Retail news round-up: Andy Street to quit John Lewis to fight mayoral contest, consumer morale rises in September and HMV's sales down

John Lewis's Andy Street to depart to contest mayoral election

John Lewis's managing director Andy Street is set to leave the retailer at the end of October to contest as the mayor of the West Midlands, The Telegraph reported.

Street, who has been with John Lewis Partnership for more than 30 years, has been chosen as the Conservative candidate to fight the mayoral contest, which will be held in May 2017.

Strong contenders to replace the veteran in the role include John Lewis's retail director Mark Lewis, commercial director Paula Nickolds and Andrew Murphy, the partnership’s productivity director.

Trade union calls for probe into working practices at Asos

UK trade union GMB has urged the Business Select Committee to initiate a probe into working practices at fashion retailer Asos, fearing it could become the "next Sports Direct".

This comes after a report claims the online retailer's warehouse staff are subject to tougher surveillance and are not able to take regular toilet and water breaks as they fear missing their targets.

Agency employees are kept on contracts that are unfair, according to an inquiry by BuzzFeedNews.

“There have been a number of allegations about the working conditions at our warehouse in Barnsley that are inaccurate, misleading or based on out of date information," a spokesperson for Asos told The Independent.

GMB's regional secretary Neil Derrick said the Buzzfeed investigation shows that employment at Asos is not only stressful and exploitative but also hazardous to employees' health.

“Health and safety issues, round the clock, in-your-face surveillance, impossible targets and unfair contracts have created a damaging, anxiety-ridden workplace and our members have been under the cosh for too long," Derrick said in a statement.

HMV Retail posts full-year pre-tax loss of £8.8m

HMV Retail incurred an annual pre-tax loss of £8.8m following expenses that included £10.3m of payments to sister companies, The Guardian reported.

Top-line operating profits in the year to January 2 at the music and DVD retailer slipped to £11.7m from £15.2m in the previous year.

Sales fell by £41m to £325m in the last year compared with £366m in 2015 as British consumers’ move away from physical CD, films and games collections continued, revealed the accounts filed at Companies House.

HMV grew its physical music market share to 27.7% in 2015 from 26.7% in 2014.

However, HMV chair Paul McGowan hailed the figures as “encouraging”, pointing to market-share gains made in physical music and film sales.

“We are very pleased to be approaching our fourth anniversary since we acquired HMV and these encouraging results mirror the exciting year we have witnessed,” said McGowan.

Confidence surges as consumers shrug off Brexit fears

UK consumer morale has recovered from the Brexit shock, with sentiment back to its pre-EU referendum level in September, The Guardian reported.

The headline confidence index increased to -1 in September up from -7 in August and -12 in July, according to GfK.

The market research firm’s survey of 2,000 people showed they were more upbeat about their personal finances and the state of the economy.

Shoppers were also more confident that now was a good time to make big purchases such as furniture or electrical goods.

“British consumers appear to have shrugged off Brexit fears about the economy as wages continue to grow faster than prices, rising employment boosts income, and low interest rates encourage people to spend rather than save,” said Joe Staton at GfK.