The High Street, discounts, CVAs, Uber, Playtech & other:
A DAY IN THE LIFE:
Whilst it’s the little things that make life living, it’s arguably also the little things that cumulatively cause upset.
For example, sending a birthday card to one’s brother and having to peel off an ‘£3.00 – easy peel’ label that manages to both not be easy to peel and to remind you that you’ve spent three hard-earned pounds on a bit of cardboard (and 60p on a stamp) that will sit on a mantelpiece somewhere for a day or two before being thrown in the bin.
All of which is annoying but, and we’ll do a bit of a one-eighty here, don’t you think there are some ‘industries’ that are heading for the waste heap?
I mean Langton, perhaps seven or eight years ago, got between thirty and forty Christmas cards to the office but now it gets maybe one or two.
And those are unsigned & ask us whether we’d like to access easy finance or have our website overhauled to attract more visitors suggesting that, whoever is in the business of producing useless paper rubbish, they’d better have a Plan B. On to the news:
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Spiel: When we’re technically competent enough we’ll open our website for historic stories. Interest in the Premium email has been considerable, but we’d like to keep the list down to a manageable size. Get on board while stocks last.
Facts: Langton is to produce a premium version of its email from 1 March priced at just £295 (plus VAT) for a single subscriber or £495 (plus VAT) for multiple subscribers. The free email will be largely unchanged. Drop us a line to join in.
MP’S REPORT ON THE HIGH STREET:
• Whilst mostly frozen by Brexit, a committee of MPs has reported that city centres could become ghost towns as shopping habits change.
• The Housing, Communities & Local Government committee says taxes should be levied on online giants such as Amazon. The MPs called for lower business rates and more regeneration in town centres.
• Around a fifth of sales now take place online. This varies across product type but more than a fifth of non-food products are sold on line and markedly less hand-pulled pints or pizzas to be eaten out of the home.
• Even with F&B, delivery is making an impact.
• The MPs says ‘some formerly thriving shopping areas are likely to become ghost towns and effectively close down altogether unless the government, councils, retailers, landlords and the local community act together.’
• Somebody has to take a hit and nobody, at this stage, is volunteering.
• The Committee calls for more green spaces and stresses ‘experience’ and ‘convenience’.
• Chief Executive of the BBPA, Brigid Simmonds has commented on the publication of a report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee on high streets and town centres, say: ‘As highlighted in the BBPA’s evidence to the Committee, the current business rates system penalises businesses like pubs for investing in their property, as improvements lead to rates rises.’
• The BBPA continues ‘the Committee’s recommendation of exploring the introduction of a 12 month ‘holiday’ on these rates increases is most welcome. This would be a positive step forward in regenerating high streets and town centres across the UK if implemented’.
• UK Hospitality says it applauds the report. It says the ‘report identifies the UK’s hospitality sector as crucial to the health and success of future town centres and makes a number of recommendations to reform business rates.’
• UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls says ‘hospitality businesses lie at the heart of communities across the UK and play pivotal economic and social roles on UK high streets. The report gives due recognition to how crucial the sector is to the high street of the future, as they move away from the shopping-focus of the past.’
• The BII also welcomes the report saying it would like to see a reduction in business rates and a tax on online retailers. BII CEO Mike Clist says ‘the recommendations made in the report are a move in the right direction from government, which will go some way to helping our members overcome the challenges they currently face in their businesses. We know that pubs are vital to the health of high streets up and down the country, but the recognition of this from government is fantastic to see.’
PUBS & RESTAURANTS:
• Still some pretty big discounts out there for Half Term. Toby & Harvester (M&B) kids eat for a quid, Bella Italia (Casual Dining Group) 40% off mains, Prezzo 30% off food Pizza Express 25% off.
• Restaurant Group shares once again bouncing off 10yr lows. Shares were last this price (in adjusted form) in late 2009.
• Fulham Shore’s Franco Manca subsidiary has secured a site in Greenwich market. The group has been looking for a suitable site in the area for a number of years.
