• Date: 26 April 2017
  • Posted By: admin

So, that’s the end of April. Well almost! Four days to go and we get another bank holiday – don’t you just love this time of year?! Bringing you our April round up of the stories that caught our eye, we have: Debenhams and M & S – tough times?; Woollies to make a comeback; Boden joins John Lewis; and gender pay gap.

Debenhams and M & S – tough times: The news from the High Street these days is very mixed – some are doing well, others not. Debenhams and M & S seem to fall into the latter category. Both have plans for turning their businesses around. Debenhams  plan to close 10 stores – as yet unnamed – and invest in the remaining 166 stores, which badly need facelifts – and as you know from previous blogs, they’re streamlining their designer ranges. It also wants to capitalise on what is our apparent appetite for ‘social shopping’. But as this article points out, the department stores in this country were doing just that 150 years ago. So maybe it’s about going back to those original principles – offering great products, in a lovely environment, where we can meet up with family and friends, have a nice lunch or even get a massage. There’s no doubt about it, we do like a nice restaurant and cocktail bar – just look at the Fifth Floor of Harvey Nichols. As for M & S, it’s closing 6 stores after doing a review. But it does plan to open 36 new stores, and expects to offer staff redeployment in these or in other local stores – so no-one should lose their job. Interestingly, its plan is to open 200 food only stores, and reduce by 60 the places we can buy its clothes and/or homewares. Does that mean it sees its future in food, instead of bringing the clothing back up to scratch? Because if the department stores are looking to the past to rekindle the things it did best – and we know John Lewis under the leadership of Paula Nickolds is doing just that – then surely M & S should be pulling out all the stops to bring back the relevance and quality its clothes were renowned for and not that long ago. Come on M & S, you can do better than this.

Woollies to make a comeback: And whilst we’re on the subject of nostalgia, here’s a story that caught our eye, with glee I must say. Woolworth’s former director, Tony Page, has been in contact with Shop Direct who bought the Woolworths brand – but hasn’t used it – to see if he might be able to buy it and re-establish the store. No doubt it would be on a much smaller scale, and have a more modern and relevant freshness to it – but we still feel very nostalgic about Woolworths, and would certainly be there on opening day to get our pick ‘n’ mix!

Boden joins John Lewis: We think this might do quite well. Boden is traditionally known as the on-line clothes shop for yummy mummies. It does have a bricks and mortar shop – just the one in Hanger Green, West London (heaven knows where that is!). So having a concession in John Lewis seems a smart move, for both retailers – we’ll certainly be having a look. Initially, it’ll be in 5 JLP stores – Oxford Street, Southampton, Reading, Oxford and Cambridge – but we expect it to do well and be rolled out more widely.

Gender pay gap: You’ll have read our various reports on the gender pay gap reporting requirement which has now come into force. The Government has launched a site where you can have a look at the reports so far. Don’t bother – there’s 2 employers on it! We kid you not. If you can’t resist though, here’s the link:

To be fair – employers with staff of 250 or more who have to comply with the new reporting regulations, don’t actually have to publish their gender pay gap data until next April – they have to start collecting it from this April. So we can look forward to this Government service being fully populated next year, and no doubt it’ll throw up some very interesting and revealing information.

Talking about gender pay gap – here’s a story we liked. Jessica Chastain, who’s been in films such as The Help and Tree of Life, and has a new film just to be released here called Miss Sloane, is a firm advocate of equal pay. And as such reveals that she’s turned down a really big film because she now always asks what her male counterpart is to earn. And if she doesn’t get the answer, or doesn’t like it i.e. they’re going to get more than her, then she won’t take the role. Good for her.

Well, that’s it for April. Did you notice something about this month’s News Round? Yep, we didn’t once mention the election. Oops, we just did! Apologies. We’re probably going to be so sick of it come June, whilst at the same time understanding what a critical point we’re at in our political history. But we promise to keep off the subject as much as possible in May. So we look forward to seeing you back here next Wednesday, 3rd May – and in the meantime, have a great Bank Holiday weekend.