Category Archives: #uk

Charles Tyrwhitt opens new Birmingham store

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Joe Browns opens debut store at Meadowhall

Situated on Meadowhall’s High Street, the 4,000 square foot shop was designed by creative agency Dalziel and Pow.

Simon Brown, managing director and founder of Joe Browns, said: “I’m absolutely delighted with the store, I think we’ve achieved what we set out to do, which was to create an impressive three- dimensional version of our catalogue. It crystallises our brand in a physical space perfectly.”

The opening coincides with the conclusion of Meadowhall’s £60 million refurbishment which will be completed before Christmas. Some 73 brands, including All Saints, Hollister, House of Fraser and Hugo Boss, have invested £38 million in redesigning and refitting their stores to reflect the centre’s new contemporary feel.

Richard Crowther, asset manager for British Land, said: “The opening is an exciting step for Joe Browns, and as its very first physical location, is a testament to Meadowhall’s appeal as a leading UK retail and leisure destination. Our True Value of Stores research shows that stores improve brand awareness, customer service and trust and that physical also contributes to online sales that do not directly touch the store.”

Over the last 18 months, Meadowhall has signed up 30 new brands including Flannels, Tag Heuer, Nespresso, Neal’s Yard and Godiva. In September, the centre also secured a resolution to grant planning consent for a £300 million leisure hall extension.

Fashion chain Hobbs bought by South African firm

The deal saw private equity owner 3i offload the business for an undisclosed sum, although a price tag of £80 million has been mooted.

Hobbs has become the latest British retailer to fall into South African hands after it was acquired by The Foschini Group.

The deal saw private equity owner 3i offload the fashion company for an undisclosed sum, although a price tag of £80 million has been mooted.

Hobbs, a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, has 140 outlets globally, including a concession in Bloomingdales, and booked revenues of £120 million last year.

Royal visit to Norfolk

Foschini, which also owns Phase Eight and Whistles in the UK, said it will look to enhance Hobbs’ online presence.

Foschini chief executive Ben Barnett said: “Hobbs is a strong British brand with rich design heritage. (Hobbs chief executive) Meg Lustman and her team have successfully repositioned and reinvigorated the brand, offering an excellent platform for further growth.

“We share their ambitions, not only in terms of maximising the success of their well-established UK presence, but also in their strategic approach towards leveraging the international appeal of the brand, via their physical store portfolio, carefully aligned concession partners and evolving e-commerce proposition.”

It is the latest in a long line of British retailers to get new owners from South Africa.

Struggling fashion chain New Look is owned by investment group Brait, while Steinhoff is the parent firm of Harveys and Bensons For Beds.

But the deal comes at a difficult time for the high street, with retailers across the board struggling with rising costs and falling consumer confidence as Brexit-fuelled inflation hits the sector hard.

On Tuesday new data from the British Retail Consortium showed that growth in non-food sales hit a record low in October

In Pictures: Harvey Nichols 2017 Christmas Windows

Premium department store Harvey Nichols has unveiled its Christmas windows for 2017, its largest visual scheme of the year.

For this year’s festive season, the luxury retailer looked for inspiration from the Autumn/Winter 2017 fashion weeks and pre-spring collections, selecting the most vibrant colours to catch customer’s eyes. During the dark winter season, Harvey Nichols opted to design window displays which ‘delight customers’.and help spread ‘a positive message’ during the holiday season by using a vivid colour palette, innovative lighting techniques and an upbeat sentiment.

Harvey Nichols unveils its Christmas Windows for 2017

The result is a series of celebratory window schemes in a rainbow of hues, bold textures and graphic patterns filed with star shapes and Christmas motifs. Harvey Nichols incorporates unique lighting techniques for the first time, such as rotating mirror balls, LED lights and holographic backgrounds. Potential gift ideas are also included in the window display within giant Christmas baubles in a playful, fun manner.

“Themes of joy and positivity ran through the AW17 and SS18 shows, evoking a determination not to dwell on the uncertain times of the current climate,” commented Janet Wardley, Head of Visual Display. “This inspired us to create a high energy scheme that uses dazzling colours, lights and shapes to entertain our customers – some of the vinyls are so bright that the team had to wear sunglasses during the install!”

Harvey Nichols Christmas Windows can now be seen at Harvey Nichols stores across the UK and Ireland.

Oxford Street may become ‘the world’s best outdoor shopping experience’

If plans to transform Oxford into a pedestrianised area go through, the Western section of Oxford Street may well become the ‘world’s best outdoor shopping experience.’ Ambitious plans for the transformation of the shopping district where unveiled today by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and Deputy Leader of Westminster City Council, Cllr Robert Davis.

Depending on approval, the plans, which are currently under public consultation until December 17, include the transformation of Oxford Street and the creation of new, traffic-free public spaces. Plans include all east-west traffic restricted from entering Oxford Street between Orchard Street and Oxford Circus but maintaining the north-south routes through the section.

Plans for the region include new seating areas placed along the street, an 800-meter long work of public art to fit in the former carriageway, which would be level with existing pavements and new and extended taxi ranks close to Oxford Street. Two bus routes will be rerouted to provide connections for locals and visitors and the TfL and Westminister City Council will also consult on creating new high-quality cycle routes along quieter roads to the north and south side of Oxford Street.

“This is a hugely exciting moment for the capital. Oxford Street is world famous with millions of visitors every year, and in just over a year the iconic part of the street west of Oxford Circus could be transformed into a traffic-free pedestrian boulevard,” said Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London. “Whether you’re a local resident, a business, or shop in some of the area’s famous stores, our plans will make the area substantially cleaner and safer for everyone, creating one of the finest public spaces in the world. Alongside the arrival of the Elizabeth Line, the Oxford Street area will be truly transformed over the coming years.”

Asda hires former Carrefour exec Jesús Lorente as new merchandising boss

Asda has hired Carrefour’s former chief merchandising officer Jesús Lorente for a similar role as the Big 4 grocer undergoes a leadership overhaul.

The news comes a week after Asda announced that deputy chief executive Roger Burnley will replace current chief executive Sean Clarke from January 1.

Lorente will succeed Andrew Moore, who is stepping from the chief merchandising officer role in January after almost 10 years with Asda, three of which were in his current role.

Burnley and Lorente will form part of a new executive team that will work to continue the momentum of financial recovery that Clarke has brought about since Asda’s parent company Walmart parachuted him into the role in June 2016.

Lorente has already joined Asda and is in the process of being introduced to the business to ensure a smooth transition.

He first joined French retailer Carrefour in November 2009 as director of supply chain in its Spanish business.

He then chief merchandising officer for the company’s Spanish arm in December 2012 – a role he held until July this year.

Before Carrefour, Lorente’s career spent almost 20 years with Unilever in the UK, Spain and the US.

Argos launches Christmas advertising campaign

The 60 second TV commercial is set in a magical Argos distribution centre where a troupe of Argos elves are helping Santa to deliver gifts across the country.

Created by CHI & Partners and directed by Gary Freedman, the advert aims to highlight Argos’s commitment to speedy delivery and its Fast Track same-day delivery service.

The action begins when a child’s long-awaited Christmas present, a Teksta voice-recognition robotic puppy, is found wandering the aisles of the distribution centre by an elf. The quick-thinking elf scans it in at the “elf station” to reveal its intended recipient on-screen whose family’s gifts are departing from gate nine. This leads to a blockbuster-style chase across the distribution centre in which the elf pulls out all the stops to ensure the robotic puppy makes it to the child in time for Christmas.

Argos is also giving three children the opportunity to feature in the advert. From Tuesday 7 November, parents can visit Argos’s Facebook and Twitter channels to submit an image of their child using the hashtag #ReadyForTakeOff.  The chosen winners will appear on national TV in the Argos advert for a whole day each on Friday 10, Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 November.

In addition, parents will get a chance to see their child’s face in a personalised social media version of the advert by uploading their child’s photo on the Argos Facebook or Twitter sites.

Gary Kibble, marketing director at Argos, said: “We love this edge-of-your-seat, high-energy Christmas campaign, which aims to surprise and delight across all channels – showcasing Argos’s Fast Track delivery commitment to getting customers what they want, how and when they want it, faster than anyone else.

“We hope our super-swift, stop-at-nothing Argos Christmas elves help us once again to break the traditional retailer advertising mould by adding some excitement, energy and above all speed to the nation’s Christmases this year.”

Kibble said Argos will deliver 1.7 million items  and process 27 million in-store transactions over the festive period.

The Argos ‘Ready For Take-Off’ advert forms part of a 360° campaign spanning TV, digital, print and in-store and social media activity.

Lloydspharmacy chief Cormac Tobin resigns

Cormac Tobin had been with the Celesio group for more than 10 years

Cormac Tobin, managing director of Lloydspharmacy’s parent company Celesio UK, has left the company “with immediate effect”, the multiple has announced.

His departure comes just one week after Mr Tobin – who had been with the Celesio group for more than 10 years – told Lloyds employees that 190 “commercially unviable” branches of the multiple would have to close or be sold.

Celesio UK said the remaining members of its board would manage the business “whilst a successor is sought”.

Brian Tyler, chairman of the management board of McKesson Europe – which owns Celesio – said Mr Tobin had “built a strong leadership team for Celesio UK”, and added “his warm and engaging personality made him many friends across community pharmacy and beyond”.

“I am grateful for the dedication that Cormac has shown over the last few years and his leadership through an ever-changing external environment,” Mr Tyler said.

Next’s full price sales improve

by The Retail Bulletin

In the three months to 29 October online sales climbed by 13.2% but sales in the retailer’s stores were down 7.7%.

In a statement, Next said the lower clearance rates seen in its summer end-of-season sale this year had continued into the third quarter, both in the mid-season sale and its clearance operation. As a result total sales, including markdown sales, were up 0.8% in the three month period and down 1.2% for the year to date.

Next said its sales performance has remained “extremely volatile” and is highly dependent on the weather. In August and September sales were significantly up on last year as cooler temperatures improved sales of warmer weight stock.