• Uber has announced it is to cut food delivery fees in the UK and Ireland and is to allow restaurants to use their own deliveries as competition intensifies with Just Eat and Deliveroo. Uber’s delivery arm will also reduce its maximum cut of the order value from 35% to 30%
• Propel has reported that Polpo is moving closer to a CVA as it struggles with a £550,000 unpaid VAT bill. The Caterer reported last month that a CVA was on the cards as Polpo then closed restaurants in Bristol & London. The Caterer reported ‘a notice pinned to the door of Polpo at Ape & Bird, in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue, announced it has closed permanently to allow the group to “concentrate on our core estate”’. Polpo has 5 remaining restaurants.
• Cannabis drink sales in the US have surpassed $1bn within three years.
• PepsiCo has increased its health and wellness offerings via the acquisition of CytoSport for an undisclosed sum.
• Coca-Cola European Partners is set to invest €500m in 2019 upon next-generation digital solutions, supply chain capabilities, and product availability.
• The premium arm Marston’s, Revere is set to open its 15th site with the Lazy Pig in the Pantry in Chesham.
• Rockfish, the south coast restaurant group, is set to open in Exeter next month, with a another site in Poole to open this summer.
• The Middleby Corporation agrees to acquire the Taylor Company, one of the world’s largest suppliers of soft serve and ice cream dispensing equipment, for $1bn.
• Pret A Manger scraps plans to open a site in Hull and announces it has no plans to come to Hull in the foreseeable future. Rumours were circling last year that the chain had concerns over drug-taking and anti-social behaviour in the city centre.
• The Scottish Beer & Pub Association has launched an initiative that will see a greater emphasis placed on promoting tenant rights and encouraging the sale of local beers & ales. CEO of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, Brigid Simmonds said: ‘As an industry, we are committed to supporting our tenants in running the best pubs in Scotland and this package of initiatives – which will be developed and built-on throughout the year – backs this up by providing a range of assistance. We are continually reviewing the support we provide, as we know our member businesses cannot prosper unless individual, local pubs also succeed’.
• Carrols Restaurant Group, the largest Burger King franchisee in the US, has agreed to buy 166 more Burger King units and 55 Popeye Louisiana Kitchen restaurants for $238m.
HOLIDAYS & LEISURE TRAVEL:
• Riu Hotels & Resorts buys 1.1m more shares in Tui for nearly €10.4m, upping its stake from 3.38% to 3.56% in the German travel giant.
• The European Travel Commission (ETC) reports a 5.1% yoy increase in the number of Chinese arrivals to EU destinations in 2018. The top three EU destinations for Chinese arrivals were the UK, up 2.4%; Germany, up 2.6%; and France, up 7.7%.
• Parkdean Resorts plans to invest more than £40m ahead of summer 2019. More than 760 new caravans will be introduced at a cost of £22.5 million this year plus and £4.4 million-worth of refurbishments.
• Travelopia is set to takeover Enchanting Travel, a German luxury tailor-made operator for an undisclosed sum.
• The UK pilots union welcomes the introduction of an extended three-mile no-fly zone around airports, banning the use of drones that could interfere with aircraft.
• British tourists traveling to continental Europe may have to pay £52 for a visa after Brexit after Spanish demands over the status of Gibraltar derail Brussels’ preparations for Brexit.
• STR US hotel data has indicated that during January US hotels saw occupancy increase 0.7% to 54.8%, ADR climb 0.8% to $124.39 and RevPAR up 1.5% to $68.13.
• US hotel transactions have reached a new record high with 707 properties being sold for a value of $29.5bn during 2018, data from STR has found.
• Playtech has reported full year numbers saying it has made ‘strategic and operational progress in regulated markets together with [a] significant improvement in balance sheet efficiency.’
• Playtech reports revenues up 54% at €1.24bn with adjusted net profits of €256.2m against €231.4m last time.
• Chairman Alan Jackson reports ‘in the face of changing market dynamics Playtech achieved significant strategic and operational progress in 2018 delivering a markedly improved financial profile.’
• Playtech says ‘following shareholder engagement, I am pleased to announce our new progressive shareholder return policy. The strength of the balance sheet and cash flows allow the Board to demonstrate its confidence in the future growth of the business through both a share buyback programme and a final recommended dividend.’
