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This week’s top retail stories - 10th September 2010

by James Callander August 31, 2011

Retail Week

Comet fights back with ’softer’ rebrand

Comet is launching a new logo, strapline and in-store branding in an effort to fight back against key competitors, Dixons Retail and Best Buy. A new TV campaign will air next week with the tagline ‘come and play’. The rebrand aims to make Comet more approachable and accessible than its competitors, promoting their customer service as less intimidating in an ‘increasingly technological world’. The in-store feel will also be a lot less formal, with everyday terms replacing more technical terms and making the purchase experience more friendly and fun. The move comes as Best Buy continues to penetrate the UK market and Dixons Retail continues to transform its approach to customer service.

Blockbuster future uncertain

Blockbuster could suffer this Christmas if, as is expected, its US parent files for bankruptcy this month. Restructuring firms Hilco and GA Asset Advisors, as well as a number of private equity players, are awaiting news before attempting to acquire parts of the European business. Were the US parent company to file for bankruptcy, it is likely to have an impact on Blockbuster’s ability to buy stock in the UK and perform well during the Christmas period. Martin Higgins, UK MD of Blockbuster, has stressed that there are contingency plans in place and that even without funding from the US, there is enough funding in place to acquire sufficient stock ahead of Christmas.

Home Retail Group hit by Argos performance

The Home Retail Group is expecting Argos sales for Q2 to come in at the low end of expectations, putting a dent in overall Group performance. Trading conditions remain challenging for the catalogue whose like for like sales on Q1 were down 5% and the store sales fell 2.8% to £924m. Homebase sales remained flat with like-for-like and total sales both down by 1.1%. While categories like computers and white goods performed well at Argos, the big ticket items suffered with difficult economic conditions. Meanwhile sales of big ticket items at Homebase remained strong.

Marketing Week

Former News International CMO Jeremy Schwartz joins L’Oreal

L’Oreal has appointed former Coca-Cola and News International marketer, Jeremy Schwartz, to manage its Garnier and Maybelline brands in the UK. Schwartz is general manager of the two brands, with overall responsibility for sales and marketing. Prior to L’Oreal, his most recent role was at News International where he held the position of commercial director and chief marketing officer.

Pepsi Raw removed from UK market

Pepsi Raw, the cola made using naturally sourced ingredients, is being removed from the UK market, Pepsi has confirmed. At its launch in 2008 the ’natural born cola’ was hailed by the then marketing director, Bruno Gruwez, as “the most significant innovation from Pepsi UK in the last 15 years”. The brand has been struggling in the off-trade since its launch in late 2008, with the latest figures from Nielsen showing sales of £704,000 for the year ending June 26.

Kraft chief calls for more leadership from Government

Kraft Foods UK & Ireland president, Nick Bunker, is to call on the Government to show more leadership on the issues facing the food industry. Speaking at a debate hosted today (10 September) by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) to mark the launch of a report from the Institute for Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge, Bunker will call for the Government to work with industry to ensure the continued growth sector. The report follows proposals earlier this year from Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, to make food companies take a bigger part in funding social health campaigns such as Change4Life.

The Grocer

Morrisons moves into convenience and online

At the unveiling of Morrisons’ half-year results, CEO Dalton Philips revealed sweeping changes to its strategy with its first move into convenience, plans to sell groceries online and a standalone fresh store. Morrisons is set to open three trial convenience stores in the first half of next year. They will also begin a limited geographical online grocery trial in the second half of next year. Philips said it was still looking at which model it would adopt but suggested it may use two out of the four existing models: store picking, ghost stores, click and collect and large fulfilment centres.

Ocado sales surge but share price slips again

Ocado has reported strong sales in its first trading statement since its stock market flotation. But shares in the online retailer still slipped in early trading today. For the 36 weeks to 8 August, sales were up by 29.8% to £372.2m. However, shares in the company dipped by 4.5% this morning to 150p – down from a mark of 180p when Ocado listed in July. Ocado said the dip was due to customers using its delivery pass scheme that allows them to make top-up shops of £40 or more.

Spar success driven by wine and fresh food

Sales at Spar stores have risen 3.1% in the past quarter, driven by more shoppers top-up shopping for evening meals and a sharp hike in promotions. There was a 20% increase in fruit sales in the three months to the end of July compared with the same ¬period last year. Sales of vegetables were up 10.4%, while fresh meat and poultry were up 5%. Wine was another area of growth for Spar up by 3.5%, helped by a 151% ¬increase in South African wine sales during the World Cup.

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