Monthly Archives: September 2014

Richard Branson’s Virgin Mobile launches in Saudi Arabia

Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa (VMMEA), part-owned by British entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, launched telecoms services in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, beginning the biggest shake-up in the kingdom’s telecoms sector in six years.

VMMEA is launching two brands after benefiting from the national telecoms regulator’s decision to order the country’s three mobile operators to each host a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in an effort to stimulate competition.

The two brands being launched by VMMEA are Virgin Mobile, aimed at the youth market, and Friendi Mobile, targeting Saudi’s expatriate workers.

As well as VMMEA’s tie-up with STC, Jawraa Lebara partnered with No.2 operator Mobily. Dubai retailer Axiom Telecom did likewise with Zain Saudi, but the regulator subsequently ordered that licence to be retendered in a process still ongoing.

VMMEA and Jawraa last week acknowledged that problems arranging interconnection with other operators and satisfying state security concerns had delayed their launch, but the regulator has now given VMMEA the go ahead, according to a company statement on Tuesday.

The launch, days before Islam’s annual haj pilgrimage, is timely. An estimated 1.4 million Muslim pilgrims are expected to arrive in the kingdom this year.

Such an influx is a boon for telecoms operators, with tourists often buying local sim cards to call locally and to friends and family at home.

VMMEA is aiming to tap into Saudi Arabia’s large and relatively young population. Its economy is forecast to grow 4.2 percent this year, according to a Reuters poll of economists this month, while the CIA Factbook estimates that 47 percent of its 27.3 million people are under 25.

The introduction of MVNOs is the biggest change to Saudi’s telecoms sector since Zain Saudi became its third mobile operator in 2008. The kingdom is only the second Gulf country after Oman to allow MVNOs, which are widespread in Europe, North America and Asia.

VMMEA, which also has operations in Oman, Jordan, South Africa and Malaysia, predicts that Saudi’s introduction of MVNOs could spur neighbouring countries to do likewise.

“The regional telecommunications industry is set to be reshaped over the coming years,” it said.

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Karl Lagerfeld opens first men’s only store in Paris

The new store which is located on Rue Marbeuf store and is spread over two floors will showcase the latest KARL LAGERFELD and LAGERFELD men’s collections including ready-to-wear, accessories, watches, fragrances, eyewear, and novelty items from the World of KARL LAGERFELD.

Spanning 133-square-metres, the interior décor features a monochromatic black and white colour scheme, which juxtaposes sleek, modern furnishings and classic accents. Mirrors and walls of light highlight the Fall 2014 KARL LAGERFELD men’s collections, adding a distinctive and edgy element to product presentation.

The Rue Marbeuf men’s store joins KARL LAGERFELD locations in Paris at 194 Boulevard St. Germain and 25 Rue Veille du Temple, which both carry the latest selection of KARL LAGERFELD’s men’s and women’s collections.

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Crocs India to reach out to a wider consumer base through multiple franchise partners

Innovative casual footwear brand Crocs India is setting foot in towns like Siliguri, Sikkim and Coimbatore through local partnership. The brand has already yjytmade a mark in the metros and now it is focusing on tier 1 and 2 towns where it hopes to strengthen its presence throughnk the franchise model.

Crocs took the global footwear market by storm with the massive success of its iconic clog in 2002. The footwear major has sold more than 200 million pairs of shoes in more than 90 countries around the world. In India too, Crocs has grown into a formidable brand in the fun footwear category and plans to cross the 100 stores benchmark.

Crocs India, as a strategy has always used local expertise to grow the brand. The brand has always been selective about choosing its partners, even replicating the same strategy in the online space through exclusive partnerships with only two leading online aggregators i.e. Jabong.com and Amazon.in. However, after consistent support from all quarters, the brand now plans to explore new partnerships in retail.

Nissan Joseph, General Manager, Crocs India
Mr. Nissan Joseph, General Manager, Crocs India adds, “We at Crocs have always believed in the value addition our multiple partners bring to the brand. They understand the local markets better and their expertise helps us offer the right mix of products to our customers. As we move into our next phase of expansion, we are aiming for a wider national reach and for this we want to explore more retail partnerships. The idea is to leverage their expertise in local understanding of what customers want.” Crocs began its operations in India in the year 2007. It now has 34 exclusive stores (including kiosks and factory outlets) in the country. Crocs products are also available in more than 15 cities across India in more than 300 multi-brand outlets.

Having tasted great success with this model, Crocs believes that the strategy will allow the brand to target the different needs of different consumers across the length and breadth of India. In this phase of expansion, Crocs aims to take the range across the country and reach out to a much wider audience base.

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Edgars targets $4,7m profit – Zimbabwe

Harare – Listed clothing retailer Edgars Stores Limited (Edgars) is targeting a 193 percent growth in profit to $4, 7 million in the 2014 financial year.

The group recorded a $1, 6 million profit in the half year to July.

During the six months, its performance was significantly affected by an acute liquidity crisis, sluggish economic growth, company closures and price- based competition in the cash market resulting in the company recording a turnover of $29,5 million, lower than projected. However, the group’s chair Themba Sibanda said they expected the trend to “change by year end as trading has picked up since April and the group expects to see positive bottom line growth for the year”.

He said they expected to register $70 million turnover in the full year on the back of anticipated increase in demand in the festive season.

In the 26 weeks to July, the clothing manufacturer opened two new stores — in Victoria Falls and downtown Harare — bringing the total number of Edgars branches to 28 from 24 in July 2013.

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M&S Simply Food to arrive at Edinburgh Airport terminal extension in October

UK. Edinburgh Airport will welcome M&S Simply Food next month, as it prepares to offer passengers a “new shopping experience” at its terminal extension.

The Marks & Spencers food retail brand will be the first outlet open in the extension on 1 October, with a prime location in the domestic Arrivals hall.

The 1,766sq ft store is operated under an agreement between Marks & Spencer and food & beverage operator SSP.

Edinburgh Airport Head of Retail and Property Richard Townsend said: ““We’re constantly speaking to our passengers and we listen to what they want. A premium convenience store where you can pick up everyday essentials before and after your journey is something we’ve been planning to give our customers for a long time.”

Bob Johnson of SSP UK said: “We’re continuously looking to increase the choices available to air travellers and workers at the airport, and the M&S Simply Food concept has already become a hit in other airports across the uk.
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H&M eyes further expansion in US, China

Fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB said on Thursday it plans to expand its business over the coming year by increasing online sales and opening new stores, particularly in its largest markets, the US and China.

CEO Karl-Johan Persson says the Swedish company is in a “very intensive investment phase” and plans to open 8 to 10 online markets next year on top of 375 new stores in locations worldwide. H&M opened new online markets this year in France, Italy and Spain and China, which received “a very good response from customers,” Persson said.

The company opened another flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York in the summer and said expansion plans were on track with most new stores opening in its largest markets, China and the US. It also plans to begin operations in the Philippines in October and in South Africa, Peru, Taiwan and Macau next year.

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UK retailer to open six more Dealz stores in Republic of Ireland

UK-listed retailer Poundland is planning to open six new Dealz stores in Ireland over the next year, chief executive Jim McCarthy has told The Irish Times.

“The plan is to add six additional shops in the next 12 months but we might actually add to that,” Mr McCarthy said. “We’ve got a lot of growth to come.”

The new openings will bring to 41 the number of shops in the Republic for Dealz, which opened here three years ago this month with stores in Blanchardstown and Portlaoise.

The group’s revenues from the Republic amounted to £55 million for the year to the end of March 2014.

Target

Mr McCarthy said Poundland had pencilled in 70 stores into its expansion plans for the Republic. “Internally, our target is 70 but Javelin, our consultants, say that 100 can be done.”
The Poundland chief executive said it would also consider establishing a distribution centre here at some point in the future. “There’s not enough critical mass just yet but, as we continue to grow, it will make us think very hard about setting up a distribution centre.”

Dealz opened its 34th store in Wexford last week with Mr McCarthy reporting that it attracted 3,000 customers on its first day.

To date, the UK company has invested €53.6 million in its Irish network with about €4.5 million being spent this year on its expansion. It attracts about 200,000 customers a week to its Irish stores.

New brand

Dealz was a new brand launched here by Poundland, targeted at the value end of the retail market. Most of its products are branded and are sold for €1.49. In the UK, most of its products sell at £1.
Mr McCarthy said the average spend by Irish shoppers in its Dealz outlets amounts to £6 per transaction. By comparison, UK consumers spend £4.50 on average in Poundland stores.

Why the difference?

“There’s a couple of things. We’ve got a new brand in Ireland and I think there’s probably a bigger value difference in Ireland than in the UK, where there’s more competition.”

Mr McCarthy acknowledged that there are some “green shoots” of recovery in the Irish economy but doesn’t expect it to hinder the company’s growth.

“I think habits have been acquired [in the downturn] by consumers and those will continue. All the figures indicate that people like value and they’re supporting companies like ourselves, Aldi, Lidl and Primark.”

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Middle East Franchise Expo – Dubai – 21st and 22nd October 2014.

Middle East Franchise Expo – Jumeirah Beach Hotel – Dubai – Tuesday 21st and Wednesday 22nd October 2014.

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Micky Jagtiani tops list of Gulf-based rich Indians

Middle East retailing king Micky Jagtiani has been named the richest Indian in the Gulf by Forbes magazine.

Seven Gulf-based Indians are included in the latest global ranking of rich Indians, with Jagtiani at number 17, worth $5.3 billion.

His Landmark Group, based in Dubai, started with one store in Bahrain in 1973 and now rakes in revenues of $5 billion annually, with 1800 stores across the region, Africa and India.

The second richest Indian in the Gulf, according to Forbes, is Ravi Pillai, chairman and CEO of the RP Group of Companies.

His wealth grew 65 percent in the past year, to $2.8 billion, moving him four places up the ladder to 30.

“I am honoured and thankful to Forbes for the ranking. However, I am even more delighted at the strong representation of Indian entrepreneurs from the region in the list, which underlines the contributions of Gulf-based NRIs to promoting all-round development here and in India,” Pillai said in a statement.

Pillai is the highest ranked Gulf tycoon originating from Kerala, and ranked above Lulu Group, Yusuffali MA, who was the third highest ranked GCC resident, at number 40, worth $2.3 billion.

