Breakingviews

UK slaps capitalism in its “unacceptable” face

July 25, 2016

Lawmakers angry at retailer BHS's collapse are mulling further regulation to protect jobs and pensions. The fiasco epitomises what Prime Minister Theresa May decries as "anything goes" business. It takes UK corporate life into interesting - and potentially painful - moral areas.

Sports Direct scandal debunks UK employment glory

July 22, 2016

UK lawmakers have issued a damning report on the retailer and say working conditions hark back to Victorian times. Founder Mike Ashley has big problems to fix. But there’s a wider economic malaise if workers put up with such poor treatment even when the jobless rate is very low.

Alibaba highlights hurdles in Russia’s pivot east

July 12, 2016

Moscow wants closer economic ties with China, rather than dealing with an unfriendly West. But Russia's poor business climate makes life hard for Chinese companies, although they are used to draconian rules at home. Even e-commerce giant Alibaba has only made modest inroads.

British retail sleepwalks into Amazon-ageddon

July 8, 2016

Real-world stores are burdened with poor demand, too much property and thinning profit. The U.S. tech giant, meanwhile, is hiring 1,000 UK staff and pushing into fashion and groceries. The UK's economic problems could be a decisive moment in the online land grab.

Local brands lead race for China’s savvy consumers

June 29, 2016

From shampoo to snacks, upstart Chinese companies are challenging foreign rivals, a new report shows. They heed digital trends, adapt to local tastes and respond to customers' increasingly sophisticated demands. Western firms that don't follow their lead risk being left behind.

Poundland’s bargain bin status is in question

June 16, 2016

The single price discounter is being eyed by South Africa’s Steinhoff. With shares off by a third since a 2014 flotation, Poundland looks relatively cheap. But online pressures, a struggle to integrate a recent acquisition and tough UK trading will make its suitor cautious.

Debenhams plucks new CEO from arms of its nemesis

May 26, 2016

Amazon is the worst thing that could happen to stodgy old department stores. Yet that’s where Britain’s Debenhams found new boss Sergio Bucher. That makes it one of a handful of UK high-street names headed up by a digital ace. The hire sounds odd, but could be inspired.

Burberry could use refresher in old-school retail

May 17, 2016

A sector-wide slowdown has exposed the inefficiencies in the UK label’s operations. High costs and low sales density show room for tailoring. Burberry chief Christopher Bailey needs help, but of a less than luxurious kind - specifically, some traditional retail expertise.

Tesco boss spies a possible bargain

May 13, 2016

Dave Lewis is opting to take 75 pct of his bonus in shares. That aligns his 4.6 mln pound pay package better with shareholders, whose stock slumped last year. Since Tesco sales are now turning round, his timing may be shrewd. The group stocks a lot of things, but not hair shirts.

One thing Tesco doesn’t stock is pricing power

April 13, 2016

Same-store sales and operating profit are rising, but prices on the UK grocer’s shelves keep falling. It’s a problem for rivals too. Tesco used to be dominant in a concentrated market; now it’s just plain big. Consumers’ gain will be investors’ loss for the foreseeable future.