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.
Retailers are increasingly putting in more effort to pursue the right approach to employees’ mental health, and that should be welcomed.
Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from May 13 to 19, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation in order to offer an opportunity for employers and individuals to raise awareness of mental health in the workplace.
Most businesses, if not all, offer first aid to injured workers, but it remains highly unlikely that they offer mental health advice and support to employees living with depression or anxiety. This is an issue that retailers are aiming to tackle, but it’s no secret that their initiatives to do so range from tokenistic to acts of good intention.
“One third of people with mental health problems report having been dismissed or forced to resign from their job”
Sarah West, employment specialist at property law firm Shulmans, said employers may not be familiar with mental health first aid, but training can provide basic skills for individuals to improve resilience and help them recognise and respond effectively to signs of mental illness in others.
“Not only is it beneficial to ensure that key individuals in the organisation understand the importance of mental health and appropriate support available, but also it encourages employees to feel more confident to speak up if they believe they will be met with compassion and understanding,” she told Retail Gazette.
One particular campaign that is helping companies approach mental health in the workplace is Time To Change, a charity launched in 2007 aimed at tackling stigma and discrimination around mental health.
“We call upon all employers to sign the Time to Change Employer Pledge,” Time To Change employer engagement manager Karen Shaw said.
“Signing marks a commitment to create a culture where employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health, should they choose to.
“The pledge also provides a structure upon which to plan activities and help form a strategy around mental health and well-being.”
“Now is a critical time to demonstrate to staff that their mental health is a priority”
Shaw told Retail Gazette that employees, as well as customers, are likely to gravitate more towards retailers who announce their support for mental health awareness.
“It demonstrates to workers that their employer is committed to supporting staff well-being and that they won’t be treated differently for speaking about their experiences,” she explained.
She added: “We know that people with mental health problems have the highest ‘want to work’ rate of any disability group – but have the lowest in-work rate.
“It also improves staff retention. One third of people with mental health problems report having been dismissed or forced to resign from their job and 70 per cent have been put off applying for jobs, fearing unfair treatment.”
Shaw believes that mental health awareness should be retailers’ top priority because the industry is constantly changing and “now is a critical time to demonstrate to staff that their mental health is a priority”.
“It can help with retention and if staff feel able to talk about their concerns with their mental health then they are less likely to leave,” she said.
Retailers that have signed the Time To Change pledge so far include Marks & Spencer, Tesco, WHSmith, Asos, the John Lewis Partnership, Pets at Home and Footasylum.
Retail leaders might feel pressured to reveal what they have done two raise mental health awareness – regardless of whether they’re already trying or not. Especially when rivals publicly announce their support for mental health initiatives.
“Publicly supporting Mental Health Awareness Week does send a very strong message to staff and customers that mental health is important to you”
“Publicly supporting Mental Health Awareness Week does send a very strong message to staff and customers that mental health is important to you as a retailer,” Shaw said.
“However, this support should be authentic. An organisation that backs a mental health campaign without first taking steps to support their own staff could be accused of being tokenistic and it might even have a negative impact.”
Meanwhile, mental health charity Mind found that at least one in six employees experience common mental health problems.
Mind also found that work is the single biggest cause of stress in people’s lives – and a lack of employer support and training can contribute to the deterioration of mental health.
Nevertheless, the responsibility to ensure retail employees feel confident in the workplace falls on leaders and managers. Trust can be built with the simple action of leaders regularly checking in with staff.
“We seek awareness and understanding of mental health through a pragmatic and sustainable approach”
Iceland corporate affairs director Keith Hann told Retail Gazette: “We seek awareness and understanding of mental health through a pragmatic and sustainable approach.
“Working closely with the leading trade charity, Retail Trust, we ensure that all of our employees and their families have easy access to practical care and support whenever and wherever they need it.”
Iceland’s efforts in recognising mental health in the workplace has been noticed by the media, when it was featured in women’s weekly magazine Stylist last year in its list of “Best UK Companies Supporting Staff Mental Health Awareness”, along with women’s activewear retailer Sweaty Betty.
The grocer, which has around 25,000 employees, said it offered Mental Health Awareness training for all of its elected Talking Shop Representatives, who are trained to recognise the signs of mental health challenges and signposted to the numerous support services available to them.
Meanwhile, West said mindful employers can be recognised by their efforts in understanding their employees and their employees’ concerns.
“Appraisals and supervision are a valuable way of achieving this, as well as return-to-work interviews following illness or other absences,” she told Retail Gazette.
