Dobbies names Andrew Bracey as new chairman

The Dobbies garden centre chain has appointed Andrew Bracey as its new chairman.

Bracey is a founding partner of Midlothian Capital Partners which together with Hattington Capital recently acquired Dobbies from Tesco for £218 million.

John Cleland, chief executive of Dobbies, said: “Andrew has many years of experience in retail and has a genuine passion for Dobbies, both of which will be of huge benefit to the business as we create a stronger, market leading company. I look forward to working with him again, to grow the business and deliver a success story.”
Bracey has spent much of his career working in the retail industry, most recently as chief financial officer at Ocado where he helped take the company from its early development through to its IPO. As a senior financier, he has also led a number of landmark transactions in the retail sector.

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Kids Emporium launches in the UK

Undeterred by Brexit, South African entrepreneur Lauren de Swardt launched her franchise, Kids Emporium in Guildford, England. While the store only officially opened in July 2016, it is already creating a stir in the UK.

Kids Emporium launches in the UK

Having learnt much along the way in getting to this point, de Swardt shares her insight into what makes a brand stand out in a foreign country. 
There was much that went on behind the scenes in the months leading up to the launch, which led to the positive outcome. de Swardt, who pinpoints London as one of her favourite cities in the world, lived in the UK for two years and remains a regular visitor. In 2015, she spent time over a two-week period paying careful attention to the behaviour of the local market to get a feel for High Street shopping.
“I saw obvious gaps in the market, where there was a definite need for a brand such as Kids Emporium. The UK is certainly not short on baby boutiques, but I noticed that many of them stocked the same brands and often relied purely on those brands to make their businesses work. The difference with my business concept is that Kids Emporium provides shoppers with a good variety of brands from one access point, and is backed by excellent service.”
Partnership opportunity

Shortly after her visit to the UK, a Kids Emporium supplier and owner of Ruby Rabbit, Storm Copestake, contacted her about the idea of launching Kids Emporium in the UK. Originally from Zimbabwe, Copestake had likewise spent much time in the UK. She had always wanted to own her own store and, as a fan of the Kids Emporium brand, she jumped at the opportunity to initiate discussions with de Swardt when she, similarly, identified the gap.
“Storm and I spent hours talking through logistics and operations, I shared my research with her, we pinpointed our synergy and finally we agreed that it made perfect sense to run with the concept. Subsequent to our agreement, I went on two trips to the UK and I had weekly virtual meetings with Storm. A year later, here we are: Storm is the master franchisee of the UK store and I can say that this store – as much as I adore each of our South African franchises – has taken first prize in my eyes as my ‘dream store’.”

She believes that this is primarily because she and her team have learnt valuable lessons over the 13 years during which Kids Emporium has been operational and have been able to apply their knowledge to the launch of the UK store, ensuring standards match or top international standards. It is her ultimate goal to represent South Africa well and to display the country’s local design talent to the global market.
Understanding local conditions

However, the journey did not come without a hiccup or two. de Swardt realised rather soon after the development of the store had been initiated that landlords operate somewhat differently in the UK, which caused a slight delay in the process but she chose to accept this challenge as a case of “now we know for next time”. Other than this, she proudly reports that – although it was the business’ first export attempt – there were no glitches in this sense, and all the goods arrived in perfect condition and on time. This she attributes to thorough research.
“If I could give any form advice to budding entrepreneurs who wish to expand their businesses across borders, it would be: research, research, research! It is so important to understand your market. To give you an example, the customers that we target locally generally have one to two children, whereas in the UK it is completely the norm for parents to have three or four children, often very close together in age.”
One of the most prominent aspects of the Kids Emporium store offering that stands out in the UK is that it follows an owner-driven approach. While England is considered to be a pioneering, first-world country, de Swardt maintains that the ‘old world charm’ associated with the brand goes a long way in creating happy customers. Kids Emporium is known locally – and now, abroad – for its focus on customer engagement and its commitment to making its customers feel that they have been met with genuine service and an interest in relationship building.
“We assist expecting parents along their entire journey, from finding the comfiest and most stylish maternity wear to decorating their baby’s nursery and finding a lifestyle-compatible travel system, to name a few examples.” 
She describes expecting parents these days as “forward-thinking, tech savvy and hungry for information” and says that the questions that franchisees are asked by parents are endless. This, however, is exactly what Kids Emporium is about: providing answers, showing customers various options in terms of the items they are looking for and assisting them to make the most informed decision that best suits their lifestyle.
“Parenting is tough, and at Kids Emporium, we tell it like it is. More often than not, our customers appreciate our honesty and – in light of the fact that most of our franchisees are also parents – they are warmed by franchisees’ willingness to share their own experiences.” 
de Swardt already has plans to open stores in a number of African countries and she says that there has been much interest from Australia and the US, but that the focus will remain on the UK and Africa for now. 

