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Today’s news in brief-11/12/23

November proved to be a challenging month for UK retailers, with Black Friday discounts failing to uplift sales, according to figures from accountancy firm BDO. Despite a positive start with a 4.7% increase in week one, like-for-like sales in November declined by 0.3% compared to the previous year. The fashion sector experienced the most significant drop, with total sales falling sharply by -3.6%. Homeware and lifestyle sectors, however, saw growth of +5.2% and +2.0% respectively. Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, emphasised the need for retailers to collectively strategise beyond promotional events to break the cycle of eroding margins.

Nicky Dulieu, a non-executive director at John Lewis, has resigned from her position after seven months, citing incompatibility with her existing time commitments. Dulieu, who also serves on WHSmith’s board, was appointed to the partnership’s board in May. John Lewis is now in search of a successor, while Sharon Fennessy will cover the role of chair of the audit and risk committee temporarily. The retailer expressed gratitude for Dulieu’s contribution and aims to appoint a successor in due course.

Asda faces Christmas food shortages as approximately 80 HGV drivers, employed by Wincanton on an Asda contract, plan strikes on key days at the Rochdale operations hub. The Unite union confirmed strikes on December 13, 15, 17, 20, 26, 28, 30, and January 2, warning of widespread store shortages. The drivers claim a £1.24 per hour pay gap compared to counterparts at another Asda distribution center, demanding pay parity. Asda may deploy its own drivers during strikes to minimize disruption. The union asserts more strikes could follow without resolution. Asda urges Wincanton and Unite to find an acceptable agreement.

Matalan is set to enhance its online offerings with the exclusive launch of 10 third-party brands. The newly added brands, including Quiz, Pink Vanilla, and Roman, will complement Matalan’s existing lineup. The company aims to strengthen its position as a leading online retail destination by diversifying its product range, particularly focusing on homeware, nursery and baby, seasonal and outdoor, and gifting categories. Ben Smith, Chief Trading Officer, expressed excitement about offering customers more choices and hinted at upcoming expansions in areas like holiday shops, occasion wear, and outerwear in Spring 2024.

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