Forbes said Lulu Group raked in $5.7 billion in revenues in the past year from its 110 hypermarkets, supermarkets and grocery outlets, mostly in the Middle East. It is now expanding to Africa, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Other Gulf-based Indians on the list were: Sunny Varkey, founder of the world’s largest private education company GEMS Education, (#55, worth $1.8 billion); property mogul PNC Menon (#70, $1.4 billion); BR Shetty, whose NMC Health is the UAE’s largest healthcare firm, (#86, $1.1 billion), Azad Moopon, who chairs Dubai-based Aster DM Healthcare, (#95, $1.1 billion).

It is the first time everyone in the top 100 is a billionaire, with combined wealth of $346 billion, up more than a third from 11 months ago, Forbes said.

The richest is Mukesh Ambani, who has topped the list for 8 years in a row, with $23.6 billion. He added $2.6 billion to his wealth, even as his $55 billion (market cap) Reliance Industries, battles the federal government’s decision to review a gas price increase approved by the previous regime.

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Top Apple Execs Sold $143 Million Of Their Stock Right Before AAPL Dropped

Top Apple executives, including CEO Tim Cook, have sold off a massive amount of company stock in a planned sale.

Cult Of Mac reports, citing a report in Barron’s, that five key Apple executives sold off stock in 10b5-1 planned sales.

CEO Tim Cook sold 348,425 shares for $35,250,297.
Senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller sold 348,846 shares for $35,256,000.
CFO Luca Maestri sold his entire direct holdings of 16,374 shares for $1,631,286.
Senior vice president of operations Jeffrey E. Williams sold 348,846 shares for $35,233,446.
General counsel and senior vice president of legal and government affairs Bruce D. Sewell sold 348,846 shares for $35,393,915.
Scheduled stock sales allow management to gain their stock-based performance compensation while shielding them from accusations that they are merely selling when it’s convenient. Of course, managers do maintain control of product release dates. And it’s a matter of some debate whether new iPhone releases make Apple stock rise or fall — it depends on the timeframe before and after the release that you use to answer that question.

The sales came right before Apple’s iPhone 6 launch problems, Cult of Mac says:

The sales came between September 5 and 22, days after Apple shares hit a record high, following this year’s 7-to-1 stock split.

Cook now owns less than a 1 percent stake in Apple. He previously sold off chunks of stock in 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Apple shares struggled Thursday. Problems with the iOS 8 update and reports of an unintentionally bendy iPhone 6 resulted in $20 billion being wiped off the company’s value as shares fell 3.5%. The share price later evened out before the final bell.

Yahoo Finance

The New York Stock Exchange doesn’t wake up for a few more hours. But the question on traders’ minds will be: “Has the market fully priced in the flaws in iOS 8 and iPhone 6, or will the mom and pop retail traders, who usually move a bit slower than the investment banks, wade in today and begin the selloff anew?”

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Victoria Beckham opens first store

Victoria Beckham has opened her first-ever store at 36 Dover Street in London’s Mayfair.

Designed by London-based architect Farshid Moussavi, the three-storey space features imposing flight of four metre wide polished concrete stairs leading to a giant projection on the first floor’s end wall and a spectacular cast-concrete latticed ceiling above.

Wafer-thin shelves retract into walls and moveable gold hanging chains are set in recess tracks to make way for installations, events and developments in the five different Victoria Beckham collections of Victoria Beckham ready-to-wear and Victoria, Victoria Beckham, Accessories, Eyewear and Denim.

The store does not feature any tills. Instead transactions are made via in-store iPads thereby removing the need for “ugly” cash desks.

The first in a series of own-name stores, 36 Dover Street follows the launch of the Victoria Beckham e-commerce site in April 2013.

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Sports Direct takes put option on Tesco

Sports Direct takes put option on Tesco

Sports Direct has entered into a put option on a small stake in troubled supermarket Tesco.

In a statement, the sporting goods retailer said the agreement with Goldman Sachs referenced 23 million Tesco shares, representing a 0.28% stake in the supermarket.

The option is worth up to £43 million and follows news on Monday that Tesco had overstated its half year profit forecast by £250 million.

Sports Direct said today: “This investment reflects Sports Direct’s growing relationship with Tesco and belief in Tesco’s long-term future.”

Earlier this year, the retailer made a bet on the share price of department store Debenhams in a similar option agreement.

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Sir Philip Green backs the 2014 World Retail Congress

Owner of Arcadia Group Sir Philip Green is backing the team from the London College, Fashion Retail Academy who are competing in a worldwide student challenge. The challenge, which is part of the World Retail Congress, will start in Paris next week.

The four students taking part are from the Fashion Retail Academy that is supported by Sir Philips Arcadia and other retail giants such as Marks & Spencer, Next and Tesco. The students will be expected to present their vision for a Samsung store of the future. It will need to meet all the demands of today’s customers taking into account physical stores, online, mobile and social media. The store must demonstrate how technology can impact customers;’ home lives, helping with comfort, productivity and entertaining. They will have to present their blueprint to over 1,000 retail executives who will gather in the French capital.

The World Retail Congress is part of the i21 Events Group portfolio which is headed up by Mark Shashoua. The group delivers world-class exhibitions and large scale events in key sectors such as technology, environment, education, gift, healthcare, fashion, energy, media and retail. They aim to bring together more than 250,000 decision makers to network, source, test and buy. They pride themselves in opening up opportunities and the World Retail Congress challenge is another way they can offer platforms to their customers and visitors. The World Retail congress was launched in 2007 in order to give retail executives the chances to meet and discuss topics affecting the retail industry across the globe. The meetings have been held in cities such as Barcelona, Berlin and London and had up to 1,000 industry leaders present from over 60 countries.

The students representing London this year for the competition are 18 year-old Peter Jones from Milton Keynes, Josie Reeve who is 19 and had just started working for fashion retailer Oasis, former air stewardess Yasmine Alom and 23 year-old Dan Swanepoel who has ambitions to be a store designer. They will all take on rival teams from Hong Kong, New York and Ancona.

The judging panel this year will consist of: Gerald Retimayar- Samsung’s head of retail Europe, Robert Thiemann- Founder and editor-in-chief of Fame, Bernie Brookes- Myer Holdings Ltd CEO, Nora Fehlbaum- Vitra CEO and Alexander Salzer, COO, Liganova from the BrandRetail Company.

Sir Philip Green wished the students good luck and urged them to make sure they had done their research. He added “They need to make sure that they have thought of everything that would make shopping the store a great experience but it also needs to be commercial.

“These are big purchases so they need to have done their homework so that they can talk confidently about the products and educate the customer. If they win, it could be the springboard to bright futures in retail.”

Ian McGarrigle, Chairman of the World Retail Congress said: “We are very pleased that London is going to be represented again at the Retail Futures Challenge. The competition has grown to become one of the high points of the WRC and it is fantastic to see these future leaders of retailing setting out their ideas in front of an audience of retail professionals. I wish them the best of luck for the final.”

As well as support from Arcadia the official co-sponsors for the 2014 World Retail Congress are MasterCard, Samsung and Deloitte.

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SOUTH AFRICA Retail guide : Download PDF

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South Africa occupies the southern tip of Africa, its long coastline stretching more than 2,500km from the desert border with Namibia on the Atlantic coast, southwards around the tip of Africa, then north to the border with subtropical Mozambique on the Indian Ocean. It is one-eighth the size of the USA, twice the size of France, and over three times the size of Germany. South Africa measures about 1,600km from north to south, and roughly the same from east to west.

It has three capitals; Cape Town is the legislative capital and is where the country’s Parliament is found; Bloemfontein is the judicial capital, and home to the Supreme Court of Appeal and Pretoria is the administrative capital, and the ultimate capital of the country. The largest and most important city is Johannesburg, the economic heartland of the country. Other important centres include Durban and Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu- Natal, and Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.

It is a large market of some 57.8 million people, half of whom are aged under 17 years of age. International travel to South Africa has surged since the end of apartheid to reach some 9 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2009. Tourism is also one of the fastest growing sectors of South Africa’s economy. South Africa hosted the Fifa World Cup in 2010, the first time it had been hosted in an African country and is seeing the rewards of a higher profile on the global stage.

South African consumers have not always been interested in international brands, but this is changing. The relatively small size of the middle class means brands have to present themselves as more aspirational than they may be in their home market.

Domestic growth is unlikely to break the 3% barrier this year, as the effects of a global economy grappling with sovereign debt issues, bail-out hangovers and slowing growth continue to dampen prospects for improvement. This means that the South African economy cannot rely on demand from abroad for growth opportunities. The private sector is seeking economic policy reforms to assist in economic growth and job creation, two of the government’s main priorities. This policy reform and massive infrastructure spending which are sorely needed for the economy to achieve any reasonable growth in the medium term, are yet to materialize.

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UK retail guide :download PDF

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Once called a nation of shopkeepers, the UK has produced a number of iconic international retail brands including Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nicols, Fortnum & Mason. The maturity of the retail market in the UK means that domestic and non domestic retail operators are quick to adapt and implement new retail strategies and technologies in a bid to gain an advantage over competitors, creating a dynamic market place. There are many world class thoroughfares and regional shopping malls in London and the regions offering strong footfall and significant spending power from both local and tourist shoppers.

The UK is one of the most sophisticated retail markets in the world and has an increasingly wide range of retail formats on offer. The UK has a well-advanced logistics and distribution infrastructure providing world class support to retail companies. Events such as London Fashion Week, one of the world’s premier fashion events ensures that the UK continues to be a world leading retail location. The UK has the benefit of a large number of international retail operators reflecting its trading history with all corners of the world and its transparent property industry, which makes it a relatively straightforward market for international retailers to enter.

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Starbucks to buy out joint venture partner in Japan

(Reuters) – Starbucks Corp on Tuesday said it plans to buy the remaining 60.5 percent share of Starbucks Coffee Japan Ltd that it does not already own, in a two-step deal valued at about $913.5 million.

Starbucks Japan has operated as a joint venture between Starbucks and Sazaby League since 1995.

Over the summer, Sazaby approached Starbucks about selling its Starbucks Japan ownership stake to Starbucks, the world’s biggest coffee chain said in a statement.

Starbucks expects to have a controlling interest in Starbucks Japan before its fiscal first quarter ends on Dec. 28.

Starbucks expects the transaction to be immediately accretive to earnings, excluding items.

