbase and Jackson, saw sales rise by 3.1 per cent overall, and by 3.7 per cent in November and December.

“The immediate outlook for demand in the group’s markets remains challenging and the timing and extent of any recovery is unclear,” Grafton said.

Flor O’Donoghue, analyst with Dublin stockbroking firm Davy, described the statement as “very encouraging”.


Tesco Names New UK Head As Sales Recover

LONDON–Tesco PLC’s (TSCO.LN, TSCDY) closely watched campaign to revive home-market performance helped it beat expectations with robust U.K. sales for the holiday period, but the retail giant was dogged by decline at its stores elsewhere in Europe.

Tesco posted a 1.7% jump in same-store sales in the U.K. for the six weeks ended Jan. 5, excluding gasoline sales and including value-added tax-a result the retailer called its best in three years. At European stores outside the U.K., however, Tesco had a 3.6% decline in same-store sales on the same basis; globally, same-store sales jumped 0.3% on that basis.

The results come a year after poor U.K. sales in the 2011 holiday period plunged Tesco into disarray, sending shares down 16% in a single day following a rare profit warning and causing a wholesale rethinking of the company’s strategy.

That led Chief Executive Philip Clarke to launch a GBP1 billion turnaround campaign for the British unit, complete with store revamps, new marketing messages, product improvements and a big push towards online sales. The campaign showed its first clear signs of working in Thursday’s results.

“We were on form this Christmas,” Mr. Clarke said. He admitted this year’s U.K. figures were flattered by particularly weak performance last year but said Tesco is regaining momentum in a home market that’s responsible for two thirds of the retailer’s GBP72 billion annual sales.

He said employees had been “bruised” and “felt a bit of failure” last Christmas, when Tesco botched its promotions strategy and failed to refresh its products and stores. This holiday season, though, Tesco was far more targeted in its promotions, he said. As a result of new investments, he says there is a “new sense of energy, a new sense of optimism.”

British retailers have been struggling with increased competition and a squeeze on customers’ earnings as taxes rise and government spending declines. The country’s depressed grocery market has witnessed sales growth consistently lower than inflation. While shoppers are spending more to keep pace with rising prices, they are generally buying less.

Mr. Clarke predicted Tesco will continue to battle challenging market conditions in 2013. “I think it’s going to be difficult for consumers and for businesses because earnings aren’t growing as fast as costs, as everyone knows,” he said.

By mid-day in London, Tesco’s shares had jumped 2.26% to 357 pence.

Mr. Clarke cautioned that Tesco’s holiday results follow a 0.6% decline in fiscal second-quarter sales and reflect only a six-week period in which the company stepped up its promotions, saying in short that there’s more work to be done. Tesco is almost a year into Mr. Clarke’s three-year program to revitalize U.K. operations.

After running the U.K. business directly himself for most of that first year, Mr. Clarke said he will hand control of the crucial market to new U.K. Managing Director Chris Bush, a 30-year Tesco veteran and current U.K. chief operating officer. The appointment leaves Mr. Clarke free to focus on the company’s international businesses, which have shown signs of weakness amid economic and regional troubles.

Most troubling is Tesco’s business in Central Europe, where operations in countries such as the Czech Republic and Hungary are suffering from the fallout of the euro-zone crisis and high unemployment. In a call with analysts Thursday, Mr. Clarke said he did not expect any marked improvement in that region in the coming months.


David Beckham teams up with Guy Ritchie for H&M

Back in October, a group of movie star-hunting tourists in Beverly Hills got more than they bargained for when a brief-clad David Beckham popped up roadside.

We assumed Becks was shooting some new promotional material for his latest H&M underwear campaign, but the whole set-up (him wandering around in a load of bushes) did leave us scratching our heads.

Now it has been revealed that the heavily-inked footballer was in fact being filmed by Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels director Guy Ritchie, for an advert due out on February 6.

Rex reveal how the 37-year-old, who is currently pondering his footballing future, sees Beckham run through the streets and gardens of Beverly Hills, dressed only in his boxer shorts.

“David makes the perfect leading man,” said Ritchie. “For me this felt more than a campaign – it was like directing a short film.”

Behind the scenes pictures show David padding through a tennis court in flannel hotel slippers and losing his dressing gown to a car door.

Of course, DB still manages to look positively macho in just briefs and a vest while a large production crew can be seen facilitating the whole project.

The advert’s debut is thought to coincide with new colours added to Beckham’s Bodywear range just in time for Valentine’s Day.


Marks & Spencer Sales Slump Despite Record Christmas Fortnight

Food sales, however, continued to support the group’s top line, with more than £330m – a company record – sold over the Christmas fortnight.

“Our strategy to focus on innovation worked, with over 700 new products launched during the quarter giving customers all the ingredients for a special M&S Christmas,” the company said.

The figures come after the research group Kantar Worldpanel said overall grocery store sales in Britain grew 3.2 percent in the 12 weeks ending 23 December, in a report published on its website Tuesday, with the strongest growth coming from the discount and premium ends of companies product ranges.

M&S rival Debenhams earlier this week posted record December sales as better promotions and a surge in online shopping lifted turnover at Britain’s second-largest department store chain.

Sales for the 18 weeks ending on 5 January rose 2.9 percent, the company said in a statement published Tuesday on its website. December sales, which the company records during the five weeks prior to 5 January, rose 5 percent to a company record. Online trading, the group said, surged 39 percent over the full 18-week period.

“We expect the pressure on consumers’ disposable incomes to continue in 2013,” M&S said in the statement. “As a result we remain cautious about the outlook for the year ahead.” The group will deliver fourth quarter sales data on 11 April.

The British Retail Consortium said Tuesday that like-for-like sales across the country in December rose a modest 0.3 percent last month, with the lobby group describing the Christmas sales season as “underwhelming” owing to muted consumer confidence and an overall lack of optimism from British shoppers.

Online sales, however, remained the bright spot for UK retailers, rising 20 percent last month, the BRC said, from an annual monthly average of around 12 percent.

The accountancy and consulting group BDP LLP said Monday that like-for-like sales increased by 1.9 percent for Britain’s larger retailers in the five weeks that ended on 29 December, thanks to a wave of online shopping and bargain hunting.

The group’s annual High Street Sales Tracker said online sales surged 30.9 percent from the same period last year, while footfall on the weekend before Christmas was up 22 percent.

M&S shares closed at 371 pence each Wednesday, a 0.38 percent advance on the session. The shares are risen nearly 18 percent in the past year.


Ted Baker sales surge 20.9% over the festive period

Fashion retailer Ted Baker today (9 January) booked a bumper 20.9% jump in retail sales over the festive period, and reiterated its full-year profit forecast.

