Jim Armitage: Another store defies the supermarket doom merchants

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Crisis? What crisis? Pundits grimly expecting gore and anguish from the supermarkets’ Christmas sales figures were dashed again on Wednesday.

Sainsbury’s said that, despite the inexorable rise of Aldi and Lidl, its grocery takings over the festive period were up 0.4% — not far off Morrisons’ equally un-devastating 0.6% yesterday. Far from spectacular, sure, but hardly Armageddon. 

Efforts to deal with Sainsbury’s old problem of poor availability of stock in shops are, chief executive Mike Coupe claims, paying off.

Life in fashion and “general merchandise” — everything from furniture to TVs — was tough, as for the rest of the High Street. But much of that was to do with the irritating phenomenon of Black Friday, where some stores — take a bow, John Lewis — slashed prices to what seemed like crazy levels.  Sainsbury’s decided not to go hell-for-leather on the day and suffered sales-wise, but will have seen healthier margins as a result.

All in all, Coupe has shown his management is competent, which bodes well for the integration with Asda, when that deal happens. 

As with previous quarters, the tough market conditions he warns of also highlight how the merger can’t come soon enough. Anything he can do to boost his buying power with suppliers and cut prices to Lidl levels will be good for shareholders.

A welcome cut-off from cold calling 

Today it becomes illegal to cold-call people about their pensions. Hurrah.

The hope is this will deter scammers from relieving folk of their life savings with bogus offers to put them into high-yielding green energy schemes and non-existent bamboo plantations. Such scams have flourished since the Government gave us the right to access our pensions. So-called “pension freedoms” have too often meant freedom to be ripped off.

Frankly, the cold-call ban is unlikely to deter the criminals much. They’re already breaking a bunch of other laws, so one more won’t make much difference. 

But it is generating publicity, which means fewer vulnerable folks will be tempted to listen when the calls come in.

More should be done to go after the scammers, though. Not just from pension fraud but from other investment scams, too.

Victims too often find when they contact the police or regulators, they get fobbed off. Budget cuts mean prosecutions of all but the biggest frauds are rare. The criminals know this. 

I’m told many have learned the trade while in prison for more hard-core offences. The appeal of making big money, fast, with little risk of going to jail is understandable.

Many large, reputable investment firms have profited handsomely from the pension freedoms rules they lobbied for. Perhaps they should contribute more to the police and other authorities to help them deal with the negative consequences.

Source Article from https://www.standard.co.uk/business/jim-armitage-another-store-defies-the-supermarket-doom-merchants-a4034446.html

January 10, 2019 |
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