There are currently more than 1,000 Starbucks cafes in Japan, which is Starbucks’ second-largest in terms of revenue from its coffee shops.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles)

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Selfridges Birmingham unveils £4 million menswear department

Selfridges Birmingham has unveiled a new menswear department as part of the store’s £20 million redevelopment. Following an investment of nearly £4 million, the exclusive menswear destination now covers the whole level 2 and houses a mix of high-fashion designers, streetwear, up-and-coming brands and a dedicated denim studio.

The increased offer comes at a time when the male fashion industry is booming, with sales up by almost five per cent in the last year. Fresh predictions by the British Fashion Council indicate that the menswear market will grow by 27 per cent in the next four years to reach £16.4 billion.

The 2,322 sq m space contains Burberry’s first ever in-store boutique. Labels including DSquared, Paul Smith, Michael Kors and Giuseppe Zanotti have also invested in creating unique shopfits.

Previously spread across various levels, one of the key goals of the relaunch was to bring the store’s menswear offering onto one floor for a comprehensive, easy-to-navigate male shopping experience.

The ambitious redevelopment, which has also seen the completion of the city’s biggest Beauty Hall and the installation of iconic Selfridges windows, will see every floor receive a complete overhaul by 2017.

‘The newly launched department represents a real commitment from us to providing a truly extraordinary offering for our male customers,’ says Vicki Cain, general manager at Selfridges. ‘It’s an area in retail that has been identified as having huge potential, so we’re capitalising on this by shaking up Menswear to make it bigger and better than ever before.’

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Versace opens new flagship store in Milan

Versace opened this week a new flagship store in Milan within the recently restored Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The restoration of the famous Galleria, which survived the city’s bombing during the Second World War, was supervised by the city’s Sovrintendenza alle Belle Arti (Department for the Fine Arts), with delicate work undertaken to preserve and protect the friezes and other decorations.

The Versace boutique was designed by Donatella Versace and architect Jamie Fobert, with the space designed to balance the distinctive Versace aesthetic with the delicate late 19th century features of the Galleria.

Donatella Versace said: “the importance of Milan to Versace is fundamental: it was in this city that the Maison was born in 1978. It means the opening of our boutique in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is hugely important to us.”

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Richard Mille opens first flagship store in London

Sep 23, 2014
Richard Mille opened earlier this week its first UK stand-alone boutique in London’s Mayfair district on Mount Street.
The Richard Mille Boutique on Mount Street will be the latest addition to a prestigious network of monobrand boutiques previously opened in prime shopping and travel destinations; a sign of the formidable growth Richard Mille has seen since its inception in 2001.
Complete with dedicated seating areas and VIP lounge the boutique’s interior is beautifully finished with noble materials, exotic woods, leather and glass to recreate a perfect environment in representing the Richard Mille collection.
The new 80m² space arranged on two floors will provide a comprehensive product presentation ranging from sports watches and high performance timepieces to the newly launched ladies collection, limited editions and unique pieces.

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Thinking of switching to online retail or e-commerce? Read these first and know the problems faced

Guest author : Maniraj Singh Juneja

E-commerce is trending but what seems like a “low-investment-fast-growth” business idea to entrepreneurs might not be an accurate assumption. Treat this not as discouragement to start something new, but as a caution note from a person who has faced/seen people facing such problems. If you do have time and money, invest it into something everyone else is not doing. E-commerce is becoming cluttered very quickly and this creates only problems. Read on to understand the major pitfalls of e-commerce as it exists today. These simple points will help you understand the problems a novice entrepreneur or a retail will face when stepping into e-commerce.

1. Capital Intensive: E-commerce is retail in disguise. In fact, it is a bigger, hungrier form of physical retail and all the troubles like warehousing, inventory and supply chain come along. An e-commerce store is expected to have a larger range and as well as cheaper prices. Plus delivery times are always an issue so stocking inventory becomes a must in most cases – and here comes in the role of capital. So either start looking out for investors (which is not an easy task unless you’re a big-shot) or get ready to invest huge sums of your own money. But wait, if you have huge sums of money, why are you throwing it down the e-commerce drain? Buy some gold.

2. Low profit margin: This comes as a shock to anyone outside the e-commerce industry but is obvious to people inside – everyone in India (where I am from) is currently bleeding investor money. Everyone is making a loss. Even the biggest names you hear in the industry (yeah, all the karts, marts, hearts etc) are burning millions every month to acquire customers, reach a massive scale and waiting for others to die out before they can start making any profits. They’re taking returns, replacing products and pampering the consumer while bearing all these expenses just to become larger. There are several reasons why good profit margin is a far-fetched dream for companies:

a. Unit economics: The biggest mistake any uninformed entrepreneur could make is the negligence of contributions like payment gateway cost, packaging cost, shipping and handling cost and effective cataloging cost of articles to the overall margin. In e-commerce, the sourcing margins and effective margins are very different mostly because of these costs. Thus some articles are a better fit for e-commerce and some are not since even on very huge volumes, unit economics don’t work out to be positive. If the selling price of the item is low (and hence absolute sourcing margin is also low), the gateway charges, packaging, shipping and cataloging cost will easily overpower the margin and hence lead to a loss in the transaction.

To head one’s head around this, I coined a term called profit density defined as the ratio of sourcing margin to the additional e-commerce costs incurred in selling it (a major contribution of which is usually shipping cost). Profit densities are different for different categories of products. Books and beauty products have an extremely low profit density and real jewellery and apparel have a relatively high profit density. But since the universe has the habit of leveling things out, items with high profit densities are slow movers and harder to sell online and one’s with low densities are quicker and easier.

b. Cash on delivery: Since it has now become almost necessary to offer a cash on delivery service, it is very counter intuitive to know that all logistic companies actually charge to collect cash on your behalf. They actually charge a huge fixed amount (could vary from as Rs. 30 to Rs. 150 (that’s 0.5 to 2.5 USD) or sometimes even more per package depending on the provider, total volumes offered and also package value) to use your cash! This strongly degrades the unit economics.

Secondly, we all know how valuable cash is for a startup and in such an arrangement a lot of your cash-flow is stuck with the logistic company because they will take a certain amount of time to remit the money they’ve collected on your behalf.

Thirdly, almost always the logistic service provider will actually owe you more money (the cash they collected) than you owe them for delivery, thus making dealing with them a little more difficult (read hell).

Fourthly, customers are much more likely to return packages in cash on delivery cases since they haven’t paid for it. Post which the business has to incur double the shipping cost, lose out on precious inventory for a long time and still maybe end up with something that cannot be sold again, and a customer who will never buy again.

c. Lost, damaged articles: Business owners forget to take into account lost and damaged articles – which neither the service provider nor the customer will be liable for. Who else is left to bear the burden of lost/damaged inventory? This is especially harmful when you’re counting on low margins with huge volumes.

d. Competition: Consumers expect you to be the cheapest. Since you’re on the Internet, you save on the rent of a physical storefront and can pass on that benefit to the customer (very faulty premise which every customer carries in his/her mind). Moreover, pricing on the internet is very transparent so you have to keep a rock solid heart and offer the lowest margins humanly possible. In fact, cash rich competition will also sell at a loss just to drive you out of business. Competition will do everything – low prices, expensive advertisement, relaxed return policies, free shipping etc and these things start becoming must-haves instead of differentiators.

3. Logistics co-ordination and reconciliation: Since you cannot deliver everywhere all by yourself (at least initially), you will need to be dependent on logistic service providers. Fortunately or unfortunately, the performance of your service provider will determine the goodwill you create with your customer. It is certain that you will lose good and loyal customers due to a 3rd party’s poor performance and there is nothing you will be able to do about it. Customers will call your company and your operators will be recipients of heavy verbal abuse from disgruntled customers. Your operator will have no answer because they don’t know what has become of the package after it left your premises. Account reconciliation with service providers is also a similar harrowing experience wherein every kind of case and exception that can arise, will arise. Moreover, each provider will have its own format of reconciliation and reporting which you will need to adapt to.

4. Super strict IT requirements: If one of your founders is not a tech genius, quit right now. IT is the backbone of an e-commerce company and you will need it at every nook and corner of your business. The tech team will need to understand the entire business from end-to-end and develop technology to support every operation along the way. This is one section where mediocrity will fail you badly. An e-commerce company is not just “a website” which firms will make for a few thousand rupees. If you have any intention of making it big, don’t ever think of outsourcing this.

5. Marketing and SEO: Are you a marketing genius? Are you full of ideas on how to sell your product? Can you see how the current companies are doing it wrong? Think again. Marketing for an e-commerce company is a completely different ball game. It requires more of tech knowledge than anything else. You will hear terms like SEO, SEM, SMM floating around in the market and you might not understand them completely, but since you trust your marketing gut you’re brave enough to venture out into an unknown territory. The smarter choice is to keep someone who’s experienced in the field of online marketing close to you or of course to experience and learn yourself. The even smarter choice is to understand that it’s not the same as regular marketing! There are many ways of getting traffic and sales on your site, but they will require a lot of expertise, experimentation, analytics, research and dollars. Ranking #1 on google is like snatching flesh from a hungry lion – it’s hard!

In e-commerce marketing, there are only two aims to fulfill. Generate trust (by highlighting USPs and being persistent) and make yourself discoverable (bring traffic). The former will need time and effort, the latter needs money. In the competitive market out there today, advertising online has become so expensive recovering your spend seems utopian. Again, if you just started up without investor money you will face huge problems in this regard because today the online consumer has unlimited choices to buy from. If you already have raised investor money then there’s no point reading this – you can’t back out now.

6. Vendor management: If you’re thinking of sourcing from various vendors, you might be fine in the short term but this becomes a huge issue when the numbers increase. Every brand/manufacturer/distributor will have their own styles of packing, logistics, billing and measurement. Reconciling all of them is not insurmountable but a very cumbersome task. It is not possible to have everything in stock and usually you will end up accepting orders for items not in your inventory. Vendors in India will never be able to provide a synchronization system wherein you will be able to understand if item is actually in stock even with your supplier(s) for a long time to come. Moreover, manufacturing defects will then become your headache since you’re the seller and your goodwill is at stake now.

If you are a manufacturer and want to extend your physical store, this might not apply but the other problems still live unscathed. But even in that case since you cannot produce everything, you will ultimately end up sourcing from other suppliers. The better solution might be to become a vendor to already established e-commerce websites.

7. Distribution networks: If you want to sell grocery, pharmacy or other items wherein you plan to tie up with retailers, be aware that you will always end up with a very rough experience for the customer. The operations are hugely manual and hence cumbersome and delivery time is of utmost importance.

