Retail round-up: Frank Field presses BHS trustees, Dixons Carphone builds £1bn tech service business and NearSt competes with Amazon on books
Philip Green must acknowledge responsibilities, says MP Frank Field
Frank Field, the MP and chair of a parliamentary inquiry investigating the collapse of BHS, has written to the retailer’s pension trustees to insist that former owner Sir Philip Green ensures benefits are restored to pensioners, the Guardian reports.
Green, giving evidence to MPs in June, assured them that he would "sort this" in regard to the BHS pension funding problems, but is understood to still be in the early stage of talks to find a solution.
The cost of financing the pension fund deficit, estimated to be in the region of £571m, has been exacerbated to the tune of several hundred million pounds by the Brexit vote, which caused gilt yields to lose 10% of their value.
There has been speculation that Green may buy out those BHS pensioners who have pension funds of £18,000 or less, reducing the cost of an overall rescue package.
Dixons Carphone to build £1bn business from technology services
Dixons Carphone plans to take on its high street rivals in phone repairs as part of a strategy to build a £1bn business based on technology services, in addition to its sales of mobile phones and white goods, reports the Telegraph.
The retailer is taking a major bet that the internet of things – where household products such as dishwashers and fridge freezers are connected to the internet – will be a significant part of future retail.
Chief executive Seb James criticised high street rivals Timpsons and iSmash, saying they offered a poor quality of service.
The mobile phone repairs market is estimated to be worth £1.5bn.
Dixons Carphone will launch its Knowhow technology service later this year, which will include mobile phone repairs and home services such as smart meter energy systems and a broadband service which can be monitored from a single app.
NearSt looks to compete with Amazon
NearSt, a new online retailer, is offering one-hour delivery of books to customers in London – challenging the market leader Amazon, reports The Bookseller and aims to connect customers with retailers in their local area.
Shoppers can type their postcode and preferred book in the website to check for availability in shops nearby. Booksellers can retain 94% of the products retail price with the remaining 6% as commission to NearSt.
A total of 35 retailers have signed up to NearSt, including Blackwell’s in Holborn, Belgravia Books, West End Lane Books, Ink@84, Brick Lane Bookshop and Lutyens & Rubinstein.
Lidl and Aldi set out new price war in children’s uniform
Lidl and Aldi have set off a new school uniform price war by offering an entire outfit for less than £4, the Guardian reports.
Lidl said four primary school uniform basics – two polo shirts, a sweater and trousers or pleated skirt – would go on sale for a total of £3.75.
Competitor Aldi consequently slashed its initial offer of £4 for its Back to School uniform of the same essentials to £3.69.
This move by the two German discount supermarkets undercuts other high street retailers by as much as 80%.
Online drives sales growth for UK retailers
Online sales were yet again the main driver of sales for UK retailers over the five weeks from May 29 till July 2, the Professional Jeweller reports.
The latest British Retail Consortium-KPMG online retail sales monitor pointed out that online sale of non-food products in the UK increased 9.0% in June as compared to last year, when they had risen by 17.6% over the previous year. Online sales represented 20.6% of non-food sales in the UK, against 19.8% in June 2015.
Over the three months to June, internet sales of non-food products in the UK grew 9.7% year-on-year whereas store sales declined 1.9% on a total basis and 2.2% on a like-for-like basis.
KPMG head of retail David McCorquodale said: "With the referendum fallout still uncertain, retailers will need to make sure all channels are ready and resilient to cope with the impact of Brexit.”