Monthly Archives: August 2013

Ackman Calls for Ouster of J.C. Penney Chairman

Perry today reported a 7.3 percent stake in the retailer and echoed Ackman’s comments that the board should seek to quickly overhaul its management. The board isn’t functioning effectively, major personnel decisions are being made without the advice of all directors and important financial information is being withheld, Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital Management LP is the company’s largest shareholder, said in a separate letter to fellow board members today.

Perry’s support gives Ackman, who handpicked former CEO Ron Johnson, more sway as he presses J.C. Penney to name a new team that can implement a turnaround plan and stanch his losses on the stock. Ackman and Perry together own about a quarter of the retailer’s shares. The rest of the board so far has stood its ground, saying that Ullman is the right CEO to revive the company and that the board is working properly.

“He’s clearly alienated the rest of his directors on the board,” Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean at the Yale School of Management, said in an interview. “His chosen candidate, Ron Johnson, virtually destroyed this great American icon and now he’s throwing a tantrum about the guy they brought in to replace him.”

Ullman, who returned on an interim basis at age 66 in April, has revived price cutting and brought back merchandise to attract core customers alienated by Johnson’s strategy, which centered on ending discounting and remaking the stores into collections of boutiques.

Ullman Decisions

Ackman today criticized Ullman for making a number of important decisions without consulting the full board. Ackman said he terminated AlixPartners, which a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg had been hired in April to help the retailer get fresh financing. Ullman also cut off Blackstone Group LP’s access to the company’s financial information and ended its role in analyzing the company’s position, Ackman said.

Ullman has been using Centerview Partners LLC and co-founder Robert Pruzan, Ackman said. Representatives of Blackstone didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Tim Yost, an AlixPartners spokesman, and Christopher Beattie, an outside spokesman for Centerview, declined to comment.

Other personnel moves that Ackman said the full board should have been consulted on include the hiring of Debra Berman from Kraft Foods Group Inc. (KRFT) as senior vice president of marketing, which was announced earlier this week.

Personnel Moves

Ullman also fired Sergio Zyman, a former Coca-Cola Co. advertising executive, who had been brought in as a marketing consultant in February, and pushed out Senior Vice President of Operational Strategy Bob Peterson, Ackman said. He said he was told Vice President of Financial Planning and Analysis Susan Ray was fired.

A message left on Ray’s voicemail wasn’t immediately returned, nor was an e-mail to Peterson and a message with Zyman. Messages left for J.C. Penney spokesmen weren’t immediately returned.

Engibous said today that Ackman’s accusations of board dysfunction were “misleading, inaccurate and counterproductive.”

“The Board is focused on the important work of stabilizing and rejuvenating the business,” Engibous said in a statement. “It is following proper governance procedures, and members of the Board have been fully informed and are making decisions as a group. This includes the CEO search process, which is being conducted at an appropriate pace.”

CEO Search

The board agreed July 22 to begin a search for a CEO, to be named within six months, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the process is private. Ackman is pushing to find someone by mid-September since there are only a few candidates, the person said.

Among possible candidates for the next CEO are Foot Locker Inc. (FL) CEO Ken Hicks, Bon-Ton Stores Inc. chief Brendan Hoffman and Hudson’s Bay Co. (HBC)’s Bonnie Brooks, according to the person.

Spokesmen for Foot Locker and Bon-Ton didn’t reply to requests for comment. Andrew Blecher, an outside spokesman for Hudson’s Bay, declined to immediately provide a comment.

J.C. Penney has hired executive recruiter Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. (HSII) to assist with the CEO search, according to a person familiar with the process who asked not to be identified because the details are private.

Ackman, 47, told board members in a letter yesterday that he persuaded former J.C. Penney CEO Allen Questrom to agree to return as chairman if he approves of the department-store chain’s next CEO and said today that Questrom may return even before one was chosen.

‘Critical Stage’

“J.C. Penney is at a very critical stage in its history and its very existence is at risk,” Ackman said in today’s letter. “During a period like this one, it is absolutely critical that we work together to solve our problems. It is essential that our board function extremely effectively or we will certainly fail.”

Perry Capital founder Richard Perry said today in a letter to J.C. Penney’s board that it should name Questrom chairman and choose Foot Locker’s Hicks for CEO.

J.C. Penney shares, which dropped 5.8 percent to $12.87 at the close in New York, have slid 35 percent this year.

Questrom, 73, criticized J.C. Penney directors for moving too slowly to find a permanent CEO after rehiring Ullman. He said he had supported Ullman as interim CEO and had expected the board “to use the time that Mike afforded them generously to find a person who was long term.”

‘Long Shot’

In an interview yesterday from Aspen, Colorado, Questrom called returning as chairman “a long shot,” hinging on directors forming “a positive board and an aggressive board to help solve the problems.” He also said he’d return only if the board hired a new CEO who had previously served as a chief executive and had retail experience, preferably with department stores.

Ullman, who had served as J.C. Penney’s chairman and CEO for about seven years, has the board’s support.

“Mike is the right person to rebuild J.C. Penney by stabilizing its operations, restoring confidence among our vendors, and getting customers back in our stores,” Engibous said in a statement yesterday after the market closed. “He has the overwhelming support of the Board of Directors, and we are confident the Company is in good hands.”

Since taking over, Ullman has been trying to woo back middle-aged women, the chain’s core customers, who decamped when Johnson changed the merchandise mix to attract younger shoppers and reduced discounts. Ullman has revived so-called “doorbusters” bargains usually reserved for the holiday-shopping season.

New Marketing

Marketing has been refocused on bargains and private-label lines like St. John’s Bay, a $1 billion brand whose women’s apparel was discontinued under Johnson. The company is bringing back three other brands popular with older, female shoppers: the lingerie line Ambrielle, outdoor-apparel Made for Life and JCP Home.

Ullman also has labored to shore up J.C. Penney’s cash balance. Along with hiring AlixPartners in April, the company started negotiating a $2.25 billion loan arranged by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and borrowed $850 million from a revolving credit facility.

J.C. Penney isn’t Ackman’s first foray into retail. He raised a $2 billion investment vehicle in 2007 that bought a stake in Target Corp. (TGT) that lost 90 percent of its value over the next two years. At the time, Ackman called it “one of the greatest disappointments” of his career. Pershing Square sold its Target stake in the first quarter of 2011, after shareholders rejected a board slate nominated by Ackman.

Unusual Move

Ackman’s sudden outburst of criticism of his fellow J.C. Penney board members is unusual, said Charles Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware.

“Given the fact that he has been so involved with directors for some time now and was involved heavily in hiring the last CEO, it’s very surprising he’s launched such a public dispute,” Elson said.

Pershing Square International Ltd., the firm’s largest fund at $4.9 billion in assets, rose 3.7 percent this year through July, according to a performance update sent to clients. U.S. stocks returned 20 percent and hedge funds on average gained 3.2 percent in the period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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Marc Jacobs opens first beauty storeFriday, 9th August 2013 pics….