Sales in the eight weeks to 5 January were helped by the addition of an extra 13.9% of new retail space, but the company said the gains were achieved with “no significant promotional activity pre-Christmas.”

It added that gross margins were in line with expectations, and that the UK and Europe performed strongly in a competitive trading environment.

“We were pleased by the performance in markets where the brand is established and continue to build brand awareness in our newer markets, where we are investing for the longer term,” said founder and chief executive Ray Kelvin.

Separately, the retailer said Robert Breare has stepped down as non-executive chairman after more than 11 years in the role.

He has been replaced by current senior independent non-executive director David Bernstein, the former joint managing director of Pentland Group and previous chairman of Blacks Leisure and French Connection.


Jessops Photography chain goes into administration

Camera retailer has become first major High Street casualty of 2013 after calling in administrators
The move puts more than 2,000 jobs at risk at its 193 stores across the UK

High street stalwart Jessops is on the verge of collapse.
The photography chain looks likely to become the first major retail failure of the New Year after appointing administrators today.
Branch closures are said to be ‘inevitable’ and the future appears grim for the 2,000 staff at the company’s 200 stores.

Camera specialist Jessops could soon be 2013’s first major High street casualty
And customers who bought products in the run-up to Christmas will struggle to get repairs or refunds on faulty goods.

It appears that poor festive trading was the final nail in the coffin for a Britain’s only specialist nationwide camera retailer, a fixture on High Streets for almost 80 years.
Jessops has struggled to cope with changes in technology, specifically the shift to digital technology.
Most smartphones now have powerful cameras built into them, which means families have no need of a separate device.
And most people store and share their photographs digitally rather than paying to print them. PwC’s Rob Hunt said his firm was holding discussions with stakeholders to see if the business could be preserved
A black Christmas for the high street: More shops set to go bust amid cost of living squeeze
Comet shelves picked bare by Christmas shoppers as remaining stores prepare to close their doors today
He said: ‘Trading in the stores is hoped to continue, but is critically dependent on these ongoing discussions. However, it is inevitable that there will be store closures.’
Jessops was tonight offering its gift vouchers, despite administrators saying they would no longer be accepted. The gift cards – available in denominations between £20 and £500 – were on sale on the retailer’s website.
Administrator PwC said Jessops was not in a position to honour the vouchers at present, and it would also not accept returned goods.
PwC said the company’s core market had seen a ‘significant decline’ in 2012 and its position had ‘deteriorated’ in the run-up to Christmas, as a result of reducing confidence in UK retail.
Forecasts for 2013 indicated the decline would continue, PwC added. It said extra funding was made available to the company, but Jessops did not generate the profits it had planned over Christmas.
Mr Hunt said discussions to raise additional financial support had been held between the directors, lenders and suppliers over the past few days. But the directors had appointed administrators in light of ‘irreconcilable differences’.
1935 – Jessops started trading when Frank Jessop opened his first store in Leicester selling 16mm cine films.
The business expanded significantly when Frank’s son Alan Jessop came on board, and set about transforming it into a cut-price retailer of photographic equipment.

1970s – Jessops moves to a new 20,000 sq ft site on Leicester’s Hinckley Road, which is later named as the largest photography store in the world by Guinness World Records.

1980 – A second store is opened on the Finchley Road in London. By the end of the decade the retailer had 50 stores.

1996 – Alan Jessop retires and firm is sold in a management buyout

2001 – The 200th store opened in July. The retailer had expanded to cover Aberdeen to Penzance, as well as stores in Jersey, Guernsey and Ireland.

2002 – ABN AMRO acquired a controlling interest in the business.

2004 – The retailer was floated on the London Stock Exchange.

2008 – Jessops’ Hinckley Road premises in Leicester is closed

2009 – Jessops narrowly avoided administration by securing a debt-for-equity swap with its lenders HSBC.

2012 – The retailer made losses of £5.2million, when it also lost both its chief executive Trevor Moore and chairman David Adams.
The chain was launched in 1935 by Frank Jessop, who opened the first photography store in Leicester.
But the firm has had a rocky few years. It managed to avoid administration in 2009 after its bank wiped out its debts in return for a 47 per cent stake in the business.
A number of household names – Comet, Peacocks, La Senza, Blacks, Game, Clinton Cards, and JJB Sports – all went into administration in 2012 and the British Retail Consortium has warned the pattern could continue into 2013.
BRC Director general Helen Dickinson said: ‘If you look at the amount of money people have got in their pockets, that is expected to continue to be under pressure.’
Jessops looks likely to become one of several household names that has fallen into administration in recent months as struggling families cut down on spending.
The number of High Street chains going bust has increased by almost a fifth in two years, figures released last week showed.
Some 194 stores and chains fell into administration during 2012, compared to 183 in 2011 and 165 during 2010, according to data from Deloitte.

Everything must go: Last year saw the demise of La Senza, left, and Comet, right, among others, as consumers cut back on their spending in 2012
Last year saw the demise of Comet, La Senza and Clinton Cards, with JJB Sports, Blacks and Game also entering administration.
But the number going under in the run-up to Christmas dropped, with 37 chains folding in the final three months of 2012, compared with 42 in the same period in 2011.
Should Jessops go into administration it will mark the first high profile retail collapse of 2013, with others certain to follow.


Jersey retailer closes direct retail business

Online retailer is to shut down its retail business to become a marketplace-only, from March.

The Jersey-based firm blamed the move on the ending of Low Value Consignment Relief, which allowed items less than £15 to be sold to the UK VAT-free.

All 147 staff in Jersey are to be made redundant as well as 67 in its Cambridge and Bristol offices. will now become more like a shopping centre, no longer selling directly to customers.

The Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR) loophole was closed by the UK government in April 2012.

‘Hammer blow’
In a statement said: “Moving forward we are intending to focus exclusively on our successful marketplace, which is our main business area, and to phase out the direct-retail part of our business.”

A spokesperson confirmed the changes meant they were completely pulling out of Jersey, but about 200 staff would be left in the restructured company, which will be based in Cambridge.

Jersey’s Economic Development Minister, Senator Alan Maclean, said now in total about 600 people had lost their jobs in the island because of the end of LVCR.

Senator Maclean said: “I’m saddened, this is a Jersey business, set up in the island that did extraordinarily well, that became a global brand.

“We will work with other businesses and entrepreneurs to help them develop the next”

He said the government would do all it could to support those out of work.

David Warr, president of Jersey’s Chamber of Commerce, said it was another hammer blow to the island’s economy.

He said: “That’s a significant increase in the number of people unemployed… and obviously that should be a concern to everyone.

“I think we are going to have to work very hard to find these people new places to work.”

Garry Todd, a tax analyst, said LVCR ended almost a year ago and most businesses that would close have, indicating Jersey is through the worst of it.

