Making sense of the last seven days
What should retailers make of the US investor interest in the, at the moment, unloved UK retail sector? In the past couple of days, two big Stateside names have emerged as significant stakeholders in two of the UK's best-known retailers.

The legendary Warren Buffett, aka the Sage of Omaha, has been buying Kingfisher shares - or at least Geico, the insurance firm controlled by him, has been buying.

At the same time, Brandes, which shot to fame a couple of years back for its interest in Marks & Spencer, has snapped up 3.4 per cent of fashion group French Connection.

Buffett's purchase has created lots of excitement, especially since Geico has been putting money into Home Depot shares as well. The dual interest has inevitably set City tongues wagging and given new life to long-running speculation that the pair of DIY giants would merge.

However, it's hard to resist the conclusion that such talk is little more than a product of the overheated atmosphere of August's dog days. In the dealing rooms of the Square Mile, there has been little in the way of concrete news from quoted store groups over the past week. Details of Buffett's investment were welcome relief for the trading floors before the Third Test got under way yesterday.

But only a few months ago, Home Depot boss Bob Nardelli poured cold water on the increasingly febrile gossip about a likely pounce on Kingfisher. Surely little has changed since then to prompt an about turn. The conspiracy theorists argue that Buffett aims to play matchmaker between the two store groups. But while an eventual deal makes obvious sense, there are more innocent reasons why Geico has put its cash into Kingfisher.

In the past three months alone, Kingfisher has lost almost 5 per cent of its value. Its market-leading B&Q chain has suffered in the consumer downturn afflicting UK retail, but there is no reason to doubt it will bounce back as conditions improve. Kingfisher's international presence - its push into China in particular - make it a powerful global player with a strong underlying business. Maybe that's what appealed to Geico.

Brandes' interest in French Connection is similarly explicable. While the retailer has been battered over the past year, after making some fashion mistakes, the mercurial Stephen Marks will be pulling out all the stops to get the business back in shape. His loathing of the City means he will take personal pleasure in proving the scribblers wrong and, when he does, Brandes should reap the benefits.

It seems that while UK investors cannot see the value in British retail, their US counterparts can. Perhaps the decision of such well-known US names to put their money into UK stores should provoke a fresh look at the retail sector among investors on this side of the pond.