Up-to-date coverage of the latest events in UK retail.

4:58pm Boot snaps up health tech business Wiggly Amps

The health and beauty retailer has acquired health technology company, Wiggly Amps Limited, which allows them to access software linking patients to their GP records.

The online app service will allow patients to manage their own healthcare needs, linking them directly to their GP records for ordering prescriptions online.

The healthcare and pharmacy retailers acquired the tech company for an undisclosed sum.

Pharmacy director at Boots UK, Richard Bradley said: “At Boots UK we are always looking for ways to develop the role of community pharmacy and make things simpler and quicker for our customers and patients.

“We have a strong history of innovation – responding to meet the evolving needs of our customers, providing new products and services and supporting our colleagues to deliver these.”

Managing director of Engage Health Systems Ltd (previously known as Wiggly-Amps), Jon Witte added: “As the market leader, Boots UK have the scale and reputation to make the best use of this software and we look forward to working with Boots UK to help them fulfil their vision of creating an innovative digital healthcare offer and, be the first-choice pharmacy for customers and patients.”

3:44pm Westfield records Christmas footfall boost

Department store giant Westfield have reported an increase in footfall across both their UK store locations in Stratford and Shepherds Bush during the Christmas period.

Overall 15.6 million people walked through the department store operator’s doors in period from the beginning of November to December 31, up 11% year-on-year.

Over the course of the final weekend before Christmas (December 22-23) a record 1.2 million shoppers visited one of Westfield UK outlets.

Boxing day in Westfield London was the second busiest day on record since the department store opened ten years ago. Across the operator’s two UK outlets, footfall on the day after was up 9% year-on-year.

Brand and strategic marketing group director Myf Ryan said: “The numbers are a testament to the investment we’ve made in putting the customer at the core and creating the very best environment and experience for our visitors and retailers alike.”

11.42am Seven-fold increase in number of large retailers using CVAs

The number of large retailers launching CVAs jumped seven-fold during 2018, according to data from Deloitte.

Thirteen retailers operating more than 10 stores, including the liked of Carpetright and New Look, entered into a CVA last year. Just two multi-site retailers launched CVAs in 2017.

The number of retailers plummeting into administration also increased year-on-year, at a much slower rate of 6%.

Deloitte head of restructuring Dan Butters said: “The squeeze in margins has left many retailers burdened with loss-making stores. This is a key driver for the rise in the number of major retail CVAs in 2018, with retailers seeking to close stores to reduce their cost base.”

8.02am M&S broker predicts Christmas sales decline

Marks & Spencer will post a festive sales delcine when it updates the market next week, its house broker Shore Capital has predicted.

In a note issued this morning, Shore Capital warned that it does not “expect an improvement” in clothing and home sales during M&S’ third quarter. It has forecast a like-for-like sales fall of between 2.5% and 3% within the troubled category. 

Shore Capital also expects like-for-like food sales to slip by a similar percentage.

Analyst Clive Black warned that he would “not be surprised” if Shore Capital had to nudge down its full-year profit forecast for M&S following its third quarter update next Thursday.

7.12am McColl’s poaches new finance chief from Welcome Break

McColl’s has poached Welcome Break boss Robbie Bell to take up the role of chief financial officer.

Bell, who previously served as finance boss of Screwfix and held a number of senior roles at Tesco, will succeed Simon Fuller, who is stepping down on February 22.

Bell said: “I am excited to be joining a growing sector with so many opportunities. McColl’s is well placed to benefit from that growth and I’m looking forward to working with Jonathan and the management team to drive future value.”

7.03am Gear4music cautions on profits despite Christmas sales spike

Gear4music has warned that full-year profits will fall “slightly below” those achieved last year, despite a spike in sales during the crucial Christmas quarter.

The online musical instruments and equipment specialist said total sales grew 41% to £48.7m in the four months to December 31.

However, Gear4music said sales growth was “constrained” by its York distribution centre, which “reached maximum capacity” between Black Friday and Christmas.

The retailer said it was therefore not able to achieve the levels of saes growth to compensate for lower margins in its first half, and that EBITDA would suffer as a result.

6.00am Shop price inflation accelerates in December

Shop price inflation accelerated at the highest rate for more than five years in December, despite widespread discounting in the build-up to Christmas.

Prices climbed 0.3% during the month – the highest rate of inflation since April 2013.

It also marked only the fourth month of inflation in the past five years.

Deflation in non-food prices decelerated to 0.4% last month, compared to 0.8% in November.

But food prices grew 1.5% in December, as inflation within ambient products accelerated to 2.3%, compared to 2.1% the prior month.