Marc Jacobs has opened its first beauty store at 385 Bleecker Street in Manhattan, New York.
The store covers 500-square-feet and showcases the entire 121-unit colour cosmetic collection. Interestingly, the space has previously been used by Jacobs as an accessories store.
The maiden beauty store joins the designer’s Marc Jacobs, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Bookmarc and Little Marc stores, also situated on Bleecker Street.

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Rumor: Amazon May Be Getting Into The Console Business

Jeff Bezos, CEO of AMAZON, introduces new Kindle Fire HD Family and Kindle Paper white during the AMAZON press conference on September 06, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. (Image credit: AFP/Getty Images via @daylife)

Another tech giant may be getting into the games business. Sources are telling Game Informer that online retailer and gadget maker Amazon is prepping an android-based console for release in 2013, likely before Black Friday. When contacted for comment, an Amazon rep said that it did not respond to rumors or speculation.

This comes just a short time after rumors that Google was developing a console of its own, though probably on a more extended time-frame. The big players have seen just how powerful the gaming industry can be, through its outsized presence on tablets and phones, and now they’re looking to capitalize on that in the place that will likely be the next big battleground for tech: the living room.

New consoles could be the first beachhead in a mainstream invasion into “gamer” territory, but for the moment, I don’t think that these Android boxes pose much of a threat to Microsoft MSFT -0.55% and Sony SNE -0.25%‘s new hardware. These two conceptions of games: easily consumable free-to-play titles on one side, massive AAA experiences on the other, are still too separate to interact much. For a few years at least, I think the current paradigm will stand.

There’s a convergence happening, though, and could still be the start of something very different in the gaming industry. “Mobile” games have already evolved at an unprecedented pace, going from Snake to near-console experiences like Deus Ex: The Fall in just a few years. There’s no reason to think this trend won’t continue — as local and cloud technology improves, developers are capable of bigger and more elaborate experiences on new platforms. We’ve already seen hardcore darling Xcom: Enemy Unknown released on mobile devices, and many critics’ game of the year from 2012, The Walking Dead, was just as prominent on mobile as it was on other platforms. The time will come when Android is capable of running big, expensive games. Even if these first forays don’t prove cash cows, both Amazon and Google GOOG -0.27% appear to be interested in being around when that happens.

Just like Microsoft before them, modern tech giants seem aware of the fact that games are the perfect entree into the broader living room market. There are currently a lot of devices fighting for the small screen, from Rokus and Chromecasts to Apple AAPL -1.42% TV and Xbox. Consumers are going to eventually gravitate towards a single device that can do everything.

There’s one company that should cringe every time a new rumor like this crops up, however, and that’s Ouya. The plucky little Kickstarter-funded Android console may have been an industry darling during its development, but it’s had some struggles ever since hitting the marketplace. It’s hard to imagine how it’s going to fight back against the massive resource wells behind Google and Amazon.

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PAYPAL TESTING NEW PHOTO VERIFICATION FOR PAYMENTS IN THE UK

There are a number of retailers in Richmond upon Thames that are the first that allow their shoppers to pay with their PayPal app and profile picture.

The app that is available for Windows OS, Android and iOS will highlight the nearby restaurants and stores that will accept the PayPal app.

The name and photo of the customer will appear on the payment system for the show and then the retailer will charge them by clicking on their image.

The customer will then receive an alert on their smart device that highlights the amount paid and the usual email receipt.

The photo based system provides a trial payment system that is under testing in south west London.

Currently there are only 12 merchants that are using the system, but expectations of 2,000 more locations to be added by the end of 2013.

There are thousands of retailers that are using a system to check in to pay throughout the US, Asia Pacific region and Australia.

PayPal is not the very first electronic POS to lose the traditional Pin and chip security system, but now visual verification is added.

It is not yet clear how the system that is photo based will affect those who change their hair color or style on a regular basis.

Avoiding the cloning of high tech smartphones is the major reason that the trial is not predicted to be launched around the nation any time soon.

The payments of users are able to be linked to their direct bank accounts, rather than needing the funds to stay in PayPal.

EBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), which has struggled to maintain solid growth, has relied heavily on PayPal, despite the strategic relaunch that occurred in 2012.

The direct sale and online auction site was trying to create a niche as a type of global retail platform and go up against giants such as Amazon.

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Musgrave to ditch Superquinn brand and merge its 24 shops with SuperValu

The Mandate trade union said yesterday it was “hopeful” that some of the 102 staff at Superquinn facing redundancy could be redeployed into other roles within the Musgrave group, which owns the supermarket chain.

Mandate assistant general secretary Gerry Light said the union would “work hard” with the company over the next 30 days to seek redeployment for the support staff at Superquinn’s administrative base in Lucan who are facing redundancy after the Cork-based company announced its intention to merge the business with its SuperValu chain of stores.

Musgrave said it currently has 44 vacancies within the group and it would engage with staff and their unions to see if any of these could be filled by those employees affected by the job cuts.

This follows the decision of Cork-based Musgrave to ditch the Superquinn brand and merge its 24 shops with SuperValu’s chain of 198 stores.

The move will give SuperValu a 25 per cent share of the Irish grocery market. It will overtake Dunnes Stores as the number two player behind UK retailer Tesco when the merger is completed next February.

Musgrave chief executive Chris Martin told The Irish Times yesterday that some of the redundancies could be compulsory. He said it was a tough decision to axe the Superquinn brand.

“If we’d been able to retain Superquinn that would have been great but given that we’ve now come to this decision it provides a real opportunity for SuperValu. It makes it number two in the [Dublin marketplace after Tesco] and it gives us scale.”

Steady decline

In its heyday, Superquinn had a market share of just under 9 per cent but it has been in steady decline for the past decade. Its sales once topped €600 million but have declined steadily to €450 million, due to a flight to value by shoppers and the entry of German discounters Aldi and Lidl to this market.

Musgrave has invested €15 million in Superquinn to date with another €10 million earmarked to improve its stores and product offering.

Mr Martin said he had no regrets about acquiring Superquinn or the €229 million price it paid for the business. “The stores gave us a real foothold into Dublin. That was an important consideration for us as we were underrepresented in Dublin.”

Superquinn was founded in 1960 by Senator Feargal Quinn, who sold the business in 2005 to Select Retail Holdings, a consortium of property investors led by Irish retailer Simon Burke, for about €420 million.

Customer reaction

Commenting on the possibility of Superquinn’s customers reacting negatively to Musgrave’s decision to ditch the brand, Mr Martin said: “There’s no doubt that people will be saddened to see the Superquinn name change but customers have told us that as long as you don’t change the range and as long as you keep the expertise and the relationships that they have in store . . . and you bring in the other added elements like the [SuperValu] own brands then they want to stay with us as a store.”

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M&S to open flagship store

UK RETAIL giant Marks & Spencer has, after years of speculation, confirmed that it is to open a flagship store at the proposed new Horizon Mall on the Dublin Road.

