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John Lewis And House Of Fraser, Increased Sales In Festive Period

John Lewis And House Of Fraser, Increased Sales In Festive Period

House of Fraser has reported its best Christmas while John Lewis also credited stronger online business for an increase in festive sales.

The two department store chains’ fortunes were in stark contrast to those of rival Debenhams, which has issued a profits warning and confirmed it had lost its chief financial officer in the wake of poor sales.

House of Fraser, which trades from 61 stores in Britain and Ireland, said like-for-like sales excluding VAT for the three weeks to December 28 rose 7.3%, with online sales up 57.7%.

Like-for-like sales excluding VAT for the first nine weeks of its fourth quarter were up 4.3%, the firm said, adding it expected to finish the year with lower net debt, which stood at £157.2m for the year to January 26 2013.

The firm, which made a loss before tax and exceptional items of £6.9m in its last fiscal year, has reportedly been in talks with French department stores group Galeries Lafayette over a possible sale.

It has spent almost a decade under private ownership but had been considering a return to the stock market after previous attempts at a possible trade sale had failed.

John Lewis said it had grown like-for-like sales by 6.9% over the five weeks to December 28, with total sales topping £734m.

That performance included a 1.2% boost for its stores and a 22.6% rise in online takings compared with 2012.

The first day of clearance sales in branches on December 27 saw the biggest ever day of trading across the business, taking £35.6m.

John Lewis also highlighted what it called the UK’s first ‘mobile Christmas’ as three-quarters of Christmas Day online traffic came from phones and tablet computers.

Managing director Andy Street said sales over the five weeks had taken a different shape to previous years, with an early peak and a “huge surge” in the last 10 days, including a frenetic Monday two days before Christmas.

“Many of the big online shopping days and weeks occurred earlier in the period but shops were packed in the last-minute rush on ‘manic Monday’ when we saw our city centre shops record peak days,” he said.

He added that “must-have” items included tablet computers, Christmas lights and coffee machines.

Sales at John Lewis, which regularly publishes weekly trading figures, are seen by analysts as a useful insight into spending patterns – though its customers are viewed as less likely to be affected by the squeeze in income than average shoppers.

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Debenhams CFO Quits After Profits Warning

Debenhams CFO Quits After Profits Warning

The chief financial officer at Debenhams has quit the retailer, just 48 hours after it issued a post-Christmas profits warning.

Simon Herrick had already been under pressure, according to media reports, after he asked suppliers for a discount on goods just eight days before Christmas in what was seen as a ‘Santa tax’.

The department store chain denied at the time of his letter to suppliers that it was an attempt to boost fragile festive trading.

In the letter he wrote: “As we will mutually benefit from the growth of Debenhams we are now seeking a contribution from our suppliers to support our commitment to on-going investment.”

He said this would include: “A single-sum contribution on all outstanding payments on your account at close December 17.”

“An additional discount of 2.5% applied to all open orders on our system at close on December 17.”

“This is a contribution and not a permanent amendment to your trading terms with Debenhams,” the letter said.

The company, which lowered its profit outlook on Tuesday after the hoped-for surge in last-minute Christmas shopping failed to materialise, said a search to find a replacement for Mr Herrick was under way.

Neil Kennedy, director of finance, has assumed the role of acting chief financial officer on an interim basis, Debenhams said.

The chain blamed its poor Christmas performance on the continuing decline of the high street, the impact of the recession on household incomes and bad weather.

The retailer said it was planning to slash prices in January and February.

Michael Sharp, chief executive of Debenhams, said on Tuesday: “As has been widely commented on in the media, the market was highly promotional in the run-up to Christmas and we responded to these conditions to ensure our offer was competitive.

“However, this extremely difficult environment has inevitably had an impact on both our sales and profitability.”

The announcement, which had been due on January 17, saw the retailer reveal an £85m profit for the 17 weeks to December 28 – some way off the £114.7m in the same period last year, a 26% drop.

The company’s statement showed that online sales had increased by 27% during that time and accounted for 15.6% of total sales, compared to 12.4% for the same period last year.
Its share price has tumbled by 20% over the past month.
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Online Music Streaming Doubles In UK In 2013

Online Music Streaming Doubles In UK In 2013

Online music streaming in the UK has doubled in the last year, according to new figures.