In September 2011, was taken over by Japanese e-commerce operator Rakuten.

It paid £25m ($39.3m, 28.6m euros) for the company, which at the time had 14m registered users and was one of the largest online retailers in the UK.


Bond Street’s Space Squeeze Drives London Shops Upstairs

There isn’t enough Bond Street to go around, so retailers are going up.

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Luxury-brand owners like Chanel and Christian Dior SA are converting upper-floor offices into shops, lifting the value of properties even as they pay lower rents. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

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Bond Street’s stores have sales of more than 1 billion pounds annually, according to the New West End Company, which represents 600 retailers in that area of London. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

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LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA last year bought its Luis Vuitton flagship store as well as the shops leased to Coach and stationer Frank Smythson Ltd. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Luxury-brand owners such as Chanel SA and Christian Dior SA (CDI) are expanding their shops by taking over upper floors previously used as offices along the U.K.’s priciest retail strip. Others including Victoria’s Secret U.K. Ltd. are going farther out — jostling for space along the less swanky parts of the central London street, where demand far exceeds supply.

Bond Street shrugged off the U.K.’s double-dip recession as high-end jewelers, boutiques and department stores in central London’s West End shopping district attracted wealthy shoppers from abroad. Converting upper offices to shops is the cheapest way to expand on the road, where rents are a 10th of what the street level commands, according to Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

“Almost without exception, the first floors in the best space in Bond Street are now getting converted into retail,” said Martin Thomas, head of central London retail at the brokerage firm. “Those that haven’t been converted, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be fairly soon.”

Property owners on the street are benefiting as retailers spend their own cash converting offices into shop space, which sells at a higher price in the area. The change can increase the value of a first-floor property by as much as 40 percent, according to Neil Thompson, portfolio director at Great Portland Estates Plc. (GPOR) The company has won approval to develop five stores on the street, according to a planning document.

Double Benefit

Retailers on the best part of the street also tend to pay higher rents than office tenants for upper floors, meaning property owners get increased revenue and a better yield when the building is sold, said Dominic Rowe, a broker at Michael Elliott LLP. He estimates the company has bought and sold about 500 million pounds ($803 million) of property for investors in the area over the past two years.

Bond Street rents reached a U.K. record this year when Salvatore Ferragamo Italia SpA (SFER), the Italian clothing maker, agreed to pay 1,000 pounds a square foot for a zone A store, Savills, the property’s broker, said in February. That was beaten by the 1,050 pounds a square foot paid by Swiss luxury jeweler Boghossian SA, Knight Frank LLP said in November.

Zone A rent refers to the price a tenant pays for the most valuable part of the store, rather than the property as a whole, and is used to compare buildings.

Most Expensive

The world’s most expensive retail location is currently Causeway Bay in Hong Kong, where rents rose 34.9 percent in the year through June 2012 to $2,630 a square foot, Cushman & Wakefield said in a November report. That put the area ahead of New York’s Fifth Avenue at $2,500 a square foot. The broker ranked New Bond Street, the northern half of the strip extending to Oxford Street, sixth at $936 a square foot. It didn’t rank Bond Street as a whole.

Demand for space is extending the Bond Street’s prime area as brands like Belstaff, the British motorcycle jacket maker owned by Labelux Group GmbH, choose to open on less popular parts of the road, according to broker Savills Plc. (SVS) That’s pushing up rents and boosting building values in those areas and attracting buyers like Amancio Ortega, Europe’s richest man and founder of Inditex SA (ITX), the Zara clothing-chain owner.

Rent increases and limited availability along luxury shopping streets in the U.S. is also forcing retailers there to consider secondary streets, Cushman & Wakefield said. “Given the strong growth in high street rents recorded over the past 12 months in cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco, this upward trend is likely to ease somewhat,” the New York- based broker said.

‘Haute Couture’

Bond Street’s stores have annual sales of more than 1 billion pounds, according to New West End Co., which represents 600 retailers in that area of London. The street, located in the Mayfair neighborhood, has the “highest proportion of ‘haute couture’ stores per square mile in the world and helps to underpin London as one of the major centers of the fashion industry,” Chanel said in documents filed in 2011 supporting a plan to expand its store there.

Sales of luxury goods in the U.K. will grow 8 percent this year, New West End estimates showed. That’s more than double the 3.2 percent sales growth forecast for the broader clothing and footwear sales category in 2013, accountant BDO LLP estimated. The difference stems partially from spending by tourists, BDO analyst Callum Butterfield said in an e-mail.

Lowest Yields

Yields on Bond Street are the lowest in the U.K., meaning investors are paying high prices with the expectation of a significant increase in income or the willingness to settle for smaller returns than they would get from any other type of property in any location.

Prime U.K. high street retail properties sell at yields of about 4.75 percent, Savills said in December. That compares with 3 percent or slightly less on Bond Street, Thompson said. The yield is the annual rent expressed as a percentage of the purchase price.

Rent increases are spurring retailers to look at other options to gain a foothold on the street or expand. Six applications were made to turn offices on Bond Street into retail use last year, compared with seven in 2011 and none in 2007, according to plans filed with Westminster borough. The figures exclude buildings used as art galleries.

VIP Suite

Ermenegildo Zegna won permission in December to demolish its store and add about 60 percent more shopping space. Milan- based Zegna plans a “VIP fitting suite” on the third floor, according to planning documents filed with Westminster Council. LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (MC)’s Louis Vuitton offers its most valued customers access to an upstairs apartment where they can lounge and order drinks while personal stylists present the brand’s wares.

Paris-based Christian Dior and Longchamp SAS are also expanding their shops. Dior and Zegna declined to comment by e- mail and Longchamp, Belstaff and Chanel didn’t respond to e- mails. The owner of the Chanel building at 158-159 New Bond Street is Swedish insurer Gamla Livforsakringsaktiebolaget S.E.B. Trygg Liv, according to a filing to the Land Registry.

Others are looking toward the northern end of the street where rents are lower. Belstaff agreed to pay zone A rent of 840 pounds a square foot in January 2012 for a 25,000-square-foot store on the street.

The deal “demonstrates the continued expansion northwards of the prime pitch on Bond Street,” Anthony Selwyn, a director at London-based Savills, said in a statement. He cited leases to Miu Miu, Hublot SA, Coach Inc. (COH) and Fendi SpA in the same area. Thomas of Jones Lang said rents on that part of the street have doubled in about five years,

Victoria’s Secret

Victoria’s Secret’s store on the street opened in August and has “been packed ever since,” Martin Waters, president of international business at the retailer’s owner Limited Brands Inc., told shareholders in October.

It’s a different story for the rest of the U.K. retail market. Sales at stores open at least a year gained an “underwhelming” 0.3 percent in December from a year earlier, according to the British Retail Consortium. This year will see “more of the same” the group predicted.

