World Cup Fails to Lift UK Retail Sales

World Cup Fails to Lift UK Retail Sales
The hunger for barbeques and World Cup-fever failed to lift retail sales in June as shoppers stayed away from the High Street. The Office for National Statistics said sales fell 0.5% between May and June, below expectations of a 0.2% rise.

The pound fell against the dollar in response, dipping below $1.30.

ONS senior statistician Rhian Murphy said: “Consumers stayed away from stores and instead enjoyed the World Cup and the heatwave.”

Keith Richardson, managing director retail sector at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “While the World Cup definitely got shoppers spending, these figures don’t cover the sudden rush of optimism that came with England’s progress beyond the initial group stage.”

“What they do show is how challenging the retail sector is at the moment. Even the longest heatwave that many shoppers can remember hasn’t been enough to persuade consumers to really open their wallets.”

In the year to June, retail sales rose by 2.9%, although that was a slowdown from the 4.1% annual increase recorded in May. However, in the April-to-June quarter retail sales increased by 2.1% – the biggest quarterly rise in 14 years.

Sports Direct Profits Fall

Sports Direct Profits Fall
Sports Direct has reported a sharp drop in annual profits, in part due to its exposure to struggling department store chain Debenhams. Pre-tax profits fell to £77.5m in the year to 29 April, down from £281.6m the year before. The drop was partly due to a £85.4m hit the retailer took on the value of its near-30% stake in Debenhams.

Sports Direct – which is run by founder Mike Ashley – said its UK sales were down 2% over the year to £2.2bn. However, total group revenues rose 3.5% to £3.4bn helped by an increase in sales from outside Europe.

Shares in the retailer fell by 11% at one point, before recovering slightly to stand 7% lower.

Sports Direct – which was founded by chief executive Mike Ashley – began building up its stake in Debenhams in 2017. It currently holds a 29.7% stake in the department store chain – just short of the 30% threshold that would force it to make a takeover bid.

However, Debenhams is struggling, and has issued three profit warnings so far this year. The chain is undergoing a turnaround plan designed to cut costs and boost sales, but its chief executive Sergio Bucher has said the UK retail sector is facing “exceptionally difficult times”.

In addition to its stake in Debenhams, Sports Direct also owns an 11% stake in House of Fraser, which recently announced a major restructuring.

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Sports Direct’s head of strategic investments, Liam Rowley, said “We hope House of Fraser will come out stronger from the restructure.” Mr Rowley also told the programme that “retailers need to work together”, otherwise “Amazon’s going to eat your lunch”.

As well as the impact of the Debenhams stake, the sharp fall in Sports Direct’s profits was also partly due to the previous year’s figure being boosted by income from the sale of the Dunlop brand.

Stripping out these factors, underlying pre-tax profits rose to £152.9m from £113.7m the year before.

 

Businesses & Unions Call for Urgency over Brexit

Businesses & Unions Call for Urgency over Brexit
Business and union leaders from across the UK and Europe have joined together to plead for “pace and urgency” in Brexit negotiations. The CBI and the TUC along with their European counterparts are calling on the UK government and the European Union to make “measureable progress”.

UK and EU leaders will attend a European Council meeting this week.

The groups say the UK and the EU must “put economic interests and people’s jobs, rights and livelihoods first”.

The CBI, BusinessEurope, the TUC and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) collectively represent 45 million workers and 20 million employers across the EU.

In a joint statement, they said: “We are calling on the UK government and the EU to inject pace and urgency in the negotiations, bringing about measurable progress, in particular a backstop arrangement to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

“Decisions will be needed in June and October to finalise the withdrawal agreement and the transitional arrangement, and put economic interests and people’s jobs, rights and livelihoods first.”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May will attend the European Council meeting on 28-29 June. However, she will be excluded from a gathering of the other 27 EU nations where chief negotiator Michel Barnier will provide on update on Brexit talks.

