Retail round-up: Frank Field asks SFO to initiate a probe into BHS demise, July retail sales plunge after EU referendum
Labour MP Frank Field demands formal SFO inquiry into BHS collapse
Labour MP Frank Field, the chair of the works and pension committee, has asked the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to initiate a formal investigation into the actions of BHS’s former owners, The Guardian reported.
Field, who also co-chairs a parliamentary inquiry into the collapse of the department store chain, has called on the head of the SFO to probe whether Arcadia tycoon Sir Philip Green or Dominic Chappell broke the law.
In his letter to the SFO’s director, David Green, he wrote that “in the light of the extraordinary evidence” received by both committees, the investigatory body should examine whether money was “moved in such a way as to attempt to mislead people into believing Chappell was a credible buyer for BHS”.
A SFO spokesperson said: “If the director considers there are reasonable grounds to suspect serious or complex fraud which meets his criteria, he will open a criminal investigation.”
Meanwhile, Field is also planning to raise concerns with the business secretary, Greg Clark, about the possible gaps in the UK’s corporate governance regime, according to Sky News.
He is to seek an extension of tests to assess BHS’s directors’ suitability.
Retail sales in July slump at faster pace in four years due to Brexit aftermath
Retail sales suffered the biggest monthly fall in more than four years in the aftermath of the UK's Brexit vote.
The balance of its sales volume index fell to -14 in July, down from +4 in June, and its weakest level since January 2012, the survey revealed.
Supermarkets and furniture stores reported the most difficult trading conditions in the weeks after Brexit, while department stores and shoe shops said business was brisk.
Online spending was also hit by the uncertainty, with the annual growth rate in sales dropping from +38 points in June to +23 points this month.
Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI’s chief economist, said: “While conditions in the retail sector have weakened, we should be careful about reading too much too soon, as consumers were likely to err on the side of caution in the immediate period following a vote to leave the EU."
Number of retail jobs continues to fall
Retail jobs hit a two-year low, indicating a “dramatic” structural change in the sector.
The number of workers declined by 2.4% compared with the same period last year, with "deep declines" in April and May.
The food sector was said to be affected by fierce competition, where the number of hours worked fell to its lowest level since the end of 2014, according to the figures for the second quarter of the year by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
More stores have also shut down, driven by the food sector.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: "Today's figures show that full-time equivalent employment in the retail industry has fallen at its fastest rate since the second quarter of 2014."
Ikea blames computer glitch for charging shoppers twice in UK
Furniture specialist Ikea has admitted that it has double-charged more than 100 customers who visited any store in the UK on July 21 due to a computer glitch, The Independent reported.
As many as 102 transactions have been affected by the glitch across all its UK stores, the retailer said.
Ikea has also urged its shoppers to check their bank statements and asked those affected by the issue to get in touch with their customer service team.
Donna Moore, Ikea UK and Ireland customer’s relations manager, apologised on behalf of stores.
“We are actively working with the payment service provider to rectify these transactions as quickly as possible so that those affected will have the duplicate payments released back to them by their banks,” Moore told the Bristol Post.