The cheapest rents on Bond Street are for stores between Oxford Street, the U.K.’s busiest shopping strip, and Brook Street. Zone A rents there are about 300 pounds a square foot compared with 800 pounds around the corner on Oxford Street, Rowe said in an interview. It’s on the cheaper stretch where Great Portland plans to develop the five stores that are part of its Hanover Square project.

Deliver Quality

“That part of the street has suffered because the quality of the units hasn’t been there for the retailers to take,” Thompson said by telephone. “Our plan is very much to deliver the quality of space that they need.”

Many shoppers travel to the most luxurious part of Bond Street via South Molton Street, reducing the foot traffic on the northern part, Thompson said.

Crossrail, a subway linking Heathrow to central London, may help that part of the street when it opens an entrance there in 2018. The new rail line will increase the number of passengers visiting that part of the street by as much as 65,000 a day, according to Crossrail. As a result, zone A rents there may rise to as much as 550 pounds a square foot, Thompson said.

“There’s a list of 25-plus retailers trying to get representation on Bond Street at the moment and our plans are to make sure that we provide that space that they demand and hopefully reap the benefits of increased rents over the next few years,” he said.

Tribeca Bets

Tribeca Holdings Ltd., led by Irish investor Aidan Brooks, has been betting that the street’s prime area will expand. It owns the stores rented by Cartier and Rolex on the most expensive part of the strip and in 2011 added a store leased by LVMH affiliate Hublot to the north.

Tribeca last year bought 107 New Bond Street across from the Crossrail entrance for 13.8 million pounds, a yield of 2.65 percent, according to Knight Frank.

Brooks “just saw better value for money” on that part of the street, said Thomas, who advises Tribeca. The company declined to comment on its acquisitions.

Ortega, Europe’s richest man according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, paid 155 million pounds for a building leased to Zara at the junction of Bond Street and Oxford Street, bringing his total assets in the area to about 500 million pounds, Savills said in June.

Supply Shortage

Demand for space on Bond Street and Sloane Street, in the Knightsbridge district, outstrips supply by almost 10 to one, broker Cushman & Wakefield said in November. Values on Bond Street have been boosted by retailers buying stores they were leasing or purchasing spaces owned by competitors, Rowe said. That can ensure they stay on the street and lets them expand when rivals’ leases expire, he said.

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA last year bought the Louis Vuitton flagship store as well as the shops leased to Coach and stationer Frank Smythson Ltd. The properties were bought by its Luxembourg-based affiliates Naxara SA, Glacea SA and Pronos SA for about 292 million pounds, according to filings to the U.K.’s Land Registry.

“These major groups — be it Hermes, Chanel, LVMH or whoever — they have so much money on their balance sheets. Rather than having 200 million pounds burning a hole in their pocket, they’re preferring to invest it into real estate in the right location,” Thomas said. “Bond Street didn’t really ever have a recession.”


& Other Stories announce London store

& Other Stories, the latest brand by the company behind H&M, will open a store on London’s Regent Street this spring.
The H&M group’s highly-anticipated new venture, & Other Stories, finally has a confirmed UK arrival date – spring 2013

The store will be situated on central London’s Regent Street, and will be joined by fellow stores set to open at the same time in Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Milan, Paris and Stockholm.

“All of us at & Other Stories are thrilled to open our first stores in some of the major European cities and we are looking forward to offering our collections to an even broader audience through ,” said Samuel Fernström, head of & Other Stories.

The fledgling brand, which is backed by the same Sweden-based company that owns COS and H&M, has been teasing soon-to-be customers with a series of mysterious YouTube videos showing the creation and inspiration behind various aspects of the label.

& Other Stories promises to offer ready-to-wear, bags, shoes, beauty and accessories that will allow customers to build an everlasting wardrobe of ‘treasures’ with endless styling choices.

Prices for the collection, which is designed in ateliers in both Stockholm and Paris, will be similar to those at H&M and COS.


H&M group confirms launch of new brand ‘& Other Stories’

Next spring will see the launch of Swedish retailer H&M’s new venture & Other Stories, which will cater only to women.
H&M, the Swedish retail group behind the high street chain of the same name, COS, Monki and denim label Cheap Monday has today set a launch date for its new venture: & Other Stories.
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Selected European countries and an e-commerce site will welcome the brand during spring next year. Unlike H&M’s more polished sister store COS, which offers womenswear, menswear and childrenswear, & Other Stories is set to be a women-only affair.
“& Other Stories is about bringing everything she can wear into one place, focusing on the whole look” a statement released by the group announced. “We believe shoes, bags, jewellery, lingerie and beauty are key for styling and just as important as clothing.”
Design studios in Paris and Stockholm will be responsible for creating the new collections, but the price points will remain around the affordable level that H&M and COS are known for.
“Our collections are built around inspiring fashion stories” continued the brand’s statement, suggesting that an eclectic offering of accessories and pieces are on the cards. “All our lines are diverse, ranging from masculine tailoring to feminine chic and designed to provide endless styling choices.”
The company’s chief executive officer, Karl-Johan Persson, hinted at the new venture back in March, when the group posted a healthy sales increase: “We have many different projects in progress and already next year we will be launching a completely new store chain. Like COS, which today is very successful with good profitability, the new chain of stores will be independent and complement the other offerings from the group.”


Bebe Stores appoints ex-Lacoste executive as CEO

Women’s apparel retailer Bebe Stores Inc named retail industry veteran Steve Birkhold as its new chief executive as it looks to turn around its business amid declines in same-store sales.

The company also reported weaker-than-expected second-quarter sales, hit by a 15 percent drop in same-store traffic.

Birkhold, who replaces founder Manny Mashouf, joins Bebe from French fashion brand Lacoste, where he was heading its North American business.

The appointment comes three months after Bebe’s board said it had started a search for a new CEO. The retailer, at the time, said it was looking for an executive who could build the brand and lead its strategy of turning into an omni-channel company.

Omni-channel retailing is a structure which enables retailers to speed up their supply-chain operations and enables customers to experience a single mode of shopping whether online, through catalogs or at brick-and-mortar stores.

The company in November appointed Ben Baum as its chief digital officer, a move aimed at beefing up its omni-channel operations.

Bebe on Thursday reported sales of $124.6 million. Analysts on average had expected sales of $142.9 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company said sales were hurt by lower traffic at stores open for more than a year and the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Same-store sales fell 10.5 percent in the quarter.

Bebe’s shares, which have lost a third of their value in the last six months, closed at $4.00 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday.


