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Sainsbury’s profits rise again

Category : Business

Sainsbury’s said it had outperformed competitors and celebrated the ‘milestone’ of non-food sales reaching £1bn for the first time

Profits at Sainsbury’s have risen again as the supermarket maintained its run of success under chief executive Justin King.

It came as the retailer also announced it was taking full control of Sainsbury’s Bank in a £248m deal to buy the 50% stake held by taxpayer-backed Lloyds Banking Group.

Full-year results to 16 March showed underlying profits up 6.2% to £756m, though the bottom-line pre-tax figure fell 1.4% to £788m when property disposals were included.

King, who took over at the supermarket amid sliding sales nearly a decade ago, remained bullish about its prospects despite the economic downturn.

He said: “Whilst we see no near-term change in the current economic situation, we remain confident that by continuing to invest in our long-standing strategy and by understanding and helping our customers, we are well positioned for future growth.”

Total sales rose by 4.6% to £25.6bn, driven by 33 consecutive quarters of like-for-like sales growth.

Sainsbury’s said it had outperformed competitors, citing figures from earlier this year which showed it had achieved 16.8% market share, its highest for a decade.

The results were boosted by what it called the “milestone” of non-food sales reaching £1bn for the first time.

Grocery online sales were nearing the £1bn mark, while Sainsbury’s convenience stores took £1.5bn, the company announced. During the year, it opened 14 new supermarkets, eight extensions and 87 convenience stores.

The supermarket, which sponsored the Paralympic Games and was also involved in the events to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, said: “It has been a year like no other.”

David Tyler, chairman of Sainsbury’s, said the decision to take full ownership of Sainsbury’s Bank would “benefit both customers and shareholders and allow its full potential to be realised”.

The bank, launched in 1997, has delivered five successive years of profit growth, the company said. Profit before tax in 2012/13 was £59m.

King said: “We see a great opportunity to increase the number of bank customers by offering accessible, high- quality financial service products which reward customers who bank and shop with us.

“We expect the bank to become an important source of profit diversification and growth, building on the strengths of our core business.”

Waitrose reports sales surge after avoiding horsemeat scandal

Category : Business

Supermarket says it is winning shoppers from Tesco after no horse DNA was found in its products

Unlike many of its rivals, Waitrose has benefited from the clean bill of health it was given during the horsemeat scandal, with the upmarket retailer reporting an 11% boost in sales in the past three months.

The company, which was unaffected by the appearance of horse DNA in any of its products, said customers trusted the stores over its competitors and that it had been winning shoppers from Tesco – one of the worst-affected grocers.

The managing director, Mark Price, said: “I think we’re a business that has got a heart and soul, which we haven’t lost through the economic downturn, and we want to help our customers while being true to our principles.

“There are moral issues in some of the ways things are produced and customers may not have as much money in their pockets, but want to know now more than ever where their meat has come from and that it has been treated fairly.”

Fresh meat sales increased 12% over the last three months, with prepacked beef sales up 15%. Customers topped 5 million over the quarter for the first time in the supermarket’s history, along with a 50% rise in online grocery sales, which are now worth £300m a year.

Although no horsemeat was found in Waitrose products, the company did discover pork in some of its beef meatballs. Price admitted: “That was embarrassing and we ended that relationship with the supplier. But we’ve since launched our own frozen processing plant, so we know exactly what goes into our food.”

The new factory will open next month and it means several frozen meat lines have been taken off Waitrose shelves as bosses wait for the new site to open.

The company, part of the John Lewis Partnership, now sources all its beef from the UK, including in its ready meals, sandwiches and fresh mince.

Waitrose corned beef is also being produced in the UK for the first time, after its rival Asda found the horse drug phenylbutazone – or bute – in its own-brand corned beef. This week Waitrose also announced that all fish would come from independently certified sustainable sources within three years.

According to the latest Kantar Worldpanel retail data, Waitrose’s market share grew to 4.9% in April, compared with 4.5% last year, gaining customers faster than Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons combined.

Price also believes one of the biggest causes of a shift to Waitrose has been the company’s price promise, matching Tesco on 7,000 items and also beating Sainsbury’s on some products.

He said: “We are less expensive than we were perhaps historically, but I think customers are now realising we match Tesco and in many cases beat Sainsbury’s on price. Also, some of the basic lines we sell are better quality than Tesco finest.”

Last year Waitrose sales were up 6.7% to £5.76bn, with an operating profit of £292.3m, up 12.2%. It led to staff earning a 17% bonus.

