Retail free view by Verdict for week ending Mar 28

March 28, 2006 - United Kingdom

General retail
Following the latest monthly review of the basket of goods used by the Office for National Statistics to track price changes, iPods and other MP3 players, along with champagne drunk at home and lager bought in nightclubs, are to be included in the official measures of inflation for the first time.

GUS is understood to have rebuffed a £7bn bid approach for its credit rating division Experian from a consortium of private equity firms, including Thomas H Lee and Bain Capital.

The bidders are reported to already be considering an improved offer.

Clothing, fashion and personal care Dame Anita Roddick has agreed to sell The Body Shop International, which she founded, to L'Oréal for £652mn. With her husband she will make £117mn from her 18 per cent stake.

House of Fraser has stated that preliminary talks with an unidentified suitor have ended.

Apax Partners was recently revealed as the suitor, and news of its interest led to a 15 per cent rise in HoF's share price.

Hobbs has appointed Nicky Dulieu to replace Mike Trotman as finance director. Ms Dulieu was finance director of Marks and Spencer's food division and before that, its retail stores.

In a separate development, Hobbs have appointed Liz Davies - the former wife of George Daves - as design and buying director.

Next has warned of a further year of gloom on the nation's high streets, just two months after the worst start to a year for retailing since 1945. Like-for-like sales fell by 8.9 per cent in the seven weeks to March 18, while total sales rose 5.6 per cent in the seven weeks to March 18 on the back of a 3.9 per cent rise in store sales and a 10.2 per cent increase in sales at Next Directory.

In addition, new store openings, better sourcing and tight control of discounting helped Next increase pre-tax profits by 5.8 per cent to £449.1m in the year to January.

Ted Baker pushed up full-year pre-tax profits by 13 per cent to £18 million, on sales 11 per cent higher at £118 million. The company's use of 'Cool Britannia' sales themes in the US helped raise sales in the region to £8.3mn.

Kingfisher in the the home goods sector, has reported a 64 per cent decline in full-year group profits to £232mn following a £215mn exceptional restructuring charge. Before this charge, profits were already down to £448mn - £300mn lower than analysts had forecast at the start of 2005.

There was a 4.7 per cent rise in overall group sales, although underlying sales fell by 2.2 per cent. International operations were solid, with a 2.7 per cent rise in like-for-like sales in France, and a 3.9 per cent gain in like-for-like sales across the rest of Europe and Asia.

Kesa has reported a fall in group profits to £143.3mn for the year to January 31, against a previous annual total of £177.9mn. Sales rose by 3.6 per cent to £4.1bn. Kesa has reported that the falling prices of digital goods grew sales, but reduced margins.

Sales at the Comet chain fell by 3.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis, and by 0.5 per cent overall to £1.53bn.