Retail Gazette was launched in September 2010 and is designed for use by retail professionals who want up to the minute information on the UK retail industry. We publish independently-sourced news stories, interviews, comment and analysis relating to the industry across Grocery, Fashion, E-commerce, Property, Technology, Supply Chain, HR and Entertainment.
// The Hut Group acquires prime space at 100 King Street, Manchester
// Will be converted into a space to showcase products & experiences from its stable of beauty fascias
// THG owns retailers Christophe Robin, Lookfantastic.com, Espa, RY, Glossbox & Illamasqua
The Hut Group is set to open a brand new space in Manchester which it would use to showcase products and experiences from its stable of health and beauty fascias.
The online retail company said it has acquired a 12,000sq ft ground floor and basement space within the iconic 100 King Street building in Manchester city centre, which formerly housed a Jamie’s Italian restaurant.
The Hut Group (THG) said it plans to undertake a significant refurbishment programme of the space that will convert the former restaurant site into a “World of THG” contemporary retail and experiential marketing space aimed at showcasing the its stable of health and beauty brands.
“The acquisition of the iconic 100 King Street site further expands our innovative marketing infrastructure,” chief executive Matthew Moulding said.
“The development programme to create the World of THG will provide a new and innovative environment for customers and influencers to discover and fully experience our prestigious brands.
“In addition, while continuing to expand our international presence, as a Manchester-born business we’re committed to the North West and growing our employment base in the region.”
The acquisition of 100 King Street is closely aligned to THG’s recent £50 million investment in the King Street Townhouse and Great John Street Hotel, and further builds on the acquisition and development of Hale Country Club & Spa in 2016.
In addition, THG recently broke ground on Icon, the new logistics and global content creation studio at Icon Manchester Airport.
The completion of Icon will allow for circa 2000 new roles to be created across THG’s workforce.
Within the next 12 months, THG will be breaking ground on “THQ”, the retail company’s new business campus that will support up to 10,000 jobs and represents the UK’s largest bespoke office development outside London.
THG said its new space at 100 King Street in Manchester will be be sympathetic to the iconic heritage design.
Designed in 1928 by renowned British architect Edwin Lutyens, the Grade II-listed building was his major work in Manchester.
Built in 1933, 100 King Street originally housed the Midland Bank with the ground floor used as the main banking hall.
In addition to the former banking hall, THG has acquired the basement space which still comprises the original banking vault and safety deposit boxes.
THG operates online beauty retailers such as Christophe Robin, Lookfantastic.com, Espa, RY, Glossbox & Illamasqua.
// Sainsbury’s cuts prices on 125 summer selection products ahead of summer
// The discounts are in addition to Sainsbury’s slashing prices on over 1000 own-brand products since February
// The price cuts means customers can save a total of 15.9% on a Sainsbury’s barbecue basket
Sainsbury’s has slashed prices on 125 of its summer foods in addition to its price reductions on over 1000 own-brand products since February.
The new price cuts means customers can save a total of 15.9 per cent on a Sainsbury’s barbecue basket – £6.95 – as the UK heralds the start of summer with an expected heatwave later this week.
The Big 4 grocer expects to sell 68 per cent more burgers, 50 per cent more ice cream, 150 per cent more sun care products, and 35 per cent more rosé wine this weekend thanks to the anticipated heatwave.
Sainsbury’s also said its customers can earn five times more Nectar points for every £1 spent across selected categories – valid until July 9, and can earn 10p off per litre on fuel when they spend £60 or more on groceries in store or online – valid until July 2.
“Our customers love enjoying the sunshine with friends, family and their favourite summer food, which is why we are pushing prices down on some essential summer products,” Sainsbury’s food commercial director Paul Mills-Hicks said.
“With a weekend of hot weather ahead, we know our customers will be stocking up on everything from sausages to strawberries and they can find great quality products for fantastic value at Sainsbury’s.”
Tesco is set to become the latest major retailer to go cashier-free as it aims to modernise its operations to compete with the likes of Amazon Go.