“They are not only a way to monitor the progress or productivity of an employee, but also an opportunity for individuals to speak about personal as well as professional concerns.
“The conversations need to be two-way conversations.”
// Major shopping centres dominate areas of high taxation costs outside London despite falling values
// Average rateable values for business rates at shopping centres can be as high as £3500 per square metre
Major shopping centres dominate areas of high taxation costs outside London despite falling values, new research as found.
According to real estate advisory firm Altus Group’s annual business rates review, despite a fall in shopping centre values thanks to an increasing number of CVAs, the average rateable values for business rates at shopping centres can be as high as £3500 per square metre.
CVAs have become popular with retailers to not only close unprofitable stores hit by increasing cost pressures but to also seek rent reductions.
Just this week, Landsec revealed it had written down the value of its UK shopping centres by 11.7 per cent last year as rental income declined.
The average business rates bill in England and Wales is based upon an average rateable value of £269 per square metre, with that cost being 28 times higher on London’s Oxford Street, according to Altus Group.
Altus Group added that the average annual rental value per square metre for a shop on the open market on April 1 forms the basis of business rate tax liabilities until March 31, 2021.
The firm highlighted that nine out of the 10 most expensive retail post codes by rateable value are located in London.
The highest average rateable value of £7549 per square metre is the W1C postcode area which incorporates Oxford Street, with the second highest of £5675 per square metre for the W1S postcode, which includes New Bond Street.
Meanwhile outside Greater London, the highest rateable value per square metre and the eighth highest overall in England and Wales, is the M17 postcode in the Trafford area of Greater Manchester.
At a rate of £3514 per square metre, the area is home to the Trafford Centre.
Outside Central London, higher costs per square metre are dominated by postcodes which house other major shopping centres.
The DA9 postcode includes Bluewater, RM16 has Lakeside, BS34 has Cribbs Causeway and MK9 is the home of Centre:MK.
New rateable values for the next revaluation will come into effect on April 1, 2021 and will determine business rates liabilities until March 31, 2024.
They will be based upon an estimate by the Valuation Office Agency of the property’s open market rental value on 1st April 2019, the antecedent valuation date.
Altus Group head of business rates Robert Hayton said landlords were having to share a “disproportionate burden of the high street pain”.
He added: “Commensurate tax reductions by virtue of what is happening in the retail rents market generally will only come into effect in two years time at the next revaluation and even then such reductions are likely to be gradually phased in without a change in approach by government.”
// CMA has confirmed it was investigating the JD Sports-Footasylum deal
// JD Sports announced the £90m acquisition of Footasylum in March
// The CMA’s investigation means the retailers are banned from taking any actions to merge
The UK’s peak competition regulator has confirmed that it is investigating JD Sports’ recent acquisition of Footaslyum.
JD Sports announced in in March that it would acquire the footwear retailer for £90 million.
In April, the deal moved forward with a green light from shareholders.
JD Sports had already owned a stake in Footasylum, having bought 19 per cent of its issued share capital in February.
A £90 million deal for the remaining shares was made and the acquisition subsequently became unconditional on April 12.
However, JD Sports and Footasylum parent company the Pentland Group have been issued with an initial enforcement order from the CMA as investigations take place into the deal.
The CMA inquiry will look into whether the acquisition will result in the “substantial lessening of competition” in the UK market.
Until a decision is made by the CMA, JD Sports and Pentland are banned from taking any actions to integrate the two businesses.
When JD Sports purchased its stake in the retailer in February, it had told investors that it would not purchase Footasylum outright.
Restrictions had been in place regarding the number of shares which JD Sports could purchase in the company, but these were lifted in February.
The subsequent takeover followed a slump in Footasylum’s value after it suffered two profit warnings last year, which it attributed to tough trading conditions on the high street.
Meanwhile, JD Sports has seen revenues surge over the past year, driven by its acquisition drive which also included a £1.5 billion deal last month to buy Pretty Green, the fashion retailer founded by former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher.
The retailer reported a 49.2 per cent increase in annual revenue to £4.7 billion for the 52 weeks to February 2, while pre-tax profits rose 15.4 per cent to £339.9 million.
// A new customer service innovation team has been launched at Shop Direct
// It comes after almost 30% of Shop Direct’s customer contact came via digital channels in 2018.
Shop Direct has introduced a new specialist team dedicated to customer service innovation.
The company, which operates online retailers Very and Littlewoods, this week appointed a 20-person squad that will work in four-week cycles to deliver change and enhance Shop Direct’s digital customer service capability.
