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Retail Round Up

Profits up but Unilever uncertain over future growth

Unilever today predicted a tough year ahead for growth, despite reporting a 6.5% rise in underlying profits in 2011. Shares in the Anglo-Dutch fmcg giant dipped as the results emerged slightly below City expectations. Analysts blamed higher than anticipated restructuring costs. However, chief executive Paul Polman said the Lynx and Pot Noodle maker had made “significant progress” in its transformation to being a sustainable growth company.

Chance for ethical start-ups to get their name on Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s has kicked off a hunt for ethical start-up companies that match the Unilever brand’s stated ideal of ‘giving back to the community’. Five winning businesses will pocket a €10,000 award and have their names featured on bespoke tubs of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Finalists in the Join Our Core promotion will pitch their ideas to a panel of business leaders, including the ice cream brand’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield, with the first 100 entrants receiving a year’s supply of ice cream.


M&S lifestyle app hints at future of shopping

Marks & Spencer is bringing its food, lifestyle and fashion expertise to the nation’s living rooms by becoming the first UK retailer to launch an app on interactive television sets from Samsung. The app can be downloaded on to internet-connected Samsung Smart TV sets and offers information on food, fashion, lifestyle and technology trends, as well as recipes, wine and beauty tips. M&S director for new channels Susan Aubrey-Cound said the app would let consumers “discover [M&S products] from the comfort of their living rooms”.


BT: 'Marketers need to have love affair with customer services’

Marketers need to embark on a “love affair” with their customer service counterparts or risk failing their brands, according to BT’s service chief. Speaking at a London event hosted by the Direct Marketing Association, the telecom company’s managing director of retail customer service, Warren Buckley, says that marketers need to spend more time talking to and learning from the people that are the closest to customers. Buckley’s comments come as the company credited its customer service focus in helping to lift pre-tax profit by 18% to £628m in the three months to 31 December.

Kingfisher eyes UK growth with grassroots cricket sponsorship deal

Kingfisher, India’s biggest beer by market share, is hoping its sponsorship of English amateur cricket will give it a firmer foothold in the UK and unseat rival Cobra Beer. The Indian brand, is using its sponsorship of the England & Wales Cricket Board’s ‘Kingfisher Beer Cup’, the nation’s top amateur cricket league, as part of a fundraising initiative to drive money back into grassroots cricket. The scheme will be spearheaded by the launch of the ‘Kingfisher Quiz and Curry Night’ next month, which invites amateur cricket clubs to host their own quiz nights.

Sony CEO Howard Stringer steps down

Sony’s first ever non-Japanese CEO Howard Stringer has announced he is to step down as the company prepares for its fourth year of net losses. He will step down on 1 April after six years in the role and will be replaced by executive deputy president Kazuo Hirai. Welsh-born Stringer will stay on as chairman of the electronics giant.

Dixons boss Browett leaves to join Apple

Dixons chief executive John Browett is to leave the electricals group to become technology giant Apple’s senior vice-president of retail.
Browett, who will step down from Dixons’ board on February 20 and will leave the retailer on April 20, will be based in California in his new global Apple role.
“The opportunity ahead of me is exciting and I leave knowing that the group has a bright future under strong leadership.”

Asda tops perception of value, ICM poll reveals

The Walmart-owned supermarket’s reputation for value dominated consumer attitudes, exclusive ICM research for Retail Week revealed. 46% of those polled ranked Asda the best grocer for value, while its nearest rival Tesco lagged with only 19%. An Asda spokesman said: “We continue to lead on price and we know our customers are thrilled at the change we’ve made on quality.” Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said Tesco’s needs to do more to improve consumer opinion about its more premium ranges.

 

WHSmith boss Kate Swann sells £2.3m worth of shares

WHSmith chief executive Kate Swann sold more than £2.3m worth of her shares, triggering a 22p drop in the retailer’s share price to 537p yesterday.
The Wednesday sell-off reduces her holding in the company by almost 40%. Swann sold the shares just as the price hit 550 3/4p per share - a record high for this century.
But profits remained in line with expectations as Swann’s business efficiency programme continues to drive earnings.