Retail news round-up December 9, 2013: Argos launches advertising agency review, John Lewis records sales up 1.8%, Morrisons cuts window cleaning to save costs, Irish M&S wokers strike over pension, Primark to grow by one million sq ft this year and the UK’s first ‘social supermarket’ opens

Argos taps AAR for advertising agency review

Argos has started a review of advertising agencies, hiring AAR to help, according to The Drum. A shortlist of agencies, including CHI & Partners, will be asked to pitch for the account. The review will take three months and all agency enquiries should be addressed to AAR.

Marketing director Stephen Vowles said: “While 70% of the population shop with us year on year, we need to attract some of our customers to shop more regularly, and become more universally appealing across our complete product range.”

M&S flagship shop on Grafton Street shuts down due to workers’ strike

Marks and Spencer’s (M&S) flagship outlet in Dublin’s Grafton Street was among the majority of the retailer’s shops throughout the country closed for business due to industrial action on Saturday, The Irish Times reported. Following the pension scheme closure at the retailer, over 2,000 workers were on strike having voted almost unanimously to take action. The M&S defined benefit pension scheme was closed by the firm on October 31 with two weeks’ notice to staff. Other workers concerns include plans to drop the Sunday pay rate, the elimination of a Christmas bonus and a reduction in numbers of section managers.

John Lewis weekly sales rise 1.8% to £144.5m

In the week to December 7, UK’s largest department store group John Lewis recorded a 1.8% year-on-year sales increase to £144.5m, driven by another record week for its online business, according to Reuters. The company’s online sales jumped 22% over the corresponding week last year.

Morrisons bans window-cleaning at stores until February

Morrisons has banned window cleaning at its stores for two months as it tries to defend itself from falling sales. In an e-mail seen by The Telegraph, Maintenance Management (MML), which handles Morrisons’ facilities, told contractors that the retailer is facing a “tough end of year in respect of their budgetary position”. MML also claimed that window cleaning has been cut because of “the weather forecast for this winter shows an increase in snow and frost”. The window-cleaning ban, launched at the start of December, will run until February 2, which marks the end of Morrisons’ financial year. A spokesman for Morrisons said the “budgetary position” referred to in the e-mail was the store maintenance budget, not the firm’s wider financial position.

ABF to expand Primark’s reach by one million square feet in 2013

Associated British Foods (ABF) has confirmed its plans to add one million square feet of new Primark outlets this year, Herald Scotland reported. That would be ahead of the 800,000 square feet added in 2012/13 and comes as the discount fashion retailer is said to have seen further growth in underlying sales since September. ABF said trading in the year to date has “built upon the exceptional like-for-like growth delivered in the same period last year with further like-for-like growth achieved”.

UK’s first ‘social supermarket’ Community Shop opens in Goldthorpe

The UK’s first ‘social supermarket’, the Community Shop opens today in Goldthorpe, near Barnsley, south Yorkshire. The store offers shoppers on the verge of food poverty the chance to buy food and drink for up to 70% less than normal high-street prices, The Guardian reported. The social supermarket is backed by large retailers and supermarkets, such as Morrisons, Tesco, the Co-op, M&S and Ocado and if successful, could be replicated elsewhere in the UK.