Looking ahead, Next said the volatility was making it difficult to determine any underlying sales trend but added: “We believe the most reliable guide to sales for the balance of the year are the full price sales for the year to date, which are down -0.3%. This number is at the mid-point of the sales guidance we gave in September and so we are maintaining the central profit guidance we issued at that time, albeit we are narrowing the range.”

Next now expects its full year pre-tax profit to be between £692 million and £742 million compared to a previous guidance of £687 million to £747 million.

Hugo Boss launches first digital showroom

Hugo Boss has launched its first digital showroom in Berlin, Germany, marking a shift in the company’s strategy.

The German fashion brand presented its Hugo pre-fall collection for 2018 at a pop-up space in Berlin to showcase its digital showroom last week. Via a 65 inch touchscreen, which resembles a table, viewers were able to browse through the entire collection, go through numerous colour and combination options and directly order pieces from the collection.

Specially developed for Hugo Boss, the dedicated application was developed in a short period of time using the ‘scrum method’ – a technique which uses a form of agile project management to enable the rapid visualization of solutions for complex issues within a flexible framework.

The launch of the digital showroom signals a change in Hugo Boss order system – from now on the German fashion brand will no longer prepare complete collections of physical samples for its order phase. The collection, including the entire range of available colours and combinations options, will be offered to customers exclusively in digital form.

Hugo Boss aims to roll out its digital showroom to its global market in 2018 following its launch in Berlin.

Asda appoints Roger Burnley as new president and CEO

by The Retail Bulletin

He will succeed current chief executive Sean Clarke who has held the position since July 2016. In a statement, the company said Clarke will be “taking some time out” but will “remain engaged” with Walmart.

Burnley returned to Asda as chief operating officer and deputy chief executive in October 2016 and at the time was identified as a future chief executive.

Dave Cheesewright, chief executive of Walmart International, said: “Roger was purposefully brought back to Asda to partner with Sean ahead of the transition to Roger taking up the position of CEO. He and Sean have worked as a great team and I’m really confident in Roger’s ability to continue building upon our returning momentum.”

Clarke will remain Asda’s chief executive until 31 December and will work closely with Burnley to ensure a smooth transition.

Cheesewright added: “After more than 21 years with the company, Sean has worked across five international markets including serving as president and CEO of Walmart China and obviously here in the UK too. He’s continually shown the ability to lead critical transformation and the last 15 months are no exception.”

M&S clothing boss leaves weeks after starting new role while John Lewis director quits

M&S clothing boss leaves weeks after starting new role while John Lewis director quits

A senior boss is leaving M&S’s clothing division

Marks & Spencer’s clothing recovery has been dealt a fresh blow after one of its senior directors quit while John Lewis’s boardroom is facing a reshuffle with the departure of a senior director.

Industry experts said that the departures were fresh signs of the challenges faced by retailers who are struggling to adapt to changing shopping habits in a tough environment.

Tom Athron, who most recently led John Lewis’s new venture business, is leaving, having lost out to Paula Nickolds earlier this year in the race to replace Andy Street.

Mr Athron has been with the partnership since 2005 as head of financial strategy before becoming buying director of Waitrose and finance director of Waitrose. After being overlooked for the John Lewis role the former investment director has been pushing John Lewis’s expansion into home services, such as approved tradesman who visit customers’ homes.

Paula Nickolds is now boss of John Lewis

Friends of Mr Athron said that he had resigned and was now looking for opportunities in digital retail after being pipped to the post by Ms Nickolds.

Meanwhile Jo Jenkins, who was made Marks & Spencer’s director of clothing earlier this month, is leaving to become chief executive of casual fashion chain White Stuff.

Her departure comes less than a month after the arrival of her boss Jill McDonald, who joined Marks & Spencer from Halfords to run its non-food business.

There is speculation that Ms Jenkins had wanted to be in charge of the division, but the retailer felt this would be too much of a leap and M&S wanted to recruit someone from outside the business with a strong operational background, rather than in just buying.

Ms Jenkins is leaving M&S to become CEO of White Stuff

Ms McDonald has no fashion retail experience but her stint running the UK arm of fast food chain McDonald’s is said to have given her a sharp awareness of how to use customer data.

With Ms Jenkins gone, Ms McDonald will be able to have a greater say in shaping her team rather than inheriting one. An M&S insider played down the chances of any disruption to the crucial Christmas trading period and said that festive lines had already been decided by July.

Stemming the steady decline in clothing sales remains a priority for M&S, with chief executive Steve Rowe only recently relinquishing control of the division. Mr Rowe has previously said the retailer gave customers “too many reasons not to shop with us” and has tried to wean the company off a destructive discounting cycle.

He has also set up a panel of retail shareholders who feed into the company on their views in an effort to address customer complaints about ill-fitting clothes, poor quality and excessively young ranges.

The efforts seem to be paying off so far, with M&S reporting a 1.2pc drop in like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to July 1, compared to the 5.9pc plunge a year earlier.

Ms Jenkins, who has a six-month notice period, started at M&S as a range selector in 1987 before spending 15 years at rival Next. She returned in 2013 as director of lingerie and beauty, before taking responsibility for womenswear two years later.

“We’re delighted for Jo – she’s been a real talent here at M&S, which is reflected in the progress she has made both professionally and for the business,” the retailer said.

“Becoming chief executive at a company like White Stuff is a natural next step for her. We wish her all the very best with her new role.”

Privately owned White Stuff has 131 shops and 53 concessions, and turned over £153.6m last year. Ms Jenkins will replace Jeremy Seigal, formerly CEO of Superdrug-owner AS Watson UK, who announced his intention to stand down in July.

M&S stock dipped 0.6pc in morning trade but recouped its losses and was trading flat at 344.50p by early

Debenhams appoints David Adams as non-exec director

He will join the audit and remuneration committees and will become chairman of the audit committee in January 2018 when Mark Rolfe steps down from the Debenhams board.

With 30 years retail experience, Adams is a former finance director and deputy chief executive of House of Fraser and has also been chairman of Jessops and Moss Bros and a non-executive director at HMV.

He is currently chairman of Conviviality and a non-executive director at Halfords.

Sir Ian Cheshire, chairman of Debenhams, said: “We are delighted to welcome David Adams to Debenhams. He has had a long and distinguished career in the retail and consumer goods industries. His knowledge of the consumer and leisure sectors as well as his financial credentials will be a great addition to the board.”

Marc Jacobs opens first online flagship store in China

Marc Jacobs opens first online flagship store in China

Oct 18, 2017

Marc Jacobs has recently launched  first online flagship store in China with Viplux, the flagship luxury channel for international luxury and premium brands on vip.com. The Marc Jacobs China-based online flagship is offering its hip hop-inspired fall 2017 collection to 300 million vip.com members.

Marc Jacobs chose Viplux as its partner due to Viplux’s dedication to creating end-to-end, high-end shopping experiences.

“The cooperation between Viplux and Marc Jacobs is a testament to Viplux’s expertise in understanding how to “become one” with the spirit of the specific brand, and to match that with market growth,” said vip.com co-founder, Arthur Hong.

Vip.com launched in 2008 its first foray into the luxury brands e-commerce field with Viplux. Marc Jacobs is among several fashion labels to open flagship stores on Viplux, including Armani, Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Diesel, Roberto Cavalli, Sergio Rossi and Trussardi.

Galvan open first retail space in London

Womenswear brand Galvan is set to open its debut retail concept, which will comprise of a showroom, bridal atelier, office, and archive space for the independent label.

Located at Clarendon Cross, Notting Hill, the studio will allow customer to purchase current collection, pre-order from next collection, as well as place orders from Galvan’s archive of previous collections, ahead of the service being launched online next year.

The studio will also be a bridal atelier for its upcoming bridal collection, which will offer “effortless, timeless and clean” options for all kinds of weddings from civil ceremony to late night party to daytime brunch, the brand states on its website, as well as looks for bridesmaids.

“Our philosophy is to put the customer at the core of everything we do, and to make the shopping experience as easy as possible,” said Paul O’Regan, chief executive officer at Galvan. “Galvan Studios provide the antidote to anonymous shopping. Intimate and transparent, these are spaces which give customers insight into the brand and its vision. We are excited to offer a suite of services that truly address the shopping desires and habits of our London customers.”

In addition, the studio can assist with complimentary fittings for online purchases, as well as offer free home delivery for any purchases made in the studio. Additional services launching includes complimentary fittings at home for up to 8 garments, with purchases only being charge after fitting.

London-label Galvan opens ‘studio’ retail concept

The womenswear label known its eveningwear as worn by A-list stars including Emma Watson and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, has also confirmed that has plans to open further studios in New York and Los Angeles.

London-based Galvan launched in 2014 by four women from the worlds of fashion and contemporary art, Anna-Christin Haas, Sola Harrison, Carolyn Hodler, and Katherine Holmgren.

The contemporary label is stocked globally including Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Opening Ceremony, Bergdorf Goodman, Elyse Walker, Boutique 1, Avenue 32 and Moda Operandi, as well as online at matchesfashion.com and Net-a-Porter.

Sainsbury Cuts Jobs as Brexit Puts Online Retailers Off U.K.

Sainsbury Cuts Jobs as Brexit Puts Online Retailers Off U.K.

The U.K. retail industry’s Brexit-linked turmoil deepened as J Sainsbury Plc said it would cut as many as 2,000 jobs, Zalando SE said the market is losing attractiveness and rival online fashion site Asos Plc discussed contingency plans.

Sainsbury’s move follows Tesco Plc, which announced 1,200 head-office job cuts in June. Asos, which sells clothing and accessories online, said Tuesday it may handle more of its distribution activities out of Germany if the U.K. falls out of the European customs union. That could put a damper on growth prospects for its 4,000-employee warehouse in Barnsley, England (a town where 68 percent of voters favored Brexit), although the company is continuing to invest in the site for now.

Brexit is heaping more upheaval on an already embattled industry. The country’s grocers have been grappling with discount rivals and higher staffing costs, while fashion retailers struggle against consumers’ preference to spend their disposable income on leisure activities rather than clothing.