The planned 72,000 square foot branch will be an anchor store at the as-yet unfinished shopping centre, formerly known as Parkway Valley.

It is expected that the proposed Marks & Spencers branch will create 250 retail jobs for Limerick.

According to a company spokesperson, the development is subject to planning consent but heads of terms have been agreed and the much-demanded store is set to open in autumn 2016.

A number of Limerick public representatives and businesspeople have expressed concern that the development will be detrimental to the city centre.

Retail Excellence Ireland said it was disappointed that Marks & Spencer are planning an out of town store as “there are big plans for the city and M&S would be a great addition”.

Senior Planner with Limerick Local Authorities Gerry Sheeran said the Council’s current retail strategy encourages the development of the city centre only.

“At the moment we have a retail strategy that encourages the development of the city centre only as we felt that development was spread too much in the past.

“However there is existing planning permission for Parkway Valley, that was extended and it stands for another three-and-a-half years so we have no control over who goes in.”

Marks & Spencer had originally sought to open its first Limerick store at The Crescent Shopping Centre, but was refused permission from both Limerick County Council and An Bord Pleanala due to concerns about added traffic congestion.

The driving force behind the proposed development is Belfast-based developer Suneil Sharma, who acquired the 15-acre site in 2008 after the collapse of the original developer Liam Carroll’s Zoe Group.

The Zoe Group had completed the foundations, floors and much of the steel work for the Parkway Valley centre before it went into liquidation.

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Prada First-Half Sales Climb 12% Boosted by Asian Growth

Prada SpA (1913), an Italian maker of $1,870 handbags, reported a 12 percent increase in first-half sales boosted by growth in Asia.

Revenue advanced to 1.73 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in the six months through July, Milan-based Prada said today in a statement. Analysts predicted 1.75 billion euros according to the average of three estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Same-store sales rose 7 percent.

The luxury goods industry is rebounding after a stuttering start to the year with LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (MC) and Gucci-owner Kering (KER) SA last month reporting accelerating sales. Prada, which aims to grow without making acquisitions, said in June it is confident of high single-digit percentage growth in like-for-like sales this year as it opens as many as 80 stores. It had 491 directly-operated shops at the end of July.

“Overall, a slightly disappointing set of figures,” Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Allegra Perry said, citing decelerating second-quarter sales. However, we “believe this reflects self-help measures in wholesale.” She recommends buying the shares.

Prada said it reduced the number of its third-party distributors by more than 100.

Sales gained 18 percent in the Asia Pacific region, 16 percent in Japan and 14 percent in the Americas. European sales grew 5.7 percent.

Prada’s earnings were released after the close of the Hong Kong stock market, where its shares trade. The stock fell 1.5 percent to HK$71.40 today, giving the owner of brands including Miu Miu, Church and Car Shoe a market value of HK$182.7 billion ($23.6 billion).

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Tesco unveils supermarket of the future…pics

Tesco Extra in Watford, one of the biggest supermarkets in the UK, has been overhauled, with the store becoming the first to include a Giraffe restaurant after Tesco acquired the family dining chain.
The store also includes a Harris + Hoole coffee shop, a Euphorium bakery and a stand-alone F&F clothing section designed to feel like a fashion store.
Mr Clarke said the hypermarket represents a “major rethink” for Tesco and is part of the company’s £1bn drive to modernise its stores in an attempts to halt a decline in sales in the UK.
He said: “This is a very logical conclusion to the work we’ve been doing over the past 18 months. We’re been listening to customers and they tell us they want a real experience.
“They want space to browse, places to eat, great food. And they want big stores to be more welcoming, less sterile, less harsh.
“We’ve broken the mould here, and tried to set a new vision, which is more attractive and more compelling.
All around the world, hypermarkets are facing a challenge.
“The hypermarket has to adapt to compete. Where we have this type of destination store in Asia, the most successful ones are the ones with a complete offer focused on the family.”
The revamp of the 80,000 sq ft store is designed to reposition the Tesco Extra as a retail and leisure destination, rather than just a supermarket, in an attempt to attract customers.
The store includes a community room that could be used for yoga classes and music lessons.
Tesco has placed a greater focus on food in the hypermarket, with fruit and vegetables moved to the front of the store, and the fresh meat counter moved from the back wall to a 360-degree hub in the centre.
Tony Hoggett, the managing director for Tesco Extras, of which there about 250 in the UK, said the company is looking to refurbish a “handful” of its large stores this year.
“If this works, we will speed it up,” he said. “This the test for many ideas.”
Mr Hoggett said the store represented the “end of the cookie cutter approach” to supermarkets and that large stores will be increasingly tailored to meet the demands of local communities.

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Indian retail market to touch $1.3 trillion by 2020

The domestic retail market is poised to touch $1.3 trillion by 2020 and the industry has the responsibility to provide quality goods and services at affordable prices, Consumer Affairs Minister K V Thomas today said.

The consumer behaviour is also experiencing a transition with trends like online shopping, he said at an event organised by FICCI. With consumer awareness improving dumping of cheap goods from neighbouring countries is slowing down, he added.

“The Indian retail market is poised to reach $1.3 trillion by 2020 and therefore it will provide a tremendous growth opportunity for retail and FMCG players alike,” Thomas said, a week after government relaxed foreign direct investment (FDI) norms in multi-brand retail.

The Indian FMCG industry is growing at 11% annually. The current retail market size is $500 billion.

Thomas said they have “a responsibility” to keep consumer confidence by providing quality goods and services at affordable prices.

“I would expect the Indian industry to live up to the expectations of people who look up to you for goods and services at price they can afford,” he said, adding that the industry should serve consumers in such a manner that the regulators’ activities become redundant.

The minister said a high-level committee on internal trade reforms has been set up to see how laws could be streamlined to ensure vibrant market is in place for all stakeholders.

Last week, the government relaxed foreign direct investment (FDI) norms in multi-brand retail. It diluted mandatory 30% local sourcing norms for multi-brand retailers and permitted states to include cities with population less than 1 million for allowing such retailing.

Emphasising that India’s huge consumer base of more than one billion is an opportunity for the FMCG sector, Thomas said the industry should take advantage of this and invent new products with superior technical prowess and intelligence.

At present, global players are taking benefit of this situation. They are shifting to India to manufacture their goods as the country has cheap labour and the big market to exploit, he said.

He also mentioned that the domestic industry should “seriously” take into account huge decline in the number of families living below poverty line (BPL).

Consumer Affairs Secretary Pankaj Agrawala said, “We are moving towards a complex market. Consumers are ill-equipped and we have to play a proactive role.”

To protect consumers from unfair trade practices, he said an inter-ministerial panel will soon be set up to discuss how the government can take sue motto notice of grievances of consumers and take actions accordingly.

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Cos to open three stores in London area

Cos, owned by H&M, is to open a further three stores this autumn/winter on King’s Road, Canary Wharf and in the Bentall Centre, Kingston upon Thames.

The store opening in the Duke of York Square on King’s Road, will mark the retailers’ eighth store within London, and will stock both womenswear and kidswear and will launch with the autumn/winter 2013 collection.