FINANCE & ECONOMICS:
• Sterling down a little at $1.303 and €1.1492. Oil up at $67.16. 10yr Sterling gilt yield up 1bp at 1.18%. World markets all up yesterday with Far East higher in Thursday trading.
• Brexit, politics in Britain etc. Nasty and incompetent. Couldn’t run a bath:
o More politicians leaving the main two parties as they conclude that they are too nasty or too incompetent (or both) to remain in. Claims that Tory party is diseased, hollowed out etc.
o Threats of the expulsion of further members of the Labour Party if they do not toe the Party line. Typical cult behaviour. Jeremy Corbyn has defied the Labour whip more than 400 times.
o Former UK ambassador to Japan Sir David Warren says claims that Brexit had nothing to do with Honda’s decision to close its Swindon plant were ‘fanciful’.
o FT reports the Tory Party is ‘deeply fractured’. Anna Soubry comments that the ERG (or its predecessors) have crippled or brought down every Tory leader over the last 40yrs. A period or three or more parliaments in the wilderness would be called for if the Labour Party were only not so awful.
o Either by design or as a result of ongoing incompetence, Tory ministers (Gove & Hammond) cannot agree on whether there will be tariffs on food to protect farmers from next month.
o Sir John Major reports the Tory Party is being “manipulated” by Brexit “zealots”. Mrs May, who was in Brussels yesterday, has draped herself in the flag, offering a ‘red, white & blue’ Brexit to voters.
o Newly formed Independent Group of MPs suggest that PM May could pass her Brexit deal if she agrees to a further referendum on its terms.
PRIOR DAY LATER TWEETS:
• Later tweets: Food prices. M Gove says farmers to be protected by tariffs. Negates Tim Martin comments re low food price windfall, bonanza, nirvana etc.
• NFU demands no undermining of ‘farming standards’. Like when transport unions strike for pay rises to ‘ensure customer safety’
• Kitchen staff in London see pay rise 14.8% in 2018 per The Change Group. Ouch! Costs for restaurants rising much >> general inflation
• Ave. earnings +3.4%, employment levels up but GDP sluggish suggesting productivity remains a problem.
• An 8th Labour MP has left the party as some suggest that Tories too nasty & Labour too incompetent (also too nasty) to vote for.
• Sainsbury chagrin: fake outrage or genuine upset that there could be a big hole where the group’s strategy used to be?
• Intu says Q4 asset values only down by 3%. Yes, but remember 1) who you’re asking to price assets & 2) power of incentives
• John Lewis total sales over 6% down over the first 3 weeks of H1. Should be a bit better vs the snow, shortly
START THE DAY WITH A SONG:
Yesterday’s song was INXS with Need You Tonight, Today who sang:
Mouthwash, jukebox, gasoline,
Pistols are pointing at a poor man’s pockets
Smiling eyes with ’em out of the sockets
RETAIL NEWS WITH NICK BUBB:
Today’s Press and News: The brutal CMA verdict on the Sainsbury/Asda merger plan gets plenty of press coverage today and the headlines make uncomfortable reading for CEO Mike Coupe…The front page of the FT leads with “Watchdog leaves Sainsbury’s £7bn takeover of Asda close to collapse”. In terms of editorial comment, the Evening Standard last night thundered “This grocery deal is a goner – and so is Sainsbury’s Mike Coupe”, whilst the Guardian runs with “Sainsbury’s must accept its Asda merger has been canned”. Lex column in the FT, however, sticks the boot in on the CMA: “the decision highlights the weaknesses of the UK’s antitrust regime…its judgment is based on technocratic voodoo.”
Online Sales Tax Watch: The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (which is chaired by Clive Betts, the Labour MP for Sheffield South East) hasn’t chosen the best of days to release its final report on its recent inquiry into “High Streets and town centres in 2030”, but Mike Ashley will be pleased to hear its robust conclusions that “High Street retailers are paying more than their fair share of tax, while Online retailers are not contributing enough” and that “The Government needs to go further and move faster to level the playing field between Online and High Street retailers” (by introducing some sort of extra Online sales tax to finance a cut in Business Rates).