Honda and Sony form new company to build electric cars
Sony and Honda are forming a new company, which will use the expertise of each business to build electric cars, with sales of the first model planned for 2025.
The two Japanese firms have signed a memorandum of understanding that outlines their intent to establish the joint venture, which is expected to happen within 2022, subject to regulatory approval.
The as-yet unnamed company will bring together Honda’s experience in mobility development, vehicle body manufacturing technology and after-sales services with Sony’s understanding of imaging, sensing, telecommunication, network and entertainment technologies.
The companies hope the joint venture will put them at the forefront of “innovation, evolution and expansion of mobility around the world”.
Kenichiro Yoshida, representative corporate executive officer, chairman, president and CEO or Sony Group Corporation says: “Sony’s purpose is to ‘fill the world with emotion through the power of creativity and technology’. Through this alliance with Honda, which has accumulated extensive global experience and achievements in the automobile industry over many years and continues to make revolutionary advancements in this field, we intend to build on our vision to ‘make the mobility space an emotional one’, and contribute to the evolution of mobility centred around safety, entertainment and adaptability.”
Honda’s director, president, representative executive officer and CEO, Comment from Toshihiro Mibe, adds: “The new company will aim to stand at the forefront of innovation, evolution and expansion of mobility around the world, by taking a broad and ambitious approach to creating value that exceeds the expectations and imagination of customers.
“We will do so by leveraging Honda’s cutting-edge technology and know-how in relation to the environment and safety, while aligning the technological assets of both companies. Although Sony and Honda are companies that share many historical and cultural similarities, our areas of technological expertise are very different. Therefore, I believe this alliance which brings together the strengths of our two companies offers great possibilities for the future of mobility.”
M&S, Airbnb and Boohoo suspend trading in Russia
Marks & Spencer and Boohoo are the latest brands to suspend their operations in Russia in light of the war in Ukraine.
M&S has suspended shipments to its Turkish franchisee’s Russian business and the retailer says it is doing “everything we can to support the people of Ukraine”.
It has donated £1.5m to the UN Refugee Agency and UNICEF in response to the growing refugee crisis to help children and families in need. Included in this donation is 20,000 coats and thermals worth £500,000. It has also made a donation of the same amount to (UNHCR), with a further £500,000 in matched fundraising for its global colleagues and double donations on Sparks transactions to support UNICEF.
Meanwhile, Boohoo says it is “deeply concerned” by the developments in Ukraine and has suspended sales to Russia as well as closing its Russian trading websites.
It notes that sales in Russia are “not material”, totalling less than 0.1% of group revenues.
Elsewhere, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has confirmed on Twitter that the firm is suspending all operations in Russia and Belarus.
Earlier this week Airbnb said it would be offering free short-term housing for up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine.
Bank of England revamps visual identity to be more ‘inclusive’
The Bank of England has revamped its logo as it looks to become “more accessible and inclusive”.
The bank’s logo, which once features the St George’s cross now shows the Union Jack. While the position of Britannia – the female personification of GB, which has featured on the logo since 1694 – has been shifted so she is now looking outward, rather than it being a profile.
The “digital-first” overhaul has also been applied for all other communications assets and is grounded on four key principles: accessibility, relevance, structures and distinctiveness.
Its font has been designed with dyslexia in mind and uses simple, bold type to be as clear as possible. And the colours on its website have been chosen so they are easier to use.
The Bank of England’s governor says: “The Bank of England has been around for hundreds of years, but it embraces advances in digital technology. These advances have brought many benefits. One is that it brings us closer to the public we serve. We know this means we have to explain what we do and why.
“How we communicate is part of how we carry out our mission. We intend to keep trying to make our communications more inclusive and accessible for everyone.”
UK footfall hits highest level since Covid began
UK footfall returned to its highest level since the pandemic began in February, despite the disruption caused by Storm Eunice.
Total footfall was 2.2 percentage points higher in the four weeks to 26 February than compared to the previous month, although it is still 14.9% lower than in February 2020 before Covid hit.
The data from the BRC and Sensormatic IQ shows footfall on the high street saw the biggest improvement at 4.8 percentage points higher than in January. However it was still 19.4% lower versus two years ago.
Meanwhile retail parks and shopping centres saw footfall increase by 2.8 and 2.3 percentage points, respectively, versus January. Compared to 2020, footfall in shopping centres is down 35.2%, while retail parks saw a more modest decline of 10.2%.
Looking by region, England saw the shallowest footfall decline (14.4%), followed by Northern Ireland at (-15.5%) and Wales (-17.1%). Scotland saw the steepest decline at 17.5%.
