Retail news round-up on July 14, 2014: House of Fraser creates new head of SEO role, Net-a-Porter accused of not paying enough tax, Bestway boss to become preferred bidder for Co-op Pharmacies and more

House of Fraser taps Asos’ Jamie Peach as SEO head

Department store chain House of Fraser has hired Asos senior SEO manager Jamie Peach to the newly created position of head of organic search (SEO)of the UK and Ireland, The Drum reported. He will assume his new role in early September. Peach’s responsibilities will be to lead a team of six in-house SEO employees and third-party agency partners, while overseeing the expansion of the current SEO programme.

Net-A-Porter accused of not paying enough tax

Online shopping giant Net-A-Porter has been accused of not paying enough tax by Channel 4, which reported luxury online fashion retailer generated sales of £435m in the year to March 2013, but incurred a loss of £24.7m, The Drum reported. Channel 4 accused Net-A-Porter of using clever planning and “perfectly legal mechanisms” to transform profits into a loss. In response to the allegations, Net-A-Porter told Channel 4 that the accounts “fully reflect the company’s business in the UK”.

Bestway billionaire Sir Anwar Pervez could acquire Co-op’s pharmacies division

Cash-and-carry tycoon Sir Anwar Pervez has emerged as the surprise favourite to snap up the Co-operative Group’s pharmacies for about £600m, the Sunday Times reported. The billionaire’s Bestway group is likely to be selected as the preferred bidder over the next few days. It is unclear how Bestway will fund the business deal. Co-op put its 700 chemists up for sale this year as part of efforts to overhaul the group.

Mothercare’s new boss launches 100-day review of retailer

Mothercare’s newly appointed chief executive Mark Newton-Jones has launched a 100-day review of the struggling baby products retailer, the Sunday Times reported. Newton-Jones will seek to cut costs, get better terms out of suppliers, secure more exclusive products and reduce store numbers further. The specialist’s chairman Alan Parker is understood to have asked him to report his findings and update the company’s strategy in the autumn. Newton-Jones is expected to close down outlets. He is also likely to have negotiations with suppliers, which have already been asked to take a 2.5% cut to their bills, about more bulk deals and exclusive products.

Sainsbury’s pension liabilities outgrow equity market value

Sainsbury’s pension deficit could prevent the supermarket retailer from competing with rivals in the grocery price war, according to new research the Telegraph reported. Pension liabilities of the group are now larger than its equity market value, pension consultants JLT Employee Benefits have warned. Sainsbury’s pension liabilities have outgrown its equity market value by 13% so far in this financial year and its pension scheme represents a “material risk” to the business, added JLT. According to Sainsbury’s latest annual results, it has pension obligations of £6.9bn, while its market value has shrunk to £6bn in 2014. Sainsbury’s, which has closed its defined benefit pension scheme to future accrual, has a pension deficit of £592m. However, a Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “Sainsbury’s should in no way be listed as high risk compared to others. It is meaningless to look at pension liabilities alone, rather it is about the overall pension deficit - ie the assets less liabilities. Our pension deficit has been reduced by over £40 million since 2009, and last year we also closed our Defined Benefit scheme to future accrual, further mitigating any pension risk.”