MPs aren’t impressed with Sports Direct, saying that they’re being run like a “backstreet outfit”, complete with deals being made behind the board’s back, withholding payments from suppliers, nonsense with the USC fashion chain, and a whole load more.
Keith Hellawell, chairman of Sports Direct, is looking at a barrage of accusations from the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, who say that the way his company dealt with the collapse of USC was so poor, that his past is in danger of being tarnished. Retroactive tarnishing! Nice.
You might know that USC went under in January and was bought back by Sports Direct, debt-free. This left staff redundant and £15.3m in money owed to landlords and suppliers, unpaid and wiped off the record. Also erased from history was the £700,000 owed to HMRC, who are now picking up the tab for the redundancy payments too.
Not only that, the company is being hammered over their reliance on zero-hours contracts – they currently have 75% of their staff on these controversial deals.
Hellawell is pleading innocence, saying that he had no idea that USC was about to go under and that, in fact, chief executive Dave Forsey, and deputy executive chairman, Mike Ashley, had met administrators without his knowledge a whole two months before USC went kaput. The committee also found that USC went under after bosses held back payment to Diesel, because they thought the fashion brand might stop supplying USC, which would have made other suppliers stop.
Thanks to being completely backed into a corner, Hellawell admitted that this withheld money was tantamount to holding Diesel “to ransom”. He added, dimly, that he had no idea how widespread the practice was in the company, adding: “We are in negotiations with a large number of landlords to reduce the cost of property at the moment… clearly I am going to ask some searching questions of the board.”
Simon Reevell MP wasn’t having any of it, saying: “You actively breached a contract with Diesel in order to try to bring them to the negotiating table. You are the chairman of a FTSE 100 company and you are in that role to bring credibility as a [former] senior police officer. At least on one occasion the company tried to renegotiate a deal by withholding …payments it is contractually obliged to pay. That sounds like some sort of backstreet outfit … can you understand that we struggle to understand why reputational matters such as this are completely unknown to you as a chairman?”
Chairman of the committee, Ian Davidson, chipped in: “Some members of the board knew that these discussions were going on, like Mike Ashley and the chief executive. Other members of the board, including you, did not know that. There are two categories of board members – those that are in the know and those that are not. Essentially you were there for decoration, to make a final decision that had already been made to be rubber-stamped.”
Is the culture at Sports Direct going to change? Don’t hold your breath.
Well, they’re not razzing any of their rivals at the moment (give them time), but rather, offering money off One Direction Easter eggs, after Zayn Malik left the group.
As you can see, they knocked one-fifth off on the news of Zayn’s departure, which is a neat bit of marketing indeed. If only all products were discounted every time someone left a band – Bee Gees albums would be well cheap!
Tesco can’t get a thing right at the moment, with legal action being taken against them for that accounting balls-up, and now, they’re being far too literal with their marketing slogans.
Have a look at this lovely scene and see if you can spot it (we didn’t, immediately).
While the Tesco lorry proudly crows: “You shop, we drop”, you can see that the fella in the hi-vis jacket has taken the slogan on as gospel, and dropped his load everywhere.
If advertising slogans are all correct, maybe Gillette is the best a man can get and the men of the world have already peaked, and we should just give up?
Tesco can’t catch a break these days, with their £236m profit mis-statement coming back to bit them on their buttocks all over again. The retailer is looking at more legal action, which is potentially worth billions of pounds.
So what’s happening? Well, there’s a group called Tesco Shareholder Claims Ltd (TSC) who are backed by the American legal firm, Scott & Scott, and they’re wanting compensation under a co-ordinated action after the drastic drop in Tesco’s share price at the end of last year.
A statement from the group said: “A permanent destruction of value has occurred and had the accounting irregularities not taken place the share price, and value of the company, would today be materially higher. TSC expects the claim to be in the region of 50p-70p per share.”
“Tesco Plc has in excess of eight billion shares listed.”
To add to Tesco’s woes, another firm – Stewart’s Law – are also preparing a similar case. If they all manage to claim compensation for the various shareholders, this is going to be catastrophically expensive for the supermarket giant. Chairman of the claims group, John Bradley, said: “Tesco is one of the widest held stocks in the UK and this loss has hit pension funds and investors across the UK and beyond. We look forward to bringing this claim to court.”
And while the supermarket is showing some signs of recovery, the fact is, they’re not likely to salvage their reputation any time soon. It’ll be years before traders trust the company again. In addition to this, Tesco are in the middle of a massive redundancy programme, as they lose staff in a bid to save millions of pounds per year.