Carolyn Fairbairn and Markus Beyrer, the director-generals of the CBI and BusinessEurope respectively, as well as Luca Visentini and Frances O’Grady, the general secretaries of the ETUC and the TUC, met earlier this month in London to discuss Brexit.

Ahead of the European Council meeting they said: “The UK government and the EU will need to agree on all aspects of regulatory alignment, which is of the utmost importance, without jeopardising the integrity of the single market.”

A spokesman for the UK government said: “We absolutely agree. That’s why we have put forward workable proposals to the EU on a range of areas from the backstop to security, and the White Paper – which will be published after June Council – will continue to drive this process forward.

“We are confident that we can make progress if both the EU and UK engage constructively.”

 

New Look Cuts Prices Amid Fall in Annual Sales

New Look Cuts Prices Amid Fall in Annual Sales
Fashion chain New Look is continuing to cut prices as it tries to turn around its business. New Look wants 80% of its clothes to sell for less than £20. The price cuts come amid falling sales. Like-for-like sales plunged by 11.7% in the financial year which ended in March, and website sales tumbled 19%.

New Look is one of many retailers this year that struck a Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA) under which a company buys time to sort out its debts. It is trying to broaden its appeal to include older customers, giving it an age target range of between 18 and 45.

Withings to Return after Nokia Sell Off

Withings to Return after Nokia Sell Off
The BBC news website is reporting that Nokia is to sell its health division back to the founder of Withings, a company it acquired in 2016. The Withings brand name is set to return following the sale, reversing the Finnish company’s decision to axe it.

The business was founded in 2008 and makes connected health devices such as watches and weighing scales. The sale to company founder Eric Carreel for an undisclosed sum comes after poor earnings for Nokia Health.

In a statement posted on the Nokia website Mr Carreel announced his intention to bring back the Withings brand, maintaining coverage for the company’s products.

“I will prepare the return of the Withings brand by the end of the year. I assure you, whether you have been with us for one day or throughout the years, your digital health products and services will continue to be supported,” he wrote.

Store Footfall in ‘Unprecedented’ Decline

Store Footfall in ‘Unprecedented’ Decline
The BBC is reporting that poor weather and a squeeze on spending caused a slide in the number of people visiting shops last month. Footfall fell by 3.3% last month according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard. That was lower than the 6% decline in March, but was still an “unprecedented” 4.8% decline over the two-month period.

Diane Wehrle, of Springboard, said: “Not since the depths of recession in 2009 has footfall over March and April declined to such a degree.” “Even then the drop was less severe at minus 3.8%.”

New data also showed that the town centre vacancy rate rose to 9.2%, with all areas of the UK, except Greater London, reporting an increase.

BRC chief Helen Dickinson said changing shopping habits and tough trading were weighing on high streets. As well as “a wet start to April”, she said a shift in shopping habits, along with a “highly challenging” business environment, was having a significant impact on high streets: “In April nearly 1 in 10 shops in town centres was vacant.”

There were 4,083 new store openings in 2017, the lowest since 2010, but 5,855 outlets closed, meaning a total of 1,772 shops disappeared, according to the Local Data Company.

The latest threat to the High Street came on Saturday when it emerged that the owner of Poundworld had put the discount retailer up for sale, the BBC understands.

Private equity firm TPG had been looking at closing about 100 of Poundworld’s 355 stores as part of a restructuring plan. However, that process has been put on hold after receiving expressions of interest in the chain.

SEO: What is it and how will it help my business?

SEO Campaign – What is it, and how will it help my business?
In order to succeed in business in 2018 and beyond, SEO, and especially local SEO should be a required part of your marking strategy. SEO stands for search engine optimisation, which means that the website for your business can reach potential customers using search engines like Google and Bing. Since getting your business in front of the right consumers is the first step to winning them over as customers, you can’t afford to skip out on a solid SEO campaign.

How do we know you need SEO?
By analysing current and past trends, we can determine what searchers want. In recent years, “near me” searches have been on the rise. This type of search is like when a consumer Google’s something like, “dentists near me.”

