Monthly Archives: October 2014

Amazon to open first physical store in Manhatt

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com, will open the company’s first physical store at 7 West 34th Street. Photo: Getty Images, Google Map

Amazon.com is going back to the future with a plan to open a brick-and-mortar store in Midtown.

The online-shopping giant known for shipping books and DVDs and just about everything else wants to open a storefront near the Empire State Building in time for holiday shopping, sources familiar with the plan told The Wall Street Journal.

The mini-warehouse-style space on 34th Street near Fifth Avenue may offer some inventory for same-day delivery in the city — and help the company connect with customers outside the virtual world, sources told the paper.

“It’s about marketing the Amazon brand,” said Matt Nemer, a Wells Fargo analyst.

“Same-day delivery, ordering online and picking up in store are ideas that are really catching on. Amazon needs to be at the center of that.”

The e-tailer may also use the shop to showcase its own products, such as its Kindle e-readers, Fire smartphone and Fire TV set-top box, said sources familiar with the company’s thinking.

The Seattle-based company has in the past steered clear of typical retailing costs including paying for leases and managing inventory across hundreds of stores.

The new expenses could be risky with the company’s already thin profit margins, experts said.

But if the Midtown shop is successful, it could prompt Amazon to roll out more storefronts in other US cities, sources said.

The planned site — a 12-story building at 7 W. 34th St. — is owned by Vornado Realty Trust and was once home to Ohrbach’s department store. It now houses street-level Mango and Express clothing stores.

“Foot traffic on 34th Street is unparalleled,” said Chase Welles, executive vice president at SCG Retail, a real-estate service company.

Last November, Kindle-brand pop-up stores appeared in US malls, selling e-readers and tablets from vending machines.

Amazon has been considering opening brick-and-mortar space for years and two years ago scouted a location in Seattle, sources sad.

Ordering online with the option to pick up in stores has become popular with retailers such as Walmart, Macy’s and Home Depot in recent months.

Details about the size, length of the lease or amount of Amazon’s Midtown inventory weren’t immediately available on Thursday.

The building features high ceilings and large floor plates.

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Gap chief executive to resign in February

The chief executive officer of US retail clothing chain Gap is stepping down, the company said on Wednesday.

Glenn Murphy will resign as its chairman and chief executive in February after being in the role for over seven years.

He will be replaced by its current digital leader Art Peck, who has been with the retailer since 2005.

News of the management shakeup came as the firm reported weak same-store sales in September.

The company said weak sales in its Gap brand were expected to hurt margins in the third quarter.

The San Francisco based firm also owns clothing retail chains Old Navy and Banana Republic.

Gap under Murphy
Gap’s market value has almost tripled since Mr Murphy, 52, became its leader in July 2007, while its earnings have more than doubled in that period.

But, the retailer’s revenue growth has struggled in a competitive US market, which resulted in announcements about expanding in emerging markets like India and China this year.

In August, the company said it would open 40 stores in India and add another 30 in China to take its total in that country to 110.

Mr Murphy made the decision to retire, because he could not commit to lead the company for the next several years, he told analysts during a conference call.

Art Peck, 58, was the head of Gap’s North America operations in 2011 and 2012. The region accounts for more than three-quarters of the retailer’s revenue.

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Lululemon gets manly with men-only stores

While activewear brands like Nike and Under Armour have recently amplified their offerings to women, Lululemon is turning to men to boost its growth.
The retailer has offered apparel for men for a while and is increasing its number of men-only stores, but is still fighting a general assumption that Lululemon is a women’s brand.
In addition to branding, Lululemon must increase the amount of merchandise for men it offers in order to realize the potential of the male consumer, experts say.
Dive Insight:

Lululemon has faced public relations problems, product quality issues, and increased competition in the activewear space in recent years. The retailer must continue to address all of those challenges, plus some specific branding and inventory logistics, if it is to increase growth by appealing to more men.

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Analysts predict more store closings for JC Penney

J.C. Penney appears to be in the midst of a surprising turnaround after a couple of years of falling sales and increased customer disgruntlement.
Analysts say that the upcoming holiday season will likely require significant discounting to attract shoppers, which will present a challenge for the retailer.
This discounting could presage store closings to bring the retailer’s number of stores to under 1,000, analysts say. The retailer hasn’t commented on that prediction.
Dive Insight:

E-commerce and consumer expectations for fulfillment perks like same-day delivery and in-store pickup could be pressure points for J.C. Penney, analysts say. That could lead the retailer to close more stores as leases come up for renewal. But analysts say that could save the company some $3 million per store without affecting sales much, and won’t likely be seen as a weakness.

