Blog: Leonie BarrieUK retail sector in the spotlight

Leonie Barrie | 23 April 2012

The spotlight last week fell firmly on the UK retail sector. Marks & Spencer saw its fourth-quarter clothing sales hit after running out of stock on a number of its best-selling women's wear lines, and supermarket giant Tesco promised to improve its clothing offer after booking a fall in full-year profit in its UK business.

M&S said its UK clothing sales fell 0.3% in the three months to 31 March after failing to buy deeply enough on its best-selling women's wear lines. It was also caught out by the weather, with not enough knitwear in stock during a cold snap in February.

Tesco, the UK's largest retailer, meanwhile said clothing is one of the areas being targeted as part of a new GBP1bn (US$1.59bn) investment aimed at revitalising its sagging domestic business. The supermarket giant booked a 3.9% fall in general merchandise, clothing and electricals sales in the UK over the year to 25 February.

And luxury UK fashion house Aquascutum finally called in the administrators after efforts by owners Harold Tillman and Belinda Earl failed to stem losses. Hong Kong-based YGM Trading, which owns the licence to Aquascutum in Asia, has already begun talks to buy the rights to the brand in other regions - but the company's factory in Corby in the UK is to be shuttered with the loss of 115 jobs.

While still-high cotton costs weighed on first quarter profit at sock, T-shirt and underwear maker Hanesbrands, the company still managed to beat forecasts and says it believes the worst of the cotton price inflation is now over. Losses in the three months to 31 March came in at a better-than-expected $26.8m.

And two comment articles on just-style during the week garnered a huge amount of interest. In his monthly Flanarant, Mike Flanagan notes that falling apparel imports into the US and EU have largely been due to Asian producers raising their prices, rather than falling consumer demand. And David Birnbaum explains why he believes US retailer Gap has been going consistently downhill for the past 10 years.


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