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Jimmy Choo reports ‘excellent’ first half performance

Luxury footwear brand Jimmy Choo saw its revenues rise by 9.2% at reported currency and by 3.8% at constant currency in the six months to end June.
Total revenues reached £173.1 million while adjusted EBITDA increased by 12.8% to £31.3 million. Reported operating profit was up 42.6% at £25.3 million while pre-tax profit was £6.6 million.
Meanwhile, retail revenue grew by 2.1% on a constant currency basis to £107.3 million. Reported revenue was 7.6% ahead of last year. On a like-for-like basis retail revenue fell by 4%.

The company said it is continuing to see growth in the men’s category which now represents 8% of revenue.
Pierre Denis, chief executive of Jimmy Choo, said: “These results represent an excellent performance in the period, with growth and margin expansion leading to improved earnings, further enhancing the brand’s track record of delivery in all market conditions.
“This is combined with strong underlying cash flow conversion leading to further positive steps on deleveraging. We have made a good start to the second half and we remain optimistic about our prospects both for this year and for our performance in the future.”
The company said its new concept stores continued to perform well although this was offset by strong comparatives and disruption from its store development programme. Jimmy Choo renovated or relocated nine stores during the period, bringing the total stores trading in the new store concept at the period end to some 40% of the estate.
Looking at Jimmy Choo’s international performance, there was strong revenue growth in Asia and EMEA but revenues fell in the Americas as the brand repositioned its business in the region and the USA experienced weaker demand for luxury goods.
Peter Harf, chairman of Jimmy Choo, said: “This is an impressive set of results and it is of great credit to Pierre Denis and his talented teams that they have achieved both growth and margin expansion in such challenging market conditions. The prospects for the business in its 20th year have never looked better and we are confident in its growth prospects and the global opportunity for the brand.”

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Landmark plans 20 new stores in Reem Mall tie-up

Landmark Group, a top retail and hospitality conglomerate, has announced a major new agreement with Reem Mall, Abu Dhabi’s latest retail and leisure destination, which will see 23 new stores opening in the UAE capital in 2018.

As part of the agreement, the two-million-sq-ft mall, located on Reem Island, will host some of Landmark Group’s most popular concepts, including Centrepoint, Home Centre, Max, Iconic, Sports One and Shoexpress.
The Group’s popular franchise brands such as New Look, Reiss, Adidas Kids, Ecco, Koton, Yours London, Lipsy, Steve Madden, Carpisa, Nose, Pablosky, Aerosoles, Kurt Geiger, Stride Rite, Puket, Blocco 31, Kazar and Loriblu will add further to the mall’s retail offering.
As a key tenant, Landmark Group will occupy a total retail area close to 200,000 sq ft within Reem Mall, spread throughout the iconic project.
“Reem Mall is set to transform the retail landscape in Abu Dhabi, and this significant new agreement with Landmark Group brings some of the world’s most popular brands to one convenient location,” said Shane Eldstrom, chief operating officer for Reem Mall.
“Landmark Group shares our passion and commitment to the highest quality standards in retail and customer care, which makes them the perfect partner to help bring Abu Dhabi’s most anticipated mall to life. We look forward to continuing our successful collaboration into 2017 and beyond.”
Manu Jeswani, director, Landmark Group, said: “Abu Dhabi’s impressive mall development offers great potential for retail growth. Its vibrant shopping, arts and entertainment culture is a great attraction for both residents and tourists, and as the offering grows, it increases opportunity for the retail industry.”
“Landmark Group is strategically expanding its presence in Abu Dhabi and our partnership with Reem Mall will enable us to bring our offering even closer to our customers. We look forward to working with the mall team on the launch of this great new project,” he added. – TradeArabia News Service

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Work starts on revamp of Belfast Westwood shopping outlet

 An artist’s impression of the revamped Westwood Shopping Centre in west Belfast
Work has begun on the redevelopment of the Westwood Shopping Centre in west Belfast, which will see seven new retail units being built.
Landlord Johncorp is behind the scheme which will see Asda, B&M Bargains and McDonald’s remaining within the centre.
The original mall is being demolished and replaced by open class one retail units that will front directly on to the car park.
In total, seven new retail units will be created, ranging in size from 6,300 sq ft to 40,000 sq ft.
However, the names of new tenants or businesses have yet to be revealed.
Johncorp says the revamp is due to be completed by April 2017.
Kevin McKay of Benmore Group, developers on behalf of Johncorp, said: “We are extremely excited to get on with this scheme, which has been many years in the planning.
“It will see a major transformation of Westwood into an open class one retail park (while retaining Asda, B&M and McDonald’s) with the removal of the existing shopping mall.
“The commitment from these existing occupiers to the scheme highlights the strength of the centre and its strategic location.
“We believe that the proposed retail format is ideal for this strategic location on a major road junction, with fantastic connectivity and a densely populated catchment.”
Commercial property firms CBRE and London-based Wilkinson Williams are acting as letting agents for the scheme.
Colin Mathewson, senior director of retail at CBRE, said: “The redevelopment of Westwood to create large retail units adjacent to Asda and B&M recognises the existing market trend and occupier demand for this format.
“The availability of these units will allow retailers not yet represented in this part of Belfast to secure units and this process will continue to grow the importance of this location within the retail hierarchy of the greater Belfast catchment. We are delighted to be involved in this scheme on behalf of Johncorp, with the redeveloped centre due to open in early 2017.”
Elsewhere in Belfast, Connswater shopping centre and retail park will see new additions over the next year.
They will include Starbucks’ first drive-through coffee outlet.
The US-owned coffee chain is opening the new location at Connswater shopping centre – which is managed by Gerry Monaghan – with construction due to begin at the start of October.
Starbucks has confirmed that it will open a 3,300 sq ft store in the east Belfast retail park before the end of this year. And a new Lidl supermarket at Connswater is now set to go ahead.
Belfast City Council gave the green light to the discounter’s plans for a new store in June.
Connswater has been struggling to find a big-name retailer to fill the void left by former big tenants, Tesco and Dunnes.
A spokesman for the supermarket said it “welcomes the positive recommendation”.

