Retail news round-up on April 07, 2015: John Lewis eyes 11 store branches in Philippines, Argos suffers IT glitch, Booker scouts for new chairman and more.

John Lewis eyes 11 store branches in Philippines

John Lewis Partnership has plotted international expansion by opening outlets in 11 branches of department stores in the Philippines this summer, Reuters reported. The Philippines stores will be set up within branches of SM Retail and Our Home and will be 300-1,000 sq ft in size.

High street suffers greatest monthly sales drop in March

High street sales suffered their sharpest monthly fall in more than three years in March. Like-for-like sales declined 4% compared with a year ago due to lower footfall levels and a slide in discounting from a year ago, according to the BDO High Street Sales Tracker. The fashion sector was the poorest performer, with like-for-like sales falling 5.5% due to low footfall levels on high streets and in retail parks, reported the Telegraph. The best-performing sector was homeware, which notched up like-for-like sales of 6.4%.

The survey also pointed out that this year Easter falls two weeks earlier, and some consumers may have been delaying purchases until the long Bank Holiday weekend.

Argos struck by Good Friday IT glitch

Argos was hit by a Good Friday meltdown across the country after an IT glitch meant shoppers could only pay by cash and had trouble collecting online orders. Frustrated shoppers from Dunfermline in Fife to Woking in Surrey complained about the disruption at the catalogue shop, which forced a number of stores to close. The Guardian reported that phone lines were also affected, leaving many shoppers unable to check whether their local outlet was open. It said only ‘check and reserve’ online orders had been affected.

The retailer said: “We unreservedly apologise to any customer affected by an IT issue in Argos stores which prevented them from taking card payments for a two-hour period”.

Footfall down 2% during Easter Bank Holiday

Retailers were the hardest hit this weekend as the Easter Bank Holiday wash-out caused a slump in visits to the high street. According to City AM, footfall across high streets, shopping centres and retail parks slumped by 2% between Good Friday and Easter Sunday at midday compared with Easter last year, according to Springboard figures. High streets saw the biggest fall in shopper numbers, down 4.7% over the holiday weekend after a 10% fall on Good Friday, when it rained across the UK.

But while town centres suffered, retail parks benefitted from the rain with footfall up 2.7% over the three days. Meanwhile, shopping centres were down 0.3%. The slump comes as a blow to the retail industry, which had been expecting consumers to splash out thanks to Easter falling closer to the March payday and improving economic conditions.

Booker scouts for new chairman

Booker has initiated the search for a new chairman as sales reached a record £4.75bn at the cash-and-carry wholesaler in the financial year just ended. According to the Financial Times, Booker said Richard Rose, who was chairman of Blueheath Holdings, would step down at the company’s annual meeting in July.

Chief executive Charles Wilson said the move was in line with good corporate governance, and had been planned for some time, enabling Rose to take on other responsibilities. Booker said it expected to announce its new chairman before the annual meeting.