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H&M win awards at World Retail Congress

At the recently held World Retail Congress, Swedish apparel retailer H&M and Japanese garment marketer Fast Retailing bagged the ‘International Retailer of the Year’ award and ‘Retailer of the Year’ award, respectively.

Finalists in the fray for the ‘International Retailer of the Year’ award were the likes of Aldi, Burberry, Costco, Fast Retailing, Ikea, Inditex, Primark, Walgreens and Alliance Boots and Lidl (Schwartz).

Those shortlisted for the ‘Retailer of the Year’ award were: Aldi, Dixons Retail, H&M, John Lewis Partnership, Macy’s, Michael Kors, Nordstrom and Sun Art Retail.

In giving the award to H&M, the jury said, “With a truly global concept, we chose this year’s winner for its wide-ranging growth strategies. H&M has not only opened strongly in a huge number of markets, but is one of the few to open in both the southern and northern hemispheres.”

They also praised H&M for innovating and maintaining a strong financial performance, and launching new concepts.

Fast Retailing won the award on the strength of growth and execution. The jury said Fast Retailing has backed its ambitious expansion objectives with very impressive sales growth.

The judges also liked that it has demonstrated itself a very human face through both its store environments and staff engagement. The mix of quality and price made for a compelling offer, said the judges.

The ‘Outstanding Leadership’ award was won by the duo of Natalie Massenet & Mark Sebba from the Net-A-Porter Group.

In a break with precedent, the special ‘Outstanding Leadership’ award was presented jointly to Natalie and Mark in recognition of their exceptional skills and vision in creating Net-A-Porter, the world’s premier online luxury retailer.

“Till date, all previous winners have been individuals, but it was felt that the partnership between Natalie and Mark justified this joint award,” the jury explained.
Other achievements which caught the eyes of the jury were: Outnet.com, the most fashionable fashion outlet, and Mr Porter, the online retail destination for men’s style. (AR)

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Zara opens online store in South Korea

Zara recently opened an online store in South Korea, which offers online shoppers the same full range of merchandise as that found in high street stores.

The company said items sold online are priced the same as those found in Zara’s stores, and customers can choose home delivery or have their purchases sent to a store of their choosing for pick up. New products will be featured twice per week.

Zara opened its first store in Korea in 2008 and is now a major market for the brand. It now has 39 stores in big cities such as Seoul, Busan, Daegu, and Kwangju. The Inditex group also operates a total of 58 stores under five of the group’s brands including Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Pull&Bear and Stradivarius.

Zara began selling its products online in 2010 in several European markets, following in the footsteps of Zara Home, which launched its online platform in 2007. Next came other major markets, such as the US, Japan, China and Canada. Zara’s customers can shop online in 26 markets. including South Korea.

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Upscale shopping mall in Wuhan, China to feature rooftop farm

The mall is part of a larger effort to create a sustainable neighborhood in the formerly industrial area. The neighborhood will have parks, offices, housing, banks, post offices, and everything its residents need in their everyday lives. It will also provide amenities to encourage sustainable transportation, including chargers for electric cars and dedicated bike parking. If residents need to travel, they can take advantage of the new tram or monorail.

The shopping center is designed to meet LEED ND standards, with every building meeting a minimum of LEED Gold certification for green building. Its terraced design will encourage visitors to go up to the urban farm on the roof, which will offer educational programs and individual garden plots.

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Top 10 Employers in South Africa, 2015

In the first instalment of a two-part series which will be concluded tomorrow with a broader look at the top employers across the entire continent, we begin today with a look at the leading protagonists in Africa’s largest economy.

The Top Employers South Africa 2015 even brought together 700 business executives at Gallagher Estate with global organisations from more than 25 countries in Africa in attendance to find out which companies are providing the highest standard of conditions for their employees going as we edge towards the end of 2014.

= 10. Sasol

Energy and chemical company, Sasol is one of only a few indigenously South African businesses in the top 10 having been established in Sasolburg in 1950.

Now consisting of 34,000 seemingly satisfied employees across 37 countries, Sasol also boasted the accolade of the leading petrochemical company in South Africa.

= 10. Clicks Group Limited

Tying for 10th place with Sasol is health and beauty chain, Clicks, a company which also stems from South African roots since its inception in Cape Town in 1968.

Now present in most urbanised areas of the country, Clicks has more than 600 stores across the SADC region and is the market leader in the retail pharmacy sector with 330 in-store dispensaries.

9. Kimberly-Clark of South Africa

The first of the internationally renowned companies on the list is Kimberly-Clark whose household brands including the likes of Kleenex are as popular in South Africa as they are in its native US and indeed the rest of the world.

