It was a remarkable change of sentiment towards the Icelandic investor, which has enjoyed a generally positive reception since its arrival in the UK five years ago.
It’s a question that bears asking. The performance of some of Baugur’s UK businesses has been woeful. Some of the brands in Mosaic’s sprawling empire are struggling. And its investments in quoted companies such as Woolworths and French Connection have plummeted in value.
At the same time, Baugur has been beefing up its central infrastructure, setting up operations in e-commerce and HR for its businesses to plug into. The moves have led to comparisons with the giant and ultimately unsuccessful retail empires that fell out of fashion in the 1990s (page 16).
Does this mean Baugur is the new Sears? Emphatically not. Giving the brands the option of central support while their management still has the freedom to run their businesses is very different to an old-fashioned conglomerate.
As our story opposite shows, Baugur knows it has issues and it is acting to get things back on track. There are success stories in its empire, notably Iceland. But boss Gunnar Sigurdsson will know that more tough decisions lie ahead if it is to avoid having at least one failure on its hands.
Two sides to every story
The haberdashers of Mumbai won’t know what’s hit them. John Lewis’s talks about moving into the country, coupled with its ambitious expansion plans at home, show a business high in confidence. With its impeccable heritage and commitment to service, it will appeal to affluent Indians.
John Lewis is a shining example of how to prosper in the multichannel age. When it reveals full-year results next month, there will be another strong performance driven by online, the new Cambridge store and the Oxford Street foodhall.
The story not heard so often is that once these are put to one side, most of its department stores experienced a like-for-like decline in the 26 weeks that ended last month, showing that it can’t take its eye off the ball. Not even the all-conquering Partnership is immune to the slowing market.