But that has come at the expense of album sales, which have seen an overall dip during 2013 due to the decline in CD sales as people turn to digital listening.

Research by music trade body the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the Official Charts Company shows 7.4 billion tracks were played on paid-for or ad-funded streaming services in the last year – twice the 3.7 billion figure of 2012.

Around £103m was brought in over the past 12 months by subscription services – up £26m on the previous year.

The total income generated by streaming will be much higher as the figure does not include the cash from advertising on free streams and on services such as YouTube.

Album sales were worth £772m last year, which is down £29m compared with the previous year.

Arctic Monkeys were the most streamed artists in the UK

Arctic Monkeys were the most streamed artists in the UK

CD sales of 60.6 million were down almost 13% on 2012, but still account for almost two-thirds of the album markets in the UK.

Digital sales of 32.6 million – up nearly 7% – now represent almost 35% of the total market.

Rock quartet Arctic Monkeys were the most streamed artists of the year.

The band, who headlined Glastonbury and whose fifth album AM was nominated for the Mercury Prize, beat Bastille into second place, with French duo Daft Punk third.

The biggest-selling album of the year was the compilation Now That’s What I Call Music 86, selling 1.1 million copies, way ahead of the biggest seller by an artist which was One Direction’s Midnight Memories, shifting 685,000 copies.

A report in trade magazine Music Week last month said 2013 is the first year since the 1980s in which there has been no million-album-selling artist in the UK.

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‘Multi-Sensory’ Fireworks For London On New Year

‘Multi-Sensory’ Fireworks For London On New Year

Londoners have been treated to the world’s first “multi-sensory” fireworks display as people around the world welcomed in the New Year.

More than 250,000 people lined the Thames for the display, which saw peach snow and orange-scented bubbles descend on a section of the crowd.

In Scotland, about 80,000 were in Edinburgh city centre for the famous Hogmanay street party.

Fireworks explode over Edinburgh Castle

Fireworks explode over Edinburgh Castle

There was music from the Pet Shop Boys as well as traditional Scottish sounds at an outdoor dance event.

But those venturing outside to welcome in 2014 were contending with some horrible weather – with the Met Office issuing more than 100 flood alerts.

Spectators in London said the show was the best ever.

Harriet Dudley, from Brighton, said: “This was the best ever show and I’m so glad I came to watch – I feel so emotional. It was, like, four-dimensional.”

Peach snow and orange-flavoured bubbles fireworks in London

Peach snow and orange-flavoured bubbles fireworks in London

Referring to London’s show, Mayor Boris Johnson said: “There is no better way to celebrate the highs of 2013 and the start of an exciting new year than by seeing one of the world’s most dazzling firework displays, now augmented in more ways than one.”

“Watched by millions around the world, and hundreds of thousands of people from the banks of the Thames, it highlights our capital’s fantastic community spirit and its premier position on the global stage.”

Dubai's fireworks, largest ever

Dubai’s fireworks, largest ever

Up to 100,000 people in key viewing areas by the Thames were given packs featuring scratch ‘n’ sniff programmes and LED wristbands.

They also had seven kinds of fruit-flavoured sweets that linked to the tastes and smells of the multi-sensory display.

The UK celebrations were among displays from around the world including the largest ever fireworks display in Dubai.

The six-minute extravaganza included 500,000 fireworks from 400 firing locations, all synchronised by 100 computers from stations across the city.

Later, there will be a celebration parade in London which features music from around the globe.

Moscow Fireworks

Moscow Fireworks

It leaves from the Ritz Hotel at noon before winding through Piccadilly, Pall Mall and Trafalgar Square and ending in Parliament Square.

About half a million people are expected to attend.

Those attending the event may have to contend with a miserable start to the year, weather-wise, with rain and strong winds predicted.

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Jobless youngsters ‘have nothing to live for’

Jobless youngsters ‘have nothing to live for’

More than 750,000 young people in the UK may feel they have nothing to live for, according to a survey by the Prince’s Trust.

The study found that long-term unemployed youngsters are facing “devastating” symptoms of mental illness and often self-harm – and almost a third have contemplated suicide.

Jobless 16 to 25-year-olds are also twice as likely as their peers to have been prescribed anti-depressants, with 40% of those who were out of work saying they faced symptoms of mental illness.

