Retail news round-up on March 4, 2015: Morrisons ex-treasurer sentenced; Shop prices fall; Poundland to change branding; and more.

Morrisons ex-treasurer sentenced to jail for insider trading

Paul Coyle, former treasurer and head of tax at Morrisons, has been jailed for a year for insider trading, The Independent reported. Coyle pleaded guilty to two counts of insider dealing at Leeds Crown Court after he bought shares in Ocado ahead of the grocer’s £210m link-up with the online grocer. He has been ordered to pay £203,000 plus £15,000 in legal fees.

The court heard how Coyle used his wife’s name to buy Ocado shares online in February and May 2013, just before the supermarket announced that it would use Ocado’s service to launch home deliveries.

Shop prices fall at faster pace in February

Shop prices decline at 1.7% year-on-year in February as tough competition drove down clothing and furniture costs. Food prices dropped for a second month in a row at 0.4%, according to the British Retail Consortium/Nielsen survey.

ASA demands Poundland to change branding over ‘everything for £1’ claim

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has called on Poundland to change the text and future branding away from suggesting all items cost £1. The ASA stamped out misleading pricing claims on the discount retailer’s product pricing in its ‘About Us’ section on the website, The Drum reported.

The ruling concluded that statements claiming all items were £1, that prices had not changed and that the store offered ‘a single price’ of £1, was misleading to consumers. The ASA acknowledged that the majority of Poundland’s products retailed at £1 and that items that cost above that amount could only be purchased from the DVD concession or through the “conditional spend” promotion, it also recognised that the retailer’s DVDs were shelved on a concession stand segregated from their £1 products.

Mike Ashley refuses to appear before MPs over USC collapse

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has rebuffed MPs who wanted to grill him over the treatment of staff at the company’s USC retail business in Scotland and the use of zero-hours contracts.

The billionaire told MPs it was more appropriate that chief executive David Foley attend the Scottish Affairs committee, which is conducting an investigation into how the business collapsed without any obligations to its staff.

Target eyes job cuts to save $2bn

US retailer Target will be making $2bn in cuts and slashing ‘several thousand’ jobs over the next two years. The cost-cutting measures ‘will fuel Target’s growth and drive profitability’.

Board chairman and chief executive Brian Cornell said: ‘Following a thorough, strategic review of our business, coupled with a careful evaluation of the changing retail landscape, we have identified the key initiatives that will put Target on a clear path to growth.”

Cornell’s plan has $500m in cuts targeted for this year. It also includes a $1bn investment in technology and the supply chain.