The UK’s largest grocer is understood to have enlisted the help of Israeli tech start-up Trigo Vision, which recently secured $7 million (£5.5 million) in seed funding from Hetz Ventures and Vertex Ventures Israel, to help it develop the technology.
Trigo Vision has already developed cashierless system similar to Amazon Go’s, using cameras and machine learning to automatically track items customers pick up and add them to a virtual basket.
Customers will be prompted to add their payment details to Tesco’s app, allowing them to be charged automatically when they leave the store.
This tech was demonstrated during Tesco’s recent capital markets day, in which it also revealed it could soon introduce autonomous delivery vehicles to its store network.
Tesco is already testing delivery robots at its stores in Milton Keynes as part of a collaboration with Starship Technologies, the technology company behind rival Co-op’s autonomous delivery operation.
This comes as Amazon plans to dramatically ramp up its Go grocery store roll out over the next few years, aiming for around 3000 stores by 2021, including locations in the UK.
// Superdry has postponed its annual results, which had been due on July 4, until July 10
// Follows recent profit warning and a boardroom clear out
// Superdry’s founder Julian Dunkerton returned to the boardroom after narrowly winning a vote in April
Superdry has delayed releasing its full-year results following a recent profit warning and its recent boardroom clear-out after the return of the fashion retailer’s founder.
The company’s annual results, which had been due on July 4, has now been postponed until July 10.
Superdry said the move comes as it looks to work out the impact of changes in accounts from a store review, which saw it announce provisions for onerous store leases and store write-downs.
In addition, a trading update last month – the first since founder Julian Dunkerton narrowly won a shareholder vote in April that saw him re-instated on the board – saw Superdry warn that profits would be lower than expected after sales crashed in the final quarter.
However, the retailer said an accounting change relating to store provisions is set to benefit underlying profits in 2018-19 and subsequent years.
“As a consequence of the complexity of the work related to that provision, coupled with the recent management transition, Superdry has agreed with its auditors that it is appropriate to delay reporting its preliminary results for a short period to allow that work to be completed,” the retailer said.
Dunkerton’s election to the board triggered a mass exodus of Superdry directors, including chief executive Euan Sutherland.
The boardroom election also saw former Boohoo director Peter Williams given the chairman role for the company while Dunketon took on the reigns as interim chief executive.
Since then, Dunkerton has implemented a raft of changes, including increasing the range available online, putting more stock into stores and reducing price-slashing promotions.
Meanwhile, industry veteran Nick Gresham took on the role of interim chief financial officer on June 3, taking over from Ed Barker.
Superdry is pursuing a programme to deliver more than £50 million in cost savings by 2022.
It will also continue a store review which was announced in December under the previous management.
Net sales rose by 11 per cent to SKr57.47 billion (£4.81 billion) in the three months to the end of May, compared with the same period a year previously, while pre-tax profit fell to SKr5.93 billion (£500 million).
Shares in the company rose 10 per cent in early trading in Stockholm.
“The H&M group continues to increase full-price sales, reduce markdowns and increase market share, showing that customers appreciate our collections and the improvements we are making to the product assortment and the customer experience,” H&M chief executive Karl-Johan Persson said.
H&M expects net sales in June to increase by 12 per cent.
// Hundreds of staff at Sainsbury’s Waltham Point warehouse take part in strike action today
// It is over a dispute over changes to its absence policy
// The Waltham Point warehouse is Sainsbury’s biggest depot and serves all London stores
Almost 400 workers at the Sainsbury’s distribution depot in Waltham Point are on strike today over a dispute regarding changes to the retailer’s absence policy.
It comes after 73 per cent of union members voted in favour of industrial action earlier this month.
// One of Bonmarché’s largest shareholders said it is “disgusted” by the company’s decision to make a U-turn on Philip Day’s takeover bid
// Cavendish Asset Management is Bonmarché’s third-largest investor and has a 10.8% stake
Bonmarché’s recent U-turn on Edinburgh Woollen Mill owner Philip Day’s £5.7 million offer has faced backlash from one of the company’s largest shareholders.