“A promising start to the month was briefly dampened by Storm Eunice, before bouncing back in the final week of February, to its highest level since the pandemic began,” says Helen Dickinson, CEO of the British Retail Consortium. “This coincided with the easing of Covid restrictions in England. Overall, the major cities enjoyed the biggest improvements, particularly London, Manchester and Birmingham.”
However, she warns that challenges remain given consumer confidence has been severely knocked by rising inflation.
Hardys wine launches £3m marketing push
Wine brand Hardys is returning to TV as part of a £3m marketing push, which looks to underline the brand’s “consistency and quality”.
The ‘Certainty’ TV campaign is the brand’s first since 2018 and follows owner Accolade Wines’ carbon neutral certification for its European branded portfolio.
The campaign will be supported by in-store activity, digital, social media and a partnership with online learning platform Learning With Experts, which will allow shoppers to earn free lessons in exchange for honest reviews of Hardys wines.
“Hardys’ consistency in quality and wine style, year in year out, was the inspiration for our confident new creative, which shows how we’ve been a constant in people’s lives, present in key moments and for memorable occasions, throughout the decades,” says Tom Smith, Europe marketing director for Accolade Wines.
“The consumer landscape will always change, and the last couple of years have certainly shown that, but our new campaign represents an exciting year ahead for the brand, offering reassurance to retailers and consumers that with Hardys you can always be certain. This significant investment in-store and above the line will promote Hardys enduring status, and we expect it to deliver strong incremental sales and profit across the market.”
Accolade Wines has also committed to investing in sustainability through its supply chains and packaging.
Thursday, 3 March
ITV launches Netflix rival ITVX
ITV is taking on Netflix with the launch of its own subscription-funded streaming platform.
ITVX will offer free ad-funded content, but will also be offering a paid-for option providing more content.
In a step change to its traditional approach, ITV will also be adopting a digital first windowing strategy meaning it will premier much of its new content first on ITVX before showing it on its linear channels months later.
With this in mind, ITV says it plans to double its digital revenues to at least £750m – doubling its level of streaming viewing – by 2026.
Having executed the first phase of its More Than TV strategy last year, the broadcaster has now embarked on the second phase, called Digital Acceleration. Budgets for digital-first content creation are being ramped up and will reach £160m by 2023.
Total revenue at ITV was up by 24% during 2021 to £3.45bn. Total advertising revenue rose by 24% – the highest increase in ITV’s history – with video on demand advertising (AVOD) up 41%.
“ITV delivered an outstanding financial performance in 2021 with total external revenue growth of 24% and adjusted EPS [earnings per share] growth of 40%,” says chief executive Carolyn McCall.
“ITV Studios has enjoyed both ratings and critical success and currently has around 500 programmes in production in the UK and internationally. Media and entertainment kept viewers and advertisers alike happy with a compelling slate of entertainment shows and dramas and must-watch sport across ITV’s channels and streaming.
“Last year’s financial performance together with the successful completion of the first phase of our More Than TV strategy sets ITV up for Digital Acceleration,” added McCall. “We look forward to the launch of ITVX in Q4 and with the above market revenue growth of ITV Studios, we are confident that we will become a leader in UK streaming and an expanding global force in content.”
ITVX is the brand’s integrated AVOD/SVOD platform.
Asos joins shift to suspend Russian operations
Online fashion retailer Asos has joined the growing list of brands that have suspended activities in Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
The retailer says its priority is the safety of colleagues and partners in the region. It suspended sales in Ukraine immediately after the invasion as it became impossible to serve customers there. Yesterday the brand took the decision to suspend sales in Russia too.
Russian sales contributed around 4% of revenue, contributing around £20m to Asos group profits, in 2021.
Companies from across the spectrum have cancelled services and delayed projects in Russia, including Netflix, Apple, H&M, Jaguar Land Rover and several major film studios.
Cervical screening push to drive up attendance
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has worked with the NHS to launch a campaign that encourages more people to attend cervical screening services.
Data has revealed that nearly a third of women eligible for cervical screening don’t currently take up the offer. Around 2,700 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in England each year, and approximately 690 women die from the disease.
The new ‘Help Us Help You – Cervical Screening Saves Lives’ campaign is the result of a cross-agency collaboration and public sector partnerships and includes TV, video on demand, social media and national and regional PR activity.
The TV ad, by M&C Saatchi, explores the different motivations women may have for attending a screening, such as their own future, peace of mind or their loved ones.
PR activity, led by Freuds, centres on the issue of those who don’t take up their right to screening. Some messages are targeted to ethnic minority groups and LGBTQ+ communities, as these group experience additional barriers to taking up screening.
“Cervical screening can help stop cancer before it starts and saves thousands of lives each year. Results from the Cervical Screening campaign in 2019 show there were 86,000 more screening tests carried out during the campaign period than in the same period the year before,” says Ian Williams, deputy director of marketing at DHSC.