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UK retail giant John Lewis to open 6 Myer stores in Australia in 2017

If Australian Geographic would close by 2017 unless a new owner is found, a British retail giant is coming to Australia in the same year. John Lewis plans to open six Myer stores in the country next year.
Yahoo News reports that the first John Lewis Myer store in Australia would open in Warringah in Sydney. After Sydney, another Myer store in Perth will open in February 2017.
Besides Sydney’s Northern Beaches Warringah Mall retail centre and Perth, Myer would also open in Melbourne’s CBD, Melbourne’s Chadstone and Sydney’s Bondi Junction, reports Sydney Morning Herald.
Myer is one of the 30 businesses trading under John Lewis. Katie Jordan, development head of John Lewis International, says there is real synergy between Myer’s customer base and the retailer is the perfect partner for its first shop-in-shops in Australia.
“We’re delighted to be expanding our international presence and bringing John Lewis to new countries around the world, both through physical collaborations and by expanding our online international delivery destinations,” says Jordan.
Opening a physical store in Australia is part of John Lewis’s bigger strategy to set up operations in other countries. But for Myers, it is another step toward its multi-year revival plan which targets to make its department store more relevant and its main competitor, David Jones, as well as other chain retailers and online operators that had been taking away business from Myer for years now.
Myer will offer bedding, bed linen, doonas, throws, cushions, quilts and bed accessories, dinnerware, glassware, table linen and cutlery, decorator items such as vases, frames, bowls, candle holders, light shades and bathroom accessories.

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Dubai retailer Forever Rose to open hotels in London and GCC

The Dubai retailer Forever Rose is to expand into hotels, with the first one in central London, on expectations that tourism between the United Kingdom and the Arabian Gulf region will remain buoyant despite the vote to leave the European Union.
Forever Rose, which is owned by the Dubai retail and hospitality company Al Samadi Group, will invest £13 million (Dh63.2m) in the Knightsbridge hotel, which is housed in a historic building. It will follow up with one in Dubai with an investment of £20m before 2020, and another in Qatar before the Fifa 2022 World Cup with a similar investment. The hotels in the Arabian Gulf region will have between 90 and 140 rooms.
Al Samadi took over Forever Rose, which is incorporated in the UK, in 2014 for £1m, and turned it into a retailer from an events company. It now sells roses from Ecuador, diamond jewellery, chocolates and oud fragrance. It has five outlets in the UAE.
The hotels will be financed internally, said Ebraheem Al Samadi, the chief executive of both Forever Rose and Al Samadi Group. The 50-room hotel in London is expected to open in 2018, and Forever Rose will lease it for 100 years.
Mr Al Samadi expects to open the first UK Forever Rose retail shop in the same location in London in September.
“Brexit won’t affect tourism, and [the UK] is a part of Gulf nationals’ lives,” Mr Al Samadi said. “The real estate might take a hit because a lot of [wealthy] EU people based in the UK might leave because of the inconvenience of exiting and entering, and the rental market will also take a dip.”
Arabian Gulf holidaymakers are among the biggest spenders in London.
Last year, 723,773 Arabian Gulf nationals visited the UK and spent US$2.3 billion, according to the International Passenger Survey data released by the Office for National Statistics in May.
From the UAE alone, 347,000 Emiratis visited the UK, up 34 per cent from 2014. It was followed by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.
Those from the UAE spent £487m, up from £437m the previous year.
Forever Rose opened its first outlet on the Abu Dhabi Corniche in 2014. This year it opened at Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi and at Al Ain Mall. It expects to open three more in the UAE this year, including at the capital’s Galleria Mall in September. It is investing $5m for the five outlets in the UAE this year.
It will expand into Qatar in September, and to Kuwait in December.
A Forever Rose cafe is expected to open in Riyadh in the fourth quarter.

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