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Government urged not to take retail for granted

A new report from Intu and Revo is calling on the Government to do more to support and promote the retail industry, as its findings show that international retailers find many of the features of the UK retail market attractive, but the UK’s business rates regime is putting off potential new entrants.

The research conducted on behalf of Revo and Intu by Conlumino among 130 international retailers, found the UK is seen as attractive across 36 key factors including solid economic growth rate, a sensible approach to labour relations, low corporate tax rate and sound digital infrastructure.

However, almost three-quarters of the retailers surveyed said they would consider other countries in preference to the UK for expanding their business; with the stand-out issue being the high level of UK property taxes, especially business rates.

With the industry generating 326 billion pounds in sales each year and directly employing around 3 million people, the voice of retail property Revo and intu, owner of many of the UK’s largest and most popular retail destinations, is calling on the government to review the entire structure of business rates which they state is currently a “disincentive for inward investment and makes the UK uncompetitive”.

Government urged not to take retail for granted

Intu chief executive, David Fischel, said: “The good news is that overseas retailers are interested in the UK because it is a large market, has sensible employment regulations, low corporation tax and a sound digital infrastructure. However, almost three-quarters of the retailers surveyed said they would consider other countries in preference to the UK for expanding their business.”

UK business rates putting new retailer entrants

Revo chief executive, Ed Cooke, added: “Retail is a Great British success story, admired around the world for its creativity and innovation. The sector is supported by a dynamic and evolving retail property industry, which is adapting in response to retailer needs, shaped by changing consumer shopping habits.

“Although successful our research shows how, at a time of great political and economic uncertainly, we must take things to another level. Specifically, by looking again at property taxation, to create a more internationally competitive tax environment, and also by more actively prompting our market abroad.”

Other recommendations within the report include promoting the UK to international retailers, addressing issues relating to planning and providing more help to navigate the complex legislative and wider regulatory landscape.

The report interviewed 130 international retailers with a collective turnover of 1.5 trillion pounds, consisting of those already in the UK, those considering the UK for expansion and those where the UK is not on their expansion plans. They were asked about their international expansion plans and to rate the UK on 36 factors, identifying barriers to investing in the UK and ranking the UK against other retail markets.

Images: courtesy of Intu

More than 90 percent of British shoppers have stated that they have “fallen out of love” with the January sales, according to a new study from MasterCard.

The reason shoppers no longer feel the post-Christmas clearance as a must-visit is because there are too many deals and promotional discounts throughout the year, and especially in the run-up to Christmas.

The report reveals that 48 percent of shoppers made cut-price purchases in the days immediately before Christmas, compared to 44 percent buying discounted items in the January sales.

UK shoppers are also demanding better deals than before, with two-thirds (65 percent) stating that an item has to be reduced by more than 30 percent to qualify as a bargain, while more than a quarter (26 percent) said they wouldn’t get their wallet out unless the price of an item was slashed by more than 50 percent. More than a third of shoppers (37 percent) admitted their expectation of price cuts is higher compared to last year.

MasterCard believes that the loss of appeal in the January sales is due to a combination of sales fatigue, and scepticism around pricing, as British shoppers become savvier about what they spend their money on.

More than half of people (58 percent) said they could not face the crowds, while over a third (37 percent) said they didn’t trust the accuracy of discounts advertised, and 31 percent of shoppers shunned the sales to avoid buying things they don’t need. In addition, 26 percent stated that the find the sales too stressful to bother with, while 24 percent said they can never find anything they really want.

"The January sales appear to have lost their lustre for many shoppers, as sales fatigue has set in." said MasterCard’s UK and Ireland president Mark Barnett. "This situation has been heightened by pre-Christmas price cuts, together with Black Friday and Cyber Monday. They are cannibalising the Boxing Day and January sales. By the time the New Year discounts hit the shelves, many consumers have already had their fill of bargains.”

Black Friday and Cyber Monday were found to be the biggest let down for consumers with 26 percent saying they were worse than last year, while 22 percent of shoppers thought the January sales were a flop compared to previous years.

Guess to open flagship in Liverpool

Fashion retailer Guess is to open a 5,000 square foot flagship store on Liverpool One’s Paradise Street this spring.

The store will mark the brand’s first in the north west of England and will stock the complete Guess collection, including denim for men and women, as well as watches, sunglasses, footwear, and the Guess kids and Marciano ranges.

Guess to open flagship in Liverpool

Victor Herrero, chief executive of Guess, said: “Liverpool One has a reputation for being very fashion forward and at the heart of a city that has a unique sense of style, both of which made it an obvious choice for a Guess flagship.

“Confirming that decision was the growth on Paradise Street, where we are joining a collection of complementary brands that marks out Liverpool One as very distinctive, not just in the region, but the UK as a whole.”