“It’s really encouraging to see the crucial role the campaign played in encouraging eligible women and people with a cervix to attend their screening. We’re incredibly proud to launch the 2022 Cervical Screening Saves Lives campaign as part of the Help Us Help You brand – to build on that success.”
New brand strategy for The Economist
Media brand The Economist Group has launched a new brand and business strategy, uniting its four businesses and activities in three key sectors under a shared mission and brand narrative.
The Economist, Economist Impact, Economist Intelligence and Economist Education businesses will now share a mission and a new centralised corporate website to mark the group’s future direction. The business divisions share a focus on the sustainability, health and globalisation sectors. A ‘red thread’ design theme ties the subjects together and highlights Economist Impact, the group’s newest brand, while allowing for increased collaborations between different parts of the business.
“The Economist has long been recognised as a champion of progress. Our brand strategy, which centres our organisation around four businesses with one standard of excellence, positions us for long-term growth and continued success,” says The Economist Group CMO Kim Miller.
“Our dedicated focus on three areas of systemic transformation has bolstered our connection to our customers and clients, and better aligns us with their needs for rigorous journalism, research, analysis and insights. This approach is already unlocking opportunities and delivering outstanding results.”
The new website details the group’s mission and values, governance structure and editorial independence. It also highlights the group’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Kind Snacks shuts down snack sales in fruit and nut promotion
US brand Kind Snacks restricted sales of its own products for two days this week to encourage its customers to buy healthier options instead.
The promotion, held in recognition of National Nutrition Month, saw the snack brand steer customers towards its new Kind Whole Fruit & Nut Box instead of its packaged snacks. The brand hopes to educate customers that packaged snacks are always a second-best option to fresh, whole foods.
“There’s a time and place for eating a Kind bar, but we believe it should never replace eating the whole, fresh foods that are essential to staying healthy,” says Kind CEO Russell Stokes. “Since our founding, we’ve always advocated for nutrition transparency and encouraged people to eat better, even if that means buying raw almonds and fresh apples over our bars.”
According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention only 12% of US adults are eating enough fruit and vegetables, says Kind spokesperson and dietician Sammi Brondo. “Instead they are relying on easy, convenience foods that usually don’t contain the same, important nutrients as fresh produce. Kind’s efforts will be a small, but highly effective way to help in our nationwide effort to make fruits and vegetables more easily accessible and readily consumed.”
A false Kind vending machine in New York’s Greenwich Village opened up when consumers attempted to make a purchase, taking them into a ‘secret’ farmers market where they could fill baskets with fresh whole produce, free of charge.
Kind saw growth of over 15% in 2021.
Wednesday, 2 March
Just Eat ups marketing spend by 85% as it ‘makes progress’ towards profitability
Just Eat Takeaway.com hails 2021 as a year of “strong growth” fuelled by investments made during the pandemic, including an 85% increase in marketing spend.
Revenue globally grew by 33% to €5.3bn (£4.4bn) in 2021, compared with €4bn (£3.3bn) in 2020. However, over the 2021 full year period the company made a total adjusted loss of €350m (£292m).
The business has 99 million active customers, up 9% on 2020 levels, who each make on average 2.9 orders a month, up 11% on last year.
In the UK and Ireland alone, revenue grew by 63% year-on-year to €1.25bn (£1.04bn) in 2021 from €768m (£641m) in 2020. Order growth increased by 52% to 289 million, with Just Eat claiming it enjoys a “clear market leadership” position.
Delivery orders in the UK and Ireland increased to 39% in 2021, from 15% in 2020, a “rapid shift” in the order mix reflecting Just Eat’s “strong growth” in partnerships with branded chains. The gross transaction value in the UK and Ireland increased 47% compared to 2020 to €6.65bn (£5.55bn).
Following the successful launch of its employed courier model in London last year, the operation expanded into a further five UK cities in 2021.
Last year, Just Eat increased its marketing investment by 85% to €684m (£571m) from €369m (£308m) during the same period in 2020, driven in part by its sponsorship of Euro 2020. The company says the deal now positions Just Eat as a top-tier sports sponsoring brand, laying the foundations for future work with UEFA through to 2025.
The brand describes activating the partnership through a “bespoke advertising campaign” with some of the world’s biggest football stars, a “very successful” ‘Order and Win’ campaign, along with player escorts and fantasy football initiatives.
Just Eat says the sponsorship aligns with its strategic goal to lead share of voice in most key markets, while steadily increasing top-of-mind brand awareness, which the company claims has directly resulted in new consumer acquisition growth.
Hotel Chocolat credits ‘flexible’ multichannel model for profit surge
Hotel Chocolat says it is gaining momentum towards becoming a “globally ambitious” digitally-led brand, as revenue surged 40% year on year to £142.9m.
