Britain’s “Black Friday” better left on the shelf

November 27, 2015

The Thanksgiving shopping orgy, recently adopted by the UK, is unhelpful for all concerned. Consumer credit is spiralling, confidence falling and retail margins are under pressure. If shoppers and retailers take a rational view of low prices, the festival will snuff itself out.

Alibaba Singles’ Day frenzy confuses growth debate

November 12, 2015

The Chinese e-commerce group processed transactions worth a staggering $14.3 bln on Nov. 11, 60 pct more than last year. Yet the boost is unlikely to have much impact on annual volumes. One day of online discount shopping also provides few clues about Chinese consumption.

New look M&S has incomplete designs

November 4, 2015

First-half results show the 8.5 bln stg UK retailer has done much to improve itself internally - non-food gross margin guidance was revised up, again. But Marks & Spencer needs to get the top line moving to deliver sustained returns. Fashioning external appeal is a harder task.

Singles’ Day spat shows Alibaba’s jealous side

November 4, 2015

The Chinese e-commerce giant’s annual Nov. 11 shopping promotion has become a national festival. Now a smaller rival has accused Alibaba of bullying merchants into using only its platform. Market power may be good for driving sales, but not if it prompts regulators to weigh in.

Searching for China consumer bellwethers is futile

October 28, 2015

Dubious about official data, investors are scouring corporate results for clues about shoppers’ confidence. Yet iPhone sales, e-commerce transactions and demand for fried chicken offer few clues. There are no consistently reliable proxies for the world’s second-largest economy.

Investors coax Walgreens Boots to swallow Rite Aid

October 27, 2015

Scooping up the No. 3 U.S. drug chain strengthens $98 bln Walgreens as it battles domestic leader CVS. Antitrust is an obvious question given the rough ride Staples has faced with Office Depot, but the hurdles look manageable. Shareholders are certainly not worried.

Wal-Mart outpaced by mass-market trends

October 14, 2015

The mega-retailer’s shares fell almost 10 pct, wiping out more than $20 bln of value, after it warned pay and tech spending would hit next year’s profit unexpectedly hard. Changing shopping habits – think Amazon – and wage pressures are stronger headwinds than investors thought.

Alibaba delivery arm is a financial blind spot

October 2, 2015

The Chinese e-commerce group is a minority investor in the business that arranges delivery of billions of its packages. Yet Alibaba has spent over $6.3 bln on logistics-related deals in the past three years. Even if the investments make strategic sense, shareholders are in the dark.

Tesco’s global hopes can survive Korea sale

September 4, 2015

Britain’s biggest grocer is close to selling its supermarkets in South Korea, reports say. The mooted 4.3 bln stg proceeds would cut net debt in half and relieve operational headaches. Yet an exit need not be the end of Tesco’s international ambitions.

Alibaba still looks pricey despite selloff

August 25, 2015

Less than a year after its $25 bln offering, the web giant’s shares have fallen below their $68 IPO price. Growth worries have afflicted all technology stocks and Chinese ones in particular. But Alibaba’s core e-commerce business is still highly valued compared with its rivals.