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21
Feb-18
Wednesday

Wesfarmers’ first half profits down 80%

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Inside Retail also reported that Wesfarmers’ first half profits sunk by more than 80% as a consequence of the $1.3 billion impairment related to their UK hardware venture and Target in Australia.  The operating profit fell slightly, by 2.7%.  It looks like the overseas venture wasn’t that well thought through…

Steinhoff Asia Pacific secures vital funding

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Inside Retail reported that Steinhoff Asia Pacific (APAC) has secured funding from its existing banking partners, with a $300m banking facility provided by its existing syndicate of six local and international banks.  This allows Steinhoff to continue its operations without obstacles, given that the new banking facility has been struck on normal commercial terms based on the strong financial performance of Steinhoff APAC in 2017, and will secure its funding requirements for the next 12 months.

High online sales equals high return rates

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According to the National Retail Federation consumers are doing about 20% of their fashion spending online, and about 30% of apparel and footwear purchased online is returned. This trend forces some fashion retailers revamping their returns policies and testing new programs like a Zara pop-up where online shoppers can pick up and try on purchases and do on-the-spot returns and exchanges.

Amazon Prime members get 5% off at Whole Foods

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USA Today reported that Amazon now gives Prime members a 5% discount when they shop at Whole Foods Market stores using their Amazon Rewards Visa Cards. Amazon Prime members pay a $99 annual fee for benefits including free shipping and video streaming, and the Rewards Visa comes with other perks including 5% discounts on Amazon purchases.  We are watching with interest to see when Amazon realises that by applying their ‘who cares about profit’ philosophy they are progressively destroying their newly acquired subsidiary…

Facebook weary after US indictment of Russian citizens

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According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is feeling the heat after the US indictment of Russian citizens for interfering in the 2016 election.  According to the Journal’s Christopher Mims, Facebook’s networks, like others throughout history, formed quickly by leveraging new communications technologies—and then just as swiftly were taken over by a handful of people who consolidated their influence over millions of people.  Democracy as we know it is in peril and in decline.  This is having, and will continue to have, massive impact on the social fabric and the economies of the developed world, Australia included.

Godfreys stops paying dividends ahead of revamp

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The Australian Financial Review reported that the vacuum cleaner retailer Godfreys have stopped paying dividends as a new chief executive embarks on a business revamp.  Godfreys has over 200 stores in Australia and New Zealand and its sales have been dropping by substantial numbers (nearly 9% in the first half of 2017/18).  The problem we see is the gargantuan scope of work in front of the new CEO – according to the AFR practically everything in the business needs to be changed.  Businesses don’t have capacity to make such massive shifts.
20
Feb-18
Tuesday

Super Retail Group set to acquire Macpack?

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The Australian Financial Review reported that apparently, Super Retail Group is about to announce a new acquisition – outdoor clothing and equipment retailer Macpack, for $135 million.  The acquisition is expected to add $100 million to the group’s turnover.  Macpack was acquired over two years ago by CHAMP Ventures for $70 million.  Not a bad return…

Specialty Fashion Group appoints Daniel Bracken CEO

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Specialty Fashion Group has a new CEO, Daniel Bracken, following the departure of Gary Perlstein.  Daniel moved across from a deputy CEO role at Myer and he previously worked as a CEO of The Apparel Group.  He definitely has a challenging task on his hands, as SFG is undergoing a restructure and a number of bidders have lined up to buy the business or some parts of it.

US President could impose heavy import tariffs on steel and aluminum

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Geopolitical Futures reported that over the last 12 months the US authorities have quietly put in place mechanisms, which now allow the US President to impose heavy import tariffs on steel and aluminum.  If such tariffs were to be imposed, they would have a material impact on trade between the US and China as well as Canada.  It could also mark the beginning of a protectionist spiral.
19
Feb-18
Monday

Tesco developing concept store to compete with ALDI and Lidl

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Channel News Asia reported that Tesco in the UK is developing a discount store concept intended to compete with ALDI and Lidl.  Apparently, the store would be a separate banner with more limited inventory.  Based on our experience, this will most likely fail – to operate a successful discount operation requires a different culture, which cannot be manufactured on demand.  Coles’ failed in attempts to succeed in this market illustrate the point – Price Point fiasco, followed by the dilution and the destruction of the BiLo brand.

Lew continues campaign to restructure Myer Board

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The Financial Review commented on the Myer woes following the resignation of Myer’s CEO.  AFR noted that Garry Hounsell, who assumed the role of Executive Chairman didn’t propose a new strategy for Myer, but promised to accelerate (‘turbocharge’) the existing one.  Salomon Lew-backed Premier Investment wasn’t satisfied and it keeps pushing for Myer board to be restructured.  On Friday, Premier gained access to Myer’s shareholders register and will be preparing a targeted campaign to gain shareholders support.