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Retail Round-Up April 15th 2011

Timing of Easter helps John Lewis and Waitrose

John Lewis and Waitrose both reported better weeks of trading, but the improved results were heavily influenced by the timing of Easter John Lewis sales were up 5.8%, in the week to 9 April, or 7.3% including the higher rate of VAT. But the figures reflect an extra day’s trading as Easter Sunday fell in this week last year. Even so, despite the influence of the extra day and higher VAT, only six branches managed a sales increase while 23 declined. The London stores again led the way, with Peter Jones up 21.1% and Oxford Street up 13.5%. Leicester, Cardiff and Bluewater all recorded double digit declines.

Online retailers deliver strongest quarterly performance in three years

Online retailers achieved their strongest quarter in three years in the first three months of 2011. In March, turnover was up 14% year on year as shoppers spent £5.1bn online – equivalent to £82 per person. Multichannel outperformed pureplay in March, achieving year-on-year growth of 19% on average versus 6%. The strongest performing sector in March was health and beauty, boosted by Mothers’ Day, which was up 20% month-on-month and 32% year-on-year.

Kingfisher appoints chief executive to head B&Q

DIY giant B&Q has appointed a chief executive as it seeks to free parent Kingfisher UK and Ireland boss Euan Sutherland to focus on strategic group commercial responsibilities. B&Q operations director Martyn Phillips has been promoted to the new position of B&Q UK and Ireland chief executive, and will report into Sutherland. The change means Sutherland will now step back from the day-to-day running of the business and take on a more chairman-like role.

GSK to focus on priority brands

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has named 19 brands it plans to sell off in a bid to focus on a number of “priority brands”, including Sensodyne, Panadol and Horlicks in its consumer healthcare business. The sell off is part of GSK strategy to focus on a portfolio of fast-growing priority brands in three priority categories: oral health, wellness/over the counter (OTC) and nutrition.

Reckitt Benckiser CEO steps down

Reckitt Benckiser CEO Bart Becht is to retire after 16 years leading the FMCG and healthcare company. He will be replaced by Rakesh Kapoor, currently executive vice president of global category development, from September. Kapoor joined RB in 1987 and is a member of the company’s executive committee. Kapoor is credited with overseeing the acquisition of Boots Healthcare International in 2006, which RB says transformed the business into a global consumer health care company.

Holland & Barrett launches its first customer loyalty scheme

Holland & Barrett has become the latest retailer to roll out a loyalty programme. Rewards for Life, which will be piloted across 40 stores in the Midlands, Yorkshire and Lancashire, aims to retain existing customers as well as encourage new shoppers to its stores. The scheme will offer customers four points for every £1 spent in-store, online and through direct mail. The points will be turned into coupons which customers will be able to spend in Holland & Barrett stores.

Travel arm keeps WH Smith on Track

WH Smith has reported a 3% increase in half-year profits to £64m, thanks to a strong performance from its travel division. Although like-for-like sales in travel were down 3% during the period due to lower passenger numbers, profits grew by 9% to £25m in the six months to 28 February. In contrast, profits in its core high street division were flat, with like-for-like sales down 6%. The group said it expected to open 22 new travel stores in the next six months, including three stores under the Funky Pigeon brand.

Fake tan defies spending crunch for PZ Cussons

Imperial Leather maker PZ Cussons said sales of its top brands were proving “resilient” in the UK, despite continued pressure from commodities costs and the tough retail environment. In its latest trading statement, which covers the period from 26 January to 13 April, the company said premium brands including The Sanctuary and St Tropez were performing strongly in Europe.

Asda strikes new blow in Price Guarantee Propaganda war

Asda has won the latest round in an increasingly bitter battle with rivals over its controversial Price Guarantee. The Advertising Standards Authority today threw out a complaint suggesting that a television advert pushing the supermarket’s pledge to be 10% cheaper than its rivals was misleading. That complaint was initially lodged by Sainsbury’s.

Keri Link is a consultant on the Interim team at FreshMinds