One of the organisation’s leading visions to develop and train its own employees over a long term period in order to achieve sustainable success has clearly infiltrated its South African operations as the organisation continues to expand.

8. Coca-Cola South Africa

South Africa is Coca-Cola’s largest market in Africa making it all the more important for the globally renowned beverage manufacturer to build a reputation for social responsibility.

The company was first introduced to the country in the 1930s and has developed exponentially over the years to now comprise 15 facilities and more than 9,000 satisfied employees.

7. Tata Consultancy Services

Established only seven years ago in 2007, Tata Consultancy Service South Africa has quickly built up a strong reputation for its approach to employment, applying the same philosophies that the wider organisation had installed in India to its geographical expansion drive.

The company’s success derives largely from empowerment progress in areas of enterprise control, refined management strategies and human resource development combined with employment equity.

6. SAP Africa

SAP Africa can celebrate a recent $500 million investment in African expansion with the inclusion on this countdown; the top 10 status indicative of the innovation drive that will be occurring via the expenditure.

The global IT heavyweight has also announced a seven-year plan to upskill local African talent to promote overall skills growth on the continent.

5. Microsoft

Arguably the most recognisable name on the list, Microsoft South Africa is a subsidiary of the world’s largest independent software and services provider and has, for some time now, earmarked the region as one of its most sustainable and high performing areas.

Subsequently, on top of this latest accolade, the company has received the Best Customer Focus award at the 2011 African Business Awards, as well as being named CRF Best Employer for 2011 and 2012, and Deloitte Best Company to Work For in 2010.

4. Old Mutual

One of the proudest companies on the list must be Old Mutual who has been one of the most synonymous companies associated with South African business since its inception in the country in 1845.

Now boasting more than 16 million customers and hosting 57,000 employees, it is the largest financial services company in the SADC region and pays a lot of its attention towards employee care and CSR strategies.

3. EY South Africa

For the ninth consecutive year, Ernst & Young South Africa has been recognised as one of South Africa’s top ten employers, emphasising the global organisation’s ongoing commitment to its people.

Ajen Sita, CEO for EY Africa commented on the award: “We are committed to developing the most distinctive professional services brand in Africa. The Top Employers certification allows us to benchmark ourselves against the best in the industry. Our consistent positioning at the top of the awards programme is a clear message to our people and the market that we are truly committed to building a better working world for our people, clients and communities.”

2. Accenture SA

As one of the world’s leading management consulting, technology, and outsourcing services providers, Accenture has an influence in more than 200 cities, across 56 countries and employing upwards of 300,000 people.

The grandeur certainly hasn’t affected the company’s acknowledgement of individual development however, with The Top Employers Institute recognising the organisation for its “exceptional employee conditions” and its ability to optimise its employment practices in order to nurture and develop talent throughout all levels.

1. Unilever South Africa

Traced back to 1887 when the Sunlight Trademark was first registered in South Africa by William Lever, Unilever South Africa has long mastered the balance of striving for global prosperity while remaining committed to the local trends and requirements in each of its operating countries along its expansion journey.

As a subsidiary of Unilever PLC, one of the largest consumer goods companies in the region, the business houses more than 3,000 employees across its two offices and five manufacturing locations in South Africa.

Consistently recognised for adapting to trends and being proactive in its continuous development, the company has made huge investments over the years in creating optimum working conditions for its employees, complemented by a staunch set of HR policies and practices; all of which encourages potential employees to stay in South Africa amid temptation to move overseas to seek work.

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Jimmy Choo London listing values shoemaker at up to $1.1bn

Luxury shoe company Jimmy Choo is on course to join London’s main stock market with a value of up to $1.1 billion, industry sources said yesterday, citing the initial price range quoted by banks arranging the sale.

The company, whose shoes cost up to £600 a pair and are worn by celebrities across the globe, is looking to use the money raised from the listing to expand, particularly in Asia.

Books opened yesterday with an initial price range of 140-180 pence a share, which would mean an equity value for the company of between £546 million and £702 million.

With an aim to list 25 per cent of the company, that would put the deal size at between £136 million and £175 million, before any over-allotment option is exercised, which could see further shares sold, the sources said. – (Reuters)

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Debenhams gives Mothercare floor space to make stores more appealing

Debenhams is handing over floor space to high street names Mothercare and Monsoon as it tries to make its stores more appealing to shoppers without resorting to running promotions.

The department store chain has already agreed deals with Sports Direct and Costa Coffee as its chief executive, Michael Sharp, tries to wean shoppers off the regular discount days that it previously relied on to boost trade.