A date hasn’t been set but it is thought that the King’s Road will be the first of the three stores to open its doors.

The Canary Wharf outlet, located in the extended Jubilee Place shopping centre, is expected to be open later in the winter, while the store in Kingston upon Thames’ Bentall Centre will extend the brands reach into south-west London. Both stores will offer a curated selection of menswear and womenswear.

Marie Honda, overall brand responsible director at Cos said: “With London being the home of our first ever Cos store and the Head Office, it’s great news that we will soon have 10 stores

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M&S to close four Irish shops with loss of 180 jobs

Retailer cites difficult trading conditions and poor outlook for retail sector

Retailer Marks & Spencer is to close four shops in the Republic with the loss of 180 jobs.

The outlets that will close are M&S Mullingar, Co Westmeath; M&S Tallaght, Dublin 24; M&S Simply Food, Dún Laoghaire and M&S Simply Food Naas, Co Kildare.

M&S is the latest high-profile franchise to curtail its presence here on the back of a fall-off in retail.

The company said the move to close the shops followed a strategic review of its Irish network.

The retailer also announced it would end operations at its Mallusk distribution centre in Co Antrim at the beginning of next year, with the possible loss of a further 144 jobs.

On the upside, M&S announced plans for a new flagship shop in Limerick which would open by 2016, creating up to 250 new jobs.

The British retailer has toyed with several possible locations in Limerick in the past, including the Opera Centre and the rejected Crescent extension.

The new Limerick outlet will anchor the proposed new Horizon Mall (formerly Parkway Valley), which is subject to planning permission.

Head of M&S Ireland Jonathan Glenister said M&S remained fully committed to its Irish business.

“We have traded here for the last 35 years, employ around 2,800 people and have extraordinarily loyal Irish customers, but the last few years have been very challenging.”

“During this time our Republic of Ireland business has been under continuous review and we have made savings and found efficiencies wherever possible.”

“However, the retail sector outlook has not improved and we have to act now to protect the long term good of the company.

“We have carried out a strategic store review and it is with regret that we are now closing four unprofitable stores,” Mr Glenister said.

The company has briefed the affected staff and pledged to do all it can help them through the coming weeks and support them with their future employment needs.

It also said it was “closely engaging” with union officials from Mandate and Siptu on all matters arising from the proposed redundancies.

Over the coming year, M&S said it would invest in its existing Irish portfolio, including a repositioning of the Grafton Street store as an M&S regional centre.

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Costa Coffee brings in camel milk in UAE outlets

Camel milk is growing in popularity with Costa Coffee becoming the first international coffee brand in the UAE to offer the ingredient option on its menu.
The ingredient was available from Wednesday in over 30 Costa Coffee outlets in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, with regular drinks available in camel milk instead of regular milk.
The brand will also launch a new Strawberry Camel Milk Cooler, which blends fresh camel milk, strawberry and vanilla.
Costa Coffee UAE general manager Eric Hughes said in comments published by Hotelier Middle East that the firm is the first international coffee chain with camel milk on the menu.

“Camel milk and dates were the traditional diet of the Bedouins up until the mid-20th century throughout the Middle East. Now this tradition is being introduced to Costa Coffee UAE where you can enjoy a delicious Camel Milk Cooler or simply add camel milk to your favourite Costa Coffee drinks,” he said in a statement.
Hughes predicted that camel milk will be a popular alternative to cow’s milk, “particularly for those with lactose intolerances”.
It also has a range of other healthly benefits; it has 50 percent less fat than cow’s milk, is high in vitamins and minerals including vitamic C and calcium.

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Ralph Lauren Falls After Forecast Implies Weak Quarter

Ralph Lauren Corp., the retailer of its namesake brand clothing, fell the most in more than two years after its forecast for the current quarter implied profit would trail analysts’ estimates.

The shares sank 8.6 percent to $173.13 in New York for the biggest decline since May 2011. The New York-based company’s shares have jumped 15 percent this year, compared with a 19 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Ralph Lauren said today in a statement that revenue in the quarter through September would rise at a low single-digit percentage rate and that its operating margin would narrow by as much as 350 basis points. The forecast implies profit of $2.28 per share at most, Michael Binetti, an analyst at UBS AG in New York, wrote in a note today. Analysts estimated $2.60, on average.

Net income in the three months ended June 29 fell 6.2 percent to $181 million because of costs from assuming direct control of the Chaps brand and unfavorable foreign-currency trends. The per-share profit matched the average of 14 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue gained 3.8 percent to $1.65 billion in the quarter, matching analysts’ average estimate.

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Zara opening flagship store in Walmer Park Shopping Centre PE

Owned by Inditex‚ the world’s biggest fashion retailer by sales‚ Zara will open its fourth store in SA – in Walmer Park Shopping Centre in Port Elizabeth.

Zara was established in 1975 with one store in La Coruña‚ Spain‚ and now operates 1‚763 shops in 86 countries.

The company joins a slew of international retailers setting up shop in emerging markets.

The store is set to open in late 2013 at the Growthpoint Properties-owned centre.

“We’re excited to welcome Zara to Walmer Park‚ where the leading international brand will greatly complement and enhance the retail mix‚ ensuring our centre’s position as the leading fashion destination in Port Elizabeth and indeed the Eastern Cape‚” said Leonie Scheepers‚ Growthpoint’s portfolio manager at Walmer Park Shopping Centre.

Walmer Park Shopping Centre is part of Growthpoint’s portfolio of 47 retail centres located throughout SA.

According to Adrian Bertschinger‚ MD for retail and consumer services at Accenture SA‚ the country is by far the biggest consumer economy in Africa and international retailers wanting a safer expansion strategy are inclined to use the country as a launch pad into the rest of Africa.

Africa‚ whose top 18 cities could have a combined spending power of $1.3-trillion‚ presents a compelling investment case for retailers as home market growth slows.

Companies including Walmart‚ Arcadia Group’s Topshop and Gap have already made a play for Africa‚ through SA. It is believed that H&M will open a store in 2015 in the Mall of Africa in Johannesburg.

This is the second Zara store in SA associated with Growthpoint‚ which owns 50% of Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront‚ the home of Zara’s Western Cape regional flagship store.

Compared with the six-month industry average‚ the Spanish retailer needs only two weeks to develop a new product and get it into stores.

Zara launches over 10‚000 new designs each year.

Local retailers are not resting on their laurels amid new competition — The Foschini Group‚ Truworths and Woolworths are streamlining sourcing and speed to market efficiencies.

In its annual report released in June‚ Edcon said the retail market in SA was highly competitive‚ particularly with respect to product selection and quality‚ store location and design‚ price‚ customer service‚ credit availability and advertising.

“We compete at the national and local levels with a wide variety of retailers. For example‚ in the Edgars division we compete directly with Woolworths‚ Truworths and Foschini. In the discount division we compete with Mr Price‚ Ackermans and PEP. Increased competition from our existing competitors or new entrants to the market could result in lower prices and margins or a decrease in our market share‚ any of which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. In addition‚ international competitors have entered our market‚ creating increased competition‚ as in the case of Cotton On‚ Walmart and Zara‚” it said.