With Waitrose’s online service continuing to grow, it could end its exclusive product relationship with Ocado after it was revealed that the online grocer was in discussions with rival Morrisons over launching a delivery service.

Tesco’s empire: expansion checked in UK and beyond

Category : Business

Tesco is struggling to find new avenues for growth on home turf and is scaling back some of its international plans, especially in a recession-scarred Europe

UK stores

As the UK’s biggest supermarket, Tesco is struggling to find new avenues for growth on home turf. Shoppers are no longer keen on the large hypermarkets that Tesco has done so much to develop, so it was forced to write off £804m of property assets and admit that nearly half of its long-famed pipeline of development land was now surplus to requirements. Profits slid 8.3% in the UK last year as Tesco focused on opening its local convenience stores and tried to tempt shoppers back to its biggest outlets with price cuts and investment in warmer, brighter interiors. This year it plans up to 160 new convenience stores and will continue to revamp bigger stores after years of under-investment, partly with the help of eateries such as recent acquisition Giraffe and coffee chain Harris + Hoole.


The internet is important to Tesco as one of the few areas of retail enjoying rapid growth. Online grocery sales rose 12.8% to £3.2bn last year and Philip Clarke was keen to stress how important a multi-channel presence is for the business. Tesco now has five “dark stores”, where employees assemble customers’ online orders, to serve its web business. A sixth opens later this year. However, the non-food website Tesco Direct suffered as sales of electrical products were squeezed by competition from the likes of Amazon, while Clarke admitted that Tesco’s in-store displays of electricals were not up to scratch.


Tesco began trialling banks in its stores in 2006 and said it hoped to offer current accounts from 2009. It has since expanded into mortgages, insurance and credit cards, but the current account is not set to arrive until 2014. Meanwhile, revenues at the bank slid 2.2% to £1bn and profits dived 15.1% last year as Tesco took a £115m hit from PPI mis-selling.

Tesco’s overseas ventures


Launched 2004

Number of stores: 131( incl 117 hypermarkets)

Revenues: £1.4bn

Three years ago Tesco said it wanted to open 80 shopping mall developments in China by 2016, amounting to 40m sq ft of floorspace- bigger than its UK estate. Today it has just over 10m sq ft and recently announced the closure of five under-performing hypermarkets.Its plan for shopping malls has not proved as popular as it hoped and it aims to “refocus on a more profitable approach” in the country. Still, China remains “strategically important” to Tesco. It opened 12 new hypermarkets last year and will launch online groceries in Shanghai later this year, with ambitions to go to up to 50 cities.


Launched 2008

Number of stores: 0

Revenues: £57m

Tesco set up a wholesale business and provides 70% of the products used in the Star Bazaar hypermarket chain owned by the Tata group. It had planned to be in the country when law changes allowed foreign retailers to open up – but a change in government strategy continues to face delays and the business is tiny. Total sales growth fell back to 25%, in local currency, from 40% last year. Tesco says it wants to “refocus on a more profitable approach to growth”


Launched 2002

Number of stores: 47

Revenues: £937m (up 6%)

Tesco is Malaysia’s biggest operator with 11% market share via a partnership with local group Sime Darby. It is one of only three countries where Tesco saw underlying sales growth last year (0.5%).

South Korea (Homeplus)

Launched 1999

Number of stores: 520 (inc 133 hypermarkets)

Revenues: £5.3bn (no growth)

Tesco is the second largest grocer in South Korea, its biggest and most successful overseas business. Its Homeplus chain, has proved a hotbed of innovation, developing ‘virtual’ stores which allow shoppers to buy items displayed on subway walls via their phones and cultural centres where locals can take classes in everything from the cello to French. Korea is one of three countries where Tesco plans to focus capital investment, but sales have taken a battering since the South Korean government restricted Sunday trading hours in a bid to protect small stores. Tesco said the new laws cost £100m of profits last year and expects a £30m-£40m hit this year as restrictions continue.

Thailand (Tesco Lotus)

Launched 1998

Number of stores: 1,433 (inc 149 hypermarkets)

Revenues: £3.7bn

Thailand was Tesco’s fastest growing market in 2012 with sales up 16% in total and 3.1% when the impact of new store openings is stripped out. The supermarket controls 15% of Thailand’s grocery market making it the country’s biggest player. Online groceries launched in Bangkok in February and the company says this is one of three international markets where it will focus international investment.