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E-commerce is currently booming and everyone wants to start a website to sell stuff. What people miss are some subtle points that make e-commerce a difficult creature to rein. A genuine question that arises is that if no one is making profit, why are people continuing, why are investors investing and why are new e-shops opening everyday. The truth is everyone is playing the top-line game – not worrying about the bottom-lines at this moment. Companies want to increase their top-lines to a very large scale and rule their respective markets post which their marketing spend would decrease and a huge customer pool would have been accumulated. Beyond this point profitability would be possible but there would only be a handful survivors.

The only exit strategy that remains for e-commerce companies is either an acquisition or an IPO. Fire sales and shutdowns happen all the time but they’re not noticed by a lot of people – examples are Letsbuy and Taggle. So if you’re fully convinced that e-commerce is your life path, best of luck but be very cautious of the problems described above.

What’s your opinion?

About the author: Maniraj Singh Juneja is an experienced entrepreneur and director at Amitoje India – India’s leading retail/POP branding and execution firms. You can visit http://www.amitoje.com to know more. Write to maniraj[at]amitoje[dot]com. He founded an e-commerce company called madeinhealth which later got acquired by a larger player.

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Tesco Suspends Bosses Over £250m Profit Error

Tesco has suspended four senior executives after it revealed an accounting error overstated its first-half profit by £250m.

CEO Dave Lewis said that “a number of people” have been suspended while an internal investigation is underway, including the four senior executives.

Shares were down more than 11% in early trading, before easing slightly to around 8% down. Its stock price is down more than 43% in the last year.

Britain’s biggest supermarket chain said it has commissioned an independent review to uncover the cause of the profit miscalculation.

Tesco shares have fallen more than 40% in the last year

Tesco said in a statement: “On the basis of preliminary investigations in to the UK food business, the board believes that the guidance issued on 29 August 2014 for the group profits for the six months to 23 August 2014 was overstated by an estimated £250m.

“Some of this impact includes in-year timing differences. Work is ongoing to establish the extent of these issues and what impact they will have on the full year.

“The board has asked Deloitte to undertake an independent and comprehensive review of these issues, working closely with Freshfields, the group’s external legal advisers.

“We will provide a further update at our interim results, which will now be announced on the 23 October 2014.”

Tesco has issued a series of income warnings in the last year, with the latest at the end of August when it said trading profit was forecast to be around £1.1bn.

That profit figure is now likely to be reduced to £850m.

Sky News City Editor Mark Kleinman described the accounting error as a “humiliation” for the embattled group.

Regulators are now expected to launch their own inquiries into the profit over-estimation.

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Video: Turning Around The Tesco Leviathan
The company has come under increasing pressure in the ongoing supermarket price war, with the rise of discounters Aldi and Lidl, and margin-squeezing of the big four chains.

Chief executive Dave Lewis, who started in the role on September 1, said: “We have uncovered a serious issue and have responded accordingly.”

Mr Lewis took control of Tesco after former boss Philip Clarke failed to halt a slide in profit and sales.

Mr Clarke was ousted by the Tesco board in late July as he was preparing to celebrate 40 years with the retailer.

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Retail competition in Canada heats up as Nordstrom expands north

Thousands of people stampeded through Calgary’s newest department store on Friday, as Nordstrom opened its first Canadian location.

The Seattle-based retailer’s entry into the Canadian market is the latest reminder that retailers face ever-increasing competition from U.S. brands expanding northward — and it’s not clear if there are enough customers for everyone.

Some of the big changes hitting the Canadian retail market:

Nordstrom, a luxury chain, is opening five stores in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa, in addition to its location in Calgary’s Chinook Centre.
Saks Fifth Avenue, a luxury retailer owned by Hudson’s Bay, will open two locations in 2016.
One location of the discount chain Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th will open around the same time.
Holt Renfrew, a Canadian upscale retailer, will close two stores, in Quebec City and Ottawa, and spend $300 million on renovating remaining locations.
All of those retailers will be trying to learn from the mistakes made by Target, the Minneapolis-based retailer that stumbled when it opened more than 124 stores across Canada last year. Customers complained that stores regularly ran out of stock and did not offer the same prices as U.S. locations.

That botched Canadian launch contributed to a $1-billion loss over four quarters. Mark Schindele, president of Target Canada, told The Canadian Press in August that the company was too ambitious. “If I could build a time machine and go back, we would’ve liked to have a slower approach.”

Erik Nordstrom, who heads online operations for Nordstrom, said Friday from Calgary that the company has been paying attention to Canadians. “What we heard mostly from customers here: ‘yeah, we’d be excited about Nordstrom here but it needs to be a great Nordstrom. Don’t bring us Nordstrom lite.’”

Canadian stores will be tailored to the local markets. For example, cowboy boots are front and centre in Calgary.

Mohammed El Hazzouri, a retail analyst, said that all retailers operating in Canada will all need to try harder.

“We can expect some of these retailers to fail if they don’t live up to the competition,” El Hazzouri said.

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Alibaba IPO raises nearly $22 billion

The Alibaba Group’s highly anticipated initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange raised almost $21.8 billion after pricing its shares at the upper level of $68 each, a lucky number for the Chinese.
Friday, though founder Jack Ma was there, it was Alibaba customers who rang the NYSE bell. The stock began trading on the NYSE under ticker symbol “BABA.”
Aside from the company itself, among the IPO’s big money winners is founder Jack Ma and longtime shareholder Yahoo.
Dive Insight:

So it’s happened, and Alibaba scored big in its initial public offering. In Alibaba’s Securities and Exchange Commission filing ahead of its IPO Thursday, founder Jack Ma wrote, “Our proposition is simple: we want to help small businesses grow by solving their problems through Internet technology.”

The IPO brings the e-commerce giant an infusion of cash that provides new opportunities for expansion, but much is unclear. Also uncertain? The ultimate effect of Alibaba’s growth on the small businesses Ma mentions and on U.S. retail in the whole.

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New JIMMY CHOO store opens on bond street

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China Just Gave Foreign Pharmacy Retailers A Big Green Light

It is not every day that the world’s most populous nation sends such a clear signal to a very specific sector that it is ready and open for business, and yet last week, China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOC) did precisely this when it set in motion a pilot project in 34 cities to sever pharmaceutical costs from patient’s bills. This may seem an incremental and obvious decision to make, but if so, you would be overlooking the more important outcome the MOC has in mind.

As Caixin wrote last week, the intent behind the reforms was quite obvious: “The commerce ministry’s notice said large qualified drugstores should take the place of hospital pharmacies, and says that doctors should be responsible for making diagnoses and writing prescriptions that patients get filled at the private drugstores.” The two Caixin reports added further on, “the notice also says more drugstores will be incorporated into the country’s medical insurance system, which allows patients to get reimbursed for spending on health care and medicines.”

This is the sort of groundbreaking pilot that is big enough (30+ cities) and specific enough (get hospitals out of the prescription sale business and incentivize private pharmacies by expanding what the national insurance plan pays for), that should be a huge green light to foreign pharmacy retailers. If foreign companies wait too long to develop a coherent China strategy, they will find the pharmacy retail and OTC health retail sector – currently a fragmented mess in China – consolidating solely under the influence of Chinese pharmacy retail companies.

Earlier this week in my Forbes China column, I wrote, “The existing Chinese pharmacy retail market needs consolidation: estimates range, but most agree that there are nearly 130,000 small stores with over 2,000 unique retail brands in China. In some ways, this reflects the way the pharmaceutical distribution market is shaped in China today as well, where the three largest pharmaceutical distributors account for less than 20% of the domestic Chinese market. No wonder that the world’s largest pharmaceutical distributors, Cardinal and McKesson MCK +0.12%, are closely watching the Chinese market to determine when they can expand their own capabilities within the space.” The same sort of consumer retail opportunity exists for pharmacies in China as has existed for almost every other category such as apparel, white goods, and household goods.

Cracking the Chinese retail market has never been an easy challenge, as the experiences of any number of foreign retailers who assumed their model would easily transfer to China, have found out. Yet, for those foreign companies who have invested in market research and built unique offerings for the Chinese consumer that reflect cultural, economic and aspirational insights specific to this market, the benefit of getting to China early is obvious. Admittedly, there are challenges unique to the pharmacy retail business in China, ones that early foreign entrants such as Watsons have been working to figure out. The area is a unique combination of minefield and shifting sands: the latter because of the sensitivity of pharmaceutical reimbursement reforms to public hospitals and questions about healthcare affordability to the average Chinese family, the former because of the massive amount of structural reforms taking place in China and the uncertainties these create for industry. But these are not problems without solutions; in fact, the sort of efficiencies and health insights large pharmacy retailers have to leverage is of great need to the Chinese healthcare economy.

In the midst of massive healthcare reforms in many of the markets these large retailers call home, it can be easy to overlook China. While these foreign retail pharmacies no doubt have strategies designed to reposition, repurpose and expand their existing footprint domestically to reflect new technologies and reimbursement schemes from both public and private insurance, at some point these strategies converge and domestic growth will plateau. If pharmacy retailers wait until this happens to get serious about international expansion, in particular for a market ripe with potential, they may find themselves competing with Chinese retailers who know the consumer and the domestic healthcare system much more than they can ever hope to.

Ikea to invest $500 million more in India,eyes 25 stores in 10 years

World’s largest furniture retailer Ikea on Wednesday said it has plans to invest Rs. 12,500 crore to set up 25 stores in the country over the next decade.

The new stores, each needing investment of around Rs. 500 crore, will come in the cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore, the Swedish furniture retailer said.

Ikea India has already got FIPB nod to invest Rs. 10,500 crore.

It will mobilise around $500 million more from its global partners for investing in these proposed stores.

“We are looking at investing around Rs. 12,500 crore to set up 25 stores at a cost of Rs. 500 crore each. We will be mobilising $500 million from our global partners for this venture,” Ikea India chief executive Juvencio Maeztu told a retail summit in Mumbai.

“It is difficult to specify any time-frame when we will set up the first store, still I can say we are working on it and we are in talks with different states and are looking at all major metros for land as we require very large area of land that is near a highway,” he added.

The company is likely to set up its first store in Bangalore or Hyderabad within the next couple of years. The company would require very large space as each store will be set up in an area measuring 3,50,000 sqft, he said, adding that it has not yet singled out any city for setting up its first store.