Cavendish Asset Management, which is Bonmarché’s third-largest investor with a 10.8 per cent stake, said it was “disgusted” with the board’s decision to consider the bid after rejecting it back in May.
Garnier will be based at Kingfisher’s London headquarters.
He has served as Carrefour’s hypermarket director since 1997, and has also spent time as the managing director, before being executive director for Asia and chief executive of Carrefour China in 2017.
The news of the appointment follows Carrefour’s plans to sell a controlling stake in its Chinese division to Suning.com.
Meanwhile, Kingfisher, which owns B&Q and Screwfix in the UK, said it has hired Garnier thanks to his experience in “significant businesses”.
“Thierry is a highly talented international retailer and proven business leader, with a strong track record over many years at Carrefour,” Kingfisher chairman Andy Cosslett said.
“In what was a rigorous recruitment process, Thierry stood out for the board from a strong list of candidates due to his recognised operational know-how at a multi-national retail business, his delivery of long-term value creation, and his experience in driving leading edge digital innovation, most recently in China.”
Garnier added: “For over 20 years, I have had a great passion for retail, for retail teams, and for understanding and addressing changing customer behaviours.”
Earlier this month the UK Government turned down recommendations to give staff a say over their chief executive’s pay, rejecting calls for greater worker representation.
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee had urged the government to force firms to appoint at least one employee representative on their remuneration committees in March.
In its official response published on June 13, the government resisted calls for a stronger link between executive pay and ordinary salaries, stating that “the UK companies and group structures mean one method will not suit all”.
“The government’s response to our report on executive pay represents a missed opportunity to rein in bosses’ pay and link CEO pay to that of the rest of their workforce,” committee chair Rachel Reeves MP said.
“The public are rightly appalled by extravagant CEO pay packages. The success of a business is rarely solely down to the chief executive and there should be greater efforts to ensure that workers have a share in the profits too.”
Reeves previously warned that unjustified chief executive pay packages could be “corrosive of trust in business” in the UK.
The BEIS’s other recommendations included urging firms to set caps on executive pay and use profit-sharing schemes to link executives’ pay to average staff salaries.
The government said it did not back calls for an absolute pay cap, saying it was for firms and their shareholders to decide on the appropriate model for them.
Rewards for risk?
There’s a perceived wisdom that chief executive pay offers rewards for risk. “Pay for performance” is the mantra most companies use when explaining their compensation plans, and it’s generally understood that a chief executive’s fortunes should rise and fall with the company’s fortunes.
Yet chief executives’ earnings at FTSE 100 companies have risen four times faster than the average national earnings over the past decade, according to a BEIS report. All this at a time when CVAs have resulted in almost 1000 store closures since 2017.
Meanwhile, a record net 2481 stores disappeared from the UK’s top 500 high streets in 2018 – 40 per cent more than in 2017. Not to mention that 164,100 retail jobs are expected to be lost in 2019 alone.
What happens when retailers are undergoing periods of monumental change, and years of store closures, marginal profit gains and missed targets? On one side, it’s clear strong leadership is needed more than ever to navigate a business out of tough trading.
On the other hand, skewed bonuses and pay rises towards executives appear grossly unfair to staff. The Retail Gazette examines four examples of executive pay and bonuses increasing for retail executives, both in line and in contrast to their respective company’s fortunes.
Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe
Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe is on track to receive a 40 per cent boost to his annual bonus despite presiding over the Big 4 retailer’s failed merger with Asda.
Coupe, who last year was caught singing We’re in the Money while waiting to be interviewed on live TV about the now-failed merger with Asda, saw his total pay package increase to £3.88 million compared to £3.63 million in the year before, according to Sainsbury’s annual report.
Broken down, his overall pay rose almost seven per cent while his annual bonus came in at £593,000 – an almost 40 per cent increase compared to £427,000 last year.
