Early data suggest that the Black Friday weekend was difficult for UK retailers with footfall in shops down sharply and an insufficient rise in online business to offset caution on the high street (Financial Times £). Mobile phones took the strain on Black Friday as shoppers snapped up deals from home, at the bus stop and on the train – dealing another blow to struggling high streets on one of the busiest shopping days of the year (The Guardian).
The UK’s Black Friday was predicted to be a largely online affair and so it has proved, with shopping centres busy rather than frantic and an absence of the queues and occasional outbreaks of fighting that have accompanied previous events (Financial Times £). Barclaycard, a major payments processor, said the total amount spent appeared to be down slightly on last year, although there may have been more transactions.
Americans splashed out record sums on Black Friday online deals last week but fewer of them went shopping in person, according to initial figures (Financial Times £).
The proposed sale of a sandwich business by 2 Sisters Food Group in the same week that the company reported dire fourth-quarter results has caught the eye of the competition watchdog (The Times £). The Competition and Markets Authority said that it was considering whether the agreed sale to Samworth Brothers of the Manton Wood site, in Nottinghamshire, which makes sandwiches, wraps and rolls, would lessen competition. The sale is important to 2 Sisters, because it is using the proceeds from selling subsidiary brands, such as Goodfella’s Pizza, to raise cash ahead of significant bondholder debt repayment deadlines next year.
Waitrose has scaled back a price-matching scheme with Tesco amid fierce competition between supermarkets (The Sunday Times £). Waitrose, owned by the John Lewis Partnership, has quietly stepped away from a pledge to match the market leader on 8,000 branded products. It now applies the scheme to only 1,200 lines.
Dairy Crest, whose stable of food brands includes Cathedral City cheese and Clover margarine, is among a string of firms interested in gobbling up custard and rice pudding maker Ambrosia after it was put up for sale earlier this month (Mail on Sunday). Ambrosia owner Premier Foods has reputedly been asking for bids of more than £100m, according to food market sources. Other interested parties are believed to include German yogurt maker Müller and Ireland-based manufacturer Kerry Foods.
The private equity giant that sold Sky Bet to Bet Stars earlier this year is among potential bidders for a £5.4bn skincare business put up for sale by the Swiss giant Nestlé (The Sunday Times £). CVC, which bought a $703m (£548m) collection of women’s health products from Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva earlier this year, is understood to be among the possible suitors. Other buyout firms linked to the sale process, which is set to be launched in the coming weeks, include TPG and Carlyle.
England’s head of public health has urged ministers to force food firms to prominently display the salt content of their products in a bid to reduce deaths from heart attacks and strokes. All foodstuffs should carry traffic-light-style labelling showing whether they have high, medium or low levels of salt to help shoppers make healthier choices, Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, told the Observer.
Dedicated shelf-edge labels alerting shoppers to food and drink items that are most useful to food banks are to be introduced by a major supermarket for the first time after a trial led to a three-fold rise in donations (The Guardian). From Friday, customers visiting more than 1,400 branches of Sainsbury’s will be urged to include priority items such as tinned fish, meat and vegetables, longlife fruit juice and dried or UHT milk in their shop, for donation after checkout.
Shoppers in Britain were poised to carry on splashing the cash into Cyber Monday, with some forecasts suggesting they planned to spend more than £7bn across Black Friday and the online shopping day (The Guardian). Millions of bargain hunters are expected to go online on Monday to take advantage of generous bargains, dealing a further blow to the struggling high street as the Christmas shopping bonanza takes off.
The country’s leading charity for people with diabetes has been criticised over a £500k partnership with the soft drinks giant Britvic, which sells brands such as Tango and Pepsi (The Times £). Diabetes UK said it has agreed the three-year deal with the beverage producer despite the link between consuming too many sugary soft drinks and the life-threatening disease.
Union members at five warehouses across the UK staged protests on Friday over “inhumane” working conditions during the Black Friday sales (Telegraph). Workers’ union GMB organised several protests at Amazon’s warehouses in Rugeley, Swansea, Peterborough, Milton Keynes and Warrington throughout the day.
“Posh shoppers abandon Waitrose and M&S for Lidl and Aldi”, write Sam Chambers and Liam Kelly in the Sunday Times (£). “Upmarket shoppers are seeking out cheaper prices at the German discount chains.”
An alliance of 27 brewers, retailers and other UK firms have launched a £100million legal claim against a ‘cartel’ of European truck manufacturers (Daily Mail). Adnams, Timothy Taylor and Fuller’s, as well as Poundland, are among those to have appointed lawyers from Edwin Coe to sue in London’s High Court.
Deliveroo, the food delivery start-up, is in talks to raise hundreds of millions of pounds from investors in a deal that could set a valuation floor for a formal takeover bid from rival technology firm Uber. Sky News reports that Deliveroo, one of the best-known participants in the UK’s gig economy, is in the preliminary stages of discussions with prospective and current shareholders about a new funding round.
Uber is planning a dramatic expansion of its $8bn-a-year Uber Eats food-delivery service, sending a shot across the bows of Deliveroo, the London rival it has held faltering takeover talks with (The Sunday Times £).
The food magazine editor who resigned after joking about killing vegans has said he was the target of “astonishing, revolting and obscene vitriol” online after his comments were made public (The Times £). William Sitwell, who was editor of the Waitrose Food magazine, said some people reacted to the press coverage by sending him Instagram messages saying they planned to “fatten up, kill and roast” his two-month-old son, Walter.
Junk food adverts will be banned on London Underground, train, tram and bus services from February under plans announced by London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan (The Guardian).
More than 2,000 coffee shops have opened in Britain in just five years, with some towns now offering more places to get a frothy coffee than a pint of beer, according to a new report (The Times £).
A £16 English sparkling wine made in Surrey has triumphed in an annual consumer taste test of supermarket alternatives to champagne and been named as one of the best value deals for Christmas (The Guardian).
Banks of wild flowers are not just a pretty sight: they could actually help to boost farm crops, research suggests (The Times £). A three-year study on Britain’s biggest courgette farm found that planting wild flowers in field margins attracted bees to pollinate crops and ultimately increased yields by almost 40 per cent.
A shareholder rebellion at Frankie & Benny’s owner The Restaurant Group has put its £559m takeover of Wagamama on a knife edge (The Sunday Times £).
Domino’s Pizza is under pressure to shake up its board as shareholders push for a heavyweight non-executive director to challenge its chairman and chief executive more effectively (The Sunday Times £). Some of the top 20 investors are understood to be lobbying for a new senior independent director to replace Helen Keays, an ex-GE Capital and Vodafone executive, who has served on the board for seven years.
Profits at Fuller, Smith & Turner have slid after the pub company ramped up investment prior to Brexit in a bid to take advantage of “turbulent times” (Telegraph).