With the Serious Fraud Office still sniffing around them, launching a formal criminal investigation, Tesco’s woes aren’t over by a long chalk.
Amazon stepped ever closer to having parcels delivered by flying drone robots, edging us nearer to a life that resembles The Jetsons. They have been given a special certificate which allows them to test drones in America, and if that goes well, they’ll be rolling that out worldwide.
The Federal Aviation Administration have given Amazon an “experimental airworthiness certificate”, which means that those who have a pilot’s licence can test the unmanned craft. Criminals meanwhile, will be practising their aim with catapults, so they can nick all those lovely presents in the sky.
The PrimeAir delivery service has been talked about for a while, but has been held up by a number of laws and red tape.
Amazon pushed on, and with good reason – drones won’t cost as much money, like a delivery man and a van’s fuel and all that. The idea is that it will speed up the delivery process too, and other companies are looking into employing drones as well. How they’ll get around the fact that some people live on main roads and could see drones landing in traffic, is another matter entirely.
Still, it is reasonably exciting, in a novel way, to think of getting your online orders delivered by a flying robot and just think of some of the hilarious accidents they’re going to cause.
Aldi is considering giving all the other supermarkets more grief by not only spoiling things for them on the high street, but also, on the information superhighway. That’s right – Aldi have dusted down their router and are eyeing up the internet!
Internet orders have been helping the big supermarkets while Lidl and Aldi chip away at their in-store sales, but now, they’re all going to have to worry about the discounters having their way with them online too.
A spokesman for Aldi UK said: “It is not an immediate focus for Aldi, which currently has the best performing business model in the grocery sector. However, it is an area we monitor as part of our customer-focused approach.”
They’re right to weigh it up as 5% of all grocery sales in the UK are through the internet, which is ahead of most neighbouring countries. If Aldi are kicking it off anywhere, they’d be wise to do it here.
Aldi and Lidl are seeing a big growth (not the kind you need to see a doctor for) with Aldi’s sales rising by 19.3% over the three months to the end of February, while their pals Lidl saw theirs going up by 13.6%.
If they get online and start delivering weekly shops, they could clean up.
Sometimes you’ll hear older people whining about things not being as big as they used to be. “Why, when I werra lad, a Wagon Wheel was the size of a small planet and would feed you for 38 years!” You might think ‘oh shut up – your hands and bellies are just bigger than they were when you were little’, but turns out, they might have a point.
See, loads of products have shrunk in size and, surprise surprise, the price hasn’t gone down with them.
Which!!! have been staring at shelves and found that items like Aunt Bessie’s Homestyle Chips have dropped from 750g to 700g, but stayed at £1.65 in price. If you buy Tetley’s Blend of Both bags, you’re five brews short yet charged 20p more. If you buy Philadelphia Light Soft Cheese, you’ll get 10% less, but in many shops, you’ll find the price went up.
Like Hovis Best of Both bread? Well, that isn’t 800g like it used to be, shrinking by 6%, but still costing the same price.
As for washing your clothes, Surf with Essential Oils powder used to be 2kg, but this year, for the same money, you’ll pay 1.61kg. Domestos Spray Bleach Multipurpose and Cif Actifizz Multi-Purpose Lemon Spray both offer less product for the same money.
Dreadful behaviour all round, and not at all surprising.
Which!!! honcho Richard Lloyd said: “Shrinking products can be a sneaky way of putting up costs for consumers because pack sizes shrink but the prices don’t. It’s now time for action on dodgy pricing practices that stops people from easily comparing products to find the cheapest.”
Of course, some of the companies making the products have dropped their RRP, but the supermarkets themselves haven’t passed on the savings to the customers. All in all, this is adding up and giving consumers less bang for their buck.
Seems like Sainsbury’s can’t get a thing right at the moment, as they reported a fall in sales for the fifth consecutive quarter. If you’ve been in a Sainsbury’s recently, you’ll know how rubbish they are, so this won’t surprise many.
The supermarket said that like-for-like sales fell by 1.9% in the 10 weeks to March 14th, which in fairness, was better than analysts expected, but it is still a drop on top of four previous drops, which is never a good sign.
As ever, the cause of this is people buying stuff online and going to Aldi and Lidl instead. Not to mention the supermarket mantra about how the high street is now ‘challenging’. Sainsbury’s have dropped the price on over 1,000 products, but alas, so is everyone else and consumers have the air of ‘stop looking so desperate’ at a lot of the shops.