They will be based at Shop Direct’s Liverpool head office.
The first two weeks will be spent dealing directly with customer queries via the phone and web chat to identify improvement opportunities.
The insight and data gathered will then be used to re-write processes and test new technology in the second two weeks.
The team will also use new technology such as an online tool to help resolve specific issues within a single call by following a ‘”decision tree”, and allow instant news alerts to be shared with all 1500 customer service colleagues.
The launch of the customer service scheme comes after almost 30 per cent of Shop Direct’s customer contact came via digital channels in 2018.
“We want to lead the way for customer service innovation and create the empowered frontline colleagues of the future, equipped with complex problem-solving ability, digital skills and the latest technology,” Shop Direct customer service director Mark Billingham said.
“The customer closeness team and centre will help us reach this ambition.”
The Co-op will supply Superdrug with a range of more than 40 food products – including vegan and gluten-free choices.
The Superdrug branches taking part in the trial are located in East Midlands, Bristol and Edinburgh Airport, and in Brighton, Sheffield, and London’s Victoria and Fenchurch Street railway stations.
The move continues the expansion of the Co-op’s own-branded products into new channels, and follows the wholesale agreement to supply 2200 Costcutter stores, its move into franchise stores and, the acquisition of Nisa.
“We are delighted to be introducing Co-op food-to-go in some of our travel branches,” Superdrug head of convenience Chris Brown said.
“We know our customers will appreciate the range available, and the fact it offers a great value choice for busy commuters and travellers.”
Co-op Food trading director Matt Hood said: “We are continually exploring new ways to bring our award-winning products closer to shoppers and to reach new customers.
“Becoming food-to-go partner for Superdrug is an exciting development as Co-op continues to grow its brand, further increasing the accessibility of own-brand products.
“These transport hubs provide an exciting and dynamic location to meet the shopping needs of busy consumers and offer our value and values conveniently.”
// Missguided opens its first store in Vietnam
// It’s located at the Saigon Centre mall in Ho Chi Minh City.
// The opening follows the closure of its loss-making Westfield Stratford flagship in February
Missguided has just opened the doors to its first store in Vietnam, as the fashion retailer pushes on with international expansion while downsizing in the UK.
The new store is located at the Saigon Centre mall in Ho Chi Minh City and follows the closure of its loss-making flagship in Westfield Stratford City at the end of February.
Missguided’s store in the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent remains open, while it recently opened its first international franchise store in Dubai.
The Dubai store is part of a partnership deal with retail group Azadea, in which the British retailer is poised to roll out stores, websites and click-and-collect services in the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt.
According to Missguided’s most recent accounts filed with Companies House, it swung to an operating loss of £37.7 million for the 12 months leading up to April 1, 2018, compared to a profit of £580,000 the year prior.
However, group turnover for the year increased 4.9 per cent to £215.91 million.
// Richemont net profit up by 128% to £2.43 billion in the year to March
// Sales grew by 27%
// Jewellery and luxury watch brands delivered the best performance
Richemont has revealed its net profit for the year to March has increased by 128 per cent to €2.79 billion (£2.43 billion).
The Switzerland-based holding company which owns fashion ecommerce Net-A-Porter among many others, said it may have missed analysts’ expectations with its full-year results but remained positive thanks to the revaluation of shares in the Yoox-Net-A-Porter operation acquired last year.
Sales grew by 27 per cent in the period, while gross margin fell to 61.8 per cent from 65.2 per cent.
Sales excluding the acquisitions rose eight per cent, with growth in all business areas and most regions, and it called out double-digit increases in directly operated jewellery shops and specialist watchmakers’ shops.
Meanwhile, Richemont chairman Johann Rupert said the year under review was one of “transition and consolidation” and “in a relatively supportive environment,” it saw “growth across all business areas and distribution channels”.
Last year, Richemont said its jewellery and luxury watch brands delivered the best performance.
However, the company said challenges remain and is currently focusing on developing its leather-goods as well as aiming to increase its online presence.
Its jewellery and watches’ growth was attributed to notable brand launches including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre and IWC.
Richemont said its online retail division now accounts for 16 per cent of the group’s total sales and is valued at €2.26 billion (£1.97 billion).
Furthermore, Europe sales grew by 37 per cent thanks to Yoox Net-A-Porter and Watchfinder.
Europe accounted for 29 per cent of group sales compared to 27 per cent a year ago.