The chain has struggled to keep pace with John Lewis, Britain’s biggest department store group, which has outperformed competitors thanks to its strong website, attractive stores and a more affluent customer base.

Dire Christmas trading prompted a rethink at Debenhams with Sharp telling the City earlier this year that 10% of its floor space – 1m sq ft – could be made more profitable by introducing new brands and services. Sports Direct departments have already opened in Debenhams stores in Harrow and Southsea and another two are set to open.

Billed as a trial, Mothercare ranges have debuted in Croydon and Manchester but will also arrive in Debenhams’ Leeds store next week. The area given over to the buggies-to-bibs retailer in Manchester is 6,000 sq ft – as big as one of its standalone stores.

The tie-up with Mothercare is an interesting one as its finance director Matt Smith will take up the same post of Debenhams later this year. Mothercare is also facing its own challenges. Its new boss, Mark Newton-Jones, has launched a £100m rights issue as it looks to raise a war chest to shut underperforming stores and overhaul its outdated systems. On Thursday investors will vote on the fundraising plan with the retailer’s major shareholders thought to be supportive of the move.

Debenhams’ dealings with Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct are complicated by the sportswear tycoon’s financial hold on the business. He speaks for more than 11% of the company after spending £33m buying a near 5% stake last week. The purchase follows a derivative deal, agreed in January, that could hand Sports Direct a near 7% stake next year if the Debenhams share price falls.

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Truworths intends to buy Earthchild

Truworths International (TRU) has proposed to buy clothing company Earthchild Clothing for an undisclosed cash amount‚ Truworths said in a statement on Tuesday, 7 October 2014.

The company said it had signed a letter of intent with the shareholders of Earthchild Clothing to acquire 100% of their shares in Earthchild.
Earthchild is a retailer of fashionable children’s and ladies clothing under the Earthchild and Earthaddict brands. The company manages 43 stores throughout South Africa.

The acquisition is expected to happen in the first quarter of next year.

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New name for Co-operative Pharmacy early next year

Bestway will unveil a new brand name for the Co-operative Pharmacy early next year, following its acquisition of the chain.

The UK-based food wholesaler group took formal control of the business yesterday (October 6) after buying it for £620 million in July. The group has the right to operate the 771 pharmacies under the Co-operative branding for a transitional period of 12 months, but had already begun “developing and testing” branding with the aim of confirming a new name by April 2015, it said.

The Co-operative Pharmacy’s headquarters are currently located with the Co-operative Group at One Angel Square, Manchester, and Bestway said it had identified a number of possible sites in the city for the pharmacy business to move to.

Bestway chief executive Zameer Choudrey said he was “delighted” that the “thriving business” would remain in Manchester. This would ensure “minimum disruption” for the Co-operative Pharmacy’s management, he stressed.

Mr Zameer said he had been impressed by the Co-operative Pharmacy, which had continued to “perform strongly” and “operate ahead of budget” since the deal was announced. “At the time, we said our approach was to support the existing management to drive the business forward and this is precisely what we are doing,” he said.

To buy the pharmacies, Bestway had received financial support from a number of banks including the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays. Bestway had been “significantly oversubscribed” with funds to buy the pharmacies, which showed the enthusiasm among financiers for the deal, Mr Choudrey added.

With the addition of the Co-operative pharmacies, Bestway will have an annual turnover of approximately £3.6 billion and a global workforce of more than 33,000 people, including more than 11,900 in the UK.

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South African retail update : September Parker Review (PDF)

download the PDF here

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Tesco: At last, some retail experience

To what is likely to be at least a partial sigh of relief among investors, Tesco announced today two new members of its board.

One, at least, has retail experience (though of a most particular type).

Before coming on to the new names (Richard Cousins, chief executive of Compass, and Mikael Ohlsson, the former chief executive of IKEA), it’s worth considering who might make way for the new appointments.

I’m told that one of the names in the frame is Ken Hanna, who joined the board in 2009 and was formerly chief financial officer at Cadbury before it was taken over by Kraft.

As head of the audit committee – that’s the group that is expected to ensure the business’s accounts are in order – Mr Hanna is an important figure on the Tesco board.

It was his committee that considered the issues of “commercial income” last year.

Commercial income – how retailers account for payments from suppliers – is now at the heart of the inquiries sparked last month when Tesco admitted that its forecast profits had been overstated by £250m.

As I have reported before, the audit committee did receive what at least one investor described as a “warning” about commercial income last year.

Details were contained in the 2014 annual report published earlier this year.

“The committee notes that commercial income was an area of focus for the external auditors based on their assessment of gross risks,” that document says.