Launched 2003

Number of stores: was 121 – all now sold

One of chief executive Philip Clarke’s first major decisions on starting work was to pull out of Japan where the British grocer had struggled to compete in the notoriously tricky market. Tesco was forced to pay local group Aeon £40m to take its loss-making Japanese business off its hands last year and only managed to finally extract itself earlier this year.

Czech Republic

Launched 1996

Number of stores: 376

Revenues: £1.35bn

Tesco is focusing on the internet and almost halting new store openings. Last year it launched an online grocery service and snapped up the Zabka and Koruna chains three years ago. It has begun reducing the size of its largest stores by renting out space to retailers like C&A and Sports Direct. One of the markets worst affected by the economic crisis with four consecutive quarters of declining GDP. Sales fell back 2% last year or 7%. Still Tesco opened seven hypermarkets there last year, and 40 other shops.


Launched 1995

Number of stores: 216

Revenues: £1.8bn

Growth stalled completely last year and profits were held back after the government imposed a crisis spending tax three years ago. It was Tesco’s first international business . The supermarket is now market leader but opened just one new hypermarket last year and plans for more are on hold.


Launched 1996

Number of stores: 446

Revenues: £2.2bn

Tesco says it has no plans for more hypermarkets and is focusing on expanding its online business. Sales slipped back 4% once the impact of new store openings is stripped out. Poland as a whole saw consumer spending slip back in the fourth quarter.

Republic of Ireland

Launched 1997

Number of stores: 139

Revenues: £2.4bn

Tesco now claims to be Ireland’s leading grocer. No major new stores are planned as consumer spending has been hit by austerity measures. Tesco didn’t open any hypermarkets there last year and only five small stores. Underlying sales slipped back 1% as austerity measures continue to bite.


Launched 1996

Number of stores: 126

Revenues £1.1bn

Slovakia is now home to Tesco’s international clothing division, providing non-food stock to all the supermarket’s central European stores. Tesco says it sees Slovakia as one of its strongest positions. Sales rose 6% last year but underlying sales fell 1%. The country is facing serious economic difficulties and is a small market.

Turkey (Kipa)

Launched 2003

Number of stores: 191 (inc 56 hypermarkets)

Revenues £745m

After 10 years in Europe’s most eastern country, Tesco has been forced to scale back its ambitions dramatically. It has dropped plans to open large stores in the East of the country amid intense cost inflation and tough competition. Total sales rose 13% last year but underlying sales were flat and the business made a loss amid high cost price increases.

USA (Fresh & Easy)

Launched 2007

Number of stores: 199

Revenues: £700m

Tesco said it wanted 1,000 stores across the west coast of the US when it launched its Californian offshoot in November 2007. It booked a loss of £1.2bn on the business, including trading losses for the current year of £169m, as Tesco confirmed it was quitting the country. Early mistakes such as automatic tills and ready meals were a turn-off for American shoppers.

Tesco’s exit from US to cost £1.2bn

Category : World News

Tesco’s annual profits fall for the first time in almost 20 years as the UK’s biggest supermarket confirms it is pulling out of the US.

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VIDEO: Supermarket brands ‘causing confusion’

Category : Business

Some supermarket own-brands are so similar in looks to some household names, they are confusing customers, according to consumer group Which?

Read the original: VIDEO: Supermarket brands ‘causing confusion’

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Companies behaving badly? It’s time to move on

Category : Business

From mis-selling and big bonuses to supporting the arms trade, we talk to disenchanted people who sought out an alternative

Barely a month goes by without another tale of a major UK company mis-selling to customers, dodging taxes, or generally behaving badly. Among the most notable, Barclays was fined £290m last summer as banks were caught rigging market rates and, earlier this month, energy giant SSE was slapped with a record-breaking £10.5m fine for mis-selling.

But is all this bad behaviour by corporations having any affect on customer behaviour? Apparently so. A steady stream of disillusioned consumers are seeking out better alternatives among the small providers who still know how to value their customers and deliver on their promises. We talk to five of them about their experiences.

Internet shopping

Screen printer Jane Foster, 43, makes toys, quilts and cushions using vintage fabric. When she started eight years ago she sourced fabrics on eBay and sold her wares through the site as well, but has since turned to Etsy.

Etsy is a site designed to showcase and sell a wide range of hand-crafted goods supplied directly by the maker. Originally started in the US by a craftsman, it now has followers in Britain and the rest of Europe.

“It gives me confidence buying on Etsy as you get background on the seller, see pictures of them in their studio and it makes you trust them more,” says Jane who lives in Totnes, Devon with her five-year-old daughter Polly and her partner Jim Palmer, 63.