Reporting its results for 26 weeks to 26 December 2021, the chocolatier says this revenue figure is an increase of 56% compared to pre-Covid levels. Hotel Chocolat also notched up £24.1m in pre-tax profit, an increase of 56% year on year and 61% compared to pre-pandemic.
In the UK, multichannel sales growth is up 24% compared to levels pre-Covid, while the business has seen a 38% increase in its active customer database to 2.3 million. Hotel Chocolat describes its UK stores as a profitable way to build brand awareness and like-for-like growth.
The company credits its refreshed bestselling Christmas and core gifting ranges for driving “strong sales uplifts”, while digital investment and loyalty have helped drive multichannel growth. During the period, Hotel Chocolat also invested in its first TV campaign, promoting its Velvetiser hot chocolate product.
Internationally, the digital focus being applied to the US market is paying off, with active customers up 119%. Online growth has been led by sales of the Velvetiser product, a model the business says supports acquisition marketing with opportunities to cross-sell gifts. Hotel Chocolat also sees the opportunity to present US customers with a curated offer online of higher price-point products.
Over the period Hotel Chocolat opened a further nine stores in Japan and is now trading from 31 locations, alongside online and wholesale. Japanese active VIP customers have increased by 1,000%. Consumer sales as a whole in the Japanese market are up 131%, with locally-tailored gift-assortments performing well.
The business credits continued innovation for driving success, with refreshed gift assortments contributing to “strong sales”, alongside the expanded hot chocolate and home barista range.
Looking ahead, Hotel Chocolat sees potential for its “strong differentiated brand” offering accessible luxury prices, eyeing “exciting opportunities” for multichannel and global growth. The company says it also wants to “continually strengthen” its brand appeal with product innovation and improved ESG credentials.
Sainsbury’s to close 200 in-store cafes in favour of food hub concept
Sainsbury’s is to close 200 in-store cafes next month as the supermarket rolls out “bold new plans to transform” its eat-in, takeaway and home delivery offer.
Only 67 cafes will remain open, putting 2,000 jobs at risk, while the supermarket also plans to close less popular hot food counters in 34 stores and “simplify” the running of its bakeries in 54 locations.
The strategy is based on the successful trial of a new food hall format called The Restaurant Hub at the supermarket’s Selly Oak store in Birmingham. A tie-up with the Boparan Restaurant Group, The Restaurant Hub offers customers eat-in, takeaway and home delivered hot food and drink from brands such as Caffè Carluccio’s, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Ed’s Diner and Slim Chickens.
The idea is to open 30 more The Restaurant Hubs in the next year, with the intention to accelerate the rollout in future if the format proves popular with customers. Sainsbury’s will also open a further 30 Starbucks coffee shops in its supermarkets over the next 12 months, increasing the Starbucks offering to 60 stores.
The supermarket says it wants to “transform” the eat-in, takeaway and home delivered hot food and drink offer in 250 of its supermarkets over the next three years.
Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts says customers like the convenience of being able to have a drink, snack or meal while doing their shopping, with The Restaurant Hub concept offering options for breakfast, lunch or dinner – or a hot meal to take home.
“Through our trials with Boparan Restaurant Group and Starbucks we have learnt that we can offer customers a much better eat-in and takeaway experience working with partners,” Roberts adds.
“We are totally focused on improving what we can deliver for our customers and at the same time, working hard to make our business simpler. We are really excited about this new customer offer we will be rolling out over the next two to three years across many of our stores.”
While the Sainsbury’s CEO admitted the decision to close 200 cafes next month was “unsettling”, he insists the supermarket must keep adapting its business to ensure it offers customers the “best possible food and drink at affordable prices.”
CEO of the Boparan Restaurant Group, Satnam Leihal, describes The Restaurant Hub as giving customers a choice that “never existed before”, enabling them to enjoy multiple brands for eat-in or delivery.
Covid has accelerated trends towards convenience, adds Starbucks UK general manager Alex Rayner, who says the coffee chain is increasing its investment in new formats and digital channels, such as drive-thru, delivery, mobile order and pay, and its loyalty programme, as a result.
Retail prices mark highest rate of inflation in over a decade
Shop price annual inflation accelerated to 1.8% last month, up from 1.5% in January, according to the latest BRC-NielsenIQ Shop Price Index.
This marks the fastest rise in retail prices in over a decade and is well above both the 12-month average price decrease of 0.3% and six-month average price increase of 0.5%.
Non-food inflation accelerated to 1.3%, up from 0.9% in January – the highest inflation rate since 2011. Food inflation remained unchanged at 2.7%.
Fresh food inflation rose to 3.3% from 2.9%, the highest rate since March 2013, while at the other end of the scale, ambient food inflation slowed to 2% from 2.4%.