“It is the committee’s view that whilst commercial income is a significant income for the group and involves an element of judgement, management operates an appropriate control environment which minimises risks in this area.

“As a result, the committee does not consider that this is a significant issue for disclosure in its report.”

At the moment, it appears that the focus of the inquiries by the Financial Conduct Authority, Deloitte and Freshfields is on activity in commercial income this year. So, the audit committee may have been quite right to reject the external auditor’s concerns.

I am sure Tesco will also make it clear that plans for any changes to the board announced today and in the coming weeks began well before the £250m accounting controversy was announced.

New faces
What, then, of the new board appointments?

Although Mr Ohlsson has clear retail experience, much of it is in markets very different from the UK grocery market.

Investors, I am sure, would still like to see faces on the board that have cut their teeth in British retail.

Archie Norman, the former chief executive of Asda and now chairman of ITV, and Charles Wilson, formerly of Marks and Spencer and now at cash and carry turnaround, Booker, are two names that spring to mind.

At least one, Mr Norman, is being touted by some investors as a possible new chairman to replace Sir Richard Broadbent.

Mr Cousins’ appointment is likely to be welcomed by investors.

He has turned the catering business Compass from one most associated with turkey twizzlers (remember Jamie Oliver once put the company in the headlines) to a firm which now provides high-end food services to the likes of Google and Chelsea Football Club.

If anyone knows about the intricacies of supplier relationships, it’s Mr Cousins.

Dave Lewis, the new Tesco chief executive, will also be keen to hear how Compass changed its image from one dominated by its school canteens business to one now seen as a higher-quality food operator.

Tesco – marooned somewhere between cheap and cheerful and higher end offerings – could do with a similar refreshment programme.

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Heidelberg Mall gears for October launch

The much anticipated opening of the R600 million Heidelberg Mall is on scheduled for this month launch to shoppers, all under one roof.

The 35,000sqm mall has been developed by shopping centre developers and investors, Flanagan & Gerard Developments, together with local partners Dissilio Investments.

It will officially open on 23 October 2014, bringing convenient shopping experience right to the doorsteps of Heidelberg residents.

“The excitement is building as Heidelberg Mall nears completion and prepares a grand welcome for shoppers,” says Flanagan & Gerard executive director Patrick Flanagan.

The Mall benefits from a prime location at corner of Jacobs Road (R42) and Retief Road. With its position at the Jacobs Road interchange of the N3 highway and its own dedicated on- and off-ramp from the R42, it also offers ideal regional access for Nigel, Balfour, Greylingstad, Villiers and surrounds.

Jaco M.J. Coetzer, of Dissilio Investments, explains: “Until now, many greater Heidelberg residents left town to do their shopping in larger malls around Johannesburg. This will change with the opening of the Mall, which will help keep retail spend in the area and boost the local economy.”

The benefits of the mall’s development have already been recognised by other businesses, showing that Heidelberg Mall is set to be a catalyst for the development of a major commercial hub for the region, community and commuters. A VW dealership opened adjacent to the mall last year.

The Mall features a line-up of anchor tenants, comprising Checkers, Game and Woolworths, as well as fashion variety and restaurants.

Retail Property Maintains Momentum in SA

The drive to revamp existing malls and open new ones in SA will continue in 2014‚ potentially leaving listed property stocks over exposed to retail.

Limpopo’s Bela Mall developed by Atterbury Property Developments together with Shoprite Checkers and 2020 Developments, is also schedulled to open the same day when Heidelberg Mall launches.

According to Nedbank Corporate Property Finance regional executive in Gauteng, Ken Reynolds, who recently told SA Commercial Prop News that the retail sector has recently come to the fore as a somewhat unlikely champion in helping the overall property market retain its reputation as one of the country’s key economic drivers despite subdued economic growth.

He says that one would have thought that the steadily increasing pressure on consumer pockets would have had a negative knock-on effect across the retail sector, but recent activity in retail property finance and development appears to tell a different story.

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New article submission: 5 ways to brand store windows and glasses

Guest article :

About the author: Maniraj Singh Juneja is the MD at Amitoje India. His company provides shop branding and printing services in Delhi, India to a huge number of retail companies. Feel free to contact them for questions or followups.

5 Ideas to decorate and brand store window glass

The store window is the first thing that the visitor notices about your store. Therefore, you need to be as innovative and clear in your choice for branding for the window as possible. There exist a lot of unique options to brand your glass. We spell out a few common ways to brand your glass and the materials used in the process. You can use them in isolation or combination for your branding purposes.

