Retail news round-up: BHS liquidator investigates Green and Chappell property transactions, footfall drops on New Year's Day, and more

BHS liquidator probes Green and Chappell property transactions

The property deals that took place during Sir Philip Green and Dominic Chappell’s regimes are under investigation by the liquidators of BHS, The Guardian reported.

Insolvency practitioners have a legal duty to review the conduct of the directors of a collapsed company. Hence, FRP Advisory is making a “massive exercise in data collation” relating to whether directors breached legal duty.

Under corporate law, if a business is at risk of collapse, directors have a duty not to sell assets at an undervalue rate. A director is at risk of being disqualified by the Insolvency Service if found guilty.

Liquidators can apply to the court to reverse a transaction at an undervalue if it occurred within two years of the insolvency.

Further, Green had sold the ownership of BHS’s freehold in Putney to his Arcadia Group in June 2014 nine months before his deal with Chappell.

Green has until March to provide a revised offer to The Pensions Regulator or face legal action.

Footfall at shopping centres dropped on New Year’s Day

The number of customers at shopping centres on New Year’s Day was reduced to half compared with last year, the Daily Express reported.

According to retail analysts Springboard, footfall at shopping centres declined 49.5%, with a 12.7% decrease in customers at high streets, showing a 23.8% average decline across all types of retailer.

The decrease in the number of shoppers was owing to the bad weather, reduced opening hours and spending sprees at the start of the festive period.

However, internet sales increased 6.8%, with an 18.2% increase on New Year’s Eve.

Springboard’s insights director Diane Wehrle said: “The ease and comfort of online shopping proved too enticing for shoppers keen to snap up further discounts in the sales rather than bracing the cold.

“Shopping centres in particular have a challenge ahead in 2017.

"Having experienced a decline in footfall during 2016, these destinations need to up their game in order to provide additional reasons to draw shoppers away from their devices, with an offer going beyond retail.”

Morrisons cuts prices of 800 items

Morrisons is set to cut prices of 800 everyday household items, including potatoes, meatballs and fish fingers, as well as superfoods such as avocado and kale, the Daily Mail reported.

It is the first supermarket to slash prices this year.

The average price reduction will be 19% and a total of 1,500 goods will be on ‘price crunch’.

Morrisons’ cuts include the cost of two-pack avocados reducing from £1.80 to £1.47; King Edward potatoes will decrease from £2 to £1.67.

A pack of beef meatballs will cost £1.77, from last year’s £2, while a six-pack of large white baps will cost 50p.

Morrisons’ marketing and customer director Andy Atkinson said: “These price cuts will help families who are on a tighter budget and will continue to make Morrisons more competitive.”

Agent Provocateur in possible sale

3i, the private equity group that owns Agent Provocateur, has appointed Rothschild, the investment bank, to handle a possible sale of the business, The Times reported.

The options could include introducing a new investor or a sale of the business outright as KPMG investigates accounts irregularities.

M&S searches for new clothing boss

Marks & Spencer has asked headhunter JCA Group to look for a new fashion boss to help its struggling clothing business, This Is Money reported.

Steve Rowe, who has been managing the retailer since 2015, said he was spending more time on planning and wanted someone to take responsibility for clothing and homewares.

JCA Group said: “It’s a tough job and you would need someone already at that level to do it – not someone who is going to step up into the role.”

The candidates for the position include Mothercare boss Mark Newton-Jones; former Next product director Christos Angelides; and Fat Face boss Anthony Thompson, who worked at M&S as recently as 2007 as retail director.

M&S declined to comment.

Linda Farrow set to open 100 stores

Linda Farrow is planning to launch 100 stores globally, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The plan comes as the British glasses brand is increasing its creative team and collaborating with some of the world’s most sought-after luxury designers.

The firm is likely to report a 30% increase in sales to £75m. The company has 14 shops currently, including seven standalone stores.