Edcon is in the process of reviving its Edgars chain‚ which has lost market share over the last few years. The company‚ which has improved sourcing and beefed-up its merchandising teams‚ is rolling out new formats such as Edgars Shoe Gallery. It is also adding new brands like Dune and Tom Tailor – an extension of the group’s shop-in-shop and mono-branded stores concept aimed at increasing footfall. In 2012‚ in partnership with House of Busby‚ Edcon was given the rights for Topshop and Topman in SA.

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Nicole Kidman’s Jimmy Choo campaign revealed

You wait weeks for a celebrity-fronted fashion campaign to come along, then two drop at once. Not to be outdone by Sienna Miller snogging for Burberry this morning, Jimmy Choo has unveiled its autumn/winter 2013 campaign, which sees Hollywood leading lady, Nicole Kidman, in seductive Hitchcock heroine mode.

SEE: Nicole Kidman’s Jimmy Choo campaign in full
http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/galleries/TMG10152589/Nicole-Kidmans-Jimmy-Choo-campaign-in-pictures.html

The series of atmospheric images, shot by renowned fashion photographer Mikael Jansson, depict the Oscar-winning actress as a tousled femme fatale (in an extremely mussed-up wig), variously lounging about on some rather chic furniture, and posing with a classic car that is either having radiator trouble or there’s a sinister mist rolling in…

In fact the whole campaign has a rather sinister edge – we’re not sure if those are ‘come to bed’ eyes, or ‘I’m going to kill you in your bed’ eyes – but the overall effect is rather dramatic and arresting.

“I really enjoyed being able to play a role that was strong, sexy and in control,” Kidman said in a statement. “I got into a relationship with the photographer and Mikael is very intuitive, he knows what I am thinking and feeling and is able to translate it through the camera.”

The 46-year-old Australian, who has previously appeared in campaigns for Chanel No.5 and Omega watches, has just finished filming the Grace Kelly biopic Grace Of Monaco, which will hit screens early next year.

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Struggling JCPenney Gets A New Marketing Chief

Struggling JCPenney Gets A New Marketing Chief

Reuters/Natalie Behring

NEW YORK (AP) — J.C. Penney Co. has hired an executive from the mac-and-cheese world to reconnect with its middle-income shoppers.
The beleaguered department store on Monday named Kraft Foods Inc. executive Debra Berman as senior vice president of marketing to help revitalize the struggling brand, filling a void in the company that remained for 14 months.

Penney is trying to win back customers who fled during a transformation plan spearheaded by chain’s former CEO, Ron Johnson, that backfired and led to massive losses and sales drops.

Berman, 45, who has worked for Kraft since 2009, served as vice president for marketing strategy and directed global brand strategy for all Kraft-owned brands, including Velveeta, Philadelphia cream cheese and Kraft macaroni and cheese.

J.C. Penney, which is based in Plano, Texas, said Berman joins the company’s executive board and will report directly to CEO Mike Ullman III. The appointment took effect Friday.

The appointment, however, did little to boost investor confidence. Shares fell more than 1 percent , or 16 cents, to $14.13 in morning trading. The stock has been down 30 percent since January 2013 and has lost nearly 70 percent of its value since early 2012, when investor bullishness about Johnson’s turnaround plan pushed shares up to $43.

Berman fills the void left by Michael Francis, who departed in June 2012 after being hired by Johnson eight months earlier. Francis, who was president and marketing chief, was responsible for marketing a new pricing plan created by Johnson. After Francis left, Johnson himself oversaw marketing, until he was fired in April.

Berman’s appointment is the latest management change under Ullman, who returned to Penney’s helm in April when the board fired Johnson after only 17 months on the job. Since then, nearly a dozen senior executives, many hired by Johnson, have left.

Ullman is trying to replace them to help reverse Penney’s fortunes. He’s also working to stabilize the business by bringing back basic merchandise and more frequent sales that were eliminated by Johnson in a failed bid to attract younger, hipper customers.

However, analysts say that while traffic is improving as a result of stepped-up discounts and the return of brands like St. John’s Bay, there has been no evidence of a turnaround yet as the company heads into the bulk of the critical back-to-school shopping.

Even the home area, which was Johnson’s project and features a slew of trendy new names like Jonathan Adler and Michael Graves, has failed to resonate with shoppers, analysts say.

Penney was counting on the new home area, launched this spring, to reinvigorate customer traffic, but expensive items like $3,000 sectional couches have turned off its middle-income shoppers. On Penney’s website, home merchandise is being discounted anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent.

Deborah Weinswig, an analyst at Citi Research, believes that lack of a full-scale management team is holding the company back

“We do not think it is realistic to expect business to improve without a full management team and turnaround plan in place,” Weinswig said in a note published last week. “(The company) is operating with a ‘Swiss cheese’ executive team, and we think the company has had a difficult time finding talent.”

Once a cheerleader of the stock, Weinswig downgraded the shares to “Sell” last week from “Neutral.”

Erik Gordon, a business professor at the University of Michigan, agrees Penney faces challenges.

“(Berman is) a well-respected marketer, but can she sell blouses in malls?” he said. “Penney’s learned from Ron Johnson that marketing success doesn’t always transfer,”

At least, given Berman’s background in the food business, “she won’t repeat the mistake of being too hip,” Gordon said.

Penney amassed nearly a billion dollars in losses and its revenue dropped 25 percent for the fiscal year that ended Feb. 2 in the first year of the failed transformation strategy. Losses and sales drops continued into the first quarter, as the shadow of Johnson’s legacy remained. Penney is expected to report second-quarter results Aug. 20.

Analysts are expecting Penney to post a 7.3 percent drop in revenue at stores open at least a year for the period on top of steep declines a year ago. The measure is considered a key indicator of a retailer’s health.

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Tesco revamp looks to stop giant stores becoming a white elephant

Tesco Extra supermarkets will be revamped to include ‘community spaces’, soft play areas and eateries to attract increasing numbers of customers who only shop locally or online. Photograph: Alex Segre/Alamy
Bigger is no longer better – at least for supermarkets. After more than two decades of opening ever larger stores, shopping habits are changing fast and supermarket bosses are having to hastily rethink their business model.

They are chopping back the size of their largest stores as shoppers start to buy less, but more frequently and locally, and as traditional retailers face increasing competition from the internet.

Next week shoppers will get an idea of what might be in store for them when Tesco reopens its Watford hypermarket, with a whole array of new ideas designed to pull in families for more than just the weekly shop.

The Watford Extra shop, initially opened in 1988, will feature the first Giraffe restaurant outlet inside a Tesco – the grocer bought the chain in March for £49m – along with a nail salon and a “community space” for local groups to use. There will also be a branch of Harris & Hoole, the coffee shop chain backed by the grocer and a Euphorium artisan bakery.