1. Vinyl cut letters: Plotter cut self-adhesive vinyl into the shape of letters, logos and messages is an extensively used technique that allows you to deliver your message without hampering the view inside the store. We have all used these to make sale announcements, advertise new products and seasons changes. But the problem is that it is dull and overused.

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2. Translucent images: Digital printed translucent vinyls can be easily pasted on glass. They can also be cut outs as per your creative. The major advantage here is that you can have a large creative, maybe cover the glass edge-to-edge and also allow the passer by to look what’s going on inside , behind the glass. It doesn’t make the glass seem like a solid wall but an entry into a new dimension of awesome drool-worthy (aka your) products.

3. Solid prints: While translucent prints are great, it is possible, that they might not make enough impact as a solid opaque print would. The drawback here is that you must keep the size minimal so that your glass remains a glass and does not become a permanent visual divide. This kind of effect is achieved by printing on opaque self-adhesive vinyl (with our without a cut out) and pasting it directly onto the glass.

4. Frosted vinyl: Frosted/Etching self-adhesive vinyl was created to provide clear glass a etched look. Frosting is a physical process done on glass that makes selected portions rough and opaque. This film provides the same effect quite well. The frosted film can be cut into any shape and can be used to represent your brand logo or your branding message. Further, this vinyl can be printed and it gives a really unique result in terms of aesthetics.

5. Mesh vinyl: This one-way-vision/mesh printed vinyl contains a mesh-like structure. The speciality of this material is that from the outside it looks like a solid print (maybe around 75% opacity) but from the inside of the store everything outside is visible. This is a good option if you want to print huge creatives and cover the whole window. If your store is inside a mall or has a good amount of lighting inside, the opacity from outside further reduces (approximately around 50%).

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Costa to open at six British Land retail parks

British Land has agreed separate deals with Costa at six of its retails parks as part of its strategy to increase the food and leisure offer across its UK retail portfolio.

The coffee shop chain has taken a combined total of 10,828 square feet of space for terrace units at the Orbital Shopping Park in Swindon, Mayflower Retail Park in Basildon and Hercules Unit Trust’s Valentine Retail Park in Lincoln.

In addition, a pod has been installed at Lion Retail Park in Woking and a drive through outlet has been opened at Cuckoo Bridge Retail Park in Dumfries. Costa has also expanded into an adjacent unit at Forster Square Retail Park in Bradford.

John Maddison, head of retail park asset management for British Land, said: “These additions help us deliver a broader offer to customers, enhancing the appeal of our assets, and helping to ensure they remain locally preferred.”

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Staples closing 15 stores in Canada

Staples Canada is closing 15 of its 331 stores as it moves toward focusing more on e-commerce.

Two major factors are having an impact on office supply brick-and-mortar stores, including Staples: a decrease need for office supplies and more opportunities to buy them online, experts say.

The closings are part of the cost-cutting and move-to-e-commerce plans that Staples Inc. announced in March, when it said it would close 225 stores in North America.

Dive Insight:
Doug Stephens, a retail expert and author of books on retail who blogs at the Retail Prophet, says that Staples has missed an opportunity to turn its physical stores into experience-based centers that could be a real boon to business. Until they do, he says, there will only be more store closings.

“What Staples hasn’t done is repurpose their store locations to be ‘experience centers’ where customers can learn about things like home office set up, cloud computing, data storage, connected home technology, and wearable technology,” Stephens told Yahoo Finance.

“They need to reinvent the office product buying experience to be more about education and experiences and less about file cabinets and reams of paper,” Stephens said. “If they don’t make this transition soon, I suspect we’ll see more closures in the months and years ahead.”

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Zegna, the first menswear brand to take over all of Harrods’ front windows

Ermengildo Zegna Couture windows project at Harrods marks the first menswear brand to take over all the 23 front windows of Harrods, from. The overarching windows concept is based on the astrological film which was the backdrop to the Autumn Winter 2014 EZC show.

The film depicts a real scientific path traced by an astrophysicist and a unique set of trajectories formed from Milan to the far edge of the universe traced by astrophysicist Fiorella Terenzi, Professor of Astronomy at Florida International University (FIU), and Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of Hayden Planetarium)

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Saks Fifth Avenue to open in San Juan, Puerto Rico, next year

The new Saks Fifth Avenue (owned by Hudson Bay Capital) in San Juan will be located within the Mall of San Juan and offer the retailer’s full-line within the 100,000 square-foot location. The introduction of Saks will bring new luxury brands to San Juan. Saks Fifth Avenue San Juan will welcome major designers such as Chanel, Saint Laurent Paris, Dior, Miu Miu, Roger Viver and Fendi.