Out of more than 2,000 people who took part in the charity’s survey, those unemployed for more than a year were more likely to say they had no one to confide in.

The study found that 9% agreed with the statement: “I have nothing to live for”, and in its report the Trust pointed out that if 9% of all young people felt the same, there would be 751,230 across the country feeling that way.

Martina Milburn, chief executive of The Prince’s Trust, said: “Unemployment is proven to cause devastating, long-lasting mental health problems among young people.”

“Thousands wake up every day believing that life isn’t worth living, after struggling for years in the dole queue.”

“More than 440,000 young people are facing long-term unemployment, and it is these young people that urgently need our help.”

“If we fail to act, there is a real danger that these young people will become hopeless, as well as jobless.”

In December, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that UK unemployment fell by 99,000 to 2.39 million in the three months to October – the lowest level since 2009.

But the Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index found that 16-25 year-olds were not necessarily feeling the benefits of the economic recovery.

Around 280 of those surveyed were not in employment, education or training, 166 had been unemployed for more than six months and 135 had been jobless for a year or more.

Prince’s Trust ambassador Danielle Stevens was diagnosed with depression and attempted suicide after being kicked out of college in her teens.

Danielle Stevens

Danielle Stevens

She said: “I felt like I had no reason to be here. I didn’t feel like it was worth living. I had no job, no education at the time.”

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, commented: “This research proves that unemployment is a public health issue.

“It is one that must be tackled urgently and it is essential that youth unemployment is added to the public health agenda.”

“Unemployed young people are struggling in many aspects of their lives, from their mental health and wellbeing to their relationships and their qualifications and we must act quickly to end this.”

The Prince’s Trust has called for urgent support from the Government, health agencies and employers to help fund its work with long-term unemployed young people battling mental health issues.

The youth charity said it would support 58,000 disadvantaged young people this year.

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Fire Service Teams Trained For Water Rescue

Fire Service Teams Trained For Water Rescue

The number of emergency rescue teams in England and Wales equipped to tackle flooding has more than quadrupled.

Some £2.5m has been spent funding teams, mostly within the Fire Service, until 2017.

The Fire Service is now being described as a “rescue service that occasionally goes to a fire”.

Roy Harold, the chief fire officer association’s capability lead for flood rescue, says the number of water rescue teams have risen from 40 to 180 and include paramedics, the RNLI, the RSPCA, and the AA.

“In the last floods in 2007 my own county, in Norfolk, had no Fire Service teams able to turn out and assist in a flood,” he said.

“At the beginning of December we had 19 teams available including a dive unit, specialist flood rescue teams … We’ve gone through an absolute transformation in what we can do and how we can help.”

The government is also spending more money on tackling the risk of flooding than ever before.

Teams training for water rescue operations

Teams training for water rescue operations

A spokesperson from DEFRA said: “We’re currently spending over £2.3bn on tackling the risk of flooding. Together with contributions from other partners, this is more money than ever before.”

“We have secured a historic six-year settlement on capital spending for flood defences. From 2015 we’re spending £370m on building new flood defences, rising to over £400m in 2021.”

At a water rescue course in North Wales run by the West Midlands Fire Service, officers are being trained how to help people stuck in swollen rivers.

Chris Darnley from West Midlands Fire Service says the experience is invaluable.

“Most of our training uses breathing apparatus and stuff and you can press a button and it stops there, fans come on, and it gets rid of the smoke. Here you’re at the mercy of the river if something happens,” he said.

Meanwhile, a warning is being sent out this winter to the public regarding cold water and flooding hazards.

Terry Robinson, water rescue instructor for the West Midlands Fire Service, says people need to be vigilant.

“Any river is going to be dangerous, when they’re swollen there are so many more features that come into play, just normal trees and stuff … are suddenly out of the water and become a far greater hazard.”

“As people are walking their dogs, the paths become submerged that they would normally walk on and there would not usually be there, they think they would be safe in ankle deep water but they’re not.”

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Driver Miraculously Escapes As Car Rips Apart

Driver Miraculously Escapes As Car Rips Apart

Rescue teams have described the survival of a driver whose car was ripped in half in a crash as an “incredible escape”.

