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January 4: Welcome back. If you work for Arcadia your seasonal greetings from the boss probably includes a note saying you will have to work five years longer and contribute 50 per cent more into your pension if you want the benefits you had expected at retirement. That, at least, is according to an excellent scoop in The Mirror, which cites a memo saying that the company made “zero contributions” to the fund for 10 years before Philip Green bought the business, which includes Top Shop and Dorothy Perkins. Also, on the face of it, it looks like the scheme was pretty generous. Our retail correspondent, Beth Rigby, has established the memo is accurate but she and Norma Cohen are pinning down additional details. Needless to say, the unions are already fuming. We’re trying to reach Philip, of course, but he is on holiday in Barbados.
The other fascinating story around today is that Canterbury Foods is looking to appoint an administrator, partly as a result of Jamie Oliver’s campaign to improve school food, which the company supplies. Trading in the group’s shares has been suspended. This story is obviously interesting from the point of view of the Jamie effect, which Compass has also complained about. However, it looks like Canterbury’s management is trying to buy the business. We don’t know all the details yet but such a deal might leave quite a sour taste.
Next has published its Christmas trading update, the first of the big retailers to do so. Already, the news from Thorntons and Kookai has not been great but Next seems to have done well – no doubt partly on the back of my boss’s online Christmas purchase of one of these rugs. The stock is up almost 8 per cent after the group said its full-year profits would be ahead of expectations. Next said sales in the 21 weeks to December 24 grew 9.8 per cent. Like-for-like sales were down 3.2 per cent. This is an improvement on the 6 per cent same-store sales decline reported for the six weeks to September 10. We’ll take this as an opportunity to provide you with a guide to the Christmas trading updates due from the retailers over the next few weeks.
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