The pound’s decline since the Brexit vote has pushed up sourcing costs: U.K. inflation climbed to its highest rate in more than five years in September, led by food and transport. And the risk of the U.K. falling out of the customs union leaves retailers wondering how they will be able to stock their shelves amid backlogs at ports.

Zalando, a German online clothing retailer that’s Europe’s biggest response so far to Amazon.com Inc., said Wednesday that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is weighing on the market’s prospects.

“We would like to ramp up investments in our U.K. business, but Brexit is posing a problem,” Zalando Co-Chief Executive Officer Rubin Ritter said in a phone interview. “If the new regime limits the flow of goods, it would be a challenge.”

Sainsbury said 1,400 payroll and administrative jobs in its supermarket business may be made obsolete by the introduction of a new information-technology system. It will also ax as many as 600 further human-resources roles due to a restructuring that will consolidate activities among Sainsbury’s supermarkets, home-goods and electronics seller Argos and Sainsbury’s Bank.

Asos on Tuesday reported sales growth in the U.K. decelerated to 16 percent, making it the company’s worst-performing region. That pales in comparison with the 47 percent spurt in its international business. Asos now gets almost two-thirds of its 1.88 billion pounds ($2.49 billion) in annual retail sales outside its home country.

Sainsbury’s latest round of cuts is the largest single amount the grocer has made under Chief Executive Officer Mike Coupe. The London-based retailer is in the final year of its three-year plan to slash costs by 500 million pounds and has said a new three-year plan to cut 500 million pounds of costs will begin next year.

Fat Face ramps up festive closures

Lifestyle retailer Fat Face will extend its closing times during the festive break and plans to shut 40 stores on Boxing Day, Drapers has learned.

The Boxing Day closures, which take place on the same day its winter Sale period starts, are four times greater than last year’s pilot, when 10 shops shut on the day. The exact store locations are expected to be confirmed next week.

Fat Face boss Anthony Thompson told Drapers it is also closing stores at 2pm on Christmas Eve to prepare for its Sale period, marking the first time the retailer will shut its doors earlier than its high street rivals.

Meanwhile, 210 of Fat Face’s 222 UK stores will close on New Year’s Day. Thompson said that although it has closed some stores on 1 January in previous years, it has “not been done on such scale” before.

The retailer outlined its plans to staff in an internal conference last week.

Thompson said: “We are preparing to go into the season at full price, as we believe customers want price integrity at Christmas.

“Family and price integrity are very important issues to us. We’re taking the opportunity to give time back to both our customers and our teams to spend with their families, as well as reassuring customers they can buy from us with confidence, and get real value with their purchases.”

The retailer has also vowed not to slash prices during discounting extravaganza Black Friday (24 November) and in the lead-up to Christmas again this year.

If any of the retailer’s prices change in the period from 15 November to 23 December, it has said it will refund the difference for customers.

It emerged in January that Fat Face’s stance against discounting before Christmas delivered 7.9% growth on full-price sales for the 54 days to 24 December 2016, compared with the same period in the previous year.

The retailer said in January that it had a record week of full-price sales in the week to Christmas Eve, and had 22% less inventory going into Sale than 2015.

Fat Face also operates six stores in the US, bringing total store count to 228. These will remain open on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

Topshop and Topman New Zealand to close stores

Topshop and Topman New Zealand to close stores

Topshop and Topman New Zealand are closing its Auckland and Wellington store  after a failed attempt to find a buyer for the fast-fashion retailer.

Topshop and Topman is operated by Top Retail in New Zealand, with the firm entering voluntary administration in early September on the back of consecutive losses.

The UK-based retailer came to New Zealand in 2014, with Kiwi clothing firm Barkers, Christchurch property investor Philip Carter and fashion designer Karen Walker taking the rights to own, develop and operate the brand locally.

Topman/Topshop opened on Auckland’s Queen Street and on Wellington’s Lambton Quay, with plans to add two more stores as well as an online store by the end of the year 2017.

Conor McElhinney and Kare Johnstone of McGrathNicol said in a statement that “after conducting a detailed assessment of the business and following conclusion of a sale process for the business and assets in whole or in part”, the stores would close after 1 October 2017, but could close earlier if they run out of stock, according to local media.

“It is with regret that we have had to inform staff today that the business is unable to continue trading and that Topshop and Topman will no longer have a presence in New Zealand from Sunday,” the receivers said.

“We would like to thank the directors of Top Retail for their support, which has enabled gift cards to be redeemed during the receivership trading period, and staff for their commitment since our appointment.”

Topshop’s Australian arm was put into receivership in May 2017.

The biggest Primark ever is opening in the UK next year

(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Primark fans, take a deep breath, because we’ve got some amazing news for you.

Primark is set to open a brand new store – and it’s going to be bigger and better than ever. The biggest in the UK, in actual fact.

The new store, which is going to be inside centre:mk shopping complex in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, will be opening its doors to customers next year.

The store is going to be spread across 75,000 square feet and will feature every single item in the Primark range.

Think hooded unicorn blankets. The Beauty and the Beast bedroom range. Minnie Mouse-inspired heels. Mickey Mouse Christmas baubles.

We can’t cope.

Of course, we’re sad that the store is only opening in Milton Keynes – we’d like to have a gigantic Primark everywhere we go.

But apparently, it’s come in response to lots of requests by shoppers who were asked where they would most like to do a bit of Primark shopping.

Kevin Duffy, centre manager of centre:mk, is excited about adding the Primark store to the shopping complex.

He said: ‘We are thrilled to announce that Primark will be joining our fantastic selection of fashion and beauty brands at centre:mk next year.

‘Primark is a firm fashion favourite, and so we look forward to attracting more visitors by expanding the centre’s fashion retail mix.’

Currently, we’re unsure of when the store will be opening and how many floors it’s going to include.

So right now, we’re just going to have to sit back, attempt to relax, and pray that there’s going to be an entire section dedicated to Primark’s false nails

Primark takes biggest letting in 25 years

Primark takes biggest letting in 25 years at Centre:MK

Primark is set to take over the former BHS store at Centre:MK in Milton Keynes, marking the shopping centre’s largest letting in quarter of a century.

The discount fashion retailer has penned a deal to move into the 75,000sq ft space, a year after BHS vacated the premises.

Of the 160 BHS stores which now stand vacant, only around 40 per cent have been filled as demand for large retail spaces falters.

Brands like Primark and Sports Direct have taken around 25 of the 160, while a further 35 have planning permission or have secured tenants for the near future.

The space will see the former BHS location on Silbury Arcade extended and is set to be handed over to Primark for fitting next year.

Over £60 million has recently been earmarked for investment in the shopping centre in what is being dubbed the “re-imagining an icon strategy”.

Joint owners Hermes Investment Management and AustralianSuper said the letting was a milestone in their rejuvenation strategy, following repeated visitor surveys highlighting Primark as the most requested brand.

House of Fraser H1 profits and sales hit by heavy discounting

British department store chain House of Fraser half-year earnings fell to an 8.6 million pound loss for the 26 weeks to July 29, 2017, down significantly from its EBITDA profit of 900,000 pounds for H1 2016.

House of Fraser’s like-for-like sales and profits for the first half of the year dropped after being heavily disrupted by HoF’s new online platform launch and “significant discounting” of its in-house womenswear labels. Like-for-like sales fell 5.2 percent compared to 2016 and online sales dropped 9.8 percent during the 26 week period following the roll-out of House of Fraser’s 25 million pounds revamped online store in April. Gross profit slipped 5 percent from 207.2 million pounds in H1 2016 to 196.9 million pounds in H1 2017 as HoF cut prices to move old stock.

HoF sees 5 percent decline in profits for H1 2017

However, in spite of the sales and profits hit HoF remains upbeat about achieving growth in its final quarter, as the impacts caused by its new online platform and womenswear ranges were mainly over. House of Fraser’s new ecommerce system is said to be “working well” as “good progress” has been made to recover sale volumes. The department store group announced that it aims to be trading normally by the beginning of its final quarter in its trading update.

HoF also announced that it has completed the launch of its new womenswear in-house labels, which saw five existing womenswear brands dropped and the remaining four relaunched for AW17. The new collections have been “well received” so far, with “initial revenues” exceeding expectations” added the company. In addition, HoF also began its 18 million pound investment scheme in its distribution centre to increase capacity, drive operational efficiencies and improve profitability during the first half of the year.

The department store chain predicts this investment will deliver 5 million pounds of efficiency savings during the second half of the year, increasing to a run rate benefit of 15 million pounds of efficiency savings by the time the project is completed by mid-2018. House of Fraser also opened its first new store in the UK in nine years time during the first half go 2017. Located in Rushden Lakes, the store opened its doors on August 24. HoF also closed a loss-making store in Leicester and aims to shut an additional location in Aylesbury.

“My observations after a few weeks are that since Sanpower acquired the business in 2014 the primary focus has been on stabilising an enterprise that had been starved of investment for many years,” said Alex Williamson, CEO of House of Fraser. “Whether it be refinancing the business, the investment of over 100 million pounds in capital expenditure since the acquisition or a root-and-branch upgrade of the executive team, much has already been done to prepare us for significant transformation.”

“House of Fraser has much to be optimistic about. This is just the start of our journey with several other projects designed to provide additional sales and costs savings as part of the overall Transformation Programme due to commence shortly. I am excited about what lies ahead for the business and I am optimistic for the future. With the support of Sanpower, we are building the right foundations that position us well to deliver on our ambitions for sustainable profit growth.”

Fat Face makes four internal senior promotions

Fat Face has promoted four of its senior staff to director level as part of an ongoing investment drive to improve its products and ecommerce divisions.

Emma Shaw has been promoted from head of design to design director, while Kate Brown was promoted from head of buying and quality to buying and quality director.

Shaw and Brown have been with the lifestyle and fashion retailer since 2011 and 2014 respectively.

