Retail round-up: Laura Ashley’s China launch, Barnes & Noble sacks chief executive and Target quarterly sales and profits down.

UK to fight childhood obesity with sugar tax levy on soft drinks firms

The UK government is set to tax companies which sell sugar-laced soft drinks as it aims to control obesity in children, Reuters reported.

The country also plans to invest money in programmes to encourage physical activity and balanced diets for school children.

The government has called on food and drinks firms to reduce sugar in their products or else see a levy applied to drinks with a total sugar content above five grams per 100 ml, with a higher band for even more sugary drinks.

"Obesity is a threat both to the health of children and to our economy, costing the NHS (National Health Service) billions of pounds every year," Financial Secretary Jane Ellison said in a statement.

"The soft drinks industry levy is an important step forward in the fight to halt our obesity crisis and create a Britain fit for the future."

Laura Ashley poised to move into China

Fashion and furniture retailer Laura Ashley will officially launch in China via Alibaba-owned online operator Tmall and House of Fraser, The Guardian reported.

The brand is set to launch a website in the country and will also start selling clothing in the first Chinese House of Fraser store, which will open in Nanjing this autumn.

Laura Ashley’s finance director Seán Anglim said its long-term aim was to find a Chinese franchise partner.

Anglim said: “China is not easy as evidenced by how many have got in and how many have come out. It is all about finding the right partner and doing it at the right time.”

UK consumer spending drops 1.6% on stiff competition between retailers

British consumer spending on everyday items slipped 1.6% during the quarter, mainly due to fierce competition between grocery retailers, Sky News reported.

This decline is the worst year-on-year performance for nearly two years, according to Nielsen analysis.

Retailers experienced a 0.8% rise in takings over the period, the lowest figure since 2008, the figures revealed.

Spain recorded the highest growth level among western European markets as it surged 2.1%, followed by Italy at 1.2%.

European director of retail insights at Nielsen Jean-Jaques Vandenheede said: "Southern Europe was often to blame for Europe's poor performance but it's currently doing quite well, whilst northern Europe is today's problem child."

Barnes & Noble ousts chief executive Ronald Boire

Bookseller Barnes & Noble has ousted its chief executive Ronald Boire after the retailer’s board said he was “not a good fit”, BBC News reported.

The US chain’s executive chairman and one of its founders, Leonard Riggio, will take the helm while a full-time replacement is sought.

Riggio was due to retire but will continue until a successor is found. Boire was appointed in the role in September last year.

Barnes & Noble said it would begin its hunt for a new boss immediately.

In a statement, the chain said: "The board of directors determined that Mr Boire was not a good fit for the organisation and that it was in the best interests of all parties for him to leave the company".

Target quarterly profits and like-for-likes decline due to online competition

US discount retailer Target’s second quarter net profits slumped 10% to $680m (£522m) as it faced competition from online retailers, The Times reported.

Like-for-like sales declined 1.1% in the three months to the end of July, posting its first drop in two years.

Net sales at the 1,800-store chain decreased by 7.2% to $16.17bn during the quarter, slightly missing the Wall Street forecasts.

Target reported a drop in its customer numbers at its stores, while said its electronic goods sales plunged more than 10%.