Europe’s retailers chase sales boost with Black Friday offers

Shoppers pass a promotional sign for 'Black Friday' sales discounts as they exit a retail store on Oxford Street in London. (AFP)
Updated 24 November 2017
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Europe’s retailers chase sales boost with Black Friday offers

LONDON: Retailers across Europe chased shoppers on “Black Friday” in a test of consumer confidence, particularly in Britain where the spending spree imported from the US has become most popular.
After suffering their biggest decline in sales volumes for four-and-a-half years in October, British retailers are pinning their hopes on discounts to get shoppers, who are being squeezed by inflation and low wage rises, spending again.
Meanwhile, Wednesday’s budget statement from finance minister Philip Hammond did little to address Britons’ falling living standards or purchasing power.
In the UK the annual promotional event, which has historically focused on electrical goods, has been mainly online since 2014 when it was marred by chaos and scuffles in stores.
“I think it will be our busiest trading day of the year,” John Rogers, chief executive of electricals to toys retailer Argos, which is owned by Britain’s second biggest retailer Sainsbury’s, told Reuters on Friday.
Research firm GlobalData forecasts UK spending during the Black Friday period — defined as Monday November 20 to Monday November 27 — will grow by 3.8 percent year on year to £10.1 billion (SR50.18 billion).
But whether retailers make money from the event, which was imported to Britain from the US by online retailer Amazon in 2010, is unclear.
Supporters argue carefully planned, targeted promotions with global suppliers allow them to achieve a sales boost, while still maintaining profit margins.
But critics say the discounts suck forward Christmas sales that retailers would otherwise have made at full price and can dampen business in subsequent weeks.
Rogers said the Argos Black Friday event kicked off at 2100 GMT on Thursday, with its website recording over 800,000 visits in the first hour. Some 85 percent of those visits were from mobile devices.
Rogers said he expected a record 12 million visits to the website for the entire day.
Like last year, retailers including Amazon, Dixons Carphone and market leader Tesco are stretching promotions over one to two weeks, hoping to smooth out demand and reduce pressure on supply and distribution networks.
Black Friday, the day after the US Thanksgiving holiday, was so named because spending would surge and retailers would traditionally begin to turn a profit for the year, moving from the red into the black.
In Germany sales promotions on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to add around €1.7 billion to retailers’ revenues, about on par with 2016, a survey by trade body HDE found.
It said 16 percent of German consumers took advantage of Black Friday discounts last year, spending an average of just over €170 each.
About 8 million France-based consumers are expected to shop from Friday to Monday, translating into expected revenue of around €945 million, according to a study conducted by Kantar TNS for USe-commerce firm eBay.


Ex-Nissan chief Ghosn charged, may face new allegations

Updated 11 min 41 sec ago
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Ex-Nissan chief Ghosn charged, may face new allegations

  • Authorities are also widely expected to re-arrest him later Monday over separate allegations that he also under-reported his income by a further four billion over the past three years
  • Under Japanese law, suspects can be re-arrested several times for different allegations, allowing prosecutors to question them for prolonged periods

TOKYO: Japanese prosecutors have formally charged Carlos Ghosn with financial misconduct for under-reporting his salary, local media reported on Monday, three weeks after the auto tycoon’s arrest stunned the business world.
Former Nissan chairman Ghosn, 64, has been in detention since his November 19 arrest on suspicion of under-declaring his income by some five billion yen ($44 million) between 2010 and 2015.
Authorities are also widely expected to re-arrest him later Monday over separate allegations that he also under-reported his income by a further four billion over the past three years.
Under Japanese law, suspects can be re-arrested several times for different allegations, allowing prosecutors to question them for prolonged periods — a system that has drawn criticism internationally.
Monday was the final day prosecutors can hold Ghosn and close aide Greg Kelly before either charging or re-arresting them, and a further arrest would allow them another 22 days of questioning.
In addition to charges against Ghosn, prosecutors also indicted Kelly and Nissan itself, according to local media, as the company submitted the official documents that under-reported the income.
Ghosn denies the charges and is in a “combative” frame of mind, according to sources at Renault, the company he still formally leads — even if the French car giant has appointed an interim chairman.
The Japanese firms in the three-way alliance with Renault — Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors — have both sacked the Franco-Lebanese-Brazilian as chairman.
The millionaire auto sector star, who attracted some criticism for a perceived lavish lifestyle, is now alone in a spartan cell in a Tokyo detention center, in a tiny room measuring just three tatami mats — around five square meters.
He has reportedly told embassy visitors he is being well treated but has complained of the cold, with Monday’s temperature in the Japanese capital hovering around five degrees Celsius.
He spends his time reading books and news reports and is said to be unhappy about the rice-based food.
According to local news agency Kyodo, he has admitted signing documents to defer part of his salary until after retirement but said this amount did not need to be declared as it has not yet been definitively fixed.
A source close to the investigation has said Ghosn and Kelly allegedly put the system in place after a new law came in obliging the highest-paid members of the firm to declare their salary.
Ghosn is suspected of deferring part of his pay to avoid criticism from staff and shareholders that his salary was too generous.
Nissan is appealing to a court in Rio de Janeiro to block access by Ghosn’s representatives to a luxury apartment on Copacabana Beach
“We are closely watching if he is actually indicted and then found guilty,” said Satoru Takada, an analyst at TIW, a Tokyo-based research and consulting firm.
“If he is exempted from prosecution or found innocent, it is going to create huge confusion in Nissan’s management,” Takada told AFP.
It is unclear if Ghosn can be bailed before a potential trial.
In Japan, prosecutors and defendants begin a trial at a district court and can appeal to a high court and the Supreme Court. It may take several years before reaching a final judgment.
If found guilty, Ghosn could face a 10-year prison sentence.
The affair represents a staggering turnaround for a figure celebrated for saving Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy and rebuilding it as a money-making subsidiary of Renault.
Nissan has begun a process of choosing Ghosn’s successor, with the final decision expected on December 17.
His arrest has sparked incredulity at Renault, which owns 43 percent of Nissan and says it has not seen a detailed account of the charges against Ghosn.
It has also fueled anger in Lebanon, with digital billboards around Beirut proclaiming “We are all Carlos Ghosn” under a picture of the magnate.
“A Lebanese phoenix will not be scorched by a Japanese sun,” Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk has declared.