“I bought a lot of vintage fabric on eBay before it got so huge. Now it’s often not accurately described or arrives stained and in poor condition. And I’ve struggled in the past to get a refund. eBay used to be quite cheap but now everyone is charging more.”

She also doesn’t shop on Amazon except when she’s looking to add to her collection of second-hand children’s books: “I like to help small, independent booksellers, but you do get bombarded by emails from Amazon.”


As a student at the University of Birmingham, Philippa Parry, 25, opened a bank account with NatWest.

She is doing a post-graduate degree in sustainable development run by a London charity, Forum for the Future. But it was when she was working in Barcelona for three years at a business school that she started to question the ethics of Britain’s big banks.

“There were so many examples of where they were not acting in people’s best interests with the banking crisis and bailouts. Why haven’t more heads rolled and why are they still getting big bonuses?” she says. “I was also concerned about what they were doing with my money, whether they were supporting the arms trade and not trading ethically.”

She looked at different options for an ethical bank on campaign site Move Your Money. She chose the Co-operative Bank when she moved back to the UK in August, a switch that went through smoothly.

“It’s a little difficult when I need to cash a cheque as the Co-op hasn’t got branches in my area,” says Philippa who lives in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. “But most of the time I do online banking. Customer service is always great, I don’t have to wait for ages and the people I speak to are always pleasant. But it’s more about ethics. That’s what bothers me.”


Sales account manager Kate Brooks, 37, has experience of two major energy providers – nPower and EDF – and felt she was always treated as though she was a nuisance whenever she contacted either.

“I was really fed up with their attitude,” says Kate who lives in a three-bedroom house in Polegate, East Sussex with her partner Fred Faust, 56, and their eight-month-old baby Oscar. “They always made me feel like I was in the wrong if I rang up, even if it was simply to provide my meter reading. The people on the end of the phone just seemed to be reading from a script and I was always put in a long queue before getting through.”

She looked around and found Ovo Energy, a smaller provider. Not only was it one of the cheapest in the market for her but she liked the way they presented themselves.

“Ovo came across as keen, open and honest, and I liked that they explained about how they invest in renewable energy,” she says. She applied to move through uSwitch and found the whole process very easy.

“I’ve been so impressed with them I’ve been telling other people about them including my Dad.”


This time last year Joanne O’Connell made the decision to live for a year supermarket free. “I had ethical qualms about shopping in a supermarket, and it’s not even that cheap, so why bother?,” she says. Twelve months on and O’Connell – who you can follow on Twitter at @byesupermarkets and who wrote about her experiences online at – is still supermarket free.

“When I started I wasn’t sure if I could manage for a fortnight, and when friends asked me how I’d celebrate the end of my challenge, I used to say ‘with a major blowout in Sainsbury’s',” she says.

“But what a difference a year makes. Swerving the supermarkets has forced me to change my approach to buying, growing and cooking food. I am spending less, but also eating better, healthier meals.”

To achieve her goal, O’Connell used the year to grow a lot of her own produce. She also took to foraging for food, such as nettles, and learnt to bake bread. For dried foods and other essentials she took to bulk buying from a wholesaler, which she says saved her around a third on supermarket prices.


IT developer Onkar Pathre, 31, was disillusioned with Virgin Media when he moved a month ago to his new home in Crystal Palace in south-east London with his wife Priya, 29, a dentist.

He was part way through an 18-month contract with Virgin for broadband, TV and landline but, despite wanting to stay with Virgin, he was told he’d have to cancel his existing contract and start a new one.

There was a charge of £174 for discontinuing the service and he would have to pay £24.99 a month on his new 18-month contract. And the fee only covered broadband and phone because Virgin couldn’t provide TV in his area.

“I’d been with Virgin for more than three years but it wasn’t prepared to simply switch the service to my new address. A friend told me about Utility Warehouse,” he says.

“It doesn’t advertise, just relies on word of mouth. And it pays the termination charges if you switch to them. I don’t have to take out a contract for broadband, so I can leave at any time.”

It turns out Pathre was given the wrong advice by Virgin and he should have been able to move without paying the disconnection charge. However, he has no regrets.

His new deal works out cheaper – costing £14.99 a month for the landline and £3.99 for the first nine months, rising to £7.99, for 14MB broadband. “The customer service seems very good so far,” he says.