“For now, the priority is the right location and we are focusing on all major metros, the right location and the good price of land, which is important for us to start right,” he said.

Typically Ikea operates large format stores located on expressways close to large cities, where it sells various household goods such as flat pack furniture, furnishings etc at relatively lower prices.

Ikea plans to tie up with local suppliers for raw material for its forthcoming stores in the country, Maeztu said.

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Claire’s to open in-store shops in Toys ‘R’ Us

Wayne, N.J. — Toys “R” Us and specialty retailer Claire’s have entered into a global partnership to open nearly 100 Claire’s in-store shops in Toys “R” Us locations across Europe, along with 12 U.S. locations, by year-end. The shops will feature an assortment of jewelry, headbands, hair and fashion accessories, jewelry holders, legwear, seasonal items and more. The rollout follows a successful pilot program in Europe.

Two Claire’s in-shop locations in New York City will debut this week, with one in Toys “R” Us Times Square and the other in FAO Schwarz. (These larger shop locations will be the only stores to feature ear piercing services).

The additional 10 locations in the United States are expected to be open by the end of October and will be located in Murrieta, California; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Jensen Beach, Florida; Florence, Kentucky; Waldorf, Maryland; Henderson, Nevada; Toledo, Ohio; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Philadelphia, and Houston.

“Claire’s has long been a destination for young fashion-forward shoppers looking to find the most trend-right accessories, and we’re delighted to bring their expertise to our tween business,” said Antonio Urcelay, chairman of the board and CEO, Toys “R” Us, Inc. “We continue to explore new concepts that bring fresh merchandising content and offerings to our Toys ‘R’ Us customers around the world.”

Claire’s in-store shops at Toys “R” Us will feature Claire’s signature purple signage, as well as gray fixturing coupled with moveable display floor racks. The shops will vary in size by location.

“We are excited to expand our Claire’s global footprint to Toys ‘R’ Us locations across the globe and expose new customers to our fashionable brand,” said Beatrice Lafon, CEO, Claire’s Inc. “The Claire’s shops in Toys ‘R’ Us stores will offer consumers a constantly refreshed assortment of the hottest trending jewelry and accessories for which Claire’s is known.”

The two brands will support the launch with a cross-promotional program, inclusive of targeted email marketing, social media and signage within participating Toys “R” Us stores.

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Lululemon Is Opening A Store For Men In New York

Lululemon Is Opening A Store For Men In New York

Ben Nelms / Reuters

Lululemon Althletica signed a pair of leases late last month on two corners facing each other at Prince and Wooster streets in Soho. One will be the athletic apparel retailer’s first store just for men.

The men’s store will take space at 127 Prince Street, currently occupied by the Spanish shoe retailer Camper, on the east side of Wooster Street. The women’s store was signed for 125 Prince Street, on the west side of the street, which is currently home to Lucky Brand.

The Lululemon deals underscore continued leasing strength in the Soho market, where there had been resistance to high asking rents on Spring and Prince streets.

“The market is extremely inflated in Soho with rents at all-time highs,” Robin Abrams, executive vice president at the retail-focused Lansco, said. “125 [Prince] and 127 Prince are both high-profile, highly trafficked corner sites on perhaps the most sought after retail corridor in Soho for fashion tenants.” She was not involved in the lease.

Asking rents for the stretch on Spring and Prince streets are from $800 per foot to $1,200 per foot, she said. In addition, the leases reinforce a view of Soho as a kind of outdoor mall, with related stores near each other. Other brands, including Kate Spade with a Jack Spade a block away have multiple stores in Soho. But those shops are not on facing corners, and therefore not as prominent as Lululemon’s set up, insiders said.

“Many spaces on Prince Street are small and shallow, offering decent frontage but little selling space,” Jared Epstein, vice president at Aurora Capital Associates, which owns substantial property in Soho. “Lululemon made a brilliant move by seizing an opportunity to control two adjacent corners on Prince Street.”

The men’s store will be one of 47 new corporate-owned locations Lululemon plans to open this year. The Vancouver-based public company operated 270 stores world-wide as of the end of June 30, including seven in Manhattan.

The deal at 125 Prince is a sublease for five years with two five-year extension options at the base of the six-story rental apartment building owned by the Milgrom family. The sublease at about $800 or $900 per foot for approximately 2,400 square feet was signed with a family-affiliated company known as 125 Prince Street, Inc. that holds a long-term lease with the building that runs through 2041, according to a source and city records.

As an indication of how times have changed in Soho, property records show that 125 Prince Street, Inc., began paying an annual rent set at $18,000 per year, plus cost of living increases starting in 1981, for the basement, first and second floors.

Camper, the shoe retailer, will vacate the space at the end of October as its 15-year lease expires. Lululemon is planning to open the men’s store in late 2014.

The contract for 127 Prince — at about $700 per square foot — is a five year lease, sources said, and was made possible by an early lease termination for Lucky Brand, which had a year or more remaining. 127 Prince is a seven-story cooperative with about 1,880 square feet of retail at the base, PropertyShark data show.

Lululemon was represented by RKF’s Jeremy Ezra, who acted as the broker at 125 Prince and an advisor at 127 Prince, sources said. He declined to comment other than to confirm he represented the retailer. Ownership of 127 Prince and Lululemon did not immediately respond to a request or comment.

“This is a bold move that will give [Lululemon] a prominent presence in Soho,” said Stephen Milgrom, an owner of 125 Prince Street, Inc.

During the company’s second quarter earnings call on September 11, Lululemon CEO Laurent Potdevin said the locations facing each other would increase the brand exposure.

“To further elevate our guest experience and global brand awareness, we are relocating our Soho store in New York and opening both men’s and women’s standalone locations,” he said on the call. “This will provide unique experiences for both men and women in spaces that are designed uniquely for their needs.”

This article originally appeared at The Real Deal. Copyright 2014.

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Pizza Hut returns to South Africa

YUM! Brands’ Pizza Hut chain is returning to South Africa after a six-year absence with a new focus on delivery meals and a plan to use the country as a platform to enter other parts of the continent.

The first new outlet will open in Johannesburg on Thursday, Randall Blackford, general manager for Pizza Hut Africa, said by phone on Tuesday. Six more stores are planned for Gauteng by the end of this year. Pizza Hut will also open outlets in Zambia and Angola by the first half of 2015, he said.

“For us not to be in Africa seemed really a shame for a global brand,” Mr Blackford said. “As we start to look at the Africa pizza market it seemed like a really exciting market.”

International restaurant chains and other retailers are increasing their presence in Africa, which is home to the world’s youngest and fastest-growing population, according to a McKinsey & Co report in 2010. Burger King opened its first restaurant in South Africa last year and said it would consider outlets elsewhere on the continent, while McDonald’s said in February it’s looking at new African markets.

When Pizza Hut last had a presence in South Africa in 2008 it was geared toward customers who sat and ate in its restaurants. This time the company sees its biggest opportunity in a delivery and take-away offering, Mr Blackford said. Pizza toppings aimed at South Africans will include the boerewors beef sausage and spicy peri-peri chicken.

Bloomberg

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Marks & Spencer to launch in Scandinavia

Marks & Spencer is to launch in Scandinavia for the first time as it steps up its international expansion.

The 130-year-old retailer is to open 15 stores in Finland and Norway as part of a franchise agreement.

Marc Bolland, chief executive, has pushed M&S into France, the Netherlands, China and other international markets after taking charge of the retailer in 2010.

The company now has 160 stores in Europe and wants to have 250 shop outside the UK by 2016.

M&S will open eight stores in Norway and seven in Finland. This will include a flagship shop in Helsinki, which opens next month, and one in Oslo, which is scheduled to open in late November.

Francois Smeyers, regional director of Europe at M&S, said: “Expanding our reach to Scandinavia, which we see as an important international market for us, is a central part of our ongoing international growth strategy in Europe and we are delighted to be opening our first stores in the region over the next few months.”

The stores will be run on a franchise basis, with S Group, the leading Finnish retailer that runs 1,600 stores in the area, and Pocos Group, controlling them. M&S wants roughly 60pc of its stores outside the UK to be run through franchise partnerships.

Tristan Rogers, chief executive of Concrete, which advises retailers on international expansion, said: “M&S’ international strategy is well established, growing and profitable.

“With great performing stores spread out over mainland Europe, Scandinavia is a natural next step for a retailer that is looking to capitalise on the increased consumer appetite in the region.”

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Superdrug owner plans £37m investment to accelerate ecommerce growth

Superdrug owner plans £37m investment to accelerate ecommerce growth

Superdrug owner AS Watson is launching an innovation lab to improve its digital strategy and accelerate ecommerce growth as part of a $60m (£37m) investment.

Dubbed eLab, the project will involve the creation of an 80-strong team of digital specialists based in four of the group’s main markets – the UK, Italy, Hong Kong and China. The team will operate at a group level, working with country-specific digital marketing and ecommerce teams and advising its brands, which include Superdrug and The Perfume Store in the UK.

Elab will also be responsible for the development and maintenance of the company’s technology infrastructure – including its website, mobile apps and digital loyalty programmes – across the 25 markets where AS Watson operates.

In the UK, that will initially include an upgrade to Superdrug’s ecommerce store to make it mobile-optimised. Further plans include a revamp to make the site more engaging, with more product information and games, as well as the ability to scan product bar codes with a mobile phone to find out more information.

In the first half of next year, Superdrug will also make its loyalty card available on mobile so that customers can accrue and redeem points and discounts using their smartphone and is considering launching a dedicated mobile app.

Speaking to Marketing Week, AS Watson’s chief operating officer Malina Ngai admits the company is currently run as a traditional bricks and mortar retailer. To ensure it stays ahead of rivals and continues to be relevant to customers, it wanted to create a special team who are passionate about digital and know about customers and how they behave, she adds.

The main aim is to accelerate ecommerce growth, with the company hoping to achieve a 50 per cent year-on-year increase in digital sales and to have 5 per cent of its total sales coming from ecommerce within the next 18 months. Ngai says the UK is one of its more advanced digital markets, with ecommerce sales here already close to 5 per cent, and the company hopes to repeat that success in some of its less developed digital markets.

The majority of the $60m investment will go into its technology platform, but a “key investment” will be in the lab team because, as Ngai puts it, “without the right people the tech won’t work”.

Ngai claims that, while AS Watson is still upgrading its tech, initial results have been “encouraging”. The company has found that customers that shop both online and offline spend twice as much as those who just shop in-store.