You can replace “dentists” with any type of business or office.

What this boils down to is that people want fast access to information about local businesses that will meet their needs.

How can your business benefit from an SEO campaign?
Now that you know a bit about what an SEO campaign can do, it’s time to move on to understanding why it works and what the benefits are. SEO can:

Draw new customers to your website

Get customers the information they need

Help your business be available 24/7

An SEO campaign accomplishes all of this by making your website one that search engines love to show users. This translates to getting a high-ranking spot on search engine results pages, or SERPs.

More Customers Means More Growth

Many people often confuse marketing and sales because the point of marketing is to bring in customers to boost sales. However, you know as well as we do that it’s a different job altogether. Yet, everything in business is tied to the bottom line. Sales define a business’ success. They determine whether a business dives, survives, or thrives. The more customers you can bring into the business, the more sales your business can get. We know you know this.

What you might not yet know is that you need local SEO to keep bringing in customers. A business with strong search engine rankings is more likely to be found. Local SEO not only connects your business to consumers, but especially to local consumers. If you want to get people in the door, they need to find you online. They need to find you on search engines.

Google handles at least 2 trillion searches a year. That number has consistently been on the rise since the search engine’s inception. The power of internet search is not waning. You need to get on board with SEO if you want to continue to get customers in the door–whether virtually or physically.

The Benefits of Website SEO
Search engine optimisation is very important if you want to increase your visibility in the online world. While the methods of getting your brand message out there have evolved as search engines have become more and more sophisticated, the basic idea is still the same. When someone searches for something in your industry or product category, you want your website to rank near the top of the search engine listings.

  • Over 90% of internet users take advantage of a search engine to find what they want on the web and that figure is fairly constant across the globe, including the UK.
  • While competition for keywords in your industry might well be high, there are a number of other factors involved in SEO that need to be addressed if you want to boost your rankings significantly.
  • Strong SEO is part of the entire marketing mix and can feed into other aspects of your strategy such as local searches and visibility on social media.
  • Website SEO is a mix of standard inclusions such as site maps and good content that needs to meet appropriate standards as well as ongoing initiatives such as building strong inbound links, internal linking, image tagging and regularly updated and engaging content.

Time to Get Your Website Noticed
Direct Submit prides itself on the underlying process by which we approach each and every SEO project we are involved with. We understand that each client will have specific, individual needs and our approach in creating and implementing the correct SEO strategy is vital to the success of the SEO project.

This approach and attention to detail is what has helped Direct Submit become a leading Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) company. Call us today on 0845 2722350 and get your website working harder for your business.

Interim Executives Meet Transformation Talent Gap

Interim Executives Meet Transformation Talent Gap
Has your business got a talent gap that could be bridged with a swift executive interim appointment? The professional interim management market is enjoying rapid growth, driven largely by a corresponding increase in business transformation programmes across all industry sectors.

Companies both large and small are increasingly turning to interim executives to help steer them through organisational change – with a particular drive for digital transformation and customer experience programmes. These experienced business leaders can provide stability following the sudden departure of a senior director, or offer a highly specialised skill set which a business may not have in-house. Their appointment is an effective way for companies to achieve business objectives and obtain highly specialised leadership skills at crucial times.

The extensive benefits of interim management include flexibility and speed of placement, compared to an executive search for a permanent position which can take many months from commission to arrival in post due to the complexity of global searches and the need to fulfil notice periods.

There are cost benefits too; many SMEs may not be in a position to fund a permanent executive position for a particular specialism such as a digital transformation director. And without the on-costs of a permanent executive such as bonuses, holiday pay, NI contributions, pension, private health insurance and company car benefits, the day rate suddenly does not seem so prohibitive.

Free from the shackles of office politics, a professional interim can offer a fresh perspective, objectivity and challenge. As a freelance operator whose work is heavily reliant on referrals and reputation, the interim is highly motivated and results driven, and will be fully committed to their client.