Guess to open flagship in Liverpool

The signing of Guess follows the opening of other regional flagships on Paradise Street including Jack Wolfskin, Lindt, Smiggle and Urban Decay. The five new international retailers total almost 11,000 square feet of fashion and lifestyle floor space.

Miles Dunnett from Grosvenor Europe, said: “The momentum behind Paradise Street continues with Guess, an excellent new addition to Liverpool One’s line-up of international brands. Liverpool is highly regarded as one of the most fashion conscious cities in Europe and Guess cements Liverpool One’s position as a prime retail and leisure destination.”

Guess to open flagship in Liverpool

In 2016, Liverpool One’s footfall reached 29 million while sales grew by 8 percent compared to 2015, and it saw more than 20 brands open including a new regional flagship for Victoria’s Secret.

Images: courtesy of Guess

One of the UK’s largest retail property groups British Land has recorded a 0.6 percent year-on-year retail sales growth in the three months to the end of December.

However, the property giant also saw a drop of 0.6 percent in its footfall. Despite the decline, British Land states that both the dip in retail footfall and sales growth continue to outperform industry benchmarks.

The third quarter trading update also revealed that British Land secured 314,000 square foot of retail lettings in the period, with renewals also coming in at nearly nine percent ahead of their estimated rental value. While occupancy rates for its properties remained at 97 percent throughout the quarter.

“British Land has had a positive quarter reflecting the strong positioning of our portfolio and our engagement with occupiers and consumers,” said British Land chief executive Chris Grigg. “We have completed over 400,000 square foot of lettings across the business and are progressing discussions with a broad range of occupiers.”

Grigg added: “Retail footfall and sales growth continue to outperform industry benchmarks and we have made further disposals of non-core assets and residential units ahead of valuation. The business is well placed; we remain mindful of potential headwinds going forward.”

The number of internet users in China -- already the world's highest -- reached 731 million in December, authorities said, as e-commerce drives consumer demand across the Asian giant.

Total internet users rose 6.2 percent from the end of December 2015 and equals the entire population of Europe, the government-linked China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) said in a statement Sunday on its website.

E-commerce is a vital part of the government's efforts to China into a consumer demand-driven economy, although Beijing also imposes strict controls on online content, barring citizens from accessing major websites including Facebook and Google.

The government is pushing a so-called "internet plus" project that aims to expand the role of online technology in the economy. The number of people who go online through cellphones has reached 695 million, or 95.1 percent, as computers lose their appeal, according to the CNNIC.

Online consumption via ecommerce has become an increasingly important part of the economy, the statement said, adding that its contribution to GDP growth is gradually increasing.

As of December 12, the number of people in China who used online payments had reached 475 million, up 14.0 percent year on year, according to the CNNIC.

In one example of the growing power of China's online shoppers, consumers spent 17.8 billion dollars in e-commerce giant Alibaba's biggest online shopping promotion on November 11 last year, more than twice the five-day desktop sales from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday in the US last year. (AFP)

Amazon, Asos and John Lewis voted the best for customer satisfaction

Online giant Amazon has topped the charts for customer satisfaction for the second year in the row, according to the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKSCI).

The US giant managed to beat online fashion rival Asos, a new entrant to the chart, who came in second place in the bi-annual survey from the Institute of Customer Service. British department stores John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, together with supermarket Waitrose, all retailers with a "heritage in customer service" rounded out the top 5 respectively.

Amazon and Asos both scored 87.3 and 85.8 points respectively on the UKSCI 100 point index - the strongest scores across all 13 sectors measures for UK customer satisfaction. M&S scored the highest within the foot retail sector, with 85.0 points, while Tesco was highlighted as the most improved supermarket, with an increase in points of 1.2.

"Generally speaking, it’s been a better year for customer service, with consumers telling us that businesses are improving overall experiences by getting things right first time and dealing with complaints faster and more efficiently," commented Jo Causon, Chief Executive of the Institute of Customer Service.

"However, these factors do not necessarily translate into customer loyalty and recommendation. Just being ‘good’ is no longer good enough, and organisations should think about how they can deliver outstanding service at all times. With 51 percent of people saying that it has taken them more than two attempts to get a problem fixed, the evidence suggests that customers still feel that they’re spending too much time and effort dealing with businesses. "

"To turn this around a greater focus should be given to making things easier and less cumbersome for customers." Causon added that retailers should offer better consistency across all channels as well as more engagement through digital methods by ensuring their employees are "highly engaged and highly skilled, as every customer interaction – regardless of the channel it’s on – counts towards business performance."

Photo: Courtesy of Amazon

Alaïa launches exclusively on Net-a-Porter

London - The eponymous ready-to-wear line from couturier Azzedine Alaïa has launched exclusively online on Net-a-Porter.

An edit of 60 pieces from Alaïa's spring 2017 collection launched Thursday on the luxury retailer's website, including the signature knitted dresses the rtw brand is known for. In addition to offering its ready-to-wear collection, Net-a-Porter will also offer beauty products from Alaïa, which include fragrance, bath and body items and candles, another first online launch for the brand.