Meanwhile, Nick Stevenson has been promoted from head of merchandising and sourcing to director of the same area, and Paul Wright has been promoted from head of ecommerce to ecommerce director.

Both Stevenson and Wright have been with Fat Face since 2011.

Fat Face chief executive Anthony Thompson: “I always think that internal promotions are a reflection of the talent in any organisation, and I am delighted for Emma, Kate, Nick and Paul.

“This announcement also reflects our determination to continue to invest in product and develop a truly multichannel business.”

Profits at House of Fraser under pressure from web platform launch

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half-year earnings sunk to an £8.6m loss

Profits at House of Fraser have come under strain after the launch of a new web platform and “significant discounting” took its toll on the retailer.

The department store chain said half-year earnings sunk to an £8.6m (€9.7m) loss, down from a £900,000 profit in 2016, as website sales suffered from the roll-out of a £25m online sales platform.

Gross profits also slipped 5pc to £196.9m over the period, as the group slashed prices on old stock to pave the way for a new womenswear brand.

Gross transaction value hit £545.8m, with like-for-like sales dropping 5.2pc compared to last year.

However, the retailer said it was optimistic about delivering growth in the final quarter, as the impacts of launching the new online platform and womenswear range were largely behind it.

Chief executive Alex Williamson, who joined the firm earlier this year, said: “My observations after a few weeks are that since Sanpower acquired the business in 2014 the primary focus has been on stabilising an enterprise that had been starved of investment for many years.

“Whether it be refinancing the business, the investment of over £100m in capital expenditure since the acquisition or a root and branch upgrade of the executive team, much has already been done to prepare us for significant transformation.

“And House of Fraser has much to be optimistic about.

“Our new House Brand Womenswear collections for autumn/winter have been launched and our customers’ response to date has been very encouraging.

“Our new web platform greatly improves our customers’ experience and online margins whilst our investment in the distribution centre will deliver cost savings through improved operational efficiencies.”

House of Fraser, which employs 5,000 people and has 59 department stores in the UK and Ireland, opened its first store for nine years in August at Rushden Lakes in Northamptonshire.

BHS.com sales soar 35%

Online sales at BHS grow 35% thanks to new start-up mentality.

The MD of BHS.com has revealed sales at the online retailer have increased by over a third in Q2.

Speaking to the Press Association, BHS.com MD Kevan Mallinder said sales grew 35%, bolstered by its womenswear clothing range which increased 350% over the period.

Mallinder said the business was treating the brand like a “disruptive start-up” after it was bought by the Middle-Eastern Al Mana Group in June 2016.

He told the Press Association: “Because we are privately owned by the Al Mana Group, they want to see the business succeed over the long term, which brings a different aspect to the decisions.”

Mallinder was bought in to direct the e-tailer six months ago, coming from food delivery firm Abel & Cole.

The much-loved British brand, BHS, entered administration in April 2016 leading to the loss of 11,000 jobs. An ongoing enquiry is investigating the controversy surrounding the retailer’s pension deficit.

Monki announces new UK store openings

Following the openings of Arket and Weekday on London’s Regent Street in August, parent company H&M has announced plans to open two new Monki stores, one at Westfield Stratford and the other at Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow. Both stores will adopt the Monki World concept, leading customers into an imaginery universe that has inspired 115 stores.

With fitting rooms decorated across a spectrum of rainbow colours, Sea of Scallops tables, shimmering features and exclusive Monki World facade, the new stores will offer the full storytelling experience.

Although technically the Swedish fashion brand’s debut in the Scottish market, the 480 sq m Glasgow store will cater to an existing fan base that already gets its fashion fix online.

The 370 sq m Westfield Stratford store will mark Monki’s third retail space in England, alongside its Carnaby Street and Bristol stores.

McDonald’s workers on strike in the UK for the first time

McDonald’s workers are staging their first UK strike since the US burger chain opened in Britain over forty years ago, amid a heated row over zero-hours contracts and claims of workplace bullying.

The 24 hour strike began at midnight at two outlets owned by the fast food giant which has been selling its burgers to Britons since 1974.

The Baker’s, Food and Allies Workers Union (BFAWU) said the staff had been left no alternative but to take “the historic step” after McDonald’s management failed to meet calls for better job security by ending controversial zero-hours contracts.

<img class=”responsive article-body-image-image” src=”/content/dam/business/2016/02/18/McDonalds_Burger_E_3299494b_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqpJliwavx4coWFCaEkEsb3kvxIt-lGGWCWqwLa_RXJU8.jpg?imwidth=480″ alt=”Burger”>

Credit: Fir Mamat/Alamy

The fast food workers in Crayford, near Dartford, and Cambridge are not officially unionised but are being represented by the BFAWU on this matter. The union’s ballot found 95.7pc in favour of strike.

“Despite all the attempts to change McDonald’s approach and help them become a fairer employer, nothing has been done on their side. Nothing has changed. Empty promises have been made. Yet nothing has been delivered,” said Ian Hodson, national leader of the BFAWU.

The staff are calling for pay to be increased to £10 an hour, up from the minimum wage of £7.50 for staff aged 25 and above. BFAWU said the fight for higher wages follows a campaign in the US, where staff are fighting for $15 an hour.

McDonald’s, which employs about 85,000 people in the UK, said it gave its staff the choice of flexible or fixed contracts with minimum guaranteed hours, but 86pc chose to stay on flexible contracts.

A spokesman for the fast food giant said the grievance is related solely to internal procedures and would affect less than 0.01pc of its workforce across just two of its 1,270 UK restaurants.

“McDonald’s UK and its franchisees have delivered three pay rises since April 2016, this has increased the average hourly pay rate by 15pc,” the spokesman added.

Mr Hobson said the voice against low pay “will not go away”.

“There is growing global movement calling for the fair and decent treatment of workers. In the US for example, the Service Employees International Union have shown the importance of collective action – with their ‘Fight for $15’ campaign having seen more than 10 million workers move towards a $15 minimum wage, and with 20 million workers in total having won wage increases since 2012,” he said.

“Hopefully, senior figures at McDonald’s will be listening,” he added.

Burberry to open new flagship store in Knightsbridge, London

The ew store is part of the first phase of The Knightsbridge Estate K1 development (1, Sloane Street) and will see Burberry relocating its local flagship from nearby Brompton Road where it currently trades from twin men’s and women’s shops. The new move to a site not far from Harvey Nichols will give it the chance to consolidate all men’s and women’s product into one flagship location on four floors and covering an area of over 15,000 sq ft.

The fashion brand and the property company have worked together before with Chelsfield having been responsible for the label’s Bond Street flagship back in 2005.

Despite a raft of openings in recent years, Burberry is carefully targeting its investment at present and only recently scrapped plans to revive the Temple Works mill in Leeds as well as delaying a decision about building a new factory on a neighbouring site. It is also reported to be looking at its London offices with a view to cutting costs.

But the brand is clearly still investing where it can see major returns. It has invested heavily refining its product offer, adding new star bags that appear to be making a major impact on its balance sheet. And it has licensed its beauty ops to specialist Coty, as well as opening a China-specific website.

The new Knightsbridge store is part of this very focused strategy with the area being a key beneficiary of the booming luxury tourist trade in London.

Burberry new store London at 1 Sloane Street

Radley to target America with Macy’s deal

British handbag and accessories brand Radley is set to return to the American market, following its withdrawal six years ago, after signing an exclusive deal with US department store chain Macy’s.

The deal, will see Radley opening concessions in 100 Macy’s stores by Christmas, with as many as 300 possible within the next 12 months, as the handbag brand attempts to crack the US market, according to reports in The Times.

“It was poorly thought through and the execution was even worse,” chief executive Justin Stead said in an interview with The Times. “This time around we’re going back with a very well thought through plan. I think it’s going to pay huge dividends.”

The move follows the private equity-backed company selling its products on TV shopping channel QVC, which was declared a success as Stead told the newspaper that during its hour-long show it sold out of its 750,000 dollars of product in just 30 minutes.

Acquired by private equity house Bregal Freshstream last year, it said at the time it saw “significant potential” in expanding Radley to the international market.

Radley was founded in 1998 and has around 32 standalone UK stores, it is also sold in John Lewis, House of Fraser and other department stores and independent retailers, as well as via its website.

Poundland given one of the biggest ever retail food safety fines

Poundland given one of the biggest ever retail food safety fines as mouse droppings found on baby clothes

The discount chain had to close one of its busiest stores when evidence of mouse droppings and urine were found on food shelves alongside gnawed and soiled packets of biscuits, nuts, sweets and popcorn

Poundland has been fined one of the biggest ever retail food safety fines (Image: PA)

A mouse infestation – with droppings found on baby clothes – has landed Poundland with one of the biggest ever retail food safety fines.

The discount chain had to close one of its busiest stores when evidence of mouse droppings and urine were found on food shelves alongside gnawed and soiled packets of biscuits, nuts, sweets and popcorn.

The problem, at the shop in Wandsworth, London, was deemed to be a widespread and uncontrolled rodent infestation by health inspectors.

Droppings were found throughout the store and the behind-the-scenes storage areas of the discount store, including on baby clothes.

The retail giant is now counting the cost of ignoring the major mouse infestation at its store in Wandsworth, London, after being hit by magistrates with what is believed to be one of the country’s heaviest ever retail food safety fines.

The problem was found to be widespread (Image: EyeEm)

The company copped the whopping fine after a court heard the London shop had to be closed using emergency powers in January last year after food safety inspectors uncovered the infestation.

Cllr Jonathan Cook, community safety spokesman, said: “This was a very serious rodent infestation in a busy and popular retailer so there was a very real and significant risk to public health.

“When our inspectors uncovered the scale of the problem they had absolutely no option other than use their emergency powers to order the entire store’s immediate closure.

“It was not permitted to reopen until the company was able to prove it had dealt with the problems and taken adequate steps to prevent it happening again.

“This episode showed a complete lack of regard for customer’s health and welfare and is reflected in the very substantial fine imposed on the company by the court .

