Spending rate falls to lowest since 2014

UK shoppers were spending less in October than at any point in the last four years, according to a survey by payments provider Visa as reported by Reuters.

Consumer spending fell by 2.0% in October compared to October 2016, according to Visa credit and debit card data; this was the fifth time the spending rate fell in the last six months. Figures were adjusted to allow for seasonal and inflationary effects. Spending was 0.9% down on September levels.

Visa’s chief commercial officer Mark Antipof said: “The figures are a stark indicator of the strain on household budgets even before the Bank of England’s recent interest rate rise.”

Economic experts have warned that high inflation and low growth in wages mean that households are feeling the pinch, especially as the Bank of England recently raised interest rates from 0.25% to 0.50%.

Visa said that the hardest-hit spending categories in October were clothing and footwear, down 9% on the previous year. Food and drink, along with recreation and culture, also saw spending drops.

Visa said that spending in the all-important Black Friday and Cyber Monday seasonal sales would give a fuller picture of spending trends within the UK.

Wet weather keeps shoppers away from Britain’s high streets

There was a decrease in the number of shoppers visiting high streets, shopping centres and out of town retail parks across the UK in the three months to July, according to a report released today by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Unusually wet weather, combined with people being short of money, resulted in footfall for May, June and July declining by 2.3% compared with the same period last year. This is down from a 2.0% fall in the previous quarter.

Footfall was down in all types of locations, but the most dramatic drop was seen on the high street, with a 5.5% decrease compared with out-of-town down 1.2% and shopping centres down 0.4%, the BRC/Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor for May to July 2012 revealed.

Diane Wehrle, research director at Springboard, noted that the gap between the high street and other shopping venues has widened since the same quarter in 2011, partly due to the wet weather. In addition out of town retail locations have shown more resilience because they are more convenient to access by car and provide cheaper car parking.

Apart from the boost from Christmas in December, high street footfall has now been down for 18 months, driven by jobs fears and falling disposable incomes, according to BRC director general Stephen Robertson.

There was little sign of a general Jubilee bounce and retailers will be hoping that the Olympic Games had a more positive impact, Robertson added.

The report also showed a marginal increase in the national town centre vacancy rate in the UK. This figure, which includes high streets and shopping centres, stood at 11.4% in July 2012, up from 11.2% in July 2011. The highest vacancy rates were recorded in Northern Ireland (18.5%), Wales (15.3%) and the North & Yorkshire (13.0%).

HMV face uncertain future as sales decline

Ailing retailer HMV have reported that like-for-like retail sales have dropped by 13.2 per cent compared to last year in the run up to Christmas.


The shocking figures have left the company with an uncertain future following warnings from the City that forecasts for the company to break even this year now looked optimistic.


Not only have the company had to face a decline in sales in the weeks leading up to December 17, but also the news of the retailers pre-tax almost doubling to £45.7million in the half-year to October 29, in comparison to £24.7million.


After recently selling bookseller Waterstone’s, the group have announced it would be placing HMV Live – which operates 13 venues and a number of festivals – under strategic review and could lead to its sale.


The retailer, which own 252 stores in the UK said its shift in focus on technology was paying off, after 144 stores were refurbished to reflect the new emphasis. Like-for-like sales of headphones, speakerdocks and tablet computers were up 144 per cent compared to last year.


However, HMV said in its core markets – music, visual and games – as a result of store closures it lost market share.


Following the announcement of the groups £10million cost savings plan, 60 stores are set to close, and 15 will be shut in the first half of the New Year.


By selling Waterstone’s and HMV Canada, this enabled the group to raise £55million ensuring a £220million refinancing deal with its leading banks.


Simon Fox, Chief Executive admitted that HMV had seen ‘a challenging start’ to the new financial year.


He said: “We have take decisive action to restructure the business and are now seeing the benefits of this, particularly in our technology products business”.


“Like all consumer-facing companies we are facing tough trading conditions but we continue to push forward through this period. We remain well prepared for the key trading days ahead”.


Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh

99p bra hits the struggling high street

WITH the economy in crisis and the days getting darker it’s a depressing time of year, but one company is hoping to give cash-strapped punters a lift – with a 99p BRA.


Customers can snap up the recession BUST-ing lingerie for less than the price of a cup of coffee.


Its makers claim that the bra, the first to be sold for under a quid, has a ‘silky, satin smooth feel’ to rival its higher-priced counterparts.


Discount retailer 99p Stores will start stocking the padded bra, available in black, white and ‘natural’ colour from today (FRI).


Made mostly from polyester, it also features a decorative bow at the front.


The store is hoping the budget bra, available in sizes 32-36C, will match the success of its ‘itsy bitsy teenie weenie 99p bikini’, launched in 2009.


Its release comes just a day after US lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret unveiled a USD2.5 million, diamond-studded bra to be worn by supermodel Miranda Kerr at its annual fashion show.


And in a further attempt to set itself against luxury brands, the cheeky retailer is about to open a store next door to a branch of posh department store Harvey Nichols.


Boss of 99p Stores, Hussein Lalani, said that the company decided to launch the garment nationally after a successful trial in a few of its stores.


He said: “The response has been very good. Obviously, due to the tough economic times everyone is looking to save money where ever they can and I guess this bra has hit the market at the right time.


“I’m confident we’ve produced the best value bra in the country.”


He added that the company, which already produces a range of lacy knickers, was working on a design a matching bra.


He said: “Who knows? We might see the first 99p lingerie set soon.”


Model NAME, AGE was one of the first to try out the new bra.


The pretty blonde/brunette from PLACE said that she was surprised at how the bra compared to department store and high street equivalents.


She said: “I was a bit apprehensive at first because I’ve bought low-priced bras before and they were very uncomfortable.