However, Coupe’s deferred share award decreased 23 per cent to £582,000.
Finance chief Kevin O’Byrne and Argos boss John Rogers have also been lined up for pay increases this year, receiving £2.2 million and £2.5 million respectively.
It comes after Sainsbury’s was left with a £46 million bill for professional advice relating to its takeover of Asda, which the CMA ended up blocking in April.
At the time of its annual report being published, Sainsbury’s remuneration committee said it was “comfortable with the bonus outcomes, particularly when the broader context of the retail market performance is considered”.
However, just last weekend shareholder advisory body Glass Lewis challenged Sainsbury’s board and pay committee to explain the size of executive bonuses following a crash in shares.
“The committee have failed to outline the impact, if any, of the failed deal on the bonus outcomes of the executives, particularly in light of share price performance as a direct result,” Glass Lewis stated.
It warned the reward could represent “divergence of bonus outcome from shareholder experience”.
Shareholders will vote on pay at the firm’s annual meeting on July 4, when Coupe is likely to face questions about the collapse of Sainsbury’s share price to below £2 a share.
“Executive pay at Sainsbury’s is set by the remuneration committee and bonuses are subject to stretching targets,” a Sainsbury’s spokesperson told Retail Gazette.
“The business has hit a number of targets this year, including increasing profit, reducing net debt and increasing the dividend, which is why we have paid a bonus to eligible colleagues across the group.”
Siobhain McDonagh MP, who often advocates for better working conditions for retail employees, said: “Executive bonuses are supposed to be about rewarding success, but what we repeatedly do in corporate Britain is reward failure.
“Meanwhile, for longstanding shop floor staff with years of service, the same rules do not apply.”
Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe
Marks & Spencer’s boss Steve Rowe will see a 48 per cent rise in his pay packet for the year, despite the bellwether retailer revealing its third consecutive decline in full-year profits.
With annual pre-tax profit down 9.9 per cent as the retailer’s restructuring plans take hold, all staff bonuses were cancelled across the company due to missed targets.
Despite this, due to a long-term bonus payout of £621,000 relating to a target Rowe achieved in 2016, the chief executive will see his total pay for the year rise by 48 per cent to £1.7 million, compared with £1.1 million a year before.
M&S’s board decided to give Rowe a £24,500 pay rise to his basic salary of £810,000, although it noted he had not received a basic pay rise since 2016.
In M&S’s annual report for 2019, the retailer notes that “each executive director may receive a car or cash allowance as well as being offered the benefit of a driver”, a benefit Rowe takes advantage of, as did Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne until he left the company in summer 2018.
“In line with the wider business salary increases of 2-4 per cent, Steve received an increase of three per cent,” a Marks & Spencer spokesperson told Retail Gazette.
“This is the first change to salary since his appointment to chief executive in 2016. No bonus has been awarded as threshold profit before tax target was not met this year.”
M&S also pointed out that no employees were awarded a bonus this year, and that their customer assistant rates are £9 an hour – ahead of the national living wage of £8.21 and in line with the Living Wage foundation rate of £9.
When executive salaries are so high, even a three per cent rise can be hard to swallow for staff seeing their benefits cut.
The deferred bonus dates back to 2016, the same year M&S came under fire for ditching its anti-social hours pay in order to offset a rise in wages.
Shortly after Rowe was appointed chief executive in April 2016, the retailer announced in June 2016 that it would boost basic pay by 15 per cent for its 69,000 shop-floor staff, but would cut pay premiums for staff working after 6pm, on Sundays or on bank holidays.
It was reported at the time that M&S executive directors declined any salary increases due in July 2017, but Rowe will now benefit from the deferred bonuses he was offered in the same year.
M&S did not comment when questioned by Retail Gazette on whether Rowe had been offered any similar deferred bonuses in 2019.
Emblazoned at the top of M&S’s annual report for this year is the statement: “M&S is a leading retailer with a strong and unique heritage of brand values, extraordinary colleagues and customers who want to see it succeed again.”