At the vast Stockton-on-Tees branch Tesco is installing a soft-play zone and a gym which will offer pilates classes. In Coventry Tesco is testing out a new carvery restaurant called Decks that will serve up roast dinners for £5.50.

Sports Direct outlets could also soon be springing up inside Tesco stores: the grocer is in talks to rent space to the sportswear chain. It has already the sliced nearly 40% off one hypermarket in the Czech Republic by renting the space to Sports Direct and C&A. The move increased the number of visitors by 25% and trading profits rose by £0.5m.

Tesco’s UK boss Chris Bush told The Grocer magazine last week: “In the past, large hypermarkets were popular because they offered a massive range of products and people liked being able to buy everything under one roof – it made life easier. The internet has changed all that – people don’t even need to leave their homes to go shopping and more people are using convenience stores for regular top-up shops. So we need to give them good reasons to come to our larger stores.”

His view of superstores now is not one where shoppers wheel their trolleys down aisles filled entirely with giant bottles of Coke or electrical goods but as destinations where “customers can have a meal or coffee with their friends and family, browse for clothes and get their hair done. They can go to yoga classes or attend cookery classes in a space available for the local community to use.”

Tesco called an end to the supermarket “space race” a year ago, saying it was ditching its long-term plan of opening ever larger stores across the country. It is also hacking back the size of up to 50 of its biggest UK supermarkets. A further 20 stores in central Europe, some of which are as big as 14,000 sq metres (150,000 sq ft), also face a prune.

Philip Clarke, Tesco’s chief executive says that the company is unlikely to open any more stores over 7,500 sq metres in future, and all its existing stores over that size are likely to change markedly. Industry insiders have said it was probably a mistake for any supermarket to open stores over 5,500-6,500 sq metres – suggesting the pruning job could be bigger than Clarke is so far ready to admit.

Tesco is the first to admit that it needs to take drastic action to slim down its massive shops. But there are at least 137 other UK supermarkets over 5,500 sq metres, on top of the 238 Tesco owns in the UK, suggesting others may have to follow suit in future.

“This could be just the beginning,” says Dave McCarthy, retail analyst at Investec. “I think there will be a lot more over time.”

The large store is not just a UK phenomenon. Retailers such as Walmart in the US and Carrefour in Europe are all trying to work out how to prevent their giant stores becoming white elephants.

Once the bright shiny face of the future, shoppers have fallen out of love with huge supermarkets. With the dawn of the internet, it’s more convenient, and often cheaper, to buy large non-food items such as TVs and sofas from home.

Rising petrol prices mean that driving to out of town stores is more expensive and those trying to watch their budget are choosing to shop more frequently, and more locally, rather than risk the temptations on offer at a hypermarket. Meanwhile, buying groceries online is increasingly attractive, particularly now it’s possible to pick them up at a convenient time via click-and-collect services.

While there is mounting concern about the decline of the UK’s town centres, out-of-town stores have been witnessing a much bigger drop in visitor numbers. In the early months of this year, according to the British Retail Consortium/Springboard footfall monitor, the number of out-of-town shoppers fell 4.3%, compared to a 2.9% drop on the high street.

With fewer visitors, large stores can seem dreary and cavernous. As Tesco’s chief executive Phil Clarke told analysts: “The worst thing is going into a store which is short on customers and big on space.”

What’s more, huge stores are just no longer cost effective. Tesco and its rivals earn little profit from selling electronics, CDs or DVDs, while the space needed to display them needs heating, lighting and staff.

Asda boss Andy Clarke has said he wants to work with well-known local independent outlets, such as butchers and bakers, to create more life and colour in stores. The US-owned chain already has branches of McDonald’s and Disney concessions in some stores and plans to do more such ventures.

Asda has also tried letting community groups use spare space for dance lessons and scout groups and even hosted a driving test centre and provided rooms for midwives and police officers.

Clive Black, an analyst at Shore Capital, says: “It is premature to say that hypermarkets are dead but they are having to evolve to remain relevant. In five years time they will look very different.”

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Construction of new Saudi ‘mega city’ to begin

An Indian developer said it would begin construction of a new mega city in Saudi Arabia, worth SR10.9bn ($2.9bn), shortly after Ramadan.

The development in Rabigh, Makkah Province, will include an advanced hospital, a petrochemical plant, other industrial areas, schools, mosques and residential villas and cover 20m sqm of land formerly owned by a former Rabigh governor.

Gammon Group signed a deal last year to design, finance and build the city about 150kms north of Jeddah. It is expected to create more than 3000 jobs.

Gammon Group chairman Mohammed Rafik said construction would be completed in phases over nine years.

“The project includes a complete modern medical city to cater for the growing population and will include medical training facilities,” he said.

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Dixons, opens new concept Travel store at Gatwick Airport

Electrical retailer, Dixons Retail, has unveiled the first in a series of new concept stores for its travel brand, Dixons Travel, at Gatwick Airport in the South terminal. This concept store will be the blueprint moving forward for other store designs in the Dixons Travel portfolio, Dixons said.

Instead of offering traditional POS (point of sale), the new space features digital signage that shows the latest and greatest products and allows customers to easily browse for more information. The new store is reported to have been designed with the weary traveller in mind, with a more open and flowing feel and a shelf for tired customers to store their luggage whilst they pay for their purchases.

The store will house 1,100 products across 1,466sq ft of space – from the latest in tech to favourite travel essentials. Tablet ‘look books’ (10in screens) will sit next to products allowing customers to gain more information on the products and associated offers in a more interactive and less cluttered format.

The store launch also sees, for the first time, a Dixons Travel store fitted with a Knowhow bar, giving customers hands-on tech advice and repairs.

Dixons Travel said it has also enhanced the in-store customer experience, utilising digital visual merchandising tables with 32-in rear projection ‘floating screens’ over specially themed areas, creating a theatrical atmosphere to the overall product floor.

Ahead of the opening, the store team is reported to have received additional training to ensure the customer experience remains at the highest standard while in such a fast paced, high-tech environment.

Jeremy Fennell, managing director for Dixons Travel, said: “This is the store of the future for us. We are focused on delivering a better range and store experience for Travel customers, including a focus on portable items, accessories and other flight-ready products.”

The Dixons Travel business is reported to continue to perform well for the wider Dixons group, which has recently opened international stores in Brussels, branded Knowhow, joining Copenhagen, Rome and Milan as international operations.

Visitors to Gatwick Airport will be sent a text message upon arrival offering them a £10 off £100 spend voucher at Dixons Travel in the South Terminal.

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Tesco creates new family carvery restaurant

In the latest example of Britain’s biggest retailer diversifying from its core of supermarket retailing, Tesco has developed a new family restaurant called Decks, whose first location opens this week at the Tesco Extra at Coventry Arena.
Decks is named after the “decks” used to present the food for customers to choose and is promoting itself as offering “real” and “wholesome” British food. The decks include a “breakfast deck”, “carving deck”, and “pastry deck”.
Carveries, which allow customers to select their own meat and vegetables, have grown in the UK on the back of success for chains such as Harvester and Toby Carvery.
Tesco has already acquired restaurant chain Giraffe and a stake in coffee chain Harris + Hoole in an attempt to convert its hypermarkets into retail and leisure ventures.
However, unlike Giraffe and Harris + Hoole, Tesco has created Decks from scratch and owns 100pc of the new business.