“But this one was actually really pleasant, and I could see myself wearing it to work.”


NAME even said that the sassy black version of the garment might not just be reserved for during the day.


She said: “I’d feel confident wearing this for my boyfriend in the bedroom – although I doubt he’d care much about how much it cost!”

High street retailer fined £1 Million for safety failings

Marks and Spencer plc and three of its contractors have been fined for putting members of the public, staff and construction workers at risk of exposure to asbestos-containing materials during the refurbishment of two stores in Reading and Bournemouth.

Asbestos is the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK, with an estimated 4,000 people dying every year.

The sentencing hearing, at Bournemouth Crown Court, resulted in Marks and Spencer plc being fined £1 million and ordered to pay costs of £600,000, PA Realisations Ltd being fined £200, and Styles & Wood Limited being fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £40,000, all for breaches that took place at the Marks and Spencer plc store in Broad Street, Reading.

Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £75,000, for breaches that took place at the Marks and Spencer plc store in Commercial Road, Bournemouth.  Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd is applying for permission to appeal against conviction.

As a result of a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Marks and Spencer plc, Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd and PA Realisations Ltd (formerly Pectel Ltd) were found guilty in July 2011. Styles & Wood Limited pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in January 2010. The work was carried out between 2006 and 2007 on shops in Reading and Bournemouth.

During the three month trial which ended in July 2011, Winchester Crown Court heard construction workers at the two stores removed asbestos-containing materials that were present in the ceiling tiles and elsewhere.

The court heard that the client, Marks and Spencer plc, did not allocate sufficient time and space for the removal of asbestos-containing materials at the Reading store. The contractors had to work overnight in enclosures on the shop floor, with the aim of completing small areas of asbestos removal before the shop opened to the public each day.

HSE alleged that Marks and Spencer plc failed to ensure that work at the Reading store complied with the appropriate minimum standards set out in legislation and approved codes of practice. The company had produced its own guidance on how asbestos should be removed inside its stores, and the court heard that this guidance was followed by contractors inappropriately during major refurbishment.

The contractor, PA Realisations Ltd, failed to reduce to a minimum the spread of asbestos to the Reading shop floor. Witnesses said that areas cleaned by the company were re-contaminated by air moving through the void between the ceiling tiles and the floor above, and by poor standards of work.

Styles & Wood Limited, the principal contractor at the Reading store, admitted that it should not have permitted a method of asbestos removal which did not allow for adequate sealing of the ceiling void, which resulted in risks to contractors on site and would now lead to asbestosis claims.

The principal contractor at the Bournemouth store, Wilmott Dixon Construction Ltd, failed to plan, manage and monitor removal of asbestos-containing materials. It did not prevent the possibility of asbestos being disturbed by its workers in areas that had not been surveyed extensively.

After the sentencing, Richard Boland, HSE’s Southern Head of Operations for Construction, said:

“This outcome should act as a wake up call that any refurbishment programmes involving asbestos-containing materials must be properly resourced, both in terms of time and money – no matter what.

“Large retailers and other organisations who carry out major refurbishment works must give contractors enough time and space within the store to carry out the works safely.   Where this is not done, and construction workers and the public are put at risk, HSE will not hesitate in taking robust enforcement action.”

99p Stores to expand

99p Stores are set to double in size with the help extended banking facilities of over £20m. Thanks to Barclay’s bank the high street retailer will be expanding into Ireland.


As a result, the retailer has moved all of its operational banking across to Barclays Corporate in recognition of the bank’s support for its ambitious growth plans.


The facilities will support the opening of between 40-50 new stores a year, the first of which have already opened the doors to customers in Letchworth, Stowmarket, Swindon, Weston-Super-Mare, Yeovil, Bishops Stortford and Colchester. The first of two Irish stores under the new brand ‘€uro 50 Stores’ opened in Dublin this morning and a second in Balbriggan is due to open later this month. A further 20 are planned in the next 12 months.


Glen McDonald, Relationship Director in Barclays Corporate’s Retail and Wholesale team said: “99p Stores and Family Bargains is a fantastic success story in what is a very challenging environment for retailers. The management’s ambitious growth plans to double the businesses’ size and expand overseas are testament to their success, and will ultimately create many new and much-needed jobs”.


Nadir Lalani, Chief Executive Officer, 99p Stores Limited said: “I am excited about moving to Barclays Corporate and look forward to working with them in the future as we continue to expand our businesses”.


99p Stores Limited, based in Swan Valley, Northampton, was founded by entrepreneur, Nadir Lalani, in January 2001. He opened his first store in Holloway, London and continued to open three further stores later that year. The company has enjoyed rapid growth and now has 150 outlets including 12 Family Bargains which offer a broader range of general merchandise including toys and soft furnishings.

Sports Direct moves into fashion, buying USC and Cruise

The sports retail giant has brought an 80% stake in two high street clothing shops, owned by retail tycoon Sir Tom Hunter.

Paying £7million to take control, Sir Tom will retain a mere 20% shareholding, whilst Sports Direct will take control of the stores that specialise in fashion clothing.

With 38 stores in the UK USC had sales of £70m last year, whilst Cruise is a smaller brand with 10 UK stores and an annual turnover of about £20m.

The founder of Sports Direct, Mike Ashley (founder of Newcastle United) will be providing upto £20million to develop both the businesses.

Speaking of the deal, Sir Tom said: “This deal will transform the prospects for both USC and Cruise and our employees at a time of extraordinary turbulence in the High Street,”.

“I’ve known the Sports Direct team for many years and have huge respect for their talent and look forward to co-investing with them.”

Sports Direct chief executive Dave Forsey said: “While USC and Cruise will remain independent of Sports Direct, we will support the businesses with our operational expertise.”

Information has suggested that rival JD Sports was also interested in this deal but lost out.