However, when excluding online distributors, Europe sales rose by a mere one per cent, while UK sales remained flat.
Sales in Asia Pacific accounted for 38 per cent of group sales and saw a 20 per cent growth. The company’s retail channel was bolstered by 20 new store openings in the year.
US sales grew by 40 per cent, leveraging from the inclusion of Yoox Net-A-Porter.
Sales in the Middle East and Africa were at the weakest with an eight per cent growth. Excluding online, sales fell two per cent, and the region currently accounts for seven per cent of total group sales.
Sainsbury’s has released a new Future of Food report exploring what high-tech solutions we will have to food in 2025, 2050 and 2169.
The report, commissioned by the UK’s second largest grocer, invited futurologists, plant scientists and food historians to predict “how our food could start to change in the future and what that might mean for our customers.”
It predicts everything from AI determined personalised diets, to lab grown meal kits, algae milk, and a strict diet of jellyfish and insect protein.
Within the next five years, the growing focus on environmental issues, health concerns and animal welfare issues is due to have an increasing effect on our diets.
There will be a major shift away from traditional farming techniques towards hydroponics, which allow plants to be grown without soil, potentially leading to supermarkets growing fresh herbs and vegetables directly instore.
As the adoption of veganism continues to rise, the search for alternative proteins is also expected to see the sector grow by more than 25 per cent by 2025. This will lead to the rise of products like algae milk, seaweed caviar and insects, which are already being introduced in the form of cricket-burgers and cricket-based pasta in parts of Europe.
By 2050 meat will almost entirely be grown in labs or 3D printed as the rapid population growth make traditional meat farming unsustainable.
Plant based growth serum and stem cells will be used to grow a range of previously animal based products including beef, fish, eggs, milk and gelatine.
Abundant resources including seaweed and jellyfish, which have exploded in numbers in recent years due to rising sea temperatures, will be incorporated into our diets in a big way.
Looking even further ahead, Sainsbury’s report suggests that by 2169 we will be reversing climate change by growing forests in deserts, and people will have microchips embedded inside them to establish their perfect diet.
Furthermore traditional food could be done away with altogether, replaced by patches or implants which deliver the exact daily needs of micro-nutrients.
// Morrisons has revealed its food weighing service to help customers find exact ingredients
// The initiative aims to cut down on food waste
// The UK currently generates 10.2m tonnes of food waste each year
Morrisons has launched a “We’ll Weigh What You Need” service nationwide at its fresh food counters to help customers buy exact food items in order to reduce food waste.
The initiative is the Big 4 grocer’s aim to cut down on food waste in customers’ homes as each household in the UK reportedly wastes £500 worth of food each year, according to the government’s Food Waste Champion’s findings.
As part of ‘We’ll Weigh What You Need”, Morrisons’ butchers, fishmongers and deli specialists will serve customers the exact amounts of food they require for a recipe.
Meanwhile, information on portion sizes will be written on counter labels for cuts of meat, fish, cheese, tapas and olives to help guide customers on how much of each ingredient is required.
Storage advice is also provided in stores so customers can stretch their household budgets.
In order to avoid plastic usage, customers can also bring their own containers for the ingredients.
Food waste is currently one of the biggest customer concerns, and just last week the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found that the UK currently generates 10.2 million tonnes of food waste each year.
“Listening to customers has told us they want help at our fresh food counters, because they don’t know how much to buy, they want to reduce their food waste, or they want to reduce the cost of their food shop,” Morrisons director of market street operations Jayne Wall said.
“Our expert counter staff will help them buy exactly what they need, reducing their food waste bill and saving their pennies in the process.”
// Boots will launch digital version of its Advantage Card to simplify access to personalised offers
// It can be found on the Boots app & will allow customers to collect & redeem points directly from smartphones
// Boots’ Advantage Card scheme currently has around 17.1m active users
Boots has revealed plans to launch a digital version of its Advantage Card loyalty scheme to create easily-accessible personalised offers via smartphones.
The health and beauty retailer’s loyalty scheme will be found on its mobile app and will allow customers to collect and redeem points directly to their smartphone as well as find out what their personalised offers are while on the go.
Boots’ Advantage Card scheme currently has around 17.1 million active users, with 1.5 million new members having joined the loyalty program in the past 12 months.
“We are continuing to build on the phenomenal success of the Boots Advantage Card,” Boots UK marketing director Helen Normoyle said.
“Digitising the card makes it more flexible and available, and gives customers more opportunities to tailor and personalise offers, making their shop even more rewarding.”