“Food retail businesses must ensure that they do not jeopardise public health in any way if they don’t want to suffer a similar fate.”

Wimbledon magistrates court heard that Poundland Limited had been previously prosecuted on three occasions for similar outbreaks at other stories, including a £73,000 fine at Birmingham crown court, a £12,000 fine at Highbury Corner magistrates’ court and a £33,000 fine at Luton magistrates’ court.

In this case Poundland Limited pleaded guilty to four offences and in addition to the £100,000 fine the company was also ordered to pay £12,368 towards Wandsworth Council’s costs in bringing the case to court, reports the Daily Record .

New Look chief Kristiansen to step down

The chief executive of New Look is to step down just over two years after his turnaround of the high street fashion chain paved the way for its £2bn sale.

Sky News has learnt that Anders Kristiansen is to leave the company, which is majority-owned by South African investor Brait, in the coming weeks.

His departure is expected to be announced on Friday, according to a person close to New Look.

Mr Kristiansen, who previously ran a major Danish retailer’s huge Chinese operations and also held a senior job at Staples, the office supplies group, is expected to move to an undisclosed role elsewhere in the coming months.

His nearly-five year tenure at the company was characterised by significant expansion of its store network in China, where New Look is targeting 500 shops over the next few years, and the stellar growth of its digital business into the UK’s third-largest online fashion brand.

He has also presided over a recent shake-up of his executive team, recruiting Paula Dumont Lopez from Zara-owner Inditex to sharpen its product offering.

Brait’s takeover of New Look in 2015 cemented the presence in the UK retail and leisure sectors of South Africa’s Wiese family, which also has interests in chains such as Iceland and Virgin Active.

News of the change in leadership at New Look will nevertheless come during a challenging period for the mid-market clothing retailer and many other British fashion retailers hit by weakening consumer spending and the weakness of sterling.

Earlier this month, New Look reported a 7.5% fall in UK like-for-like sales in the quarter to June 24, with underlying operating profit declining sharply to just over £12m.

Mr Kristiansen is expected to be replaced temporarily by Danny Barrasso, New Look’s UK and Ireland managing director, while its board hunts a permanent successor.

The company now trades from nearly 600 outlets in the UK and almost 300 more in international markets – including more than 125 in China.

Announcing the results this month, Mr Kristiansen described the UK as a “difficult” market, saying: “As expected, the UK market has remained difficult, which has resulted in a disappointing quarter of trading.

“We have managed the business accordingly by controlling costs, tactical investment in our strategic initiatives and enhancing our product proposition.

“We remain committed to our long-term strategy of diversifying the business and reducing our dependence on the UK high street, and are confident that we will see improvements, but expect these to take time.”

Mr Kristiansen, who has in recent weeks been a vocal advocate for improved clothing factory conditions in the UK, could not be reached for comment on Thursday night.

A New Look spokeswoman declined to comment.

Sir Philip Green’s retail empire agrees to pay £30m to BHS creditors

Arcadia, which owned BHS until it was sold to Dominic Chappell-led consortium, reaches deal with store’s liquidators

Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia retail empire has agreed to pay £30m to unsecured creditors of BHS following the collapse of the department store chain with the loss of 11,000 jobs.

Arcadia, which owned BHS until it was sold to a consortium led by Dominic Chappell for £1 in 2015, on Friday agreed the deal with BHS’s liquidators, FRP Advisory, which will drop legal action filed against Green’s company.

A spokesman for FRP said: “The liquidators of SHB Realisations, formerly BHS, reached an agreement with Arcadia Group in relation to a number of matters, including Arcadia’s floating charge dated 14 April 2015.

“We can confirm that as part of the agreement, over £30m was released from reserves held in relation to Arcadia’s secured claim into the monies available for BHS unsecured creditors and the floating charge is to be released.”

The settlement avoids the prospect of the retail billionaire fighting a lengthy legal battle over the demise of BHS.

Green avoided another legal battle with the pension regulator by agreeing to pay £363m to rescue the BHS pension scheme.

Chappell is to be prosecuted by the pensions watchdog for failing to provide information for an investigation into its sale.

Chappell headed Retail Acquisitions, the company that acquired BHS. A year later, it collapsed with the loss of 11,000 jobs and a pension deficit of £571m.

The Pensions Regulator is prosecuting Chappell for failing to comply with three notices for information issued under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004. Failure to provide such information without a reasonable excuse is a criminal offence that can result in a fine.

Green, who was pictured on Instagram spraying bottles of champagne among women in bikinis, also on Friday announced a deal to buy four franchise-run Topshop stores in Australia which collapsed into administration in May.

Tiffany & Co first half 2017 sales increased 2%

Tiffany reported its financial results for the three months (“second quarter”) and six months (“first half”) ended July 31, 2017. In both periods, modest net sales increases and improved operating margins contributed to growth in diluted earnings per share.

In the second quarter: Worldwide net sales increased 3% to $960 million, while comparable store sales declined 2%. Management noted an increase in wholesale sales of diamonds, increased wholesale sales in the AsiaPacific region and strong e-commerce sales growth. Overall, growth in fashion and designer jewelry sales contrasted with softness in other jewelry categories. Net earnings rose 9% to $115 million, or $0.92 per diluted share, from $106 million, or $0.84 per diluted share in the prior year.

In the first half: Worldwide net sales of $1.9 billion were 2% higher than the prior year, while comparable store sales were 2% below the prior year, due to similar trends as noted above. Net earnings rose 8% to $208 million, or $1.66 per diluted share, from $193 million, or $1.53 per diluted share, a year ago.

Gant’s UK retail boss exits

The head of retail for Gant’s UK and Irish arm has resigned after almost five years in the position.

Darren Whelpton-Smith has moved on to rugby leisurewear brand Raging Bull as its head of retail, wholesale and ecommerce.

Whelpton-Smith is a former area manager for fashion chains Levi’s and Republic, and his last role before Gant was working as Fat Face’s area manager for nothern England for four years.

He joined Gant in 2012, and under his leadership he oversaw the opening of the brand’s new global flagship on Regent Street in London less than 12 months ago.

Meanwhile, Raging Bull was founded by former England rugby union player Phil Vickery and its collections are primarily sold through department stores and via its own website.

Former BHS owner Dominic Chappell to be prosecuted by pensions regulator

Dominic Chappell

Dominic Chappell, the former BHS owner, is to be prosecuted by The Pensions Regulator for failing to provide information to an investigation into the sale of the collapsed retailer.

Mr Chappell headed up Retail Acquisitions, the company that acquired BHS for £1 from billionaire Sir Philip Green in 2015.

The TPR said it is prosecuting Mr Chappell for failing to comply with three notices issued under Section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004.

Sir Philip Green sold BHS to Chappell in 2015 for just £1 (PA)

The notices were issued to Mr Chappell on April 26 2016, May 13 2016 and February 20 2017, it added.

Mr Chappell has been summonsed to appear at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on September 20 2017 to face three charges of neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents without a reasonable excuse.

BHS plunged into administration last year, impacting 11,000 jobs and around 19,000 pension holders, leaving a £571 million pension deficit.

BHS went into administration last year (Lauren Hurley/PA)

The Pensions Regulator has pledged to flex its muscles recently, saying in July that it “will not hesitate” to prosecute companies or individuals if they refuse to hand over information.

After a drawn-out saga that included a parliamentary inquiry and public outcry over both Mr Chappell’s and Sir Philip’s conduct, the Topshop tycoon agreed to pay £363 million to settle the BHS pension scheme in February.

Under Mr Chappell’s tenure as owner of BHS, £8.4 million was taken out of the chain by Retail Acquisitions, with £6 million still owed when it collapsed last year.

Retail Acquisitions was put into liquidation in May although Mr Chappell, a former bankrupt, said at the time he would challenge the court ruling.

COMMENT: Why has Aldi overtaken Waitrose and M&S?

Our most recent UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) reveals striking evidence that customers hold the power when it comes to business performance.

The index reveals Aldi as the highest performing supermarket for customer satisfaction, overtaking heritage brands M&S and Waitrose, while also making the largest gains in sales and market share.

The three supermarkets with the lowest customer service levels – Tesco, Asda and Co-Op Food – all saw small drops in market share. Our analysis finds food retailers with satisfied customers saw a sales growth of 10.7 per cent, compared to only 1.8 per cent for those with satisfaction falling below average. Indeed, in each of the last 11 UKCSI reports, we have consistently seen that, on average, supermarkets with the highest customer satisfaction outperform the sector for sales and market share. Customer service is a clear driving force behind those who reaped the benefits of this sector growth – and a clear issue for those who were left behind.

Retailers would do well to take note. Indeed, wider analysis from the Institute of Customer Service presents a clear correlation between customer satisfaction and business performance. It shows, for example, that in 60 per cent of cases, when customer satisfaction increases or decreases, share price follows suit. Ignoring this places organisations at risk of huge potential loss.

The UKCSI suggests that not only is Aldi satisfying its current customers and securing the repeat custom which comes with this success, but the retailer is also increasing market share through customer recommendation. In addition, the effort customers are having to make to get what they want is lower for customers of Aldi than both heritage brands – meaning that their customers are experiencing a more seamless customer experience.

The prospect of inflation rising faster than incomes may well lead to more exacting demands over both price and service, so it is also interesting to note that Aldi significantly outperforms the sector as a whole in two key areas: satisfaction with price and complaint handling. It does seem that if food prices continue to rise, Aldi appears well placed to satisfy the needs of price-conscious customers whilst widening its appeal to broader segments for whom service and the overall experience is a key concern. I hope other retailers recognise this – customer satisfaction is a crucial differentiator and the realigned expectations of consumers must be met, particularly in an environment where competition is so fierce.

For those supermarkets who recognise that there needs to be a step change in their approach and a commitment to the customer service agenda, our recommendations are as follows:

• Get it “right first time”

Making the customer journey even easier, straightforward and intuitive and maintaining a high focus on getting it “right first time” is essential to convert customer satisfaction to stronger loyalty and recommendation.

