Blog: Leonie BarrieM&S leak draws conspiracy theories

Leonie Barrie | 14 January 2013

Conspiracy theorists had a field day last week when UK retailer Marks & Spencer was forced to release its Christmas trading update early after the results were leaked. An internal attempt to discredit chief executive Mark Bolland, a rival or potential bidder seeking to destabilise the business, or a simple mistake? 

Whatever the reason, it didn't soften the blow of worse-than-expected third-quarter sales figures, with general merchandise - which includes clothing and footwear - taking the majority of the hit. "Dismal," "disappointing,' and "lacklustre" are some of the adjectives used by retail analysts to sum up M&S's results.

It was only the lack of discounting that allowed M&S to protect its margins and avoid a profit warning.

But global sourcing giant Li & Fung Ltd was unable to escape such a fate, warning of a 40% fall in full-year core operating profit and naming a new president to lead its US unit, where sales and margins have weakened. Except for LF USA, all other parts of the group's business performed as expected, it added.

Fast Retailing Co, operator of the Uniqlo casual clothing chain and Asia's biggest global fashion brand, expects to see its full-year sales topping JPY1 trillion for the first time, along with record profits. Reporting "considerable gains" across its business during the first quarter, it also announced plans to eliminate hazardous chemicals from its entire global supply chain and products by 2020.

And the apparel operations of Singapore-based Ocean Sky are to be acquired by Luen Thai Holdings (LTHL) for US$55m. The agreement will see LTHL's subsidiary Sunny Force Limited acquire Ocean Sky's wholly owned subsidiary, Ocean Sky Global, with the larger group positioned to offer a wider product range.

The US government, meanwhile, has unveiled details of proposed flexibilities it wants to introduce into the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement which will allow importers to buy scarce clothing, textiles and yarns from outside the bloc. The plan recommends creating a 'short supply' list of yarns, fabrics, and textiles that cannot be sourced or manufactured from any of the member TPP countries.


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