“Retail prices rose in February at their fastest rate in over a decade,” explains CEO of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson. “Food inflation remained the key driver behind higher prices, particularly for fresh food which has been impacted by poor harvests, both in the UK and globally.”
She notes the increase from last month is a result of rising prices for non-food products, particularly health, beauty and furniture. The BRC CEO warns there is little sign of change, with the Bank of England predicting price rises to continue until at least the spring.
Dickinson adds that price rises will be “unwelcome news” for households already struggling with the rise in national insurance tax and energy price caps.
“Retailers are going to great lengths to mitigate against these price rises and support their customers, for example, many supermarkets have expanded their value ranges for food. Unfortunately, there are limits to the costs that retailers can absorb,” she says.
888 fined £9.4m for failing to protect vulnerable customers
Online casino 888 has been fined £9.4m by the gambling regulator for failing to prevent customers racking up huge losses during the pandemic.
It is the third highest penalty in British gambling history and comes just weeks before the government publishes its proposals to reform gambling regulation.
The Gambling Commission said 888 had not sufficiently protected at-risk customers as they did not carry financial checks until they had deposited £40,000.
In one case, a customer racked up losses of £37,000 in just six weeks before the company did any financial checks, while an NHS worker, who 888 knew earned £1,400 per month, was given a monthly deposit cap of £1,300.
This was during 2020 at the height of the pandemic when the commission had asked companies to be extra vigilant given people might be more vulnerable.
Following an audit in October 2020, the regulator found most of the company’s social responsibility interactions consisted of a single email detailing responsible gambling tools.
888 was fined £7.8m in 2017 – a record fine at the time – and the Gambling Commission has warned it could consider 888’s suitability to hold a licence to operate in Great Britain.
“The circumstances of the last enforcement action may be different but both cases involve failing consumers – and this is something that is not acceptable,” says chief executive of the Gambling Commission Andrew Rhodes.
“Today’s fine is one of our largest to date and all should be clear that if there is a repeat of the failures at 888 then we have to seriously consider the suitability of the operator to uphold the licensing objectives and keep gambling safe and crime-free.”
Tuesday, 1 March
Compare the Market pulls Meerkat ads in response to Ukraine war
Compare the Market has pulled its ads featuring Russian meerkat Aleksandr Orlov from news programmes and content about the war in Ukraine.
While the price comparison site has stressed the fact the meerkats are fictional characters, it says it is “sensitive to the current situation”.
Orlov and his right-hand man Sergei feature in the series of ads that first hit screens in 2009.
“The meerkats are fictional characters,” Compare the Market said in a statement. “They have no association with Russia and the current situation. We are continually reviewing our advertising to ensure we’re being sensitive to the current situation.”
Meanwhile, Mastercard has has blocked a number of financial institutions from its payment network in response to sanctions imposed on Russia.
And Shell is terminating its joint ventures with Russian state energy firm Gazprom and related entities, which are worth around $3bn (£2.3bn).“We are shocked by the loss of life in Ukraine, which we deplore, resulting from a senseless act of military aggression which threatens European security,” says Shell’s chief executive, Ben van Beurden.
It comes a day after BP said it would offload its 20% stake in Kremlin-owned oil firm Rosneft, estimated to be worth $14bn (£10.4bn)
Costa to start selling M&S food
Costa Coffee has joined forces with Marks & Spencer to start offering a range of hot and cold breakfast and lunch items in its shops.
Costa Coffee Now Serving M&S Food launches on 3 March and features 33 items, including sandwiches, salads and porridge, as well as M&S favourites like Percy Pigs.
The range will be available at more than 2,500 Costa shops across the UK and will be sold alongside Costa’s own food products.
Costa says it has made “significant investments” in its own range of food, including product innovation and store environments in recent years. The collaboration with M&S is part of its plan to attract more customers for food and drink when they’re on the go.
Adrian Cook, UK & Ireland chief operating officer of Costa Coffee, describes the tie-up with M&S Food as an “exciting first step” in its collaboration.
“As we look to continue crafting new coffee-experiences, we are building a new food offering that will provide an even greater range of quality and great value food for all customers,” he adds.
“The collaboration launches with iconic M&S Food and we’ve exciting plans ahead, using our joint expertise to develop better food and drink experiences for customers to enjoy throughout the day, alongside their favourite Costa coffee.”
Beam Suntory hires Jerry Daykin to transform media strategy
Beam Suntory, the spirits business behind brands including Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, has appointed former Diageo media boss Jerry Daykin as vice-president of global media.
He has been tasked with transforming the company’s media strategy, with a particular focus on digital, to help it achieve its premiumisation goal. Daykin’s appointment is also critical to advancing Beam Suntory’s ambition of becoming a brand-led organisation, the company says.