• Prevent problems

Organisations must focus on preventing problems at their source in key areas such as the availability, quality and reliability of goods and services, which account for the largest proportion of problems.

• Maintain relentless focus on complaint handling

Dealing with complaints quickly and effectively is crucial. Key expectations of staff include listening carefully, showing understanding of the problem, taking responsibility and following up complaints.

• Develop engaged, competent people

Employees’ attitudes and competence are amongst the most important attributes of the retail customer experience. Investing in employees’ knowledge, emotional intelligence and problem-solving skills is therefore central to improving customer service. Organisations should commit to employee engagement, training and development as proactive, ongoing business strategies.

It may seem obvious that customers are key to business performance, but service too often falls by the wayside in boardroom conversations. Our research offers a clear imperative: retailers should place the customer at the centre of their business strategy, or risk losing out to those who do.

Athleisure craze set to peak at £2.5bn in 2017

The athleisure trend sweeping the UK is predicted to drive the sportswear market’s value to £2.5 billion in 2017.

According to a new report from GlobalData, sports clothing has jumped eight per cent year-on-year as retailers rush to cash in on the trend and release their own athleisure ranges.

This is nearly four times the growth of the total UK clothing market, which rose 2.1 per cent.

The trend has seen a resurgence in brands like Kappa and Ellesse, while more contemporary retail giants like Boohoo, Topshop, New Look and H&M have released their own ranges in an effort to establish a foothold against sportswear specialists.

The popularity of athleisure fashion has been largely driven by the wellness trend, according to GlobalData’s retail analysts Fiona Paton.

“The health & wellbeing trend, influence of high profile fitness bloggers and continued investment from the government in initiatives such as improving cycle routes will increase consumer participation in sport and exercise – providing retailers with a larger, more varied activewear customer base,” she said.

“Sales growth in athleisure is set to peak in 2017 but it will remain a very popular category over the next five years, outperforming total clothing.

“As fashion retailers such as New Look, Primark and ASOS invest in affordable, trend-led own brand sportswear ranges, female shoppers have access to more choice, will spend more on impulse and will purchase athleisure pieces in replacement of core casualwear items.

“GlobalData believes non-sports specialists can lean on their fashion credentials and skills in interpreting seasonal trends quickly to ensure regular newness and that collections remain relevant, thereby forcing sports players such as Sports Direct to up their fashion game.”

30 Things You Didn’t Know About John Lewis

“Westfield Stratford City – John Lewis” by EG Focus is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Despite being a 150-year-old department store, the UK’s John Lewis brand has been quick to evolve with the times and set its own standards in retailing.

The retailer is famed for its ‘fair’ approach to business from its ‘partnership’ status to its ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ promise to consumers.

Winning repeated accolades for its customer service, and consistent ‘quality’ product in the eyes of its consumers, John Lewis has openly adopted new technologies, new ranges, new services to its customers and new partnerships with industry-shapers to stay on top.

Find out more about its retail approach and tactics in our 30 facts below:

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Image credit: John Lewis

1. John Lewis is a British department store and heritage retailer that opened its first store on Oxford Street, London in 1864.

2. The original Oxford Street store remains the flagship branch, and was refurbished in late 2007 at a cost of £60 million.

3. The Oxford Street store has its own roof garden and pub which reportedly had 171,000 visitors last year (2016).

4. John Lewis is owned by its permanent staff who are called ‘partners’ and the profits are shared amongst them every year.

5. There are 86,700 partners who collectively own 48 John Lewis shops, 354 Waitrose supermarkets, an online business, a catalogue business, a production unit – and a farm!

6. The business has reported annual gross sales of over £11bn.

7. The retailer is known for its ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ promise to customers which pledges to stock the ‘best quality products, responsibly sourced’. If a national high street competitor is offering a better price for the same product – John Lewis will lower the price on that product in all of their shops – even if it’s a ‘sale’ price.

8. John Lewis partners reportedly stay with the company twice as long as the industry average.

Image credit: John Lewis

9. John Lewis has acquired other stores throughout the years which continued to operate under their original names until 2002. The two exceptions are Peter Jones in Chelsea and Knight & Lee in Southsea.

10. The John Lewis Partnership was the first department store group in the UK to adopt central buying, launching the ‘Jonell(e)’ name for its own brand merchandise in 1937. Since 2001 own brand merchandise has been known as ‘John Lewis’ merchandise. Additional own brands include Collection by John Lewis, as well as John Lewis & Co. and Collection Weekend by John Lewis.

11. In March 2017, John Lewis announced the launch of its own denim brand AND/OR in 15 stores.

12. In 2009, John Lewis launched the first of 12 John Lewis at Home stores in pre-existing shopping regions focusing on Electrical, Home and Technology products.

13. John Lewis will hire its first ever manager of brand experience for its new Oxford store, which is due to open in October 2017.

14. The new Oxford store will dedicate 20% of retail space to services and will have a concierge to greet customers and help them book appointments.

15. John Lewis permanently added a visual search tool to its website after 90% of users reported it to be a helpful function, leading to higher sales. The retailer was trialling FindSimilar – an app which lets shoppers upload a picture to search products.

16. Online retail accounted for 36% of the business last year (2016) and is expected to rise to 50% by 2020.

17. Inspired by the success of a “click and collect” offering, John Lewis has announced an £8 million programme to equip staff with iPhones – boosting them with technology to better assist customers on the spot.

Image credit: John Lewis

18. For a competitive edge, John Lewis is aiming to boost its range of exclusive products from 30% to 50% (time frame undisclosed).

19. John Lewis’ Christmas TV advert has become ‘event TV’. Its 2016 Christmas advert was named the world’s biggest, attracting 21 million global views on YouTube. The campaign cost £7 million.

20. 40% of John Lewis’ profits are reportedly made during the five weeks before Christmas.

21. In December 2016, the retailer reported a 31% year-on-year sales increase in the run-up to Christmas compared to 2015. This is accredited to two extra days of trading afforded by the additional bank holiday and the fact the sales started at 5pm on Christmas Eve.

22. John Lewis has recently topped a UK ranking of consumer perceptions of quality and reputation, conducted by YouGov.

23. John Lewis was amongst the top 5 brands named as offering the best customer service in the UK alongside Amazon, ASOS, M&S Food and Waitrose. The survey was conducted by the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) from The Institute of Customer Service.

24. In May 2017, John Lewis joined the Timewise Scheme, designed to help part-time employees, particularly in senior roles, progress their career and combat the challenges of flexible working.

25. In 2014, John Lewis set up JLAB, a global start-up accelerator programme run in association with innovation specialists L Marks. Waitrose joined the programme in 2017 creating the UK’s largest retail technology accelerator.

26. The 12 week programme offers 5-10 successful recipients access to John Lewis’s resources, industry-leading insight, free workspace, senior mentors and the opportunity to apply for funding in exchange for equity.

“Bristol – Cribbs Causeway … retail outlet” by bazzadarambler is licensed under CC BY 2.0

27. The themes for this year’s JLAB applicants included: Amazing Food Experiences, Amazing Store Experiences, Effortless Shopping; Help Me Live a Healthier Life; Smarter Supply Chain and Surprise Us – for miscellaneous innovations.

28. The retailer is currently exploring the possibility of renting out empty floor space as co-working offices for freelancers. A decision will be made in early 2018.

29. John Lewis was recently awarded ‘Best In Store Experience’, ‘Best Furniture Retailer’ and ‘Best Homewares Retailer’ at the 2017 Verdict Customer Satisfaction Awards and ‘Retailer of the Year’ at the 2017 Sunday Times Style Beauty Awards.

30. John Lewis has a written constitution that sets out its principles, governance system and rules. The ‘happiness of its members’ is cited as the partnership’s ultimate purpose.

As you can see with John Lewis it always comes back to the customer. But in order to offer such dedicated service the company also focuses on empowering and rewarding its staff. If retailers are going to remain competitive in the future both of these things will be vitally important.  

UK luxury retailer Fortnum & Mason closes its Dubai store

The multi-level store in Downtown Dubai was opened in 2014

British luxury retailer Fortnum & Mason has closed down its store in Dubai, it confirmed on Thursday.

Located in Downtown Dubai, the multi-level store was opened in 2014 as Fortnum & Mason’s first location outside London.

However, the brand said in a brief statement that the slowdown in the economy had led to the outlet’s closure last month.

“Due to the well-documented ongoing challenges with market conditions in Dubai, we have made the considered decision with our partner Al Khayyat Investments (AKI) that we will cease trading on the 9th of July,” it said.

“Fortnum’s will continue to be an English brand with a global palate. Our products are available to our customers in Dubai and around the world as part of our offer on fortnumandmason.com,” it added.

The British brand started in London in the early 1700s, and is most famous for its tea, confectionery and hampers.

In a statement, AKI also confirmed the news but added that it will continue to be a “key market leader for our other international brands”.

According to its website, the other food and beverage brands in the company’s retail portfolio include Il Caffe di Roma, Espressions – that also features Lavazza products and Burger Fuel.

Despite the softening in regional economic conditions, consumer spending in the UAE is growing strongly, according to recent research released by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Spending is expected to exceed $261bn in 2021, compared to nearly $183bn in 2016, the report found.

The research, based on recent data from Euromonitor International, revealed that consumer expenditure per household during 2016 in the UAE (around $103,000) was the highest when compared to other GCC countries.

Looking at consumer spending in the UAE in 2016, while housing was identified as the top category with $75.7bn, food and non-alcoholic beverages came second with $24.8bn worth of spending during the year.

Argos among firms named and shamed for underpaying workers

Argos has been named and shamed by the government as one of more than 200 employers to underpay their workers.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has highlighted 233 firms which failed to pay their employees the minimum wage and national living wage.

More than 13,000 members of staff were underpaid by these firms and each will receive back pay from their employer.

A total of £2 million is due to be paid to workers and the government has also issued additional fines totalling £1.9 million to these businesses. Employees will be contacted by their employer regarding the underpayment.

