Retail news round-up on December 18, 2013: Tesco plots Indian market entry, M&S agrees to gender neutral toys, House of Fraser could be bought by Galeries Lafayette, White Stuff hires new search agency

Tesco plots entry in Indian retail space with $110m joint venture with Tata

Tesco is planning to become the maiden global chain to enter India since the government allowed foreign firms to make an investment in multi-brand retail, Bloomberg reported. According to an exchange filing and a statement from commerce minister Anand Sharma, Tesco is likely to make an investment of about $110m to buy a 50% stake in Trent Hypermarket (Trent), a unit of Tata Group that runs Star Bazaar supermarkets.

According to the statement, Tesco’s application will be for the minimum amount needed under India’s policy governing foreign investment in supermarkets. Tesco’s Indian joint venture will build on an existing network of 16 outlets in India’s Maharashtra and Karnataka states. The firm’s move is expected to provide an impetus for other international retailers to enter a market that is forecast to be valued at $865bn by 2023.

M&S agrees to package all toys gender-neutral by spring 2014

Marks & Spencer has agreed to gender-neutral packaging of all its toys by spring 2014, following consumer complaints of marketing items according to stereotypes. M&S has been contacted by customers to complain at a range of toys called ‘Boy’s Stuff’, which included planes, cars, dinosaurs, racing cars, cat toys, a marble run and a pop-up fire station. The Boy’s Stuff range will be rebranded to use a simple graphic logo, while the ‘Little Miss Arty’ line will become ‘Poppy and Blue’, using character-based branding. M&S told the Guardian it was already in the process of updating its policy but that its plans became public when it responded to a specific criticism on Twitter by Labour MP Stella Creasy.

House of Fraser may be bought by Galeries Lafayette

French department store chain Galeries Lafayette is in advanced talks to acquire UK retailer House of Fraser, the Financial Times reported. The talks come as House of Fraser prepares for floatation on the London Stock Exchange early in 2014, in a bid that could be worth £350m. The two parties are said to be in exclusive talks and the family-controlled Galeries Lafayette has exclusivity until the end of January 2014.

Rothschild has been hired by the retailer to manage the process, and has been holding a beauty parade for advisers over recent weeks. House of Fraser chairman Don McCarthy is reported to be looking for a price tag of at least £450m from a sale. House of Fraser is likely to run a dual-track process while the talks continue, although it is thought to be finely balanced as to whether it floats or is sold. A deal with Galeries Lafayette would put an end House of Fraser’s informal attempts over the last two years to secure a buyer.

White Stuff hires iCrossing as retained search agency

White Stuff has hired iCrossing for managing its search strategy, working across both paid and natural search in the UK, The Drum reported. iCrossing will work with the internal White Stuff marketing team. The agency will also look to expand the appeal of White Stuff’s new on- and offline magazine through search.