Morrisons axes 700 more jobs

Category : Business

New cash-counting machines to replace 689 workers, six months after 165 jobs scrapped at supermarket’s Bradford HQ

Nearly 700 back office staff are to lose their jobs at Morrisons as the UK’s fourth largest supermarket chain cuts costs after last year’s fall in profits.

New cash-counting machines are being installed in stores, meaning that 689 cash office managers and supervisors would no longer be needed, the company said. It added: “The introduction of new technology is an ongoing programme to ensure that Morrisons continues to improve its competitiveness.”

The decision comes six months after 165 jobs were scrapped at the company’s Bradford headquarters when its financial transaction processing service was outsourced to an Indian firm.

A four-week consultation has started with staff; however, it is understood that they are unlikely to be redeployed to other jobs.

The last major round of redundancies by the company was in 2006, when about 2,000 workers were axed as a result of the closure of three depots, in Kent, Bristol and Warrington.

Morrisons has been struggling recently, despite coming through the horsemeat scandal unscathed, thanks to its integrated supply chain.

The lack of an online groceries operation and its limited number of convenience stores – the two biggest growth areas in food sales – mean the company is lagging behind competitors.

The most recent data by analysts at Kantar Worldpanel revealed Morrisons’ market share fell to 11.7% in March, compared with 12.3% at the same time a year earlier; it was the only major supermarket to suffer a fall.

At its annual results last month, the company reported its first decline in profits for six years – a 7% fall in pretax profits to £879m on sales of £18.1bn. Like-for-like sales were down 2.1% and 400,000 shoppers went elsewhere.

Morrisons is the only big four supermarket yet to launch a groceries website. However, chief executive Dalton Philips said one would start in early 2014 and it was revealed bosses had been in discussions with Ocado.

The market is worth £5.6bn a year and is expected to double within a decade, with rivals at Asda, Sainsbury’s and market leader Tesco all reporting double-digit growth in online sales.

Another double-digit growth area which Morrisons has failed to capitalise in is convenience stores, which has been dominated by Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

Philips said he wants to focus attention on opening about 100 new M Local branches, mainly in London and the south east, where the business is least exposed. Earlier this year the company snapped up 62 former Jessops, Blockbuster and HMV stores from administrators after all three businesses went bust.

Asda welfare cards to be given to Birmingham’s poor

Category : Business

Supermarket teams up with council to give out ‘crisis welfare payments’ to neediest residents in form of prepaid cards

Asda has joined the UK’s biggest local authority to provide emergency welfare to some of the country’s poorest people.

Birmingham council, which represents around 1 million people, said that from 1 April Monday it would give out crisis welfare payments in the form of prepaid cards that could be redeemed only in Asda supermarkets.

The Labour authority said the cards – which Asda said were similar to their gift cards – would restrict spending to a list of predetermined goods, which would exclude tobacco, alcohol, phone-related expenditure and fuel.

As part of welfare changes in April, local authorities will take over running the non-statutory emergency welfare loans and grants known as the social fund, which are meant to help people deal with crises such as leaking roofs, broken boilers and lack of food.

After the Department for Work and Pensions said it would no longer administer social fund payments centrally, Birmingham said that, unlike other councils, it had decided not to give out small one-off cash grants and loans from its newly devolved £6.1m fund.

Instead it would offer prepaid Asda store cards and directly provide bigger items such as white goods to those in emergencies.

Last year the fund, described by Labour peer Lady Lister as “a safety net under the safety net”, helped more than 50,000 people in financial crisis in the city.

The council said it was working out how to stop people purchasing inappropriate items but said the cards were not food vouchers or tokens, and were indistinguishable from other prepayment cards accepted by supermarket chains.

Other councils have said they would also use voucher schemes or plough their social fund budget into food banks. But Birmingham appears to be the first local authority to pair up with just one supermarket chain.

Asda, which is owned by US retail giant Walmart, said its low prices offered an “efficient use of the public purse”.

Asked why Birmingham was restricing choice by partnering only with Asda, a council spokesman said the chain had been “the only main supermarket in the city willing to work with the council”. He said the council hoped the scheme would be extended to other stores after a period of evaluation.

“The scheme is being introduced and will be closely monitored and evaluated for the first three to six months. This is so we can assess how the scheme is being used, by whom, and the levels of grant, crisis payments and overall expenditure.

“This will entail very close working with the supermarkets to address any issues that arise and make further improvements .”

The council added it had decided not to issue cash payments in order to “build in an element of control by utilising payment cards”.