The government says retail, hairdressing, and hospitality businesses were some of the most prolific offenders. A list of all 233 employers is available to {view online}.

Argos was by far the biggest firm named on the list of 233 companies. The retailer failed to pay £1,461,881.78 to 12,176 of its workers, according to the government.

Moneywise reported in February that 37,000 current and former Argos staff had been underpaid by their employer. That 37,000 figure includes the 12,176 workers announced today, as the government has only counted current employees of

‘The government will come down hard on those who break the law’

Business minister Margot James says: “It is against the law to pay workers less than legal minimum wage rates, short-changing ordinary working people and undercutting honest employers.

“Today’s naming round identifies a record £2 million of back pay for workers and sends the clear message to employers that the government will come down hard on those who break the law.

“Common errors made by employers in this round included deducting money from pay packets to pay for uniforms, failure to account for overtime hours, and wrongly paying apprentice rates to workers.”

John Rogers, chief executive of Argos – which is now owned by Sainsbury’s, adds: “Shortly after we [Sainsbury’s] acquired the Argos business last year it was brought to my attention that, as part of a routine visit, HMRC had uncovered an issue with some Argos store systems and processes, which meant that some colleagues had been paid below the national living wage.

“Sainsbury’s prides itself on being a trusted brand where people love to work and I was, therefore, very disappointed to hear this and launched an immediate investigation. I am pleased to say the issue was resolved quickly and processes have been updated to ensure this cannot happen again.”

Marks & Spencer’s flagship store has re-opened in Dubai

New dining options and food hall at British retailer in Dubai Festival City Mall

Following a major revamp, Marks & Spencer’s flagship store in Dubai Festival City Mall has re-opened. For the first time in the UAE, you can now take a swift break from shopping at M&S and experience what the retailer is calling a premium, table-waited dining experience at the M&S Café.

The new dining experience is offering up a range of mid-retail therapy goodies, including pastries, smoothies, soups, salads, sandwiches, pastas and even British favourites including fish and chips (see Pierchic’s claims to the world’s poshest fish and chips here) and afternoon tea.

But the relaunch hasn’t just focused on the café alone. M&S has also launched its Food Hall, showcasing more than 1,200 premium grocery brands and lines. From fresh fruit and veggies to oven meals and daily staples, M&S is bringing its signature British quality to Dubai Festival City.

There’s also a brand-new M&S Home department, with the widest range of the brand’s homewares in the UAE. Expect new bedding and towel ranges, crockery and crystal glassware, for example. All of which will go alongside the store’s existing range of fashion for men, women and kids.

We’re hoping the M&S Food Hall will be stocking its bottles of Belgian chocolate milkshake – they are unbelievable.

Open Sun-Wed 10am-1pm; Thu-Sat 10am-midnight. Dubai Festival City Mall, www.marksandspencerme.com (04 206 6466).

Subway opens 2,500th UK store in Keynsham

Following the global launch of the new format in Manchester in March, the store near Bristol is the second pilot featuring the design to open in the UK.
The shop will create seven full-time and two part-time local jobs. Earlier this year, the Subway brand announced plans to increase the number of stores in the UK and Ireland to 3,000 by 2020, creating around 5,000 new jobs.

Owned by family franchisees Stephen and Sue Pasco, the Keynsham store is one of 16 Subway stores they operate. The stores employ 145 people across Bristol, Gloucester, Somerset and Wiltshire.
Commenting on the new opening, Sue Pasco explained “We’re hugely proud to be able to open the brand’s 2,500th store and that it is one of the first UK stores featuring the new look design. The modern design will offer customers more of what they love about Subway stores – highlighting our bread baked in store daily, cookies and some of our veggies in modern displays – whilst offering great value and fresh, varied menu options.”
Brought to life with input from franchisees and customers from around the world, the Subway Fresh Forward design is expected to be seen in eight stores in the UK by Christmas, with all existing Subway stores to be refurbished in the new décor style over the next few years.

Weird Fish unveils new store design

The town centre unit, previously occupied by Costa, covers a ground floor sales area of approximately 1,200 square feet and is the brand’s 14th shop.

In keeping with Weird Fish’s coastal-inspired roots, the design of the store features a fun nautical theme and tranquil colours.
John Stockton, managing director at Weird Fish, said: “We have worked hard to bring our new store vision to life, it is a real move on for us and we are delighted to have opened it in the fantastic seaside town of Scarborough.”
Many Weird Fish stores are situated in popular holiday destinations in counties such as Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Yorkshire. Stockists include Debenhams, Cotswold Outdoor and Blacks. The opening of the Scarborough store coincides with the start of the brand’s busy holiday retail season.
Stockton added: “We are really excited about opening our second store in Yorkshire and feel that Scarborough is a great location for us. We can’t wait to show off our new store.”

Wilko warns nearly 4,000 staff could lose jobs

Homeware retailer is third British high street chain after Sainsbury’s and Asda to announce redundancy plans


Wilko has reported an 80% drop in full-year profits. Photograph: Alamy
Wilko, the high street homewares and households goods chain, has warned almost 4,000 of its employees that they could lose their jobs in a shake-up that will strip out a layer of management.
The potential job losses cap a brutal week for British retail workers, with Asda placing 3,257 employees into consultation and Sainsbury’s announcing plans to axe more than 1,000 head office jobs.
Wilko, which recorded an 80% drop in full-year profits last month, said it had placed 3,900 staff working as stock supervisors, till supervisors and assistant managers, into consultation, which could lead to redundancy. However, the family-run business said the changes to its structure would also allow it to create about 1,000 new senior supervisor roles.
The company said its new “simplified retail team structure” would “ensure it is best placed to continue to thrive within an ever-changing retail landscape and to ensure it can operate successfully and competitively”.
The job cuts come soon after the company announced that the government’s “imposition” of a minimum living wage had hit profits. Despite the 80% decline in its pre-tax profits to £5.2m, Wilko’s board still paid the company’s multimillionaire family owners a £3m dividend.
Antony Houghton, the chain’s retail director, said that independent studies had found a “legacy of retail structures” that “created complexity to manage which aren’t simple, fair or transparent for our team members”.
He said the company was “committed to the future growth of the business and reviewing how we stay relevant to our customers. We do this by making sure all retail operations are fit for the future in order to provide customers with the best possible service.
“As a family-run business, we care greatly about team members and know that change is never easy. We are working with our recognised trade union the GMB, listening to team members and offering support at all levels. We are entering into a long period of consultation and wherever possible are aiming to redeploy team members into new roles and offering help and support to those seeking new opportunities.”
The company, founded by James Kemsey Wilkinson – known as JK – in Leicester in 1930 has grown to employ 20,000 people working in 406 stores across the country, but has struggled to compete with the rise of other discount chains such as B&M and Poundland.
Wilko, which recently shortened its name from Wilkinson, is 100% owned by the Wilkinson family and is one of the biggest privately-owned companies in Britain. It describes its mission as “Todobilation” – which it says describes the “jubilation in a to do. Either the excitement and anticipation of starting something or the sense of achievement when it’s done.”
In its annual accounts, the company hit out at George Osborne’s introduction of the national living wage, which starts at £7.50 an hour for over-25s. “Chancellor Osborne’s final austerity budget surprised the industry by its unilateral imposition of a statutory minimum living wage at well above expected levels,” the company said.
Lisa Wilkinson, a lawyer and grandchild of the founder, is chairwoman of the company and bought out the shares of her cousin Karin Swann, who was co-chair, for £63m in 2015.
This week Asda, Britain’s third-largest supermarket, singled out 3,257 employees in 18 underperforming and overstaffed stores, and is also understood to also be looking at staffing levels in a further 59 of its supermarkets.
The 18 stores facing staff cuts include branches in Halifax in West Yorkshire, Broadstairs in Kent and the Basildon Eastgate store in Essex. Staff will face a series of one-to-one meetings over the next three weeks. The eventual job-loss figure is expected to be in the hundreds.
Asda recently posted its worst annual figures since being taken over by Walmart in 1999, as fierce competition in the UK supermarket sector took its toll.
The supermarket industry is going through massive change as Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons cut costs to respond to the threat posed by the fast-growing discounters Aldi and Lidl, as well as grocery sales moving online.
Sainsbury’s is cutting more than 1,000 jobs at its head office as part of an efficiency drive designed to save £500m. The UK’s second-largest supermarket chain has drafted in McKinsey, the management consultancy, to draw up a headcount reduction plan. It comes on top of 400 job cuts in March.
Tesco, the country’s biggest supermarket, announced in June that it was cutting 1,200 jobs at its head office and 1,100 at a call centre.

The Fragrance Shop posts bumper trading figures

Operating 183 stores nationwide, the retailer’s online operation also grew with sales rising by 34%.
Meanwhile, EBITDA rose by 7.6% to £15.1 million and net profit increased by 16.3% to £10.2 million year-on-year.

Sanjay Vadera, chief executive of The Fragrance Shop, said: “We have achieved outstanding like for like sales growth for another year as a result of listening to our customers and giving them what they are asking for; an expanding range of accessibly-priced luxury fragrances, being first to market with exclusives, the best possible retail experience and an expanding store portfolio."
The Fragrance Shop is on track to open its 200th store this year as well as a concession store format in partnership with House of Fraser across 28 sites. It also plans to unveil its new ‘Scentaddict’ subscription service, currently in BETA testing, which will allow customers to try luxury scents monthly with no commitment.

