Essential reading for retailers and suppliers in the home improvement market

The retail week: April 20 - April 26

Published: 29 April 2008
Sainsbury's encourages shoppers to bring their own bags; Cash makes a comeback; Britons write positive product reviews online.
April 20: Bring your own

A Norwich branch of Sainsbury's is encouraging shoppers to re-use shopping bags by handing out fridge magnets and car window stickers as reminders to place in their homes and cars.

Research highlighted that customers own reusable 'Bags for life' but forget to bring them when they go shopping.

April 21: Not for sale - owners decide against Pets at Home auction

The owners of Pets at Home have decided against selling the business.

Private equity company, Bridgepoint said that given the retailer of pet foods and pet products' continued strong performance and its confidence in its future prospects, it would not initiate a sale of the business in the current economic environment.

"To do so at this time would inevitably undervalue what is a fantastic business," chief executive Matthew Davies said.

In November 2007, Pets at Home appointed investment bank Rothschild to advise the company on its strategic options, including a possible stock market flotation.

Last week, the 213-store retailer announced record full-year results for the year to March 27, 2008 showing profit increased 55.6 per cent to £30.9 million on turnover up 15.7 per cent to £354.6m.

April 22: M&S has greenest reputation

Marks and Spencer has been voted the greenest FTSE 100 company according to a UK-wide survey of opinion formers, despite a growing cynicism towards the eco-friendly image portrayed by UK businesses.

The first Chatsworth (Communications) FTSE 100 green survey of 2008 polled UK national and trade journalists, sustainability experts and political groups in an attempt to measure how successful large corporations are perceived to be in tackling green issues.

The results reveal an increasing cynicism as to whether UK business will ever aim for anything more than 'greenwash' without legislation from the government.

Chatsworth Communications is a UK-based communications and research team founded by former journalists, researchers and corporate communications experts.

April 23: Cash is king

Cash is making a comeback among shoppers, claims the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
New figures from the trade body show cash is now used for 60% of transactions, up from 54% last year.

By value, cash is used for 34% of retail spending, compared with 32% last year.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: "Reports of the death of cash are premature. Cash is not only alive, it's thriving."

April 24: ONS figures under fire

Data from the Office for National Statistics has incurred the wrath of retailers, retail analysts/commentators and economists who have called on the non-ministerial department to clarify how it collates its figures.

Retailers have said the ONS' data is 'puzzling' as it indicated that the first quarter of the year saw a 5.6 per cent jump in retail sales.

The BRC said the ONS sales data was 'overly rosy' compared with most retailer's reports. Its senior analyst, Jocelyne Hynard, poured scorn on the figures.

"When I look at their numbers, I don't really believe them. The retailers are telling us it's dire out there, especially the non-food ones. Clarification would be helpful."

She added: "Our figures are based on actual data from our participants, we don't revise, we don't seasonally adjust, it's a straightforward calculation."

The growth figure claimed by the ONS for the first quarter is the highest rate recorded since July 2006.

April 25: John Lewis pleased with progress

John Lewis Partnership said sales in the week to April 19 at its 26 UK department stores increased 7.0 per cent year-on-year to £48.7 million pounds and were up 2.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

The group said the outcome was 'very encouraging' despite the cold weather, school holidays, and an early Easter.
"We now need some warmer weather to allow us to take full advantage of our summer assortments," a company spokesperson said.

April 26: UK web users write positive reviews

A study from social commerce company Bazaarvoice has found that online reviews written by UK consumers tend to be extremely positive, mirroring a trend seen in the US over the past three years.

Figures show that over four fifths – 88% – of all reviews written by UK consumers were rated as positive – given four or five stars out of five. This compares to 81% of all US reviews classed as positive.

Bazaarvoice analysed 34,691 customer reviews across ten retail categories and 12 UK clients' sites including Timberland, QVC, Early Learning Centre and Goldsmiths.

The analysis also showed that UK reviewers were more engaged in writing reviews than their US counterparts.

Another recent study, conducted by Bazaarvoice and Jupiter Research, found that trusting fellow buyers' comments in the online shopping process was rated highest: 70% of online users said they found ratings and reviews the most helpful feature when researching products.

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