Retail news round-up: BHS investigation to end by 2019, high street reports low January sales, and Screwfix opens 500th store in the UK

BHS probe to end by 2019

The UK’s insolvency watchdog has told MPs that the probe into the collapse of BHS may last for another two years, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Insolvency service boss Sarah Albon said that the service has appointed specialist counsel and is working with forensic accountants to analyse the data.

In a letter to Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field, Albon said that "should our investigation find grounds for disqualification against former directors we will be in a position to commence proceedings significantly earlier than April 2019".

The service mentioned that it had received 37 million electronic records, while 1.4 million had been identified for review.

High street reports low January sales

The UK high street like-for-like sales decreased 0.1% in January compared with last year, according to accounting firm BDO, The Times reported.

It is reported to be one of the worst January sales performance in four years.

Fashion sales decreased 1% last month.

Like-for-like sales fell 4.46% as shoppers wanted to avoid cold weather.

However, the sales of lifestyle goods increased 1.2%.

Online sales also increased 26.6% in January, hitting a two-year high for a single month.

BDO mentioned that rising prices and political uncertainty had affected consumer confidence and spending.

Screwfix opens 500th store in the UK

Screwfix has opened its 500th store in the UK, creating a milestone in the expansion of its store network, The Belfast Telegraph reported.

The 500th store has been opened at the Lumina Park, Enfield, north London, with an increase in its workforce to more than 10,000.

Screwfix’s chief executive Andrew Livingston said: "This is a significant moment for our business and demonstrates our focus on continued growth to meet the needs of our busy customers."

Tesco asks staff to leave unions

Tesco in Ireland has sent letters to the workers involved in an industrial dispute, offering them help to leave their trade union, The Irish Times reported.

Tesco’s spokesperson stated that the company was not “proactively” encouraging workers to leave unions.

She added that the letters were only given to workers who had previously expressed a desire to leave.

The conflict revolves around 700 workers who had to leave last year under a redundancy programme, and the supermarket is implementing changes to the contracts to the remaining workers.

The trade union Mandate said these changes would cause a 15% reduction in the salary of some workers.

Workers from nine Tesco stores are voting to start indefinite strike action from February 14, and workers from other five stores will join them from February 17.