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Today’s news in brief-24/5/24

In April, retail sales volumes dropped by 2.3% following a 0.2% decline in March, primarily due to ongoing wet weather, as reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Non-food stores experienced a significant 4.1% fall, equalling the largest drop since January 2021, with clothing, sports equipment, and furniture retailers being hit hardest. This decline is consistent with decreased national retail footfall data, and the Met Office recorded April as exceptionally wet and dull. Automotive fuel sales volumes saw their steepest decline since October 2021, and food store sales fell for the third consecutive month. Online spending also decreased by 1.2% month-over-month and 1.5% year-over-year.

Ted Baker has closed its North American stores and website after falling into administration under restructuring firm Teneo. The closures affect 31 US stores and nine Canadian stores, following Authentic Brands Group’s acquisition of Ted Baker in 2022 for £210 million. A previously established brand licensing partnership with Dutch group AARC ended in January 2024 due to a dispute. The company has also shut down 15 of its 46 UK stores, impacting 245 jobs. Authentic Brands Group has yet to comment on the situation.

Consumer confidence in the UK has continued to recover, with GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index rising three points to -27 in May. All measures of the index improved, although they remain in negative territory. The forecast for personal finances over the next 12 months increased by five points to -8, while the measure for the general economic situation rose by one point to -54. Expectations for the economic situation over the next year improved by four points to -30. The Major Purchase Index also climbed four points to -24.

John Lewis has introduced the UK’s largest range of rentable menswear, featuring brands like Boss Tailoring and Charles Tyrwhitt. This new service follows the success of its womenswear rental platform, which saw a 52% increase in members and a 40% increase in rentals year-over-year. The menswear rental service, powered by Hurr, allows customers to rent garments for periods ranging from four to 30 days, with next-day delivery available.

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Almost 1,000 warehouse workers at Morrisons’ distribution centres in Gadbrook, Cheshire, and Wakefield, West Yorkshire, have begun a three-day strike over proposed pension changes. The workers, represented by the Unite union, claim Morrisons is attempting to cut its pension contributions, potentially costing employees an average of £500 annually. Morrisons has shifted to a model where both employer and employee contribute 4% to the pension pot, replacing the previous 5% and 3% split. The supermarket asserts that it has contingency plans in place to mitigate disruption and is open to further dialogue with the union. It has proposed a 9% pay increase and other benefits, which the union has rejected.

VF Corporation has appointed Paul Vogel as its new chief financial officer, effective July 8, 2024. Vogel, who previously served as CFO of Spotify, will succeed Matt Puckett, who is stepping down after 23 years with VF. During his tenure at Spotify, Vogel oversaw significant financial growth and operational improvements.

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