However, in a survey of 143,000 members of its loyalty programmes across 10 markets, some 71 per cent said they still prefer to shop in store, with 28 per cent saying they shop online and offline. That leaves just 1 per cent who only want to shop online.

That means, says Ngai, that providing a great online experience is as much about engaging people with the brand and offering them information about products as it is about selling to them.

“Our vision is ‘customer 360’ and to give them we that need to be able to provide the same best-in class experience online and offline to get customers to engage strongly with our brands,” she said.

The increased focus on digital is also mirrored in AS Watson’s marketing spend. Its total advertising and promotional spend has increased 5 per cent globally this year, but within that digital marketing spend is up 34 per cent. In London in particular, AS Watson is looking to build up a team in its innovation lab that can create new and engaging content and enhance digital marketing capability.

“Its not a much bigger marketing pie but the media mix we are using is shifting more and more online – to social media and search,” she adds.

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Secretsales.com reports 68 percent rise in FY13 revenues

REPORT_ Secretsales.com, the UK’s flash sales business, has published its financial results for the year ended December 31, 2013 with revenues increasing 68 percent to 18.2 million pounds (29.4 million dollars). Registered members also saw an increase of 39 percent to three million. 2014 year to date sales were up almost 40 percent.

Elaborating on the positive financial update, Nish Kukadia, CEO of secretsales.com, said, “We delivered another year of strong sales growth in 2013, following the 89 percent growth seen in Q4 2012, as we invested in integrating new technologies, optimised customer personalisation and launched a new and innovative customer loyalty programme. Research has demonstrated that our regular purchasers are located across the UK, with 70 percent outside London. The focus is towards high-end products to meet the needs of this highly engaged customer base.”

“As a result of our finely-tuned marketing strategy, the momentum in the business has continued into 2014, with sales for the first 7 months up almost 40 percent, putting us on track to move into profitability from the fourth quarter of this year,” Kukadia added.

Company was able to narrow its operating losses by 10 percent despite a year of investment. Customer acquisition costs were brought down by 37 percent compared to 2012. Extended category range now includes accessories, footwear, apparel, children’s wear, lingerie, beauty and home ware and lifestyle. It signed 595 new brands agreements in the year, making over 1,500 in the total portfolio.

Significant investments were made in upgrading technology platform and team building. Platform was able to generate 50 percent of revenues through mobile devices compared to 35 percent in 2012. To boost growth prospects, company raised 3.8 million pounds (6.1 million dollars) from existing shareholders, Partech and 123Venture.

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Thailand’s online retail market stalls at 1 percent

Thailand’s online retail market is one of the biggest in the region but is expected to stagnate if there are no concerted government efforts to boost the associated infrastructure.

The country’s e-tail market saw growth last year, however, sales in the segment accounted for only 1 percent of the total market and is expected to remain so through to 2018. This despite the fact that Thailand is one of Asia’s largest online retail market valued at US$1.05 billion, according to a report by The Nation citing figures from research firm Euromonitor International. Its value is projected to climb by 74.9 percent to US$1.84 billion in 2018.

The online retail segment, though, is facing strong competition from physical stores in Thailand where grocery retail leads the market at 63 percent. Retail chains are expanding aggressively into urban and regional areas across the country.

Given the option, the majority of the local population prefer to visit physical shops and touch the products before buying. There is also low confidence in online payment as well as delivery, further boosting sales for physical retailers, according to the report.

In addition, at just 28 percent, Thailand’s internet penetration rate remains low and behind other regions compared to the global average of 35 percent. Euromonitor further pointed to delays in telecommunication infrastructure investments and initiatives following several floods in the country in recent years, which had affected the rollout of enhanced broadband connectivity.

“Without more efforts by the Thai government to develop the country’s telecommunications network, Internet retailing in Thailand is unlikely to grow faster,” said Mylan Nguyen, retail analyst at Euromonitor International. “For Internet retailing to take off, retailers will also need to develop more innovations and services to make it easy for consumers to buy [and] access products, such as quick deliveries or convenient click-and-collect locations.”

While the Thai online retail segment seems to be hitting a brick wall, other Asian markets are enjoying high growth. U.S. retail giant Walmart, for instance, chalked up sales of 11.54 billion yuan (US$1.89 billion) in China last year through its Chinese subsidiary Yihaodian.com, doubling its stock keeping unit (SKU) to 3.4 million over the previous year.

Over in Singapore, 78 percent of consumers shopped online at least once a month, with 66 percent spending more than S$100 (US$80.24) over the past three months, according to a GfK survey commissioned by PayPal. Some 55 percent chose to do their online shopping via their mobile devices at least once monthly.

Eileen Yu began covering the IT industry when Asynchronous Transfer Mode was still hip and e-commerce was the new buzzword. Currently a freelance blogger and content specialist based in Singapore, she has over 16 years of industry experience with various publications including ZDNet, IDG, and Singapore Press Holdings.

Macy’s rolls out retail’s largest beacon installation

Following a test run during last year’s holiday shopping season at its flagship stores in New York City and San Francisco, Macy’s announced that it will expand the use of Shopkick-powered iBeacons to all of its stores nationwide.

Macy’s says the rollout marks the largest beacon deployment in retail to date, with more than 4,000 devices planned to power engagement and marketing efforts throughout the department store chain.

Shopkick’s beacons run on the iBeacon protocol, using Bluetooth Low Energy to communicate with shoppers via mobile devices. With the Macy’s implementation, communication includes things like personalized department-level deals, discounts, recommendations and rewards.

Macy’s expects to complete the installation by early fall, just in time for the upcoming holiday shopping season. Once the rollout is completed, the department store chain said the shopBeacons will prompt users of the Shopkick to opt-in to receive store notifications. The retailer plans to begin more tailored shopper notifications in early spring 2015.

“We are a multi-faceted retailer with stores, technology, Internet capability and mobile access that come together for our customers,” said Macy’s CEO Terry J. Lundgren, in a statement. “They are at the center of all our decisions, and our ongoing research and development will continue to help us understand how to personally engage with them.”

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Amsterdam Schiphol to add +20% more commercial space in Departure Lounge 2 as ambitious expansion begins

NETHERLANDS. Schipol Group has today launched an ambitious redevelopment project that will add +20% more commercial space at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol’s Departure Lounge 2.

The project, to be completed in phases by mid-2015, will also include fresh commercial concepts and a new approach to grouping retail and food & beverage outlets in appropriate zones.

Seven distinct zones will be created – Luxury, Family, Travel & Culture, Modern Dutch, See Buy Fly, Fashion & Lifestyle and Care & Wellness – with services, retail and F&B concepts accommodated in the relevant spaces. Each theme will be characterised by its use of specific materials and designs.

Services, commercial concepts and seating areas will be grouped according to seven distinct zones, including the Family area depicted above

The airport also revealed a host of commercial concepts to feature in the renewed lounge. They include a new Johnnie Walker House luxury retail concept that Schiphol said would be “a flagship in European travel retail” and an M&Ms Amsterdam store. Other retail arrivals will include boutiques by Gucci, Bulgari, Hermès, Bottega Veneta, Omega, Mont Blanc and Rolex.

F&B outlets will include a new concept from Amsterdam Bread Co, Asian restaurant Kebaya, Cafe Cócó, Starbucks and the Heineken Bar. Spa treatments will be offered by XpresSpa.

Shops will remain partially open during the refurbishment, operating from smaller, temporary sites in Lounge 2. Passengers will also be able to use the shops and F&B outlets in Departure Lounge 3.

The renovation is part of the airport’s master plan to 2018 which also includes the introduction of centralised security area, a new Hilton hotel, the development of Area A to the south of the terminal and the renovation of the security filter in Departure Hall 1.

More than 14 million people travel through Departure Lounge 2 annually, with over half transferring at Schiphol. The first and second floors of Departure Lounge 2 have a total surface area of around 16,000sq m.

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Friends’ Central Perk coffee shop set for UK expansion

The third site in the Central Park coffee shop franchise in the UK opened today (15 September) on Bold Street. This is the brand’s second Liverpool site, the first one having opened in Hatton Garden in 2012. There is also a Central Perk in Chester which opened in 2013.

Central Perk’s group director Steven Hesketh said: “We are delighted how customers in Liverpool and Chester have embraced the Central Perk brand, so to open our third venue in less than three years is no mean feat in the current economic climate.

“We were confident that Central Perk would prove popular, but it has exceeded our expectations. The demand is there, so we’re excited and looking forward to introducing new customers to Central Perk, I know they won’t be disappointed.”

Future franchises

The sites have proved successful with Friends’ fans; the original Hatton Garden site was expanded to double its original size after a year to accommodate demands. The Central Perk brand is owned and operated in association with Warner Bros under its licence for the UK and Northern Ireland. The group are now looking for further franchise opportunities across the UK.

“We are now exploring opportunities to develop sites in Southport, St. Helens and Manchester,” explained Hesketh. “This is part of our detailed franchising model which will see an estimated 300 Central Perk coffee shops open across the country in the next 10 years.

“The appeal of the Friends brand continues to be strong, with customers travelling to specifically experience our unique coffee shops and take home a special piece of official Central Perk memorabilia.”

Central Perk Bold Street

Like the other two sites, Central Perk Bold Street is designed to reflect the New York coffee house where the six main characters of Friends would meet during the TV series. The Bold Street site has 100 covers and is set over two floors. It is a licensed venue and the brand is working with local suppliers such as Joe Black Coffee, which created an exclusive Central Perk coffee blend for the group.

Hesketh said: ““Bold Street is a thriving Liverpool hotspot, and home to a lot of independent businesses. We are keen to become part of that community and work alongside our neighbours to continue to raise the profile of Bold Street and attract new custom.

“Seeing the look on people’s faces when they step through the door is priceless; they feel like they’ve just stepped onto the Friends’ set. They want to recreate that moment and meet their own friends here, relax on the comfortable sofas and armchairs and have that same feeling of catching up over a coffee and cheesecake. And also catch an episode of Friends at the same time.”

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Neiman Marcus Group to acquire luxury retailer Mytheresa.com

Neiman Marcus Group (NMG), the company that owns the Neiman Marcus chain of stores in the US and exclusive department store Bergdorf Goodman today announced that it is set to snap up Mytheresa.com.

The deal is expected to close later this year and will be run as an independent subsidiary of NMG based in Munich.