The car hit a motorway sign splitting it in half and sending the front and back ends in different directions.

No one was trapped in the vehicle following the Christmas Eve accident near junction 9A of the M11 in Essex and firefighters said all that was needed was first aid at the scene.

Incident commander Nigel Webb, from Saffron Walden fire station, said: “The vehicle had left the road and collided with a large motorway sign.”

The car hit a sign on the M11 in Essex

The car hit a sign on the M11 in Essex

“The impact effectively sliced the vehicle in half sending the front of the vehicle into the nearside bushes and the rear half on to the hard shoulder.”

“This was simply an incredible escape for the driver.”

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Smacking Children Should Be Banned

Smacking Children Should Be Banned

Parents should be banned from smacking their children, according to the Children’s Commissioner for England.

Maggie Atkinson said it was her personal view that the law gives pets and adults more rights to be protected from violence than children.

Dr Atkinson said she favours a total ban on smacking, which would see parents face criminal action for corporal punishment.

Current rules make it illegal for a parent to smack a child if it leaves a bruise, but permit a lighter smack or “reasonable chastisement”.

Dr Atkinson said: “Personally, having been a teacher, and never having had an issue where I’d need to use physical punishment, I believe we should move to ban it.”

“Because in law you are forbidden from striking another adult, and from physically chastising your pets, but somehow there is a loophole around the fact that you can physically chastise your child.”

She added: “It’s a moral issue. The morals are that, taken to its extreme, physical chastisement is actually physical abuse and I have never understood where you can draw the line between one and the other.”

Dr Atkinson, who has two adult step-children, said that despite her strong feelings about the issue, her office was not planning to fight for a ban next year.

She said in the current climate such a move would be “running up a blind alley”.

Her comments are likely to re-open the debate about what constitutes “reasonable” punishment of children, the newspaper said.

Tottenham MP David Lammy said early last year that legislation surrounding the smacking of children needed to be relaxed so working-class parents could instil discipline in their homes without fearing prosecution.

He claimed that Labour’s 2004 decision to tighten up the smacking law was partly to blame for last summer’s riots, which erupted in his north London constituency.

The former education minister said: “Many of my constituents came up to me after the riots and blamed the Labour government, saying, ‘You guys stopped us being able to smack our children.’

“I have to say when this was first raised with me I was pretty disparaging. But I started to listen.”
“These parents are scared to smack their children and paranoid that social workers will get involved and take their children away.”
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Woman Dies In Christmas Day House Fire

Woman Dies In Christmas Day House Fire

An elderly woman has been found dead after a house fire in the east end of Glasgow on Christmas Day evening, police said.

Mary McConnell, 83, was pronounced dead at the scene after police were called to the property in Hermiston Road in the Springboig area.

Police Scotland and the fire service have launched an inquiry into the cause of the blaze, but it is not thought to be suspicious.

No one else was injured in the fire.

In a separate fire on Wednesday, three children, including a baby, were taken to hospital as a precaution.

The blaze broke out in an upstairs room of a two-storey property in Auchengreoch Avenue in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, at about 8.10pm.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the building and put out the flames.

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Man Dies In London Night Club In the West End

Man Dies In London Night Club In the West End

A man has died after a shooting inside a nightclub in London’s West End, according to Scotland Yard.

Police have arrested one man on suspicion of murder and are currently holding him at a police station in south London.

The shooting occurred around 3am this morning at a private function inside the Avalon club in Shaftesbury Avenue.

The injured man, believed to be aged 31, was rushed to hospital with multiple gunshot wounds but later died from his injuries, according to police.

Police outside the Avalon club on Shaftesbury Avenue

Police outside the Avalon club on Shaftesbury Avenue

Police believe they know the identity of the deceased man but are awaiting formal identification.

The man’s next of kin have been notified.

The club describes itself as a “unique and stylish” venue in the “heart of West End’s party scene”.

Police have closed Shaftesbury Avenue while they investigate

Police have closed Shaftesbury Avenue while they investigate

Meanwhile, Shaftesbury Avenue and a section of Wardour Street have been closed while police investigate the shooting.

Anyone who was at the Avalon nightclub last night or in the early hours of this morning or who has information about this incident should call the incident room on 020 8785 8244 or call Crimestoppers anonymously 0800 555 111.

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