Waitrose and John Lewis

John Lewis will cut costs, introduce more budget ranges and increase online sales under new plans that aim to secure its long-term future

The strategic update at John Lewis Partnership on Friday receives plenty of coverage in this weekend’s papers.

UK retail group John Lewis will cut costs, introduce more budget ranges and increase online sales under new plans that aim to secure its long-term future (The Financial Times £).

The Lex opinion column in The Financial Times (£) says ”Retailer’s plan is commendable but the scattergun approach smacks of desperation”.

John Lewis is to become a residential landlord, with a plan to build rental homes above or beside Waitrose supermarkets around the UK as part of a strategy to restore the battered fortunes of the employee-owned retailer (The Guardian).

The Guardian gets the opinion of shoppers on John Lewis’s new strategy. Some customers back chain’s new ideas, while others are dubious about renting furniture.

The chairman of the John Lewis Partnership insisted that the group was not over-reaching itself as she set out plans to expand the business beyond retail and push profits to £400m (The Times £). Dame Sharon White’s plan included seeking to generate 40% of profits from areas such as financial services and affordable housing by 2030.

The new boss of John Lewis and Waitrose has formally launched a “bold” plan to revive the retailer by selling far more online at lower prices in a bid to achieve £400m in profits over the next five years (The Telegraph).

Marks & Spencer and its new home delivery partner, Ocado, have been criticised for charging different prices for the same products in store and online (The Observer).

The Sunday Times (£) reports that thousands of disillusioned staff at M&S are now seizing the opportunity to leave. In August, the retailer announced that 7,000 jobs, about 9% of its workforce, would be cut. The voluntary redundancy applications from shop floor staff significantly exceed the number it is seeking to cut.

Against a patchwork of rapidly changing lockdown rules, the big four — Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons — are drawing up plans to extend their hours and use virtual queueing apps to prevent their stores from being mobbed. The Sunday Times (£) takes a look at a “tricky” winter coming up for supermarkets.

The petrol station group whose owners are buying a majority stake in Asda has insisted it can withstand new shutdowns in Britain and other markets. EG Group, which is controlled by the billionaire Issa brothers and TDR Capital, the private equity firm, said it would continue to prosper even if governments impose new travel restrictions (The Times £).

The billionaire Issa brothers who are buying Asda have posted record quarterly profits for their petrol station business EG Group (The Telegraph).

In the three months to September 30, earnings at EG hit £369.9m, up 54 per cent on the same period last year (The Mail). EG reported a 4 per cent rise in earnings in the grocery and merchandise division, which includes a relationship with Spar, and 12 per cent growth in its food service division, which includes Subway, Greggs, Burger King and Starbucks.

Carlsberg is to expand its range of non-alcoholic drinks and flavoured alcoholic sparkling waters, as the Danish brewer looks beyond beer for growth and taps consumers’ renewed focus on health in the pandemic (The Financial Times £).

A battle over whether vegan burgers and sausages should be replaced by vegan “discs” and “fingers” is intensifying in the EU ahead of a vote in European Parliament on a contentious food labelling amendment next week (The Financial Times £).

UK farmers face a ban on exporting their products to the EU under the “organic” label from January 1 if the bloc does not opt to recognise their certification after the end of the Brexit transition (The Financial Times £).

A piece in The Financial Times (£) looks at the recent Tesco results and argues “Mr Murphy’s reign should be one of evolution rather than revolution, and that bodes well for the shares, pandemic or not”.

Pret A Manger became one of the first hospitality businesses to launch a second round of redundancies as it revealed plans to close another six outlets and shed up to 400 jobs (The Times £).

A record number of shops disappeared from high streets across the country in the first half of 2020 as the Covid-19 lockdowns hammered the retail sector (The Observer).

Britain lost 6,001 more chain stores than it gained in the first half, up from a loss of 3,509 in the same period last year, a study by PWC, the professional services firm, found (The Times £).

The supply of food to care homes, schools, hospitals and prisons is at risk unless the government steps in to support struggling wholesalers, the UK chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has been warned (The Observer). Trade bodies representing major food companies said the loss of business from the hospitality sector, which has been rocked by the 10pm curfew and limits on household mixing, meant that firms which also serve the public sector could fail.

British pubs in crisis as Covid calls last orders (The Financial Times £). Estimates suggest more than quarter of UK’s 39,700 public houses may not survive pandemic.

The chairman of JD Wetherspoon accused the government of “jumping from pillar to post” in its response to coronavirus as the pub company reported its first annual loss since 1984 (The Times £).

Boots told staff they were “encouraged” to come into its headquarters in Nottingham, where Covid-19 infection rates are the highest in England, even after the government advised people to work from home where possible. Employees said messages from senior managers – seen by the Guardian – indicated they were expected to be at their desks for at least part of the week.

Black Friday to become ‘Black November’ as shops draw up Covid-secure plans for sales frenzy (The Sunday Telegraph).

The BRC publicity drive to ‘shop early, start wrapping, enjoy Christmas’ launched this weekend and aims to spread demand during the busiest shopping season of the year (The Observer).

US retail sales grew in September at their fastest pace in three months even as concerns linger over the economic recovery amid uncertainty about additional stimulus measures (The Financial Times £).

Alibaba is spending $3.6bn to buy a controlling stake in one of China’s top supermarket operators as it doubles down on grocery delivery, a key growth engine for the ecommerce group during the pandemic (The Financial Times £). The investment in Sun Art Retail Group will raise Alibaba’s 36.2% stake to 72%. 

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