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Today’s news in brief-20/5/24

Asda reported a robust financial performance for Q1 2024, with a 6.6% increase in total revenues (excluding fuel) to £5.3bn and a 1.4% rise in like-for-like sales. The supermarket chain saw notable growth in its George at Asda clothing line and homewares, with the latter boosted by the new Stacey Solomon collection. Online grocery sales also surged by 18%, driven by an increase in average weekly orders. Asda’s strategic initiatives included price matching Aldi and Lidl, and expanding its convenience store footprint through the conversion of acquired Co-op and EG UK sites to Asda Express stores, aiming to have 500 Express stores by year-end.

French conglomerate Bouygues, through its subsidiary Equans EV Solutions, is suing British supermarket chain Morrisons over an alleged breach of contract linked to the sale of over 300 petrol forecourts to Motor Fuel Group (MFG) for £2.5bn. Equans had an exclusive agreement to install charging equipment at 273 Morrisons sites, which Morrisons reportedly abandoned shortly after announcing the MFG deal. Despite the legal challenge, Morrisons completed the sale of 337 forecourts, with plans to invest the £1.8bn proceeds into strengthening its capital structure and reducing its £6.6bn debt. The deal also included a minority stake for Morrisons in MFG and commercial agreements, reinforcing the partnership’s long-term intentions.

M&S faced a temporary setback on May 18 when its website and app were down for several hours due to technical issues attributed to a third-party provider. During the outage, customers encountered error messages and were unable to shop or use their Sparks cards, leading to complaints on social media. M&S swiftly resolved the issue, restoring normal operations by 18:15 BST the same day.

British Land has sold its 50% stake in Sheffield’s Meadowhall shopping centre to Norges Bank Investment Management for £360m. This sale, along with a previous ancillary land transaction, values the Meadowhall Estate at £734m, slightly above its September 2023 book value. The deal aligns with British Land’s strategy to shift focus from covered shopping centres to retail parks, which now comprise 93% of its portfolio. The proceeds from the sale will support general corporate purposes and further investment in retail parks, which are seen as offering attractive returns with low capital expenditure requirements.

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Victorian Plumbing Group has acquired online bathroom retailer Victoria Plum for £22.5m. This acquisition, funded from existing cash reserves, is expected to break even by the second half of 2024. Victorian Plumbing sees significant strategic value in the Victoria Plum brand and plans to continue operations while finalising an integration strategy.

New Look is investing £3.3m in upgrading its 20 Greater Manchester stores as part of a trial to improve in-store experiences and operational efficiency. The investment will focus on cosmetic upgrades, better product merchandising, enhanced technology, and employee training. New features include interactive displays for online exclusives and a streamlined returns process. The trial aims to create a blueprint for future upgrades across New Look’s UK store estate.

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