REVEALED: The UAE’s 50 biggest companies

UAE telecommunications giant Etisalat has topped Arabian Business’s countdown of the Gulf state’s largest listed companies.
With a market capitalisation of AED71.78bn (US$19.54bn) at the start of 2013, the firm beat lender National Bank of Abu Dhabi and port operator DP World to come first in the rankings.

Click here to see the full countdown of the UAE’s top 50 listed companies

The countdown indexes UAE-based firms listed on the Dubai Financial Market, NASDAQ Dubai and Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange bourses.

This latest list was heavily dominated by banks and construction firms, with six of the top ten firms operating in these sectors.


McDonald’s rebrands to Macca’s in Australia

The international fast food giant will temporarily change signs at selected stores across the country to the affectionate Australian nickname for the chain, in celebration of Australia Day, which falls on January 26 – a move that is its first such globally.

“We’re incredibly proud to embrace our ‘Australian-only’ nickname,” said Mark Lollback, the company’s chief marketing officer in Australia, in a statement on Tuesday.

“What better way to show Aussies how proud we are to be a part of the Australian community than change our store signs to the name the community has given us?”

Surveys have showed at least 50pc of Australians use the nickname.

Thirteen stores will change their store signage this week, starting from the state of New South Wales on Tuesday, the company said.

McDonald’s signage will return to each site from early February.

According to a national survey, “Macca’s” is the second most recognized Australianism, just behind “footy” for Australian rules football.

Australia is the only country in the world that refers to McDonald’s as Macca’s and the restaurant has formally submitted the word to the Macquarie Dictionary for consideration in their next update.

The restaurant has said the abbreviation reflects its place in the Australian community, which has a penchant for jocular nicknames.


Dubai’s Just Falafel opens first store in London

Dubai’s Just Falafel opens first store in London

Dubai-based restaurant chain Just Falafel has opened its first store outside the Middle East in London’s Covent Garden, amid plans to open 200 outlets in the UK over the next five years.

“With our central kitchen now fully operational, two additional London locations under construction, and a further ten-plus stores in our pipeline, Just Falafel plans to satisfy the UK’s growing appetite for fresh, healthy dining choices in 2013,” Just Falafel’s CEO Fadi Malas said in a statement.

“Just Falafel plans to achieve at least ten percent of that objective this year with the opening of 20 stores; with Cambridge, Exeter and other markets currently in development,” the statement added.

“We are receiving more than 100 franchise enquiries each week. The challenge is in securing suitable storefronts to meet our expansion objectives,” Malas said in October.

Co-founder Malas is an entrepreneur with family ties to England as well as Beirut. The brand, which has previously said it may list its shares in the UAE, said full-year profit in 2011 was AED7m ($1.9m).


Irish Nov retail sales show first fall in five months

Jan 7 (Reuters) – Irish retail sales volumes fell on a monthly basis for the first time in five months in November, dropping 1.1 percent from a month earlier, provisional data showed on Monday.

Volumes were 0.5 percent lower in November on an annual basis having posted their largest growth this year in October when the index climbed 3 percent, a slight downward revision from provisional data posted over a month ago.

The statistics office confirmed that retail volumes rose 1.7 percent month-on-month in October. Economists polled by Reuters expectedc that retail sales fell by one percent for the year as a whole in 2012.


Morrisons appoints new group marketing and customer director

Morrisons has announced that it has appointed Nick Collard as its group marketing and customer director.

He will be appointed to the management board in June, with responsibility for marketing, own brand ranges, insight, loyalty, customer relationship management and format. Casper Meijer will lead the other commercial functions from June as group trading director.

Morrisons also said that Belinda Youngs has been promoted to corporate brand marketing director, reporting to Nick Collard.

Morrisons chief executive Dalton Philips said: “Nick’s doing a great job in taking our marketing forward and now has the opportunity to lead one team integrating our own brand and customer engagement.

“The recent announcement of our partnership with Ant and Dec is a great sign of how Nick’s team can showcase the talent of Morrisons colleagues and the value they offer our customers.”

Nick Collard joined Morrisons in January 2011 as commercial director for ambient and frozen from Boots, where he was brands director. He was appointed marketing and operations director in April 2012.


Starbucks opens first Dubai drive-thru outlet

Starbucks opens first Dubai drive-thru outlet

US retail giant Starbucks said on Monday it has launched its first drive-thru outlet in Dubai as it looks to take advantage of the UAE’s love of coffee.

Starbucks said it has opened the new Jumeirah Beach Road Starbucks which allows customers to order and pick up without leaving their vehicles.

The new outlet became the 103rd Starbucks store to open in the UAE with the global coffee house saying it was part of its “commitment to the local community”.

“Those in a rush or in need of a boost to go, can make use of the unique drive-thru that will allow them to order and pick up their favourite beverages whilst on the road or to take home,” Starbucks said in a statement.

Last year, the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) said UAE residents consumed an average of 3.5kg of coffee and tea beverages each year, nearly twice as much as in any other GCC country, making it one of the fastest growing markets by volume for coffee in the world.

It said about 1.4bn cups of coffee are poured per day, with the Arab world one of the fastest growing markets in the world.

People in the UAE already drink nearly twice as much coffee as anywhere else in the GCC and consumption levels are set to continue to grow at around 12 percent per annum until 2014, it added.

Nespresso, the single-portion coffee brand owned by Nestlé, said last year that the Middle East was “its future” and was looking to grow its business outside Europe.

The firm said in February it planned to launch internet sales in the UAE by the beginning of the second quarter and will expand its number of boutiques across the region.

Sales of single-portion coffee have increased significantly in the last five years as global companies such as Nestlé, Kraft and Starbucks look to tap the growing demand for convenient coffee.

Single-portion coffee makes up an estimated eight percent of total worldwide coffee sales, but is expected to double in the next few years.


Dubai online retailer wins new US investment

Dubai-based e-commerce site said on Monday it has received an investment from Summit Partners, a US-based growth equity firm.

The investment, the value of which is undisclosed, comes on the heels of a previous $20m investment in Namshi by JP Morgan Asset Management and Blakeney Management.

Namshi, which sells shoes and clothing in the Middle East, was launched in December 2011 by co-founders Muhammed Mekki, Louis Lebbos, Hosam Arab, and Faraz Khalid. features more than 550 international brands and offers more than 12,000 products shipped free-of-charge from its Dubai-based distribution centre.

“The e-commerce opportunity is very exciting and this is why we see more international funds looking into this market and exploring opportunities,” said Khalid, Namshi’s co-founder and managing director.

“Summit’s vote of confidence in the market and in Namshi in particular conveys that the market offers great opportunities and that Namshi has demonstrated its ability to capitalize on them,” added Hosam Arab, Namshi’s Co-founder and managing director.

Namshi recently announced expansion of its operations across the Gulf as well as investments in growing its product portfolio.