To help deliver the transformation and drive growth globally, Beam Suntory now plans to build out the team and bring in additional talent to help it scale globally.
Daykin joins from GSK Consumer Healthcare where he led the company’s digital media transformation across more than 50 markets in EMEA. Prior to this he spent two years at Diageo as head of global media partnerships and strategy. He was responsible for driving the drinks giant’s Trusted Marketplace approach, that was designed to increase the quality and impact of a brand’s media. He also co-developed Diageo’s Future Media Model.
“I’m thrilled to be joining a business so determined to accelerate its global digital media transformation, with premium brands that have a right to win, and working back in a category I love,” says Daykin.
“Media has the potential to be a growth driving competitive advantage, with a socially conscious presence that funds a positive content landscape around it, and we’ll be building a team to scale that globally. The Beam Suntory experience is deeply human, and we will translate that into real life experiences for consumers across each and every brand.”
While at GSK Daykin was also the global co-lead of GSK’s #RepresentationMatters initiative to drive more diverse and inclusive marketing. He also co-chairs the World Federation of Advertisers’ (WFA) Diversity Task Force where he is helping to steer the industry’s efforts to improve diversity and inclusion and mitigate bias across the creative process.
Jessica Spence, Beam Suntory’s president of brands, says: “Jerry is an excellent example of how we are enabling transformative leadership through an organisational structure that unleashes creativity and limitless possibilities for human connection and growth.
“Recognised as a global leader with a track record of driving brand growth through digital media transformation, Jerry shares our fundamental belief in the business model that brands create value. As we shake things up to unleash the full potential of our brands, Jerry will help to further evolve our global media capabilities and partnerships by putting our brands at the heart of the business and bringing their incredible legacies into the future.”
Airbnb offers free housing for 100,000 Ukrainian refugees
Airbnb is offering free short-term housing for up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine.
The home-sharing site’s leadership team, including CEO Brian Chesky, have sent letters to the governments of neighbouring countries Poland, Romania, Germany and Hungary offering support for housing refugees.
Through its non-profit entity Airbnb.org, which is chaired by Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, the platform says it will work closely with governments to best support the specific needs of each country, including longer-term stays where appropriate.
These stays are being funded by Airbnb, donors to the Airbnb.org Refugee Fund and hosts.
Airbnb.org was set up to facilitate temporary stays for people in times of crisis and over the past five years has connected more than 54,000 refugees and asylees from places including Syria, Venezuela and Afghanistan to temporary housing.
Last week it confirmed it has provided housing for 21,300 Afghan refugees and pledged to help another 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan, Africa, the Middle East and other regions. The support for Ukrainian refugees will be in addition to this latest figure.
Aldi and Lidl fastest growing supermarkets as shoppers return to stores
Aldi and Lidl were the fastest growing supermarkets in the 12 weeks to 20 February, both increasing their sales by 3.3%.
Aldi attracted an additional 1.3 million customers over the period, while Lidl brought in an extra 1 million shoppers reflecting the fact people are returning to stores.
Overall, take-home grocery sales for the 12-week period fell by 3.7%, according to the latest data from Kantar. However while this is down on 2021 it is still 8.4% higher than before the pandemic in 2020. This time last year the UK was still in lockdown, with people buying more meals and snacks to consume at home, whereas there is now a return to on-the-go consumption and eating out.
Consumers spent an average of £26.07 less at supermarkets in February despite a new high in grocery prices with inflation standing at 4.3%. Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, says this suggests shoppers are “shrugging off their pandemic habits”.
Some 835,000 fewer people bought groceries online over the past four weeks with digital sales now accounting for 13.3%, 2.1 percentage points down on last year.
Despite the drop, Ocado still managed to boost its sales by 0.2% over the past 12 weeks, helping it grow its market share from 1.7% to 1.8%.
Looking at other supermarkets, Tesco extended its run of market share gains, taking another 0.3 percentage points. It now accounts for 27.7% of the market.
Waitrose also grew ahead of its competitors, meaning it retains its share of 5%. Sainsbury’s market share hit 15.5%, while Asda’s is now 14.6% and Morrisons’ 9.8%. Co-op holds 5.7% of the market, Iceland 2.3% and independent retailers stand at 1.6%.
Monday, 28 February
Meta and Google block ads from Russian state media
Facebook-owner Meta is prohibiting ads from Russian state media worldwide in a move aimed at “demonetising their accounts”.
Google has also banned Russian state-owned media outlet Russia Today and other channels from receiving money for ads on their websites, apps and YouTube videos, Reuters reports. YouTube says it is “pausing” the ability of a number of channels to monetise the site and is preventing Russian state-funded media outlets from using its ad tech to generate revenue on their own websites and apps.