New Look sales nosedive in ‘disappointing’ first quarter

• Underlying operating profit slumped 60%
• UK like-for-like sales dropped 7.5%
• Overall revenue down 4.4%
The fashion retailer recorded a 4.4% drop in revenue to £338.7m in the 13 weeks to June 24, exacerbated by a 7.5% plummet in UK like-for-like sales.
The retailer’s underlying operating profit plunged 60% to £12.1m whilst EBITDA fell 37% to £27.2m, which the business attributed to a “challenging UK sales performance and investment in strategic initiatives.”
New Look posted declines in its own-brand like-for-like sales and own-website sales of 8.2% and 0.6% respectively, while its third-party ecommerce sales rose 15.7%.
Chinese expansion
The fast-fashion retailer opened 17 new stores in China during the period, taking its bricks-and-mortar footprint in the country to 127.
The retailer, which posted a slump in full-year profits in June, also trialled a new store concept in the UK during the period.
Chief executive Anders Kristiansen said: “As expected, the UK market has remained difficult, which has resulted in a disappointing quarter of trading. We have managed the business accordingly by controlling costs, tactical investment in our strategic initiatives and enhancing our product proposition.
“We remain committed to our long-term strategy of diversifying the business and reducing our dependence on the UK high street, and are confident that we will see improvements, but expect these to take time.
“Looking ahead, we expect the consumer economy to remain fragile and challenging market conditions to persist into 2018. We will continue to manage our business prudently and focus on providing our customers with exceptional product and real value for money.”
The fashion retailer’s latest results come shortly after a raft of changes to its senior team.
The retailer’s menswear boss Christopher Englinde and footwear director Amanda Wain exited the business in June.
Shortly afterwards, New Look appointed former Zara Basic head of product Paula Dumont Lopez as its new chief creative officer, succeeding Roger Wightman.
Dumont will join the retailer in September.
The fast fashion retailer also poached Mango womenswear director Rosa Gutierrez Sanchez to bolster its buying, merchandising and design departments, although she has joined the business on a contract basis.

Tesco to replace 5p single-use bags with 10p bags for life

Tesco is to stop selling 5p single-use carrier bags and replace them with 'bags for life' costing 10p each.
Shoppers will now have to remember to bring their own carrier bags to avoid paying double the old price.
The move comes into effect in all UK stores on Monday 28 August and is part of an environmental drive to cut plastic consumption. It follows a trial at three stores in Aberdeen, Dundee and Norwich, which found shoppers bought 25% fewer bags when faced with a higher cost.
Tesco also says it'll be removing single-use wine-bottle carriers and lower the price of its 'carry me bottle bag' from £1 to 40p.
However, online delivery customers can still choose to receive deliveries in single-use carrier bags or opt for bagless delivery, something 57% of Tesco's online customers now do, the store says.
Tesco adds that 1.5 billion fewer single-use bags have been used since a charge for carrier bags was introduced in 2015, although it still sells over 700 million a year.

Wales was the first country in the UK to introduce a charge on carrier bags in 2011 and saw a 79% fall in plastic bags being handed out in the next three years.
Tesco's bags for life are made from 94% recycled plastic and can be replaced for free if damaged. Tesco says the money from selling bags will continue to be used to fund community projects.
Rival supermarket Sainsbury's stopped issuing single-use bags in 2015 and started to offer a 5p bag. It's 100% recycled and can be replaced for free.
We have contacted Asda and Morrisons to find out if they're making any changes to offering single-use bags and will update this story when we hear back.

Good news because Greggs are testing out home deliveries in the UK

They're also creating even more drive-throughs across the UK.
Great news for anyone that loves sausage rolls, steak bakes and every other pasty under the sun because Greggs have announced that they're planning on introducing a nationwide drive-through service.
As you may remember, the Newcastle baker had recently launched their first drive-through service at Irlam, Greater Manchester.
Well, you can thank all those hungry Mancunians for the latest news because the company were so happy with that service that they plan on rolling it out across the UK.

Speaking with The Guardian, Greggs boss Roger Whiteside has said: "It’s all about convenience and the most convenient thing is not having to get out of your car. You can just drive up and order a coffee, sausage roll or doughnut.”
In keeping with the likes of McDonald’s and Costa Coffee, Greggs will now be looking to launch their “food-to-go” service and for any traditionalists out there, it appears that this new business model has proven to be a hit with customers.
In fact, Greggs customers have typically spent more at the drive-through than in a high street store.
Aside from this exciting news, they've also announced that they're interested in studying the customer demand for a home delivery service.

Asda posts worst annual figures since Walmart takeover

Supermarket is worst performer of ‘big four’ grocers as fierce competition pulls underlying sales for the year down 5.7%


Asda has posted its worst annual figures since being taken over by the American grocer Walmart, as fierce competition in the UK supermarket sector took its toll.
Britain’s third biggest supermarket chain admitted performance was “behind expectations” after pre-tax profit for 2016 fell 19% to £791.7m.
Accounts filed at Companies House also showed sales fell to £21.6bn from £22.3bn as shoppers flocked to cheaper rivals.
Asda has trailed behind Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, and is the worst performer of the UK’s “big four” grocers. The former chief executive Andy Clarke was replaced by the Walmart veteran Sean Clarke, who has attempted to breathe new life into the business. He took the helm last summer. He has focused on dropping prices, boosting the quality of food ranges and improving customer service.
While underlying sales for the year plunged 5.7%, Asda pointed to a recent improvement in trading. The latest industry figures showed Asda attracted an additional 398,000 shoppers in the 12 weeks to 16 July. The Kantar data showed Asda’s sales for the period grew by 1% compared with the same period last year.
In May, the grocer also reported sales in the first quarter had fallen 2.8% compared with the same period the previous year – an improvement on the 2.9% fall in the fourth quarter. Second-quarter figures are expected this month.
The accounts also showed Andy Clarke and the former chief customer officer Barry Williams, who has also left the business, received a combined £2.5m payoff. The firm did not break down the share of this sum.
Sean Clarke and the former Sainsbury’s executive Roger Burnley, who started as chief operations officer recently, have focused their turnaround efforts on the retail basics.
The finance director, Alex Russo, said: “Our sales performance, relative to the market, was behind our expectations. However, in the last quarter of 2016, we saw an improvement following the changes made to our ranges and investment in price and service.”
Asda also reported an operating cashflow of £1.41bn, an increase of 8%, and said a dividend of £450m was paid to Walmart.
All the “big four” grocers have suffered in recent years from seismic changes to the industry. Consumers have swapped their weekly shop for more frequent visits to smaller convenience stores as they seek to cut down on food waste at home. There has also been a shift away from bricks and mortar stores as some prefer buying online.
While shoppers can buy Asda food over the internet, the supermarket has been hit harder than most because it refuses to join rivals in opening smaller stores.
The “big four” have also come under attack from discounters Aldi and Lidl, which can undercut their bigger rivals by stocking fewer high-quality ranges. They are able to negotiate rock-bottom prices by buying entire crops from farmers while bigger supermarkets buy smaller quantities from a larger number of suppliers so they can offer more choice.
Asda again has been affected more than the others because its biggest point of difference was price, something that has been cannibalised in recent years with the low-cost operators. Asda has been too slow in responding to that competition, at a time when its arch rival Tesco has managed to turn its business around.
Tom Berry, retail analyst at GlobalData, said: “Asda has chosen to focus on price rather than range and in-store experience, which has clearly been the wrong strategy.”
Notes in Asda’s accounts showed it was focusing on cutting costs: “Our commitment to the ASDA ‘low cost operating model’ has resulted in improving operating efficiencies and delivering productivity savings across stores and distribution centres.”

Asda reveals 2016 slump in sales


Sales falls and lower profits at supermarket Asda in 2016 have been revealed in detail in newly-filed accounts.
The figures for the Walmart-owned supermarket, filed at Companies House, confirm a torrid spell for Asda as it faced stiff competition in the grocery sector.
Like-for-like sales were down 5.7% compared with the previous year.
Pre-tax profits dropped almost 19% to £791.7m at the Leeds-based company.
"The grocery market has continued to experience low growth throughout the year and competition in the sector has remained intense. Our sales performance, relative to the market, was behind our expectations," the company said.
Changes
Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons – the so-called big four UK supermarkets – also face competition from German discounters Aldi and Lidl.
Asda suffered more than most and, unlike others, has struggled to fight back. In May, it reported decreasing sales in the first quarter of 2017 – the 11th consecutive quarter of falls – as it continued to lose ground to its rivals.
However, Asda added that despite the disappointing results, there had been an improvement following "strategic changes" under new boss Sean Clarke.
Mr Clarke, who replaced previous chief executive Andy Clarke a year ago, has slashed the prices of everyday items as he attempts to arrest falling sales.
The chain reported a 2.8% fall in like-for-like sales in its first quarter of this year, a moderate improvement on the previous period, which saw sales fall 2.9%.
'Focus on price'
Analysts have said that a major turnaround is required at Asda.
"Sainsbury's and Tesco have always had more opportunity for differentiation from the discounters, but Asda has chosen to focus on price rather than range and in-store experience, which has clearly been the wrong strategy," said Tom Berry, retail analyst at GlobalData.
"Asda has been flailing without direction for too long, and a comprehensive plan is needed if it is to survive in the highly competitive UK grocery market."
Phil Dorrell, of consultancy Retail Remedy, is a previous marketing chief at Asda. He said that it was a difficult market for Asda and it "had a lot of catching up to do".
"It is not changing significantly or fast enough to pull around the results. It did not get its proposition right," he said.

Kiddicare opens first store since Dunelm acquisition at Peterborough One

The retailer has taken an 888 square metre unit at the park.
Steve Barton, Dunelm’s director of property, said: “We’re delighted to be opening our first new Kiddicare store at Peterborough One Retail Park. The family-oriented tenant mix at the retail park is complimentary to a physical store presence for the brand in support of Kiddicare’s powerful on-line offering.”

Targetfollow acquired what was formerly known as Peterborough Garden Park in December 2016 and has now rebranded it as part of an expansion and modernisation programme.
George Craig, associate director at Targetfollow, said: “We’re very pleased that Dunelm has chosen Peterborough One Retail Park for its first new Kiddicare store in the UK. Securing Kiddicare immediately after rebranding the park is the beginning of a number of exciting new tenant initiatives.”
Peterborough One is anchored by a 4,645 square metre Van Hage garden centre and has 16 further retail units including Cotswold, Pavers, The Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Bonmarché, Pets Corner, Maidenhead Aquatics, Roman, The Works, Granite Transformations and Hammond Furniture.