British fashion linchpin gets post-lockdown trading lift

Customers queue outside the Primark store in Edinburgh as the UK eases coronavirus restrictions which forced the fashion chain to close 375 outlets. (AFP)
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Updated 03 July 2020

British fashion linchpin gets post-lockdown trading lift

  • Primark ‘back to business’ as curbs ease, but still faces full-year profit slump

LONDON: Trading in British fashion chain Primark’s reopened stores has been encouraging, but the prolonged coronavirus lockdown means the retailer’s full-year profit is likely to slump by about two-thirds, owner Associated British Foods said.

All 375 Primark stores were shuttered in March as the pandemic spread. As governments eased lockdown restrictions the stores reopened, including all 153 stores in England on June 15.

AB Foods said on Thursday that since the reopening of the first Primark stores on May 4, cumulative sales for the seven weeks to June 20 were £322 million ($403 million) and were 12 percent lower than last year on a like-for-like basis.

It said sales in the week ended June 20, with more than 90 percent of selling space reopened, were £133 million, and trading in England and Ireland was ahead of the same week last year.

“We’re really getting back to business here. That number (down 12 percent) is much better than people were expecting,” AB Foods finance chief John Bason told Reuters.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Primark like-for-like sales down 12 percent in seven weeks.
  • Primark’s annual profit seen down by two-thirds.
  • Placed £800m of orders for autumn/winter season.

However, the lockdown means Primark’s profit will be substantially down. The retailer has no online offer.

For the full 2019-20 year, Primark forecast adjusted operating profit in a range of £300-£350 million, down from the £913 million made in 2018-19.

Bason said that Primark has also placed more than £800 million of orders for the autumn/winter season and expects the total to exceed £1 billion.

AB Foods said that overall group revenue from continuing businesses for the 40 weeks to June 20 was 13 percent lower than the same period last year at constant currency.

For 2019-20 it expects “strong progress” in adjusted operating profit at its sugar, grocery, agriculture and ingredients businesses.

The grocery division, whose brands include Kingsmill bread, Twinings tea, Ovaltine and Jordans cereal, had a 9 percent increase in third-quarter revenue, with higher sales through retail channels more than offsetting weaker demand from foodservice businesses closed during the lockdown.

The group expects to end the year with net cash of more than £750 million.


Canada’s Trudeau to unveil plan to address coronavirus outbreak, revive economy

Updated 23 September 2020

Canada’s Trudeau to unveil plan to address coronavirus outbreak, revive economy

  • Trudeau will stress the need for environmental policies such as retrofitting buildings, boosting the use of electric vehicles and biofuels
  • Trudeau is paring down talk of a green revolution to slash reliance on export of fossil fuels

OTTAWA: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will unveil on Wednesday what he says is a far-reaching plan to help the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic while ensuring efforts to fight the outbreak do not falter.
Trudeau, who has consistently vowed to do more to combat climate change, is paring down talk of a green revolution to slash reliance on export of fossil fuels as Canada faces a resurgence in coronavirus cases.
“The three prongs of what we are doing are fighting COVID-19, supporting Canadians, and a resilient recovery,” said a government source who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.
The so-called Speech from the Throne outlining government plans is a confidence measure and given that Trudeau’s Liberals only have a minority in the House of Commons, they will need the support of opposition legislators to avoid being toppled and plunging the country into an election.
The left-leaning New Democrats have made clear they are likely to vote in favor. Trudeau’s popularity initially soared over his handling of the pandemic, but polls suggest he and the Liberals were damaged by a scandal over his close ties to a charity chosen to run a student grant program.
Parliament is usually packed for the occasion but COVID-19 means few legislators will be present when Governor General Julie Payette — the representative of Queen Elizabeth, Canada’s head of state — delivers the speech at around 3 p.m. (1900 GMT).
Later on Wednesday, Trudeau plans to make a national address to address the urgency of fighting COVID-19, a spokesman said.
Officials say the throne speech will contain policy proposals such as childcare and an expanded employment insurance program rather than specific spending commitments, some of which will be disclosed in a fiscal update later in the year.
But Trudeau will stress the need for environmental policies such as retrofitting buildings, boosting the use of electric vehicles and biofuels, aides say.