Alaïa launches exclusively on Net-a-Porter

The brand has a much more edited online presence in comparison to some of its luxury peers, only operating an Instagram account as its sole social media channel. But the move sees Azzedine Alaïa becoming the latest designer to join forces with the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group in offering its fashion collections online.

However, it is not the first time that Net-a-Porter offers designs from Azzedine Alaïa. Both the luxury website and the sister platform Outnet.com, the off-season website also owned by YNAP, already offer accessories, footwear and handbags from Alaïa.

Prices for Alaïa ready-to-wear collection range from 280 pounds for the strech-knit shorts to 4,830 pounds for the laser-cut pleated maxi skirt and prices for the brand's beauty products range from 36 pounds for a shower gel to 1,800 pounds for their Eau de Parfum.

Photos: Courtesy of Alaïa and Net-a-Porter

American Apparel not to shut remaining stores immediately

UPDATE London - Although bankrupted American Apparel may have found a new owner in the form of Canadian manufacturer Gildan Activewear, the future of the retailer’s store chain was remained bleak as the agreement did not include store locations.

Earlier this week news emerged that the Los-Angeles based company had let go of approximately 2,400 employees, with a total of 3,500 jobs being axed across the board, from garment factory workers to senior management roles. As the company was unable to find a buyer for its 110 store portfolio, reports indicated that American Apparel would begin shuttering all its stores across North America with immediate effect.

However, a spokeswoman from American Apparel has stressed that the remaining stores are set to stay open for at least another three months. Arielle Patrick confirmed to Business Insider that under the terms of American Apparel’s sale to Gildan, which includes a 100-day license, no stores will be shut during the period. The retailer added that it has not shut any additional stores in North America since the closure of nine stores, announced last October.

If American Apparel does shut all of its stores, then an additional 2,000 store workers will be made redundant. Until then, the fashion retailer is trying to sell off as much stock as possible, and is currently offering a 40 percent off discount across its entire collection online and in store. American Apparel previously shut all but one of its store in UK last month after it fell into administration.

Photo: FashionUnited

Milton Keynes Centre:MK to undergo 60 million pounds revamp

Centre:MK, shopping and leisure destination in Milton Keynes, is set to undergo a 60 million pound revamp over the next three years.

The first stage of the refurbishment, which includes the 10 million pound renovation of Sunset Walk, the new premium quarter in the centre was recently completed according to the joint owners of the centre Hermes Investment Management and AustralianSuper.

The second phase of the redevelopment will see the shopping centre undergo a complete overhaul to offer customers brand new customer facilities, including a new 1,400 space multi-levelled car park next to John Lewis. Named 'Re-Imagining an Icon', the refurbishment aims to ensure the shopping centre is able to fulfill the needs of shoppers today.

In addition, the next phase will also focus on improving the Deer Walk area and includes new customer service lounges, family facilites and public toilets. The investment will also be used to launch new initiatives such as an Centre:mk app, website, social media platform and digital wayfinding.

"Our 60 million pound programme of investment is designed to enhance the experience for visitors, leading to increased sales for our retailers and restaurants," said Ed Sellick, Asset Manager, on behalf of Hermes Investment Management and AustralianSuper. Kevin Duffy, centre director added: "Centre:mk plays a significant role regionally as we provide a critical mass and diversity of offer unavailable elsewhere."

"The investment in the malls, wayfinding, facilities and customer service will collectively allow us to build upon the place making we have created and further improve the space. These plans ensure Centre:mk is always relevant for the consumer and retailers and will create a refreshing, exciting and modern look and feel within the iconic destination."

Photo: Centre:MK, Facebook

Fashion retailers join Westgate Oxford line-up

Mint Velvet, Guess and Gant are among 13 new retailers to have signed up for units at Westgate Oxford, which is due to open in October.

With 10-months until opening, Westgate Oxford has revealed that the redevelopment is 70 percent pre-let, with fashion names including JD Sports and Accessorise, joining other high street favourites including Cos, H&M, & Other Stories, Russell & Bromley, Victoria’s Secret Pink, Charles Tyrwhitt, River Island, Superdry, Primark, Ted Baker, Joules, and New Look.

There will also be a strong designer brand presence with Michael Kors, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein already signed up to units.

The 400 million pound redevelopment of Westgate Oxford, being developed by Land Securities and The Crown Estate, is set to be one of the largest retail and leisure destinations to open in 2017.

Fashion retailers join Westgate Oxford line-up

The shopping centre will feature over 100 new stores, 25 restaurants and cafes, a boutique Curzon Cinema, and new public spaces, and will be anchored with a 140,000 square foot John Lewis department store.

The renovation will triple the shopping centre to create a new 800,000 square retail destination.

Images: CGI of Westgate Oxford, courtesy of Westgate Oxford