While there’s nothing untowards about the mathematics behind Rowe’s pay for this year, what kind of message does it actually send to its 80,000 employees concerned by store closures and another year without a bonus?
Asked to comment on the disparity of pay between retail chief executives and their workers, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) pointed out the discrepancies between sectors.
“Retail industry chief executives are some of the highest paid across the economy,” general secretary Paddy Lillis told Retail Gazette.
“Even in light of the crisis on our high streets, the discrepancy between chief executive pay and business performance has continued to widen.
“Staff are being asked to bear the brunt of pressures on businesses through fewer hours, restructures and job losses, while directors continue to receive substantial increases in pay.
“That is incredibly frustrating and can be demoralising, so there needs to be a different approach. The focus of remuneration policy should be on improving pay for retail staff who serve the customers.”
Meanwhile a spokesperson for British Retail Consortium (BRC) told Retail Gazette that “pay and remuneration is an operational matter for each individual business”, and declined to provide further comment.
The BRC’s neutral response raises the following questions: does the wider industry deserve a say in how its executives are remunerated, and the awards made available to them? Or should employees and customers alike consider it something they can vote with their feet with?
John Lewis Partnership incoming chairwoman Sharon White
Earlier this month John Lewis Partnership announced that Sir Charlie Mayfield will be replaced as chairman of the partnership by Ofcom chief executive Sharon White in 2020. White will be paid a £990,000 salary, which is a huge climb up from her £275,000 salary at Ofcom, although her new position is considered to be one of the toughest in retail.
A long-held argument for high executive pay is that they help consistency with retaining chief executives, and by appealing to the best talent, they’re able to keep them. White was believed to be in line as governor of the Bank of England, where she would have received a salary of £480,000 – less than half of what she will now receive.
However, John Lewis Partnership’s staff – known as partners – will have to wait until her arrival in 2020 to see if she’s a worthy match for the firm, which owns the eponymous department store as well as Waitrose.
Executive pay may look unfair on the surface, but as we can see at John Lewis, they can also mean appealing to the best talent out there, and keeping them.
JD Sports chairman Peter Cowgill
For a final example, consider JD Sports. The retailer’s chairman Peter Cowgill is set to receive a £6 million bonus to reflect his “exceptional performance” and to compensate for a lack of pension contributions.
In its annual report published in May, JD Sports’ remuneration committee said Cowgill’s bonus would be paid in four equal instalments of £1.5 million in October and February, then again in October next year and February 2021.
The committee justified the bonus because Cowgill, who has led the sportswear retailer since 2014, has not received any long-term award under an existing long-term incentive plan in the past two financial years.
The committee also said there were no plans for Cowgill to receive “any awards under the executive long-term incentive plan for the forthcoming financial year or in the future”, and that he not received pension contribution payments since 2013.
JD Sports’ 10-year long-term incentive plan, adopted in 2014, pays bonuses sporadically and in cash instead of shares.
“The payment is, therefore, being recommended in part to compensate the executive chairman for [no pension contributions] and in part to recognise the exceptional performance,” the committee said in the retailer’s annual report.
Is a new approach to remuneration needed?
Retailers aren’t beholden to the general public or even its staff over pay. While many would look to the government to set caps around executive pay and bonuses, their reaction to the BEIS report suggests this won’t be happening any time soon, despite public outcry.
Each retailer now faces their own challenges in navigating an unprecedented time for the sector, with those aforementioned CVAs, store closures and job losses changing the landscape. And yet salaries for executives remain sky-high, when virtually every other aspect of retailers’ finance has come under intense, renewed scrutiny.
“At a time of slow wage growth — when public attention is more focused on fairness in pay — these awards have served to undermine the reputation of British business and accentuate perceptions of unfairness,” states BEIS’ report on executive pay.
When retail executive salaries are set at these levels, both bonuses and expectations are always going to be skewed. Perhaps it’s time to re-examine the top-heavy approach to remuneration for morale for the rest of retailing staff, if nothing else.