Hudson’s Bay Company also recently announced the openings of both Saks Fifth Avenue and Saks Off 5th in lower Manhattan, as well as the new location of its corporate offices in New York.

The San Juan location will be similar to the lower Manhattan expansion as Saks brings its retail options to current up-and-coming luxury marketplaces.

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Piquadro to open first U.S. store in New York on Madison Avenue

Italian upscale travel accessories brand Piquadro has confirmed this week its global expansion plans with the first store to open in the U.S. in New York, in March 2015. The new store on Madison Avenue will mark the third major international flagship store concept, one year after the opening in London and two years after Paris.

Piquadro was founded 15 years ago by Italian entrepreneur Marco Palmieri, who confirmed an 8 percent sales increase for the first 9 months of the year, with double digit growth being expected for the e-commerce.

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Dubai Duty Free’s Colm McLoughlin to receive prestigious Irish Presidential Distinguished Service Award

UAE/IRELAND. In major news, Dubai Duty Free’s Executive Vice Chairman Colm McLoughlin has been named a recipient of the Irish Presidential Distinguished Service Awards 2014 for the Irish abroad.

The accolade makes him one of a select group of people – and the first Irish person living in the UAE – to be recognised by the Irish government for outstanding contribution to Irish business and communities abroad.

The Presidential Distinguished Service Awards were introduced by the Irish government in 2012 with the aim of recognising persons living abroad who have given sustained and distinguished service in key areas such as business, education, community, arts and culture, sport, charitable works and peace.

Colm McLoughlin has been nominated in the category of Business and Education, while his support of the Irish community in the UAE is also acknowledged.

The ten recipients of the 2014 awards were announced yesterday by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan T.D., who is on an official visit to the USA.

The Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, will present the ten awardees of the Presidential Distinguished Service Awards at an official ceremony to be held later this month at Aras an Uchtarain, the official presidential residence in Dublin.

Minister Flanagan noted: “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to these remarkable people for what they have individually contributed to Ireland, to the Irish abroad and our international reputation.”

Following the news of his nomination, Colm McLoughlin said: “I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to be selected for this award. Although it is designated as a personal award, I recognise that it belongs equally to many Irish people in the UAE, both past and present, who have supported the Irish community here. I am also delighted that the UAE is being recognised in this way.”

Colm McLoughlin arrived in Dubai in July 1983 and was part of a ten-man team from Aer Rianta, the Irish airport authority, who established Dubai Duty Free on behalf of the Government of Dubai.

He remained on as head of the operation and has been the driving force behind establishing Dubai Duty Free as a US$1.8 billion business with a global reputation. The Irish Village, which is part of Dubai Duty Free’s leisure division, is also hugely successful and employs 22 Irish staff.

Over the past three decades, McLoughlin has been an integral part of the Irish community in the UAE and as a result of his success as a business leader, he has greatly enhanced the reputation of Ireland and the Irish in the UAE.

Commenting on the major contribution made by the Irish diaspora over the years, Minister Jimmy Deenihan T.D., the newly appointed Minister for Diaspora Affairs added: “These ten people show the remarkable diversity of Ireland’s reach in the world. For the first time, there are awardees from the UAE, Korea and Russia, in addition to the more expected locations of Britain, the US, Canada and Australia.

“The nominations are made in different categories, but there is enormous overlap. For example, Colm McLoughlin is, deservedly, nominated for his business successes, and using that success to support Ireland’s reputation; but he is equally an unstinting supporter of the Irish community in Dubai. I want to congratulate them all and look forward to meeting them when they come over to Ireland.”

The Irish Ambassador to the UAE, Patrick Hennessy, said: “I would like to extend my congratulations to Colm McLoughlin, who is the first Irish person in the UAE to receive this Presidential Distinguished Service Award.

“During his time in the region, Colm has been hugely important in helping to increase business ties between the UAE and Ireland and has always been readily available to visiting delegations, including the large trade delegation led by An Taoiseach which visited in January this year.”

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Sears to sell most of Sears Canada stake as it looks to boost liquidity

Hoffman Estates, Ill. – Sears Holdings Corp. is selling most of its 51% stake in its Sears Canada division to shareholders as its looks to boost its liquidity before the crucial holiday selling season. Sears, which previously said it was exploring options for the struggling Sears Canada unit and retained Bank of America Merrill Lynch in May 2014, expects to raise as much as $380 million by November 2014.

The pressure has been for Sears to secure financing ahead of the holiday season. In September, the retailer secured a separate $400 million short-term loan from CEO Edward Lampert and his hedge firm, ESL Partners. Sears has also raised $500 million from spinning off its Lands’ End division, and $165 million in real estate transactions.

