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Today’s news in brief-4/6/24

UK retail sales experienced a slight increase of 0.7% in May, marking a modest improvement compared to the 3-month average growth of 0.3%, yet falling short of the 12-month average growth of 2.0%. Food sales saw a notable year-on-year rise of 3.6% over the three months leading to May, though this was less than the 9.6% increase in May 2023 and below the 12-month average of 6.4%. Non-food sales, on the other hand, decreased by 2.4% year-on-year over the same period, a sharper decline than the 12-month average fall of 1.7%.

M&S CEO Stuart Machin saw a 75% pay increase, reaching £4.73m, following strong annual results for the retailer. His pay comprises a fixed salary of £908,000 and performance-related pay of £3.82m. Co-CEO Katie Bickerstaffe, who is set to leave in July, received an 85% pay increase, amounting to £4.41m overall. These raises come as M&S reported a 57% rise in profits to £716.4m, with revenues climbing 9.3% to £1.3bn. Food sales surged by 13%, while clothing and home sales grew by 5.3%. Machin asserted that M&S should have already surpassed Waitrose given these strong results.

European retailers are hastening to secure Christmas stock amid surging shipping costs and trade route disruptions. The ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict has led to attacks on Western firms’ vessels by Houthi rebels, causing a 140% spike in container prices to $4,000. Ships are now taking longer routes around Africa to avoid conflict zones, further complicating logistics. Nick Glynn of Buy It Direct anticipates that early planning will mitigate the impact on Black Friday and Christmas stock, though he acknowledges the increased costs for immediate deliveries, particularly affecting bulky, low-margin items like furniture and appliances. This situation is likely to result in significant price rises for consumers in the coming months.

WIT Fitness is relaunching under its original founders, Sam Kitching and Daniel Williams, after being acquired by Frasers Group in January 2024. The relaunch, coinciding with WIT’s 10-year anniversary, will include limited collaborative capsule collections and new own-brand unisex products set for release in early 2025. The founders aim to reconnect with the fitness community and capitalise on the growing popularity of various training modalities.

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Lidl GB has appointed Joanna Gomer as its new marketing director, replacing Claire Farrant who left in September 2023. Gomer, who joined Lidl from Tesco in 2016, will oversee all marketing functions, including strategy, campaigns, consumer communications, and digital.

Asda has successfully trialled a proof of concept for generative AI with London-based company Harley. The AI platform provides Asda’s leadership with real-time, actionable insights, facilitating quicker and more informed decision-making. This scalable solution aims to extend AI-driven insights across Asda’s operations, initially focusing on high-pressure executive decisions.

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