The restaurant is owned by a new company called Tesco Family Dining Limited. According to Companies House, the three directors of the company are Michael Holmes, who works on new projects for Tesco, Jonathan Lloyd, Tesco’s group company secretary, and Scilla Grimble, the corporate finance and treasury director at Tesco.
It is understood that the restaurant in Coventry is a trial and, if it proves successful, Decks could be rolled out across the country.
Decks in Coventry is offering a beef, pork, gammon or chicken carvery for £5.50. As well as offering a carvery service at lunch and in the evening, the restaurant will sell sandwiches, salads, cakes and has an extensive children’s menu. The restaurant also sells alcohol.
A Tesco spokesperson said “Decks offers customers fresh food at excellent prices, with lots of great healthy options available. It’s a new food concept that we’re trialling in our Coventry Arena store and we look forward to seeing what customers think.”

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Victoria Beckham is set to open her first shop on London’s Dover Street ?

Victoria Beckham is said to be in talks to open her first store on London’s trendy Dover Street.

The Mayfair location is already home to hip Dover Street Market, as well as flagship stores belonging to McQueen diffusion line McQ, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin and Acne, and is fast becoming one of central London’s premier designer shopping destinations.

Beckham’s team of advisors are thought to be negotiating to take the lease of number 36, reports the Evening Standard , though her people have declined to confirm the news, saying: “A store in London is under discussion.”

Fellow British-based designers Christopher Kane and Roksanda Ilincic are also said to be set to open their debut stores, with Kane opting for the Bond Street area and Ilincic for nearby Mount Street, home to stores belonging to Lanvin and Marc Jacobs.

Plans for Kane’s first store come just a few months after Kering (formerly PPR) acquired a majority stake in his eponymous label and confirmed that opening a first store was a priority.

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Victoria’s Secret set to conquer UK with three new stores

Victoria’s Secret set to conquer UK with three new stores

American lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret is branching out of the capital with boutiques in Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds.

The capital has enjoyed not one but two Victoria’s Secret store openings over the past year, and now the north of England is about to get its dose of the American underwear giant.

The brand famous for its cast of ‘Angel’ models (currently on the roster are Candice Swanepoel, Karlie Kloss and Behati Prinsloo) is planning three new openings, starting with Manchester on August 8.

The city’s Trafford Centre will welcome a 1130 sq foot shop stocking all of the brand’s extensive ranges and a Bra Salon to ensure the perfect fit. There will also be an area dedicated to PINK, its subsidiary, collegiate-inspired line aimed at younger customers.

Across the Pennines, Sheffield is poised for its Victoria’s Secret invasion on August 13, while in West Yorkshire, the Leeds outpost will open its doors on August 29.

Victoria’s Secret, which boasts over 1,000 stores across the US, opened a four-storey flagship on London’s Bond Street in August last year, and an additional boutique in the Westfield shooping centre in Stratford.

For those whose hometown isn’t set for its own store just yet can enjoy shipping from the US via its website.

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Schuh announces London expansion plans

The Livingston-based firm is to establish three new stores in the city, as part of a wider growth plan.

A total of 18 new shops are scheduled to open across the UK by the end of the year.

At the weekend the company’s first standalone ahop in a retail park began trading at the Fort Shopping Park near Glasgow.

Two of the new London stores will be located on Oxford Street, with the third planned for the Jubilee Mall at Canary Wharf.

Phil Whittle, head of store operations, said: “As a retailer who started life in Scotland 32 years ago, these three London signings form part of our wider five-year strategy to increase our southern footprint and gain market share in the capital.

“We already have one very successful store on Oxford Street, where we have traded since 2004, and are delighted that these three new stores will give the London shopper even more exposure to Schuh and more choice about where to buy their shoes.”

The footwear firm currently has more than 90 stores throughout the UK and Ireland.

In 2011, workers at Schuh shared in a windfall of more than £37m.

The payments to employees were announced after a takeover of the firm by the US group Genesco in a deal worth more than £125m.

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New Samsung Store Opens In Rail Park Mall, Botswana

Samsung Botswana officially opened its third store in Gaborone at Rail park mall, bringing the total number of Samsung franchise stores in Botswana to five.

Two stores operate in Francistown. Samsung Botswana, a subsidiary of the Samsung Group worldwide with an industry legacy of over 70 years, is reputed to have a strong commitment to being the world’s best electronics company. The brand has won the No.1 global market share for 13 of its products, including semiconductors, monitors and CDMA mobile phones.

At the official opening of the store, Minister for Transport and Communication, Nonofo Molefhi, said the opening of the store brings new possibilities and opportunities to the job market for Batswana. He implored those hired by the store to show commitment to their job, especially since it is owned by Batswana.

Samsung Rail Park Mall Director, Thato Raletsatsi, who co-owns the store with her husband Benjamin Raletsatsi told The Monitor Business that the business came at a time when they had ventured into many failed ventures, but stressed that since the opening of their store in 2012 they have already seen increased exposure for the brand in the market and that the customer turnout is good.

“We’ve seen a great welcome since we established the store in Rail Park Mall and we are excited to celebrate that and the pleasing performance thus far with today’s official launch. This also gives us the opportunity to assess our strategy and objectives thus far as a business and identify ways to leverage off and strengthen that,” said Raletsatsi. Raletsatsi said it’s an honor that Samsung Group gave them the opportunity to participate in its technological revolution which has been an exciting journey so far and that they look forward to continuing with the journey.

She further explained that the decision to open a store at Rail Park Mall was a valuable business opportunity for them and part of Samsung’s aggressive growth strategy for Botswana. The Rail Park Mall store stocks a full range of Samsung electronics and accessory products, ranging from hand held products (HHPs) to consumer electronics and digital appliances. Samsung has currently employed young Batswana across the country, with the Rail Park Mall store staffing eight young Batswana at present and having brought its own sense of value to the centre.

Samsung Key Account Manager, Topollo Pilane, said Samsung stores are not only retail outlets where Batswana can buy HHP & IT products, but also a place where people can visit the Samsung brand to fully experience it. There are plans to launch eight more Samsung Electronics Stores in areas like Francistown, Mahalapye, Palapye, and Maun, with the aim of having 10 in Botswana.

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American Apparel buys New York specialty retailer, Oak

New York — American Apparel has purchased the independent New York specialty retailer and wholesaler, Oak, according to Women’s Wear Daily.

Oak has two stores (one in Brooklyn, and the other in Manhattan) an e-commerce site and a wholesale business. The brand has a cool, hip vibe, and features contemporary fashions at upmarket prices. It will operate as a separate division within American Apparel, and its founders will remain on board, the report said.