Having increased from a three-person operation to more than 140 people within the span of one year, Namshi said it will continue to expand and focus on growing the regional e-commerce opportunity.

Founded in 1984, Summit Partners has invested in more than 350 businesses across North America, Europe and Asia, and has raised nearly $15bn since inception.

Scott Collins, managing director and head of the Summit Partners London office, said: “We are pleased to invest in Namshi and support the company’s continued momentum.”


Thomas pink pushing into luxury overseas markets

British shirt seller pushing into luxury overseas markets

Andrew Merriman has been appointed chief financial officer of Thomas Pink by owner LVMH, the French-based luxury goods group whose brands include Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and Givenchy.

Mr Merriman, who left Gieves & Hawkes after its sale to Hong Kong’s Trinity Holdings in May, has been tasked with helping to boost its international presence.

In his new role, Mr Merriman will assist the chief executive, Jonathan Heilbron, in increasing the size of the retailer, which earlier this year announced a tie-up with Indian partner, Reliance Brands, to open shops on the sub-continent. His recruitment follows the departure of the previous CFO, who is emigrating to Australia with his family.

To lead the overseas push, in November Mr Heilbron recruited Eliot Young as international franchise and wholesale director. Mr Young has pre­viously held senior posts with Paul Smith and Tom Dixon.

Mr Heilbron confirmed the appointments, saying: “We have been growing internationally for a number of years now as we confirm our position as the leading international luxury shirt brand.” Thomas Pink specialises in men’s shirts and ties but has a growing presence in women’s shirts, as well as selling cuff­links, scarves, gloves and nightwear.

Named after an 18th century Jermyn Street tailor who designed the iconic red hunting coat, the retailer was founded by three Irish brothers – James, John and Peter Mullen – in 1984 and has grown under LVMH’s own­ership to approximately 100 shops in the UK and beyond.

International outposts include stores in Washington DC, Dubai, Hong Kong, South Africa and Australia.

It is believed the recruitment of the two men is linked with a desire by LVMH management to focus the Pink brand on wealthy Asian markets.

In the UK, Pink made pre-tax profits of £1.58m in 2011 on sales of £33.9m.


UK WHSmith plans new Doha airport outlets

UK retail giant WHSmith is set to open eight shops at the delayed New Doha International Airport (NDIA), officials have said.

According to the Moodie Report, the British retailer will take a total of 8,000 sq ft of space at the new airport which was supposed to have opened last month but is facing delays of up to a year.

Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways CEO, told the website: “We are thrilled to have yet another high-calibre international retailer on board which shares our vision to be one of the world’s greatest airports.”

WHSmith chief executive Kate Swann added: “The opening of eight new WHSmith stores in this exclusive airport development further demonstrates our commitment to be the leading travel retailer across the Middle East.”

Last year, Qatar’s Al Meera Holding said it had entered into a franchise agreement with WHSmith Travel Ltd to operate book shops in the Gulf state.

Under the agreement, Al Meera Holding has been granted the exclusive rights to establish and operate bookstores under the WHSmith brand in Qatar.

With more than 1,100 stores both in the UK and across the world, including locations in UAE, Oman, Kuwait and stores to come in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, WHSmith is present at airports around the world.

The New Doha International Airport will have a total of more than 40,000 sq m of space devoted to retail facilities, passenger lounges, and multi-storey short-term and long-term parking.

Last week, Qatar Airways announced it was launching a $600m legal action against contractor Lindner Depa International (LDI) for “badly defaulting” on a $250m fit-out contract at the airport but the joint venture hit back, accusing the carrier of making “false and misleading” comments.


eBay UK plans discounted shipping, cross-border initiatives in 2013

Online retail marketplace eBay UK says it is looking to provide its sellers with access to preferential shipping rates and a new cross-border shipping service later this year.

The company said easy shipping was “fundamental” to successful Internet sales, but said it can be difficult for smaller and low-volume ecommerce merchants to access good low-cost shipping services.

eBay UK is promising a raft of new initiatives to improve the shipping experience for sellers, which it said draw on experience from around the world.

Beginning in 2013, eBay said it will aim to provide a new easier, fixed-rate pricing system.

It will act as an intermediary to give access to “competitive” pricing options to those sellers that don’t have the scale to negotiate preferential shipping rates on their own.

The company told Post&Parcel yesterday that the new pricing system will take the form of a tiered system, based on factors like sellers’ volume and status. But, spokesman Steve Heywood said: “The majority of sellers will have access to rates that are better than they could achieve on the open market for shipping services.”

The new pricing system will offer fixed rates for an extended period of time, taking market conditions into account. eBay could not say at this time how long these fixed rates would extend.


eBay said it is also now piloting a new cross-border shipping service, again based on a simplified pricing structure. The company could not reveal many details, but Heywood told Post&Parcel that the service would deliver prices with a “10-20% saving on comparable tracked services”.

The company is working with a shipping partner on the pilot, but would not reveal the name of the carrier at this stage.

Cross-border trade represents an “exciting growth opportunity” for ecommerce retailers, eBay said, estimating the number of shoppers its sellers might access globally at around 100m people.

eBay said it was working to deliver grow discounts for cross-border shipments particularly focused on mid-sized businesses, to help them accelerate growth and sell through eBay websites across the world.

The cross-border service and simplified pricing will be available for eBay sellers to access in various ways, depending on their requirements. eBay makes use of the CollectPlus parcel shop network in the UK for consumers and small businesses to drop off packages.

The company said its new initiatives would also make collections available for medium-sized and large sellers.

Economies of scale

eBay UK’s manager of strategic shipping partnerships James Miles said the new initiatives were about leveraging the economies of scale his company could achieve.

eBay has been operating in the UK since 1999 and describes itself as the country’s largest online marketplace, with 17m unique visitors each month and about 60m living listings on the UK site.

About 65% of the website’s goods are fixed-price, which is growing at a rate of 13% year-on-year.

Miles said: “By leveraging our economies of scale we’ll be opening up new opportunities to eBay sellers of all sizes and enhancing our customer offer – bringing increased selection to new markets and helping to lower delivery costs through these initiatives.

“This will deliver a triple-win situation: more opportunity for the shipping industry, more options for our sellers, and most importantly of all, a better deal for our end customers.”

UK eBay PowerSellers said it was “about time” the company used its scale to secure better shipping rates for its merchants.

One said that couriers have always argued that eBay does not have centralised warehouses or central pick-up locations and have therefore avoided giving the company preferential shipping rates, but that the volume of parcels that a preferred shipping partner could end up with would be “staggering”.


World’s largest Cheesecake Factory opens in Dubai

The largest Cheesecake Factory restaurant in the world has opened at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.

The US-based eaterie, occupying 2,120 sq m with 526 seats, is the brand’s second opening in the UAE.