Asda said: “We responded to an approach from Birmingham city council, which was looking for a simple way of delivering social fund payments to claimants.

“Making money available via Asda gift cards rather than cash is a safe way to ensure claimants have access to a huge range of products at low prices, and is an efficient use of the public purse.”

Claudia Wood, deputy director of thinktank Demos, said that by using store prepayment cards, it was not possible to stop people spending on certain products. “In a supermarket you can also buy alcohol, toys, pet food, lottery tickets, everything else … you can’t stop particular products.”

Wood, who recently wrote a report on prepay cards and the benefit system, said that – aside from officials going through receipts retrospectively – the only other way to ensure spending was restricted to certain items was to get checkout staff to monitor goods as they were being bought.

“The only thing you could do would be to have someone at the checkout picking out the things you’re not allowed to use. But … the idea that checkout staff would be enforcing government policy is just ludicrous.

“[It would be] a massive inconvenience, really humiliating at the checkout, a massive imposition on staff to apply that ruling … It just wouldn’t work … I don’t think the supermarkets would stand for it.”

Sainsbury’s annual sales grow 2.1%

Category : Business

The supermarket chain Sainsbury’s reports higher sales for the year to the end of March and record customer numbers.

Continued here: Sainsbury’s annual sales grow 2.1%

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George Osborne limbers up for a tax crackdown

Category : Business

The chancellor faces a stern test in the Commons; Greggs is urged to cut down its ambitions; retailers look to the internet

As you may have read elsewhere, George Osborne has a big week coming up. On Wednesday he will deliver what must be the most eagerly unanticipated budget in decades – not least, presumably, by the chancellor himself, who after last year’s debacle, will attempt to redefine the term tax relief by escaping from the chamber with his red box intact.

Those who claim to know about these things are expecting a dull speech as, firstly, Osborne cannot really risk another downgrade to his political credit rating; and secondly, the country’s finances are still in such a pickle that he possesses few real options.

Still, the standard tactic in such situations is to launch an attack on tax avoidance – as Osborne did last year. Then he railed against dodgers holding expensive properties within “corporate envelopes” warning: “I will not hesitate to move swiftly, without notice and retrospectively if inappropriate ways around the new rules are found.”

Let’s hope he’s limbered up. Tax advisers have been peppering wealthy clients with notes suggesting clever ways of restructuring their property portfolios, while, as one expert puts it: “I don’t use the word lightly, but this whole [clampdown] is pretty much a farce and will have cost a fortune to set up and operate”.

City wants Greggs to start slicing back stores

Of all the measures George Osborne has been tempted to introduce this week, sticking VAT on freshly baked goods probably never attracted him.

You’ll recall he tried that last year with a move dubbed the “pasty tax”, leaving the bakery chain Greggs (among others) to claim that the move could have a “material impact” on its profits and force it to close some stores.

Osborne doesn’t talk much about that aborted effort these days, but the issue of Greggs and the odd store closure does recur – as we will likely hear this week when Roger Whiteside, the chief executive who is just a month into the job, has his first stab at a major results statement.

He needs to come up with something approaching a strategy to make Greggs look more appetising to parts of the City. Top of the menu, according to analysts at Liberum, will be greater investment in the shops, cutting the rollout of new stores, and being more aggressive on closing underperforming outlets. Still, the early signs of Whiteside’s ability to slash are not encouraging. The company’s corporate website features a video of his predecessor, Ken McMeikan, gushing about ancient plans to add 600 new stores.

Retailers hope for net gains

Not long ago, retailers were preoccupied by acquiring more and more stores. It used to cause a right old stink (particularly with the supermarkets), but now that a glorified version of mail order is back in vogue this dash for more shops seems oddly quaint.

Tesco is so worried that internet shopping will make its vast warehouses even more unattractive places to shop that it spent £50m last week in the hope that the prospect of a Giraffe burger (it’s the brand, not a food scandal) will make a trip to the supermarket a family day out. If that shows how desperate things have become, we will get another reminder about the growing influence of internet retailing this week with two key clothing companies updating the City.

The biggest of these will be Next – which you may have noticed still possesses the odd store. That’s fine, but the City is more interested in the website, a business perfected years ago with Next Directory and which prompted a Panmure Gordon upgrade last week.

Then comes pure internet retailer Asos, which is expected to continue impressing, as well as unveiling a US warehouse plus updates on new websites in Russia and China. It’s a sign of how fashionable Asos has become that these projects are viewed as exciting. For other sectors, they’d be risky.