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EasyGroup hopes to take on Aldi with budget supermarket plan

EasyJet founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, says he became aware of an opportunity after the publicity about the usage of food banks. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images
EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou plans to challenge low-cost food retailers by undercutting low prices offered by budget supermarkets Aldi and Lidl.

The entrepreneur on Sunday announced plans for a pilot site for his easyFoodstore in Croydon. The venture, added the easyGroup boss, could be extended next year if it is successful.

Haji-Ioannou said he became aware of an opportunity following publicity about the widespread use of food banks. He said: “I have a feeling that there is a gap in the food retail market – a niche below some of the current budget operators such as Aldi and Lidl.

“Concentrating on affordable, basic ‘no-brand-name’ packet and tinned foods at bargain prices, easyFoodstore underlines the need for additional reliable day-to-day provision of basic foodstuffs. No other details have yet been decided.”

He said the business could expand next year by taking advantage of weak property prices to buy up freehold retail sites.

He added: “I hope that a commercially viable venture offering affordable food will help many people in need as well as producing a viable return for the capital employed.”

Recent retail figures suggest the UK grocery market is becoming increasingly polarised with the strongest sales gains coming at the top and bottom ends – with the likes of Waitrose doing well on one side and Aldi and Lidl on the other.

The business will focus on a limited range of tinned and packet foods. It has a website, easyFoodstore.com, “coming soon”.

Haji-Ioannou said the venture was still at a very early stage, with a pilot store to open on the ground floor of a nine-storey building easyGroup has acquired in Croydon which is also expected to house its easyHotel, easyOffice and easyGym businesses.

The entrepreneur remains a major shareholder in easyJet but has recently objected to management plans to buy a fleet of new Airbus aircraft, threatening to take directors to court if the move destroys shareholder value.

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Kuwait’s Kout Food Group buys Little Chef for £15m

The UK branch of Kout Food Group Restaurants has agreed to pay around £15m for 81 of the remaining 83 Little Chef outlets run by Rcapital and is promising to revitalise the brand while retaining Fat Charlie, its mascot.

Fadwa Al Homaizi, chairman, said: “Little Chef will benefit from a process of brand renewal in keeping with current trends, supported by traditional British values.”

Kout already runs more than 40 Burger King and KFC outlets in the UK as well as Maison Blanc, the French patisserie venture started by celebrity chef Raymond Blanc. It has exclusive franchises in Kuwait for Burger King, Pizza Hut, Applebee’s and Taco Bell.

Turnaround specialist Rcapital felt it could provide the long-established business with a new lease of life after paying around £9m in 2007 to take the group out of administration following an earlier crisis. But the Rcapital team, faced with motorists favouring motorway rather than A-road journeys, had its work cut out to make Little Chef more appealing and, although the business moved back into the black, it was decided three months ago to seek new owners.

Rcapital felt it had done enough to reposition the business after huge changes that involved closures, job losses and coping with the prolonged downturn in the economy.

Fast food rivals McDonald’s and KFC made offers that would have seen the Little Chef name disappear after 55 years, but only Kout came in with a bid that would protect the slimmed-down roadside chain, 1,000 jobs and a commitment to grow the business and the brands.

Rcapital was almost emotional yesterday in announcing the deal for a business in which it had developed a “deep affection”.

Jamie Constable, chief executive, described Little Chef as the biggest and longest turnaround in its nine-year history.

He conceded the turnaround task was much harder than expected but he felt Rcapital had created consistently profitable sites in an operational turnaround that had stretched management.

Mr Constable added: “Having owned Little Chef for a long time, it feels like we are selling part of ourselves. But we take comfort from the fact that the new owners will take the brand to the next stage.”

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Spar UK opens first branded forecourt store in Pickering, North Yorkshire

Spar UK has opened its first branded forecourt store, in Pickering, North Yorkshire.

Spar UK and Harvest Energy revealed the branded forecourt concept, which is designed to help convenience retailers compete against the multiples and major oil companies, in April 2013.

B & M Harland, owned by retailer Geoff Harland on behalf of his family, is the first site to launch the Spar branded petrol filling station this week. Spar branding now features prominently on the canopy, pumps, poll sign and shop fascia.

Harland said the Spar fuel branding was attractive on a number of important levels.

“We wanted more independence in the running of the business, and were frustrated by the costs associated with the major oil companies,” he said.

“The pricing is very competitive, allowing me to compete in the market and make good margins, while offering high quality fuel from Harvest Energy.”

The strength of the international Spar brand also appealed to Harland, as did the idea of linking store and forecourt branding.

“The personal touch and real feel of partnership were also important elements, as Spar and Harvest worked with me to develop my entire offering, shop and forecourt,” he said.

The Harland forecourt business, which was started in 1950 by Harland’s parents, previously traded as Mobil, before BP took over the company in the 90s.

“This is a new start for my business and I’m very excited about the future. Initial feedback from customers has already been very positive,” he said.

Mark Steven, Spar UK business development controller, said: “I am delighted that Geoff has taken on our Spar branded forecourt concept, as he now has access to one of the most competitive fuel supply deals in the market.

“The alliance offers retailers a host of benefits, and we are looking forward to opening new Spar branded forecourts in the near future.”

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Ti Sento to open first UK standalone store

The European jewellery brand will be opening in the Trafford Centre, Manchester in September

The 84sqm store is being operated as a franchise by Michael and Allison Aldridge who have previously worked with Ti Sento at their Neil & Barker store in Widnes, Cheshire.

“We believe opening a Ti Sento flagship store gives our business the opportunity to work with like-minded people who have the same ideals and values as us,” said Michael Aldridge. “Ti Sento combines its brand values of quality, style, design and on trend with a wonderful collection of beautifully finished silver rhodium plated products, which attracts customers looking for something special.”

He added: “Our new store will offer a comprehensive collection of beautifully designed jewellery at affordable prices and with the knowledge that the finish of the Ti Sento product matches that of many luxury jewellery brands.”

Judith Lockwood, Ti Sento’s country manager UK, also said: “We are delighted to be working with Michael and Allison on this exciting venture for Ti Sento.”

Ti Sento, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary, is known for its fashion-forward designs in rhodium-plated sterling silver accented with rose and yellow gold and dramatic coloured stones.

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Apple to Open New Retail Store in Italy on August 3

Apple is set to open a new retail location in Rimini, Italy this Saturday, on August 3. The store is located in the largest shopping mall in the Emilia-Romagna region, Le Befane, which includes more than 130 different retail shops and restaurants. Though Apple has 12 stores spread across the country, the Le Befane location will be the first in Rimini.

The location is reportedly quite large, spanning approximately 1,000 square meters between both the warehouse and retail space.

At store openings, Apple typically hands out commemorative T-shirts to the first 1,000 customers to visit. The Rimini Apple Store is set to open at 9 a.m. this Saturday, and Apple has already begun accepting reservations for workshops and Genius Bar appointments.

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