Mike Coupe, the new chief executive last year, said: “The trading environment remains challenging and the decisions we have taken to improve our competitiveness are reflected in our quarterly performance. Since we announced our strategic review in November we have lowered the regular prices of over 1,100 products, ensuring our price position relative to our major competitors has never been stronger. In addition, we have absorbed record levels of food deflation in categories where we trade most strongly – produce, dairy, fresh ready meals, meat, fish and poultry.”
“We expect the market to remain challenging for the foreseeable future. Food deflation is likely to persist for the rest of this calendar year, and competitive pressures on price will continue. However, we believe that the great value and quality of our products, combined with a strong focus on developing our multi-channel offer, will enable us to outperform our supermarket peers.”
Sainsbury’s can worry about discounter supermarkets all they want, but they have a bigger problem in the shape of Tesco, who look like they’re powering out of their slump. They’re going to have to work out what they are if they’re going to get motoring again. Not as nice as Waitrose or Marks and Spencers and not as cheap as other supermarkets – they need an angle, and fast.
Can’t boil an egg? What’s wrong with you? Boiling eggs is almost as easy as sucking them (according to the nanas of the world). With that, there’s a product on the market called Yowk, which offers you a pre-cooked runny egg, which comes complete with pre-cut soldiers, some salt, a spoon and a lid that doubles up as an egg cup.
Basically, the egg (pasteurised) has been pre-cooked by the sous-vide method, or in English, this is a boil-in-the-bag egg. Basically, you make it like a Pot Noodle.
Yowk is being considered by a coffee chain and supermarket and at £1.79 a pack, it’ll cost you roughly five-times the amount of a normal egg.
So, shout-out to all those people who haven’t worked out that you can put an egg in a pan of boiling water and cook it for 3-and-a-half minutes and put some toast on at the same time.
The vaguely depressing thing about all this, is that there is probably a market for pre-cooked boiled eggs.
If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t see the point of Easter Eggs and would rather buy a large bar of chocolate for less money, you know what you can do instead of reading this article about Easters Eggs? Go and buy a massive bar of chocolate and quit your whining.
For you chocolate egg devourers and religious people who know the story about Jesus laying giant eggs in Spring (or whatever it is), you’ll be glad to know that the supermarkets are going toe-to-toe.
The Grocer has been looking at things and found that the average price across the big four supermarkets (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons) has dropped by 9.7%, from £4.40 last year to £3.97 this year.
Leading the way is Morrisons who have cut the price of Easter Eggs to as little as £1. If you’re into branded eggs, then they’ve dropped by as much as 7.3%.
The Grocer said: “Britons are paying less than last year for some of the most popular Easter eggs as the industry ramps up promotional activity.” They noted that retailers have done away with money-off deals and the like: ”Half price deals have been virtually abandoned, accounting for just 2% of all deals compared with 13% a year ago.”
It’s almost Spring, and actually things are looking good. Interest rates are still low, as is inflation, fuelled by lower petrol prices as well as supermarket price wars, meaning that many of us are enjoying greater spending power than we are used to. However, that doesn’t mean that thrifty habits learned during the leaner times can’t set us in good stead and keep us saving money. In fact, those who switched to supermarket own-brand products could be saving over £1,200 a year.
New research from vouchercodespro found that switching from branded goods to supermarket own-brand goods delivered weekly savings of £23.45 on average, which adds up to a not-to-be-sniffed at annual saving of £1,219.40. In fact, over 60% of the 1,782 UK adults surveyed had decided to make the switch supermarkets’ own-brand products, while 28% stuck with their branded goods. A savvy 11% of respondents said they had always bought the retailer’s own-brand products, and have therefore been saving since day 1.
But remember, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Despite claims that branded essentials are now “few and far between”, almost half of people who made the switch often still buy a good number of branded products. Around a third (34%) of own-brand shoppers said that they buy five branded products each week, with another 14% chucking more than 10 branded goods in their trollies each week. Only 9 per cent said they do not buy any branded products.
So if you want to switch, but haven’t dared take the plunge, or if you want to know where else to trim your shopping budget, where can you make the biggest savings by turning to own brands? According to the research, shoppers said that they saved most money on frozen food (19%) canned goods(16%), dairy products (13%), cleaning products (11%) and cereal (8%).