Furthermore, Reuters reports Russian media will not be able to buy ads through Google Tools or place ads on services, such as search and Gmail.
At the request of the Ukrainian government, Meta has also restricted access to several accounts in Ukraine, including those belonging to some Russian state media organisations, and is reviewing other government requests to restrict Russian state-controlled media.
The social media giant will provide greater transparency around accounts from Russian state-controlled media outlets, such as Russia Today and Sputnik, because such sites “combine the influence of a media organisation with the strategic backing of a state”.
Meta claims to be taking “extensive steps” to fight the spread of misinformation by expanding its third-party fact-checking capacity in Russian and Ukrainian. The company says it has resisted an order from Russian authorities to stop the independent fact-checking and labelling of content posted on Facebook by four Russian state media organisations.
Content rated as false is being moved lower down the News Feed so fewer people see it, while Meta is warning users when war-related images are more than one year old, to avoid “outdated or misleading images” being taken out of context.
Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp already have limits on message forwarding and label messages that haven’t originated with the sender, so people are aware content is from a third party. Facebook pages, groups, accounts and domains that repeatedly share false information will also receive additional penalties, such as being removed from recommendations.
In addition, users will see pop-up notifications when they connect with a Facebook page, group or Instagram account that has repeatedly shared content rated false by fact-checkers.
“We are closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine and will keep sharing steps we’re taking to protect people on our platform,” says Meta head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher.
FA joins sporting backlash against Russia
The Football Association (FA) has confirmed the England team will not play against Russia in any international fixtures “for the foreseeable future”.
Condemning the “atrocities being committed by the Russian leadership” and in solidarity with Ukraine, teams will not play against Russia in international fixtures at any level of seniority, age group or para-football.
While expressing its “deepest solidarity” with the people of Ukraine, FIFA has refused to expel the Russian national team from World Cup qualifying, drawing criticism it is not going far enough.
On Sunday, the football governing body confirmed no international competition will be played in Russia, meaning ‘home’ matches will be staged on neutral territory and without spectators. The Russian team will be forced to compete as the Football Union of Russia, not Russia, and will not be able to have their flag or national anthem played.
FIFA says it will consider potential exclusion from competitions should the situation in Ukraine not improve rapidly.
Elsewhere, fellow governing body UEFA is reportedly in discussions to exit its multimillion-pound relationship with Russian energy giant Gazprom, after confirming the men’s Champions League final in May will move from St Petersburg to Paris.
Manchester United has already ended its sponsorship deal with Russian airline Aeroflot, saying the football club shares the concerns of its fans worldwide. Meanwhile this weekend, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich confirmed his intention to give the trustees of Chelsea’s charitable foundation stewardship and care of the club.
In a statement, Abramovich added: “I believe that currently they [the foundation] are in the best position to look after the interests of the Club, players, staff and fans.”
Beyond football, Formula 1 has cancelled the Russian Grand Prix, scheduled to take place in Sochi on 25 September, while team Haas removed the logo of Russian sponsor Uralkali from its cars during pre-season testing on Friday.
Primark sales surge as Greggs tie-up drives brand ‘excitement’
Primark sales for the first half are expected to be well over 60% ahead of 2021, with all stores finally reopened following global Covid lockdowns.
In a trading update, owner Associated British Foods says Primark’s operating profit margin has recovered strongly and is expected to be 11% in the first half, bringing the half year margin close to pre-Covid levels.
Primark’s total sales are expected to be 4% lower than the same period two years ago.
Like-for-like sales have improved compared to the final quarter of the 2021 financial year and for the first half are expected to be 11% lower than pre-Covid levels. The business reports customer footfall is picking up, particularly in the UK and Ireland, following the disruption caused by the rapid rise in Omicron infections.
Sales across UK stores are ahead of last year and on a like-for-like basis are expected to be 9% below two years ago, with total sales at 8% lower than pre-Covid levels. Stores in retail parks and town centres continue to “outperform” city centre locations, with like-for-like sales in retail parks ahead of pre-Covid levels.
Primark says it is on track to launch its “new, improved customer-facing website” in the UK by the end of March and across all markets by the autumn. Rather than an ecommerce play, the website will showcase products and provide customers with product availability by store.
Response to the launch of its Greggs collaboration earlier this month has been “strong”, with Primark reporting high levels of engagement across its social channels “driving excitement” around the brand, particularly among younger consumers.
The retailer also claims to have received “very positive” initial reaction from customers for its spring/summer collections, with luggage and swimwear sales performing well in recent weeks, giving the company confidence ahead of the holiday season.
Over the past two years Primark has opened 27 new stores, increasing its retail selling space by 8%. As of 5 March, the business will be trading from 402 stores and 17 million sq ft of retail space.
