Retail news from around the world

Ikea India expands its reach

Ikea India is set to expand into tier-2 cities in the second phase of its development following early success in its key markets.

The Swedish furniture-and-homewares giant has established its presence in Hyderabad and Mumbai, and is now working on building a large-format outlet in Bengaluru before moving on to Delhi.

“We want to bring our offering through multi-channel approach,” said Ikea India CEO Peter Betzel. “We want to be present through large-format stores, small stores and even on the online platform.”

The planned stores will be wholly owned by Ikea and will work to ensure half of its workforce are women. The stores will be smaller in size but otherwise functionally similar to its large-format stores in the territory.

Bankrupt Barneys finds a buyer

Two months after filing for bankruptcy, US luxury retail chain Barneys appears to have found a buyer, although whether its stores will continue to trade is still an open question.

Barneys has received an offer from Authentic Brands and investment bank B Riley Financial to purchase the Barneys name and assets for approximately US$270 million ($396 million). 

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the offer is considered a “stalking horse bid”, meaning that it is a starting offer, or the lowest bid that would be acceptable to the company. Barneys remains open to higher offers, but this bid would be honoured should no better deal emerge.

Some Barneys stores may remain open, depending on talks with landlords.

Authentic Brands, which buys fashion brands out of bankruptcy and gives them a second life, plans to license the Barneys name to Saks Fifth Avenue. Saks has discussed opening Barneys departments within its stores and taking over the Barneys website, the Journal has reported.

WH Smith expands airport empire

UK retailer WH Smith has purchased Marshall Retail Group for US$400 million ($586 million) in a bid to expand its growing empire of airport shops. 

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WH Smith began 200 years ago as a news vendor in London but it now sells everything from books to sandwiches to electronics. These days it appears to see its future in airport shops – well away from the retail turmoil of the British high street. It  now has 433 shops at more than 100 airports outside Britain, and outgoing CEO Stephen Clarke told Reuters the retailer plans to open “hundreds and hundreds” more.

Marshall Retail, which is based in Las Vegas, was described by BusinessWire as “America’s largest, independent specialty retailer in the airport and resort marketplace”. It made its name through its souvenir shops in casinos and specialty retail outlets created for brands such as Lego and Harley Davidson. But it seems WH Smith’s interest is in its network of airport shops. It has 59 in the US and Vancouver, with plans to open more than 30 more.

Canada kicks off gloomy Cannabis 2.0

Canada has expanded its legalisation of marijuana to include edibles, beverages, vape pens and drinks. This so-called Cannabis 2.0 legislation comes one year after Canada legalised the recreational use of marijuana.

However, this change does not give much comfort to the companies trading in marijuana products, which continue to struggle with falling share prices and flat sales. Canada’s biggest cannabis companies, including Canopy Growth and Aurora Cannabis, reported larger-than-expected losses in the latest quarter and again pushed back their timelines to profitability.

Because profits remain uncertain for the foreseeable future, the network of retail outlets remains small; producers and analysts say that at least 1000 more stores are needed to move product efficiently. 

There is also a patchwork of conflicting regulations to navigate, as each province is responsible for its own retail rules and taxes. And a restriction on the amount of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, on edibles will add to producers’ costs.

Warehouse problems hit Asos

UK online fashion retailer Asos says problems with warehouses in the US and Germany were behind a 68 per cent slump in annual profit, a situation which it says has now been fixed.

Asos is working through a major overhaul of its warehouse and technology capabilities, moving from a UK-focused to a global model. But issues in its Atlanta and Berlin warehouses restricted supply, hitting sales and pushing up costs.

“With hindsight we were too ambitious in tackling two international warehouses at the same time and our internal capabilities and bandwidth hadn’t kept pace with the changing scale of our business,” CEO Nick Beighton said.

Asos made a pretax profit of £33.1 million ($62.2 million) in the year to August 31, down sharply from £102 million ($194 million) in 2017-18. 

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