The launch was announced by Kuwait-based retailer MH Alshaya Co, the first international licensee for The Cheesecake Factory.

“The response to The Cheesecake Factory’s international debut in the UAE last summer and at The Avenues in Kuwait last month was truly overwhelming, and we are delighted this momentum is being sustained by opening in such a prime location at Mall of the Emirates,” said Duncan Garrood, president of Alshaya’s food division.

The Cheesecake Factory Inc, the New York-listed restaurant chain, last year signed a deal with Alshaya to franchise its outlets across the Gulf in its first overseas expansion.

The deal allowed for 22 restaurants to be built over the next five years in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait.

The UAE restaurant market is set to grow 30 percent to $780m in the next four years and will be dominated by American-style fast food brands, an industry expert said in November 2011.

Branded table-service restaurants generate about $600m a year in the UAE, a number set to swell to $780 by 2015, said Stefan Breg, founder of Tribe Restaurant Creators in Abu Dhabi.

In a poll of dining outlets in the Gulf state, Tribe found American brands comprised up to 47 percent of food and beverage offers in Dubai malls.

IHOP, Papa Murphy’s and Russo’s New York Pizzeria are among other US food brands looking to expand into Gulf markets.

Alshaya is the franchise operator for over 70 of the world’s most recognised retail brands.


Edcon brings top executive heavyweights on board

STRUGGLING retailer Edcon on Thursday announced the appointment of a heavyweight team of former top executives as independent nonexecutive directors.

They are former Absa deputy CE Louis von Zeuner, David Brown, who was CEO of Impala Platinum, and Thabo Mosololi, the operations director of Tsogo Sun Gaming and former CEO of Gobodo Incorporated, the chartered accountants. The high-profile appointments could be a sign that the company is serious about turning around its fortunes and cutting a debt mountain that amounted to R23bn in September.

The appointments will also help the company align itself with a recent opinion of the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) in respect of the new Companies Act, 2008. Edcon said the appointments complied with a CIPC requirement that a private company that had listed instruments should be treated like a public company and therefore required strong oversight.

Edcon has listed bonds, requiring it to have an audit committee that includes independent nonexecutive directors.

“These appointments will improve the independence and expertise of Edcon’s audit and risk committee,” the company said.

“We are very pleased to welcome David, Thabo and Louis to the board. They bring with them a wealth of experience from diverse industries which will only strengthen our group,” Edcon CEO Jürgen Schreiber said.

Abri du Plessis, portfolio manager and head of Gryphon Asset Management, said: “I know the company is under pressure. In my books it is losing market share. It’s always good news if there are some new brooms to sweep.

“The company is very highly geared and they need these skills.”

Edcon, which owns retailers Edgars, Jet, Boardmans, Red Square and CNA, reported a loss of R560m in the 13 weeks to September 29, compared to a loss of R1.1bn in the 13 weeks to October 1 2011.

Edcon sold its store-card book to Absa for R8.8bn last year, an opportunity to cut its debt.

The company is revamping its Edgars stores and has an agreement to bring Topshop — known for its cheap, chic apparel — to South Africa.


Waitrose enjoys record Christmas sales

The company, owned by the John Lewis Partnership, said like-for-like sales rose 5.4pc between December 18 and December 31.

This sent total sales during the period through £300m for the first time. It comes after Waitrose reported like-for-like sales growth of 4.3pc for the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve.

The growth of Waitrose is likely to sharply outstrip that of Tesco, Asda, J Sainsbury and Wm Morrison, the country’s biggest supermarkets.

Waitrose has a market share of 4.5pc in the UK, still far below the 30.7pc for Tesco.

The grocer opened 18 new shops last year, including eight convenience stores, taking its total to 288.

Mark Price, managing director of Waitrose, said sales of fresh food, champagne, and party food particularly accelerated over Christmas for the company.

He added: “Our sales for the festive period as a whole have been record-breaking but the 12 trading days leading up to New Year’s Eve were exceptional as customers got ready for family entertaining and parties.

“The combination of our inspiring celebratory food and drink together with great value and offers proved to be a winning combination.”

Morrisons will be the first of the listed supermarkets to reveal its Christmas trading figures next week, with analysts predicting that like-for-like sales could be down by more than 2.5pc.

Philip Dorgan, analyst at Panmure Gordon, said the Bradford-based retailer could be forced to issue a profits warning.

He added: “Whether there is a profit warning accompanying Monday’s trading statement is a moot point.

“We do, however, see further downside to consensus profits, given the likely continued sales underperformance and we believe that management would be best advised to realign expectations.

“This would enable it to focus on fixing its business, rather than defending an unsustainable level of profit, which would only result in its problems compounding.”

Last January, Tesco issued a profits warning after disappointing Christmas trading.

However, analyst at Deutsche Bank expect the retailer to post like-for-like sales growth of 0.8pc in the UK for this Christmas as its recovery from the profits warning gathers pace.


Dubai Duty Free earns Dh5.9b in 2012

Dubai: Dubai Duty Free ( DDF ) earned Dh5.9 billion in sales last year, up by 10 per cent from 2011, it announced yesterday.

The Duty Free is looking to add new retailers to its current mix of brands in 2013, Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman told Gulf News. “We have been able to look at some new suppliers as a result of the new Concourse opening, particularly in the fashion and luxury side of things.”

With the phased opening of Concourse A dedicated to Emirates A380 planes, the DDF now has 26,000 square metres of retail space at Dubai International Airport. “The main challenge for Dubai Duty Free in the coming year will be ensure that our logistics and IT systems, which are crucial to our 24 hour operation, are sufficiently geared up for the growing retail operation which is in diverse locations… We have also had to recruit a great deal in the past year in readiness for Concourse A and it is important that the additional staff are well trained and fully integrated into the work force,” he said.

The travel retailer recorded a total of 23.5 million sales transactions in 2012, or an average of 64,200 purchases a day, it said in a statement.
Perfumes, beverages and gold were the top three sellers last year. Perfume sales reached Dh907 million ($249 million), an increase of 13 per cent, or $28 million over the previous year. This category now contributes 15 per cent towards total sales at Dubai Duty Free .

Sales breakdown
Beverage sales saw an increase of 17 per cent to Dh871 million ($239 million), while Gold retained the No 3 position with sales of Dh582 million ($159 million). Tobacco sales reached Dh476 million ($130 million), a 10 per cent increase year-on-year. Confectionery sales jumped to the fifth position and recorded sales of Dh465 million ($127 million), representing an 18 per cent increase over last year.

Electronics sales rose by 13 per cent to Dh460 million ($126 million), watches rose by 11 per cent to Dh396 million ($108 million) while Cosmetics sales rose by 14 per cent to Dh373 million ($102 million).