Professional interim managers are often over-qualified for the interim position they are commissioned for, meaning they can work independently and hit the ground running, with instant results. Their wealth of experience, skills, contacts and knowledge will also be transferred to the in-house team, giving benefits which outlive their interim contract.

The return on investment of a professional interim manager for a business can therefore be substantial, particularly at a critical time.

HW Global Talent Partner has built a reputation for excellence in executive search over the past decade among the many global and local brands we serve.

Many of our executive search clients also turn to us when they require a swift interim appointment at a crucial time for their business, often to bridge the gap during a search process we are conducting.

HW Interim provides experienced and talented interim and change management executives to PLCs, private companies, SMEs and private equity backed organisations both in the UK and overseas.

The key sectors we work in include Retail, Consumer and Financial Services, and the wide range of recent assignments we have completed have included interim CFO, FD, CTO, CMO, Supply Chain/Ops Director and Head of Risk.

We have access to an elite network of senior executives who specialise in change, turnaround or transformation whom HW have met, vetted, referenced and in many cases known as clients.

Working alongside the executive search business we can source the ideal interim to match our clients’ needs. With a team of dedicated and experienced researchers we can turn round a shortlist of professional interim managers for a client within three working days who can typically be placed within two weeks. Completion rates are well over 90 per cent. Daily rates are typically between £850 to £2,000 per day.

Growing numbers of executives are making the move to interim management, attracted by the flexibility, remuneration and variety of roles they can add to their CV.

And, given the increasing demand for interim executives, we are always looking for new talented candidates.

To find out how we can help your business, or if you want to discuss interim opportunities, contact MD of HW Interim John Wakeford via his LinkedIn page or email johnw@hwglobalpartner.com or call +44 (0) 113 243 2004 for an informal discussion.

Toys R Us to Close all US Stores

Toys R Us to Close all US Stores
Toys R Us will close or sell all its 885 stores in the US after failing to find a buyer, putting about 30,000 jobs under threat. Chief executive Dave Brandon said it was a “profoundly sad day” for the retailer. The giant toy-store chain was already in the process of closing one fifth of its shops after filing for bankruptcy protection last year.

Toys R Us will also close all its UK stores by the end of April.

The UK collapse will put more than 3,000 people out of work as a dismal period for the retail sector continues.

However, the company said it could resurrect 200 of the best-performing US stores if talks to combine these with its Canadian operations prove successful.

Mr Brandon said in a statement released late on Wednesday: “This is a profoundly sad day for us as well as the millions of kids and families who we have served for the past 70 years. I have always believed that this brand and this business should exist in the US.”

Toys R Us said it would provide more details about the plans in the near term. The company is trying to sell its Canadian and international operations in Asia and Europe, including Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Australia, France, Poland, Portugal and Spain are considering their options, including potential sale processes in their respective markets, but the retailer is likely to go into liquidation in France, Spain, Poland and Australia, Mr Brandon said.

The US parent company filed for bankruptcy in September.

The business was bought in 2005 by a group of investors, including private equity firms Bain Capital and KKR, which loaded it with about $5bn (£3.6bn) in debt. The company was landed with interest payments that were as much as $400m a year.

In the UK Toys R Us joins a long list of high-street retailers, including Maplin and Claire’s, that have run into difficulties this year. Many have been hit by changes in consumer spending habits, a squeeze on disposable income, higher inflation and the extra cost of the national living wage, and the prospect of increases in business rates in April.

 

MP’s Call for Unpaid Shifts to be Illegal

MP’s Call for Unpaid Shifts to be Illegal
Some MPs and lawyers have called for a blanket ban on unpaid shift work. Companies can currently invite prospective employees to do trial shifts with the carrot of a job at the end.

But there has been a six-fold increase over three years in complaints over unpaid shifts, trade union Unite said.

The Federation of Small Businesses said unpaid shifts are a valuable part of the recruitment process, but shouldn’t cross the line into exploitation.

On Friday a private members bill which seeks to make unpaid trials illegal will get its second parliamentary reading.