Historic Paris emporium to relaunch

Target lifts pre-holiday forecast

US mid-price homewares and fashion chain Target Corp has signalled a strong start to the holiday season, raising its full-year earnings forecast and reporting better-than-expected quarterly results.

Target, the eighth-largest retailer in the US, has spent billions of dollars on building its private-label business and opening smaller stores in college towns and urban areas to lure customers, helping it gain an edge over its rivals. It has pushed aggressively into faster delivery and investments in store revamps.

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In the third quarter, Target reported earnings per share of US$1.36, adjusted, compared with US$1.19 expected. Revenue was US$18.67 billion ($27.5 billion) compared with US$18.49 billion expected. Same-store sales showed growth of 4.5 per cent, compared with 3.6 per cent expected.

The results are in sharp contrast to those of many other retailers, including rivals JC Penney and Kohl’s, which have recently cut forecasts in light of reduced consumer spending.

Target now expects full-year adjusted earnings per share to fall within a range of US$6.25 to US$6.45, compared with a prior estimate of US$5.90 to US$6.20. Analysts had been calling for earnings per share of US$6.18.

Alibaba wins big in Hong Kong listing

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group has raised up to US$12.9 billion ($19 billion) in a landmark listing in Hong Kong, the largest share sale in the city in nine years and a world record for a cross-border secondary share sale, Reuters reports.

The deal will be seen as a boost to Hong Kong following more than five months of anti-government protests and its recent slide into its first recession in a decade.

Alibaba said in a statement it had priced the shares at HK$176 ($33.14) each, a discount of 2.9 per cent to its New York closing price. The price means Alibaba will raise at least HK$88 billion – a symbolic total because the number eight is associated with prosperity and good fortune in Chinese culture.

The total raised from the deal could eventually reach US$12.9 billion if a so-called “greenshoe” over-allotment option were exercised.

Lewis Group defies economic slowdown

South African retailer Lewis Group has reported a 6.1 per cent rise in its half-year revenue, driven by strong sales growth in the first quarter and despite an economic slowdown in the country during the second quarter, Reuters reports.

The furniture and appliance retailer, which caters mostly to middle- and low-income consumers, said its headline earnings per share for the six months ended September came in at 215 cents (22 cents), up 18.9 per cent from 180.8 cents last year.

The retailer has been diversifying to access higher-income consumers and attract online shoppers. United Furniture Outlets (UFO), a luxury furniture retailer owned by the group, posted an 8.8 per cent increase in its sales and an operating profit of 22.6 million rand ($2.23 million).

At the group’s traditional retail brands – Lewis, Best Home and Electric, and Beares – sales rose 3.7 per cent and operating profit was 201.6 million rand.

INspire, the omni-channel home shopping retailer, was the only division to report a loss of 13.2 million rand. This retailer is not expected to break even by the end of the 2019-20 financial year.

Amazon clears air on data

The US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee has questioned Amazon, along with the other tech giants, about its use of consumer and commercial data. The panel is investigating potential breaches of US antitrust law by big technology companies.

In response to questioning, Amazon said it only uses “aggregated data” from sellers in its third-party marketplace, not data from individual sellers.

Such data, also culled from public sources and Amazon’s first-party sales, is available to the company’s retail and private-brand teams, it said in an October 11 document released by the committee last week.

Merchants on Amazon’s platform have long worried that the world’s largest online retailer would use information at its disposal to undercut them.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters seeking comment. In the congressional response, it said use of public and aggregated sales data to spot in-demand products is standard practice in retailing.

Amazon also said it may ask third-party merchants to lower prices on Amazon.com when it finds the sellers asking for less on a competing website.

The committee has said it expects a final report on its probe by early next year.

California sues e-cigarette maker

The state of California has launched a lawsuit against e-cigarette maker Juul Labs, alleging the San Francisco company engaged in a “systematic” and “wildly successful” campaign to attract teenagers to its nicotine devices.

The lawsuit draws on internal correspondence and other evidence, Reuters reports, asserting the company did little to prevent sales to underage customers. It also claims that Juul used a “flawed” age-verification process for online sales.

The state of North Carolina filed a lawsuit against Juul earlier this year, which focused on the company’s youth-oriented advertising and social media campaigns. Other lawsuits are in the works.

Juul, the US market leader in e-cigarettes, has come under intense scrutiny from US regulators, lawmakers and attorneys general over the surging popularity of its products among teenagers in recent years. More than 27 per cent of US high-schoolers used an e-cigarette in the previous month, according to a federal youth tobacco survey released in September, up from 11.7 per cent two years ago.

Historic Paris emporium to relaunch

Luxury goods group LVMH aims to grab a greater slice of tourist spending in Paris as of next April when it relaunches La Samaritaine, a 150-year-old gilded art deco department store. The revamped business will house a hotel and shops and rival the likes of Galeries Lafayette.

Spending by visitors to France remains a major source of income for high-end brands, Reuters reports. LVMH, the owner of such luxury fashion and accessories labels as Louis Vuitton, makes 8 per cent of its sales in France alone, and already owns upmarket Parisian department store Le Bon Marché.

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