Monday, 19 January 2009

Retail round-up: what the weekend papers said, January 17 and 18, 2009

Morrisons was widely covered over the weekend with The Sunday Times, The Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Express expecting the grocer will emerge as the best performing supermarket chain over the festive period.

Morrisons is due to unveil a 7 to 8 per cent rise for Christmas sales in its trading update on Thursday. This year Morrisons is expected to embark on its biggest expansion programme since the acquisition of Safeway in 2003.

The Sunday Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday also revealed Marks & Spencer fired its managing director in China, just three months after launching its flagship store in Shanghai. Richard Sweet, who had been with M&S for more than 20 years, left after the store suffered a multitude of complaints about availability and range of products. Chinese customs officials blocked M&S goods and poor supply chain management resulted in rows of bare shelves at the store.

The Mail on Sunday also reported M&S is expected to cut down on the use of its glamorous models in its advertising campaigns. The paper said M&S had put them on short-term contracts if and when they are needed, as it seeks to cut back on costs.

The Financial Times revealed JJB founder Dave Whelan is one of thousands of depositors caught up in the Icelandic banking crisis, having had millions of pounds frozen in an account that he opened with Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander. Whelan also told the paper he was still interested in buying JJB's 50 health clubs, which the retailer is being forced to sell. JJB is looking for between £50m to £100m for the health clubs business. JJB was covered widely elsewhere with The Observer reporting the board of JJB will meet on Tuesday to decide the fate of its loss-making fashion chains.

The Mail on Sunday said JJB chief executive Chris Ronnie is expected to step down this week and The Sunday Times said Ronnie risks further investor anger as he is attempting to float a business on the Plus Market while battling to save the troubled retailer. Ronnie, whose future at JJB could be decided this week, is one of two directors of shell company Marlwood who intends to raise £300,000 from a share placing so it can invest in companies specialising in licensed products.

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