Luxury e-tailer Mytheresa.com, which stocks and ships its carefully selected edit of clothes and accessories by over 170 luxury brands from its base in Germany, was founded in 2006 by Christoph and Susanne Botschen.

The Botschens began their fashion venture in 1987 with a store in the German of Munich city called Theresa, and added an e-commerce arm 19 years later, shipping to over 120 countries. The company turnover is said to be $130 million annually.

“We are very pleased to have found a strategic partner with a lot of experience,” said Christoph and Susanne Botschen, who will act as creative directors of the physical store in Munich alongside serving as representatives on an advisory board that is to be established for Mytheresa.com. They added: “”The Neiman Marcus Group perfectly understands the luxury fashion DNA of mytheresa.com and the Theresa store and supports the continued international growth path of our business. Both parties are going to benefit from this partnership.”

Karen Katz, president and CEO of NMG explained: “With the acquisition of Mytheresa.com, Neiman Marcus Group takes yet another strategically significant step towards our long range international strategy to more broadly serve the affluent customer around the world.”

NMG also owns Last Call, a clearance retail venture offering former stock from Neiman Marcus and interiors chain Horchow.

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Damas CEO Named Retail CEO of the Year

CEO Awards ME 2014 Recognizes Outstanding CEOs and Business Leaders across the Middle East
Dubai – Anan Fakhreddin, CEO of Damas, the Middle East’s leading jewellery and watch retailer, has been honored with the Retail CEO of the Year award at the CEO Awards ME 2014 in recognition of his achievements across the Gulf region.

Anan Fakhreddin’s award is a testament to his active presence and achievements in the region’s jewellery retail sector since the year 2000. Under Fakhreddin’s leadership, Damas has transformed from a famous brand in Dubai to a famous international jewellery brand from Dubai. Also he has effectively realigned the business, retail and product strategies of Damas, an industry leader in the dynamic luxury goods market that is routinely impacted by new interest rates, rising gold prices and varying consumer tastes.

The award ceremony took place on 10 September at the Emirates Towers. An independent judging panel consisting of the Arabian Business magazine’s editorial staff and industry leaders and experts came together to select the CEO winners. The CEO Awards recognize and reward outstanding success, innovation and ethics across Middle Eastern Business. The awards honor CEO’s through the appreciation of innovative business, business excellence and overall business success, and acknowledge publicly the vital contribution made by individuals and their companies to the vibrancy of business within the UAE and across the region.

Karam Awad, Managing Director of ITP Executive, said: “At CEO magazine, we have always endeavored to recognize the contribution of businesses across the region. Over the last few years, a significant number of CEOs and their companies have put in a stellar performance that has played a crucial role in the resurgence and rapid growth of the country’s economy. Anan Fakhreddin’s contributions in accelerating the growth of the region’s jewellery market exemplify this commitment to progress.”
Acknowledging the honor, Anan Fakhreddin said: “At Damas, we align our operations with Dubai’s vision for growth. It is this mandate that led to the company’s restructuring in 2013, the evolution of a new business strategy and subsequent reformatting of our business model. We are continually pushing the limits to improve our standards and competencies in the jewellery sector across the Middle East.

“Industry distinctions such as the CEO Awards ME reaffirm our commitment to shaping the luxury sector. In line with the new strategy that we have already started to implement, Damas will continue to evolve and expand not only across the GCC but worldwide as it transforms from a reputed home-grown brand in Dubai to a reputed international jewellery brand from Dubai. We are particularly proud of this accomplishment as it places us among esteemed stalwarts in the field.”

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Versace opens flagship store in Toronto, Canada

Versace opened this week a new flagship store in Toronto, Canada. Located with the Yorkdale Shopping Centre, the new Versace store which covers 210 sqm was conceived by Donatella Versace and British architect Jamie Fobert. The new store features both men’s and women’s apparel and accessories collections. The new opening is part of an accelerated international retail expansion, following the investment by Blackstone Group.

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Hermes global Maison flagship opens in Shanghai

Located at 217 Middle Huaihai Road, in the Huangpu district in the heart of Shanghai, Hermes Maison covers a total area of 1174 square meters. The store will spread over three floors with the top floor comprising of an event space, which currently hosts ‘the Hermes horse’ exhibition, curated by Phillipe Dumas. The opening of the Hermes Maison in Shanghai follows the other four Maisons in Faubourg, Madison, Ginza and Seoul.

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Dundrum Town Centre set for €1bn Nama sale

The country’s most successful shopping centre will be put up for sale with a price tag of up to €1bn, sources say, with bids expected from Asian sovereign wealth funds.

Bad bank Nama will initiate the sale of Dundrum Town Centre as early as next month, the people said, after it gained full control of the retail hub in April. Nama inherited vast debts attached to it from AIB and Anglo, who loaned hundreds of millions to developer Joe O’Reilly.

The 150,000 square foot property will probably sell for around €1bn, property experts predict. A previous valuation of the landmark mall had pegged its worth at closer to €700m prior to a receovery in the market.

The shopping centre’s tenants generate a retail income of €50m a year, meaning its new owners can expect a return of around 5pc a year. Opened in 2005, it has an annual footfall of 19m.

“There is a huge amount of appetite for retail assets right now,” said Marie Hunt, head of research at CBRE Ireland. “Particularly since so few of these assets have been put up for sale since 2007.”

Just two major retail developments have been sold since the start of the financial crisis. These are Liffey Valley Shopping Centre in west Dublin, which HSBC and international property fund Hines bought a majority stake in earlier this year for €235m, and the Acorn portfolio – consisting of shopping centres in Blackpool, Balbriggan and Clonmel – which was bought for €170m by Minneapolis-based Varde Partners.

Several sources said Dundrum will attract a new type of investor to Ireland. “Asian sovereign wealth funds are a real possibility. It will attract a new kind of high-quality buyer, one who maybe hasn’t looked at Ireland previously,” said one. It is understood that Korean investors had been underbidders in the Liffey Valley Shopping centre. Gulf sovereign wealth funds and major pension fund investors are also thought to have run the rule over the centre in the last two years.

“It is a very desirable asset, one of the most successful shopping centres in Europe. It will attract buyers who have billions under management. It is a huge lot size. None of the Irish firms have the scale to do this deal.”

“We could also see a combination of international and Irish investors bid, fronted by a local asset manager. It really is a very exciting asset and a highly anticipated sale.”

Because of its size, Dundrum Town Centre rivals Dublin city centre as a retail hub. Despite the economic downturn it rarely sees a vacant unit and tenants range from luxury retailers such as Harvey Nichols and BT2 to Tesco, HMV and Penneys.

One insider said they would be “highly surprised” if Joe O’Reilly’s Chartered Land does not bid for the asset as part of a combination of investors.

The developer may have lost control of Dundrum but is still highly active in the retail sector. Chartered Land declined to comment. The firm has secured planning permission to develop a major shopping centre in the Moore Street area of Dublin 1. O’Reilly was also behind the development of the Swords Pavilion and ILAC shopping centre in Dublin.

There has been some internal movement at Chartered Land of late. Chief executive Dominic Deeny left earlier this summer for a position with Dunnes. He was replaced by Andrew Gunne, the former managing director of Key Capital Real Estate.

Dundrum won’t be the first retail hub Nama puts up for sale this year. It recently started the sale process for a portfolio of five shopping centres, valued at €100m. This includes Carrickmines retail park, the vast south Dublin site home to Harvey Norman, PC World and Halfords.

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Phones 4U collapses into administration as EE is final operator to hang up

Phones 4U collapsed into administration on Sunday night after its last remaining mobile operator partner, EE, cut ties with the retailer, The Telegraph can reveal.

Phones 4U has 720 outlets, including 550 standalone stores, and employs 5,596 people. Staff will be briefed by management in stores and at head office on Monday morning. BC Parters, Phones 4U’s private equity owner, said it is “intended that employees will continue to be paid until further notice”.

Mobile industry sources said EE informed Phones 4U of its decision last week. After being contacted by The Telegraph on Sunday BC Partners said it would seek to appoint PwC as adminstrators on Monday.

Phones 4U stores will be closed pending a decision by the administrators on whether they can be reopened for trading. Mobile contracts signed through the retailer will be unaffected.

BC Partners is also expected to inform bondholders on Monday. The value of the retailer’s debt has plunged to 13p in the pound since the private equity firm raised £205m on the Irish Stock Exchange last year.

BC Partners has made a profit of more than 30pc since it bought Phones 4U three-and-a-half years ago for around £600m.

EE, which is understood to account for around half of Phones 4U’s £1bn sales, made its decision after a strategic review. Vodafone, which said it would not renew its contract with the retailer earlier this month made up more than a quarter of sales. O2, which only accounted for around 10pc of sales, pulled out in February.

EE reached the decision amid concerns that Phones 4U was selling for only one of Britain’s main mobile operators. It was felt this reduced its appeal for customers who wanted to compare the prices of different operators.

BC Partners attacked the mobile operators.

Stefano Quadrio Curzio of the private equity firm said: “Our overriding concern is for all the dedicated hard-working employees of Phones 4U at a time of uncertainty for the company.”

“Vodafone has acted in exactly the opposite way to what they had consistently indicated to the management of Phones 4U over more than six months. Their behaviour appears to have been designed to inflict the maximum damage to their partner of 15 years, giving Phones 4U no time to develop commercial alternatives.

“EE’s decision on Friday is surprising in the context of a contract that has more than a year to run and leaves the board with no alternative but to seek the Administrator’s protection in the interests of all its stakeholders.”

David Kassler, chief executive of Phones 4U, said: “Today is a very sad day for our customers and our staff. If the mobile network operators decline to supply us, we do not have a business. A good company making profits of over £100 million, employing thousands of decent people has been forced into administration.

“The great service we have provided should have guaranteed a strong future, but unfortunately our network partners have decided otherwise. The ultimate result will be less competition, less choice and higher prices for mobile customers in UK.”

The operators are seeking to reduce the number of handsets and contracts they sell through third-party retailers, preferring to deal directly with customers and retain more of the profit margin.

EE, Britain’s biggest mobile operator, did about a 10th of its business through Phones 4U on a deal that would have run until September next year. It is likely to ramp up sales through other channels, particularly its own 570 stores, in an effort to replace those revenues.

EE was in talks with Phones 4U about a potential contract renewal as recently as July, but the commercial terms put forward by the retailer were rejected by the operator as out of line with industry norms, sources said. Phones 4U walked away from the negotiating table and did not return.