Remember BHS? That’s right! They’re those confusing shops that can’t decide what they are or what logo to use on their stores! Well, we wrote about them as a Deathwatch a while ago, and it seems that owner Sir Philip Green has had enough, selling the company to the excitingly named investment ventricle Retail Acquisitions Ltd.
British Home Stores was part of the Arcadia Group, alongside TopShop, Evans and Burton and was founded in Brixton in 1928. It currently has 180 stores and no-one is quite sure what they’re for.
Thanks to their confusing presence and generally being a bit crap, BHS has been struggling for some time. In 2013, they lost £69.6m and haven’t looked like they’re going to become reinvigorated any time soon. Sir Philip bought BHS for a whopping £200m in 2000. Initially, it did rather well, but now, it is incredibly dowdy.
Sir Philip says: “I am pleased that we have found a buyer in Retail Acquisitions Ltd who wants to develop the BHS brand. Having acquired the business nearly 15 years ago in May 2000, one of my clear objectives in identifying a purchaser was ensuring their desire to take the business forward.”
A new chairperson is going to be installed in the coming months, who will need to give the stores a clean, some life and work out what they’re for. Only then, will it stand a chance of surviving on the British high street.
Waitrose, which is owned by the John Lewis Partnership, saw a drop in profits, which basically wiped out any profit growth from the department store.
Chairman, Sir Charlie Mayfield, noted that returns from Waitrose are going to be “materially lower for a period of time”, but the outlook for the group was “robust”. In a statement, he said: “Profit before Partnership Bonus, tax and exceptional items is down 9.0 per cent with increased profits in John Lewis offset by a decline in Waitrose.”
Again, the people being blamed for this are Aldi and Lidl, who somehow, have managed to make every other retail business in the UK fall to its knees and sob. It’s almost like they rely on a more simple plan of consistently cheaper goods, rather than fluctuating offers and deals, which consumers seem to prefer and other shops could easily copy.
Sales at John Lewis itself grew and their ‘Click And Collect’ service has been deemed successful enough to continue with. However, Waitrose needs to get a finger out if the group wants to start performing well again.
Maybe they could save some money by not spending daft amounts on Christmas adverts every year?
Chairman Andrew Higginson said: ”This has been a controlled and a planned reset of the business – it is painful, but it is the start of a new growth period we hope.”
Morrisons are going to slow down the rollout of their M shops, and they would be closing 23 M local stores through 2015 while reviewing their “site selection criteria” as they proceed. As a result of all this, the company’s shares dropped by more than 2%.
“Last year’s trading environment was tough, and we don’t expect any change this year,” said Higginson in a statement.
Through all this, Morrisons is fighting against falling sales, with same-store sales dropping by 5.9% for the full year. This means they’re going to start slashing the prices of products in a bid to get people back through their doors, but dropping the prices on products no-one wants could be a problem for the supermarket.
Can the new chief executive, David Potts, turn things around for the ailing business, or is he doomed to failed because no-one cares?
Imaginatively, the shop will be called The Google shop, and of course, it will flog Android phones and devices as well as Chromebook laptops and the Chromecast TV dongle. Maybe you’ll be able to buy bits of internet as well. We just don’t know.
For that cuddly, holistic, we’re trying to do things differently because we’re from the internet feel, you’ll also be able to go in and have a tutorial with some people in Chuck Taylor Converse trainers, who will show you how to get the most out of Google apps and things.
This is the first time that Google have opened a shop in their own name and it looks like it is the way things are going, with Amazon looking at doing something similar (they’re going to do theirs in New York though). These shops will be different from Androidland (yes, really) and Chromezone. This will be an in-store concession inside the Currys PC Word and they’ll be opening up more, with plans to have The Google Shop inside the Currys PC Worlds in Fulham, and Thurrock, Essex.
James Elias, the UK marketing director for Google, said: “We’re incredibly excited to launch this space – the first of its kind anywhere in the world – in London with Currys PC World. The pace of innovation of the devices we all use is incredible, yet the way we buy them has remained the same for years.”
“With the Google shop, we want to offer people a place where they can play, experiment and learn about all of what Google has to offer; from an incredible range of devices to a totally-connected, seamless online life. We think it’s a genuinely unique try-before-you-buy experience.”
The shops will also… get this… host ‘Virtual Space Camps’, which isn’t something that will make you float around in pretend zero gravity, but rather, will be classes to teach children the basics of coding. Nice idea – dreadful name. Anyway, if you want to go and stand next to some Google, you know where to go.