Sears will sell up to 40 million shares of Sears Canada stock, with each shareholder receiving the right to purchase one share for every share they hold. The company said at least one unidentified major shareholder has indicated they will participate. Sears will retain about 12 million Sears Canada shares.

Ron Schrieshiem, CFO of Sears Holdings, said the sale will provide Sears with valuable liquidity for the 2014 holiday season and proves the troubled retailer is still fiscally sound. The ailing retailer also said Thursday that it may take other actions to support its capital structure, if necessary.

“Proceeds from the rights offering will provide additional liquidity to Holdings as it enters into the holiday period and will be used for general corporate purposes,” said Schrieshiem. “Together with the $500 million dividend Holdings received in connection with the Lands’ End spinoff, the $165 million in proceeds from certain real estate transactions and the $400 million short-term loan the company recently completed, Holdings will have generated up to $1.4 billion in liquidity in fiscal 2014, further demonstrating the company’s financial flexibility and providing it the means to fund its transformation and meet all of its obligations. As previously announced, over the next six to 12 months, Holdings intends to evaluate its capital structure with a goal of achieving more long-term financial flexibility, and may take other actions as appropriate.”

Sears Holdings will continue to work with Sears Canada’s board and management to maximize long term shareholder value and to support Sears Canada’s strategy after the sale is complete. In September, global ratings agency Fitch Ratings projected that Sears will need $4 billion in capital to avoid running out of cash altogether in 2016. Sears recorded a loss of nearly $1 billion in the six months through Aug. 2. Revenue fell more than 8%.

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Tesco to sign UAE partnership deal

Tesco, the world’s third largest retailer, will this week formally sign an exclusive partnership with Dubai-based supermarket chain Choithrams, sources have confirmed.

The partnership will be officially announced at a press conference in Dubai on Wednesday and will pave the way for Tesco-branded products being exclusively sold in Choithrams’ 31 stories across the UAE, a source told Arabian Business.

In late 2012, Choithrams, which also has operations to Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, announced a major expansion plan to open 32 new outlets across the Gulf by the end of 2014.

Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket chain and third globally behind Carrefour and Wal-Mart, is looking to boost its bottom dollar after earlier this year reporting a second year of falling profits.

Tesco, which has a market valuation of £23bn ($38bn), has 530,000 staff and 6,351 stores worldwide, has suffered on several fronts in recent years.

Overseas, failed attempts to break into the United States and Japan and troubles in China and Europe have proved a distraction to its home market, where it still makes over two-thirds of sales.

Alongside a 6 percent fall in annual group trading profit announced in early April, Tesco took a £734m write-down on the value of its European businesses, where trading has slowed, and a one-off charge of £540m pounds in China. That puts charges and write-downs for its overseas forays at close to £3bn in two years.

Trading profit for the year to February 22 was £3.3bn, in line with analysts forecasts, Reuters said.

Overseas, group trading profit was down 5.6 percent in Asia and down 28 percent in Europe, with a slump in trade in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey and Ireland.

Group underlying pre-tax profit fell 6.9 percent to £3.05bn in the year, and according to Reuters data will fall 5.8 percent to £2.87bn for its 2015 fiscal year.

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Billionaire Buffett Says Tesco Investment Was ‘A Huge Mistake’

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said his investment in Tesco Plc (TSCO) was a “huge mistake,” as the U.K. supermarket leader’s share price remains close to an 11-year low amid declining sales and an accounting probe.

“I made a mistake on that one,” Buffett, 84, said in an interview with CNBC today. “That was a huge mistake by me.”

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has held Tesco shares since March 2006, when it acquired a stake for $328.7 million. By 2012, the holding had reached 5.08 percent of the grocer’s shares, worth about 1.3 billion pounds ($2.1 billion). More recently, Buffett has been cutting the stake, owning 3.7 percent of the shares as of Dec. 31, according to Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report.

The holding’s value has slumped in the past year as Tesco has lowered its profit outlook amid a shift by shoppers toward discount and upscale chains. The shares are down 49 percent in the past 12 months, slumping 17 percent last week after new Chief Executive Officer Dave Lewis started a probe of accounting practices and suspended four executives after finding that Tesco overstated first-half profit estimates.

The stock was up 0.6 percent at 181.25 pence as of 3:02 p.m. in London, after closing yesterday at the lowest price since April 2003.

Berkshire Hathaway remains Tesco’s fourth-biggest shareholder, based on the investor’s most recent filing.

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Wishing all our followers a blessed EID MUBARAK

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