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

11:20am Retail insolvencies soared in 2018

The number of retailers going insolvent jumped significantly last year, according to new data published today by the Insolvency Service.

Insolvencies in the retail sector soared 9% in 2018, up to 1,211 closures in the year to December 31, 2018.

Karen Hendy, partner and joint head of the retail group at law firm RPC, warned that things “could get worse before it gets better” for the retail sector in 2019.

She said that “there was very little good news on the horizon for retailers” with ongoing Brexit uncertainty and a 4.9% increase in the national minimum wage slated for April.

11:15am John Lewis sees weekly sales fall due to clearance 

John Lewis & Partners has reported a fall in weekly sales, driven by poor returns for electrical and home categories due to it annualising clearance sales.

Total sales were down 3.5% this week compared to the same week in 2018. Electrical and home technology sales were down 7.6% “due to annualising strong sales from the end of clearance last year”.

Home sales fell 7.2%, but fashion sales were up 5%. The retailer pointed in particular to a strong performance from its own brand womenswear line Modern Rarity, which soared 52%.

By contrast, Waitrose had a strong week, with total sales up 2.4% excluding fuel. It said “fresh categories continued to see strong demand”.

7:19am Mike Ashley mulling Patisserie Valerie deal

Mike Ashley is reportedly considering making a bid for Patisserie Valerie, a move which would give him even greater control of the high street.

Ashley has not made a formal bid for the cafe chain and could yet withdraw his interest but is considering making an offer, The Daily Mail reports.

The Sports Direct mogul already owns the sports business he founded along with House of Fraser, Evans Cycles and Agent Provocateur and has stakes in Debenhams, Game and French Connection among others.

He is currently in the process of trying to acquire HMV. 

7:05am Oddbins warns of redundancies as advisers weigh options

Off licence business Oddbins has warned of job losses after appointing advisers to look at its options following an “extremely tough” Christmas.

Directors at owner European Food Brokers said that the businesses, which include Wine Cellar Trading and Whittalls Wine Merchants, could not “continue in the current form” and might have to be sold.