McLoughlin is forecasting sales of Dh6.6 billion for 2013, he said.

In December, the travel retailer reached a new monthly sales record of Dh619 million, DDF said in a statement.

In terms of retail areas, Terminal 1 recorded a 7 per cent increase on overall sales, Terminal 2 sales increased by 15 per cent and Terminal 3, which currently accounts for 60 per cent of total sales, increased by 11 per cent. Sales in the Arrivals retail areas increased overall by 13 per cent.


BurJuman mall expansion begins

Work has started on a project to revamp one of Dubai’s oldest shopping malls and expand the mix of entertainment and retail outlets on offer.

The luxury mall BurJuman will add a Carrefour hypermarket and a 14-screen Vox Cinema as part of the redevelopment, which also include doubling the food court’s size.

Construction began on Tuesday and is set to take 18 months.

“The latest redevelopment and expansion phase is expected to further enhance our appeal by offering shoppers greater convenience and access to a full-fledged grocery offering, extended family entertainment options, new F&B [food and beverage] outlets and the addition of several new fashion and other brands to our retail portfolio, some of which will be making their first appearance in the region,” said Eisa Adam Ibrahim, the general manager of BurJuman.

“Visitors not only look at malls as places to shop but as one-stop destinations providing enjoyment and recreation to the entire community. With our expansion we want to strengthen our relationship with our customers and give them easy access to everything they need in one place.”

Plans for the redevelopment took time to finalise to ensure that the retail offering was “wider and stronger” for shoppers, added Mr Ibrahim. But he is confident that tenants and shoppers will be satisfied with the new mix.

“We will certainly be delivering a better product to our partners and we believe that the enhanced offering will provide a stronger business platform to all our retailers,” said Mr Ibrahim. The mall had strong and positive relationships with its retailers, he said, and it had been involved in ongoing discussions with tenants, who had given the project “great support”.

Cadiz International Architects has been appointed as the lead architect, while Hyder Consulting will manage the design and supervision of the project, which will mean that the mall expands by a fifth to 1 million square feet.

The renovation includes a link to connect the new food court to the Pavilion Gardens in the mall’s south wing, in addition to the redesign of an entrance and the addition of an al-fresco dining area on the ground level.

The mall features a mix of luxury and high-street fashion brands including Saks Fifth Avenue, Prada, Promod and Massimo Dutti.


Macy’s to close seven stores, five of them in downtown locations

Macy’s to close seven stores, five of them in downtown locations

Macy’s, Inc. announced plans to close seven stores early this spring. The units marked for closure include the 99,000-square-foot Bloomingdale’s Home Store at Fashion Show Mall, in Las Vegas, and six Macy’s stores around the country.

Five of the marked Macy’s stores are located in downtown shopping districts: a 791,000-square-foot store in Houston; a 362,000-square-foot store in St. Paul, Minn.; an 80,000-square-foot store in Honolulu; and a 75,000-square-foot store in Belmont, Mass.

Macy’s will also close its 158,000-square-foot store at the Paseo Colorado mixed-use project in Pasadena, Calif., and consolidate its two stores at Ridgedale Center, in Minnetonka, Minn., into one store early next year. The smaller one at Ridgedale Center will be closed and acquired by the mall’s owner, General Growth Properties, for redevelopment.

Meanwhile, nine new and replacement Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores are currently planned and/or under construction. The chain announced plans to open a 25,000-square-foot Bloomingdale’s Outlet store this fall at Fashion Outlets Chicago, in Rosemont, Ill.

“We remain committed to operating a successful and growing stores business as part of our company’s Omnichannel strategy for serving customers wherever, whenever and however they prefer to shop,” said CFO Karen M. Hoguet in a press release. “This leads us to open new stores where we see the opportunity to fill gaps in important markets, as well as to make the tough decision to selectively close underperforming stores that no longer meet our performance requirements or where leases are not being renewed.”

Once the dust settles, Macy’s will operate 798 stores, including 37 Bloomingdale’s and 13 Bloomingdale’s Outlet stores.


Dubai Shopping Festival starts today; Here’s all that you need to know

By Sneha May Francis Month-long extravaganza will put spotlight on the city’s festive spirit and superior hospitality
Dubai’s annual shopping festival is all set to dazzle in its 18th year. The 32-day-long fest promises to be a cultural and entertainment extravaganza, showcasing the city’s festive spirit to the world.

Organised by the Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment (DEPE), this year’s Dubai Shopping Festival’s theme is ‘Dubai at its best’, highlighting the city’s superior hospitality.

This year’s DSF will run from January 3 to February 3.

The opening ceremony promises to be a spectacular show that celebrates the city’s culture and heritage. A stunning sound and light show at the Dubai Creek will trace the history of the city.

It will followed by splendid fireworks at the Dubai Creek, Al Seef Street and Festival Promenade.

Dubai retailers have already announced up to 75 per cent discounts on electronics, jewellery, watches, perfumes and textiles.

Apart from discounts and deals, shoppers will also get a chance to win big prizes at raffle draws.

The Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group has announced chances to win gold every day during the fest, and the Lexus Mega Raffle is offering a grand prize of LX50.

The organisers will also line up many international celebrities, designers and artists to add glitz and glam to the fest.

Some of the most notable performers will be guitar legend Slash who will jam with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators on January 31 at the Dubai Tennis Stadium.

There’s also ghazal maestro Pankaj Udhas who is scheduled to perform on January 10 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

An insight into the bedouin’s desert life in different Arab countries will be presented at the Festival Promenade. The “World of Souvenirs” and the “Tea Oasis” will be hosted on Al Seef Street, while a sports zone and skill games area will be pitched on Al Rigga Street.

The Creek Park will also come alive with the Kids Festival Park during the entire DSF month.

The Downtown will turn fashionably spectacular by parading the latest in designer finery. A street fashion and make-up show are just some of the many highlights.

The Heritage Village will focus on the traditional lifestyle through numerous stalls of Emirati food and artifacts.

Another highpoint will be the Carnival, which will be held every weekend of the fest, showcasing dancers, percussionists, jugglers, unicyclists, stilt walkers and more.

The Global Village is another major attraction that will allow visitors to explore the various cultures of the world in one place. It also offers a host of entertainment and eating out options.

Another highpoint will be the ‘Big Boys Toys 2013’, which is a three-day luxury and lifestyle exhibition that will start on January 31 at the Atlantis Hotel.

Tiny tots will also be treated to fun events, with the Dubai Dolphinarium organising an exclusive show, and cartoon and circus shows.

The organisers DEPE have also announced their decision to award journalists who cover the fest impressively. Journalists from English or Arabic newspapers and magazines will be judged on categories like best feature, DSF prolific writer, best editorial and design team, and best feature-online portal.