Retail news round-up November 18, 2013: Majestic Wine half year profits rise 4.2%, LK Bennett owners forced to pump millions of pounds after bank row and Morrisons to put fresh food at heart of online business.

Majestic Wine half year profits rise 4.2%

Majestic Wine pre-tax profit rose 4.2% to £9.5m in its half to September 30. Despite the profits jump  UK retail like-for-likes dipped 0.4% which it said was down to the impact of Easter and last year’s Jubilee celebrations.

However, like-for-likes increased 3% in the final seventeen weeks of the period.

LK Bennett owners forced to pump millions of pounds after bank row

The owners of LK Bennett have been forced to pump millions of pounds into the footwear and handbag chain after a spat with its banks, The Sunday Times reported. Lloyds demanded the cash injection amid fears that the high-end retailer was struggling with its debts. Testy discussions resulted in Lloyds stepping down as primary bank during the summer. It has been replaced by Burdale, an asset-based institution that often acts as a lender of last resort. The size of the cash injection from LK Bennett’s two private equity owners, Phoenix and Sirius, is not known.

Morrisons’ online launch promises quality and freshness

Supermarket retailer Morrisons intends to put fresh food at the heart of its business, due to be unveiled to investors at a salmon-packing factory in Stratford this week, The Telegraph reported. Cautious shoppers wary about the quality of fresh fruit and meat ordered over the internet will be targeted by Morrisons as part of its new ecommerce service. Morrisons plans to offer customers far more options than its competitors when ordering fresh food, such as a choice over the size and cut of a piece of beef.

Shop Direct executive group product director Karl Doyle departs

Shop Direct’s executive group product director Karl Doyle has left the business after just eight months in the role, Drapers reported. Doyle joined the home shopping business in March from Marks & Spencer, where he was kidswear director. He told Drapers the primary reason for leaving was ‘location, as this proved a challenge both personally and professionally’.

The retailer is promoting electrical and seasonal trading director Matt Dixon to the vacant role. Dixon, who has been with the company for three years and took on responsibility for furniture and home a few months ago, joins the board with immediate effect. Trading director for clothing and footwear, Pauline Lauder, will report into him.

Tesco uses food delivery lorries to pick up waste

UK’s largest retailer Tesco is using its food delivery lorries for picking up garbage from outlets in a move to cut costs and minimise carbon emissions, The Guardian reported. The grocer has stopped using waste contractors to pick up and dispose of general rubbish, including unsold food, from its 600 largest supermarkets. Instead, waste bags are piled into metal wheeled cages lined with clear plastic that are picked up by the same trucks that deliver food to the stores once they have emptied their load.

A Tesco spokeswoman said the system, which does not involve the smaller vans that make home deliveries to customers, was more environmentally friendly. “We have recently introduced a new way of managing waste in some of our stores, which will remove 20,000 additional trips a year and reduce our carbon emissions by 4.5 tonnes per year.”

The spokeswoman insisted there was no risk to food hygiene. However, notices posted at Tesco’s recycling centre, seen by the Guardian, suggest only a quarter of the delivery fleet is sanitised or washed each week, although any driver is able to request a wash for his lorry if he feels it necessary.

Number of shoppers in Scotland fell 2.7% in October

The retail sector in Scotland has been dealt a double blow by new figures which reveal that the number of shoppers has fallen and more stores are lying empty in the nation’s high streets. The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said the number of shoppers in October was 2.7% lower than last year in spite of signs of an upturn in the economy. In addition, 11.1% of shop units are now vacant against 10.1% in July 2011. The SRC hopes that the traditionally-busy Christmas period will bring respite to the hard-pressed retail industry, which has had to endure several major closures during 2013.