Retail news round-up on April 8, 2014: Mike Ashley sells £200m stake in Sports Direct, Consumer sentiment in Ireland plunges, and John Lewis head of buying quits

Mike Ashley banks more than £200m by divesting stake in Sports Direct

Mike Ashley has cut his stake in sportswear retailer Sports Direct by selling more than £200m of shares, The Telegraph reported. The share sale comes just days after Ashley snapped up an 11% stake in House of Fraser from Scottish retail tycoon Sir Tom Hunter. Ashley is offloading 25m shares in Sports Direct through a placing handled by the retailer’s broker Goldman Sachs. Sports Direct sources insisted the sale is not connected to House of Fraser.

Consumer sentiment in Ireland plunges to 83.1 in March

According to KBC Bank Ireland/ESRI survey, consumer sentiment index in Ireland slumped slightly to 83.1 in March from a near seven-year high, as households kept tight budgets and a broad-based recovery in spending remained elusive, Reuters reported. However, a sub-index of consumer expectations grew to its highest level since January 2007, with labour-market expectations especially positive. The survey’s sub-index for current economic conditions accounted for much of the monthly decrease in consumer sentiment.

John Lewis’s head of buying for womenswear Jo Hooper may depart

Jo Hooper, head of buying for womenswear at UK’s John Lewis, is set to quit after six years, Drapers has learned. Hooper is resigning from her post with immediate effect and is actively looking at several options options for her next role. Her responsibilities are initially being taken on by Claire’s Accessories’ Julie Wright, who has previously worked for John Lewis as head of accessories “so she will be able to take up her new role straight away,” said buying director Paula Nickolds.