The collapse of Phones 4U will be a boost to its main rival Dixons Carphone, which has deals with all three mobile operators.

It is understood that the retailer was considering a complaint to competition watchdogs at the weekend, alleging co-operation between mobile operators aimed at reducing competition on the high street to drive up prices.

The claim was supported by John Caudwell, the billionaire who founded Phones 4U in 1987 and sold it in 2006. He said: “It feels to me as though these networks are acting in unison. It’ll be good for the networks ultimately but it can’t be good for the customers, taking all that freedom of choice away.”

However, he also said he “did not agree with a healthy business being stripped and debt laden”.

Operator sources dismissed talk of a competition investigation as “an attempted distraction”.

An O2 spokesman said the operator was unaware of a competition complaint being prepared: “We make all our decisions independently of others.”

EE and Vodafone declined to comment.

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Boardmans launches e-commerce site

Retail group Edcon has announced that home specialist, Boardmans, has launched online, and follows the launch of other brands in its stable, namely CNA, and Red Square.

The new e-commerce website includes an extensive range of well-known premium home brands, including Jamie Oliver, Russell Hobbs, Granny Goose, Zeal, Umbra, and Jenna Clifford, as well as new international brands like Cake Boss and Lodge.

Shoppers can navigate the site by room, brand, or by using the search function.

“Customer-written product reviews are encouraged to help guide online browsers and a shareable wish list makes it easy to suggest to friends and families what to get for birthdays and special occasions,” Edcon said.

Recent local research shows that home and kitchenware items made up 13% of online purchases in the past three months, the group said.

Boardmans will also feature a wedding gift registry.

From the time of online purchase, products will be delivered straight to the customer’s door within 5-7 working days.

Orders over R500 are delivered free of charge, Edcon said. Alternatively, a standard delivery fee of R65 applies.

In the event that the item is not suitable once it has been delivered, online purchases can be returned to any physical Boardmans store, the group said.

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UAE’s Splash to expand in Oman with ten new stores

Leading fashion retailer Splash, a unit of Dubai’s Landmark Group, is planning to open ten new stores in Oman over the next five years.

Speaking to the Times of Oman newspaper, Raza Beig, CEO of Splash, said three of the new stores will be open before the end of this year.

“The new stores in 2014 will come up at the places like Ibri and Bakra,” Raza Beig, CEO Splash and ICONIC said.

The ten new stores will more than double its current offering of eight stores in the country. Beig explained that the expansion is down to a booming retail sector in Oman.

“We are growing at the rate of 30 percent in Oman. So, as a retailer catering to the masses, we also seek to simultaneously grow our presence across destination malls and community centres in strong catchment areas,” he said.

Found in 1993 with a single store in Sharjah, Splash has grown to over 200 stories spread across 12 countries.

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Al Futtaim Group Real Estate adds six mega-mall projects

Al Futtaim Group Real Estate has got six simultaneous projects going on in the region with a combined development cost tab of $6bn. That includes the massive redevelopment of its flagship Dubai Festival City Mall, to turn it into one of the prime retail and tourist attractions in the city., Gulf News reported. “Currently, DFC remains a magnet for the local shopper, with 80% of the mall traffic represented by them,” said Marwan Shehadeh, Group Director for Corporate Development. “But with the full-scale expansion that’s been initiated, we are talking about creating attractions that will prove a must-see for tourists, something similar to what Dubai Mall has with its fountain and Mall of the Emirates its Ski Dubai.” DFC will create an “iconic structure” — located close to the Marina — the details of which will be announced shortly. In fact, the overall expansion will push it as close to the Marina as is physically possible. The existing canal will be covered and become an integral part of the racetrack mall. In addition to the mall’s redevelopment, costing Dh1.7 billion, DFC will also add to the destination’s commercial and residential stock as well as new hotels.

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WH Smith opens latest new concept store at Hamad International Airport Qatar

QATAR. WH Smith has opened its eighth store at the new Hamad International Airport, in partnership with Qatar Duty Free.

The new US$15 billion airport development is one of the key aviation projects in the Middle East, with a 600,000sq m terminal and 30 million annual passenger capacity.

The six airside and two landside stores feature the latest WH Smith design and range in size from 28sq m to 195sq m, providing a total of 827sq m of retail space.

WH Smith has set up a new regional office in Qatar to manage the airport operation and support its franchisee network throughout the Middle East.

WH Smith International Director Louis de Bourgoing commented: “We are delighted to have opened eight stores in the magnificent Hamad International Airport. It is a fascinating challenge to accommodate the needs of such a diverse customer base passing through this world-leading airport. Our investment in both our stores and a regional office shows our commitment to one of the fastest growing regions of the world.”

Qatar Duty Free Senior Vice President Keith Hunter said: “QDF is delighted to have WH Smith as one of our partners in Hamad International Airport as our exclusive news, books and convenience retailer. Its expertise and experience in this area will add to our world-class facilities at HIA, reinforcing and demonstrating our commitment to providing our travellers with an unrivalled airport experience.”

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Auas Mall nears completion- Namibia

The upgrade at the Auas Valley Shopping Mall is nearing completion and is already showing its new vibrant colours.

With most of the current and new shop owners now already trading, or in the final stages of preparing their stores, and the parking nearing completion, the Auas Valley Shopping Mall will soon be the prime shopping destination.

The Auas Valley Shopping Mall was one of the developments that Agra decided upon in the late nineties to diversify Agra’s business into market segments, which are not directly affected by climatic changes or other cyclical agricultural patterns, thus generating income streams independent of the agricultural situation in Namibia.

It has since ensured a steady income for Agra and in order to retain anchor tenants and ensure the future existence of the mall, it was decided to upgrade the mall again.

Besides ample parking space, this shopping destination will provide a spacious and tranquil shopping environment on two floors.

On the top floor, the following businesses are already open:

• Nictus store
• Looks Hair Design
• Dr Viljoen’s consulting rooms
• Insight Optometrist
• Auas Vet Med
• Auas Valley Pharmacy

The ground floor has the following stores:

• TheAgra branch
• Safari Den
• Pick ‘n Pay
• Bank Windhoek
• The Happy Shop
• S & A Cellular
• Pep Home
• La Mareez Ladies Accessories
• Silverberry Jewellery and Beauty
• Geek Boutique
• LPJ Clothing, who are already operating

Other businesses that will start trading in the near future include restaurants and takeaway outlets, who have taken up retail space. Other places, like Trendy Clothing, Balloon Boutique, automated teller machines (ATM’s) for First National Bank and Nedbank, Scissors Edge Salon, and Car Bath, are also set to open soon.

Agra celebrated the commencement of the upgrade and extension of the mall with the groundbreaking ceremony on 13 August where the Chief Executive Officer of Agra, Peter Kazmaier said, “This N$220-million investment shows Agra’s commitment to investing in Namibia in a way that is beneficial to all Namibians.”

In the meantime, it has become clear that this investment in the flagship property of the Agra property portfolio will offer a modern top-class retail environment, securing and expanding market share with a new contemporary design that offers more choice and excitement.From Economist.com.na

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Gieves & Hawkes runs digital window display at Harrods

Men’s fashion retailer Gieves & Hawkes opts for digital screen to showcase its fashion range in Harrods’ window.

Formalwear retailer Gieves & Hawkes has marked its recently launched concession at luxury London department store Harrods with a digital signage window display.

The men’s fashion business developed a custom window display at the Knightsbridge retailer, combining traditional visual merchandising with a screen showcasing a short film that had been created for its Autumn/Winter 2014 season by filmmaker Eddie Wrey.

The video wall, which was implemented by retail digital solutions provider AVMI, used three ultra slim, high definition 46-inch screens, powered by a professional digital signage platform from INSM. Gieves & Hawkes was able to manage the flow of content on the screen and change it remotely.

Sam Thompson, IT Manager UK for Gieves & Hawkes, commented: “We have experimented with digital signage before but this is the first time we have implemented a complete solution.

“AVMI was able to take this simple yet effective approach and work quickly turning the initial vision into a reality. We have been able to incorporate this digital element in a way that blends with the traditional design yet brings our retail estate in line with more modern consumers.”

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Asda to expand online business and launch click & collect pods

Asda has unveiled plans to grow its online business by expanding its home shopping and click and collect service over the next four years.

The plans include the acquisition of a fully automated ‘click and collect’ pod technology concept that will see orders delivered to a temperature controlled unit from where customers can collect their goods at their convenience. Developed in Holland and a first for the UK, the new pods will be trialled in early 2015.

Asda is also planning to increase the number of Click and Collect points from 400 to 600, expand its Drive-Thru Click and Collect points to 200 and expand same day Click and Collect services to 100 new sites to bring the total up to 350.

As well as investing in expanding its physical presence, the supermarket is also refining its online offer to make shopping easier for customers. Currently, Asda operates three online stores: Grocery Home Shopping, George.com for fashion and home, and Asda Direct for everything from books to garden furniture to kettles. However, from February 2015 80% of Asda Direct ranges will be merged into Asda’s Grocery Home Shopping and George.com online stores.

Asda president and chief executive Andy Clarke said: “In 2013 we set out a five year strategy to redefine value retailing – with a clear ambition to lead online. We’ve already made significant progress in this area and today’s announcement clearly demonstrates our commitment to step up our game even further.

“In what is still a challenging market, I am delighted that we are able to make an investment that will not only step on delivery of our strategy, but also bring new and convenient ways for our customers to shop with us.

“We’re also creating an online experience that logically fits with how our customers want to shop and focuses on the areas that our customers love. Ultimately, we want to give more people access to the price, quality and style that we are famous for.”

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Ralph Lauren opens first POLO label flagship store in New York

Ralph Lauren Corporation opened this week its first Polo flagship at 711 Fifth Avenue in New York City. Spanning nearly 38,000 square feet over three floors, the new Polo flagship is the first store to unveil the complete new world of Polo for women, and the first store to showcase women’s Polo alongside the Polo men’s collection. The new store also introduces Ralph Lauren’s first-ever coffee shop, Ralph’s Coffee.

Drawing on authentic American inspirations, from the rich woods of an Adirondack boathouse to the whitewashed bricks of a Brooklyn loft, the vibrant collections are showcased throughout the store alongside custom bikes, kayaks and vintage guitars, speaking to a unique vision of rusticity and a cool downtown vibe.

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