The retailer plans to add a net 0.5 million sq ft of additional store space this financial year, with the ambition to grow to 530 stores over the next five years. The focus for new stores will be on the US, France, Italy and Iberia.
Uber CMO departs after three years
Uber global CMO Thomas Ranese has left the ride hailing company after three years, with Amsterdam-based head of global marketing David Mogensen assuming the role of vice-president of marketing.
Ranese joined Uber in September 2019 following more than nine years at Google, tasked with setting the global strategy for marketing across 60 markets. He led a team of more than 300 people responsible for product marketing and demand generation for mobility and delivery, as well as spearheading corporate initiatives to “rebuild trust and reputation” for the brand.
He took over from Rebecca Messina, who left Uber 11 months on from being appointed the company’s first global CMO and a month after its IPO.
Prior to joining Uber, Ranese served as vice-president of global hardware marketing at Google, becoming the “founding CMO” of branded hardware, including the Pixel phone. He oversaw the introduction of the #MadebyGoogle family of devices in 2016, which now spans smartphones, smart home devices, productivity, gaming and subscriptions.
Before making the move into tech, Ranese was CMO of New York State development, with responsibility for the oversight of the ‘I LOVE NY’ state tourism marketing programme. He has also held positions as managing director of brand valuation at Interbrand and as an engagement manager at McKinsey.
In his new role as vice-president of marketing, Mogensen will report to senior vice-president of marketing and public affairs at Uber, Jill Hazelbaker, Ad Week reports. The promotion comes just a month after Mogensen was made head of global marketing.
Prior to joining Uber, he progressed from product marketing manager to director of marketing for Northern Europe at Google, a role which saw him take responsibility for business, consumer and brand marketing across the region.
Before joining Google, Mogensen served for more than nine years at BMW North America, rising to the position of national marketing manager. In this role he planned and executed the marketing strategy for brand and product launch communications in the US, overseeing TV, print, radio and digital campaigns, CRM and point of sale.
BP ‘rethinks’ role in Russia amid sale of $14bn stake in oil firm Rosneft
BP is to sell its 19.75% stake in Russian state oil firm Rosneft, estimated to be worth $14bn (£10.4bn), due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The energy giant, which has come under pressure to end its relationship with the oil firm, will also exit its other businesses with Rosneft within Russia, which include three joint ventures with a combined value of around $1.4bn (£1bn) as of the end of 2021.
According to BP’s latest annual results earlier this month, Rosneft accounted for $2.7bn (£2bn) of its profits.
Describing the invasion as an “act of aggression”, BP confirmed its chief executive officer Bernard Looney, and former group chief executive Bob Dudley, will resign from Rosneft’s board with immediate effect. Looney has been a director of Rosneft since 2020, while Dudley has been on the board since 2013.
The BP chief exec claims to have been “deeply shocked and saddened” by the situation unfolding in Ukraine, which has caused the business to “fundamentally rethink” its relationship with Rosneft. He said the decisions being taken are also in the long-term interests of BP.
BP chair Helge Lund describes the invasion as representing a “fundamental change” to the company’s interests in Russia, meaning the involvement with Rosneft “simply cannot continue.”
“We can no longer support BP representatives holding a role on the Rosneft board. The Rosneft holding is no longer aligned with BP’s business and strategy, and it is now the board’s decision to exit BP’s shareholding in Rosneft,” says Lund.
Frasers Group lashes out at Studio Retail’s ‘death spiral’
Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has lashed out at the governance of the Studio Retail Group, after buying the discount retailer out of administration for £26.8m.
Following the acquisition, which Frasers Group claims has saved almost 1,500 jobs, the company released a statement sharing “key concerns regarding the demise” of Studio Retail, in which it had held an almost 30% stake.
The group, which spans the likes of House of Fraser, Sports Direct and Flannels, says it had “long advocated” Studio Retail was in need of a strategic review to “maximise/protect shareholder value”. Frasers points to concerns raised around accounting estimates and whether management were “taking a sufficiently conservative view”, which prompted the group to vote against the CFO’s re-election in 2019. Frasers subsequently lost that vote.
“SRG [Studio Retail Group] is another example of a business which has buried its head in the sand whilst the world around it changed. Furthermore, it is clear that the fundamentals of its business were, at best inadequately scrutinised by its board and/or advisors to the business, or at worst, deliberately concealed as the business entered its death spiral,” says Frasers.
Mike Ashley’s group believes the claim a £25m loan would have been enough to preserve Studio Retail as a going concern shows a “gross underestimation” of the scale of the issues facing the business.
Frasers also criticises the system of UK corporate governance, saying a process which “countenances sudden and unaccountable failure of businesses” is unfit for purpose and in need of urgent reform. The group says regulation of business should mean companies and jobs “do not simply disappear overnight”, which Frasers claims tarnishes the reputation of UK business.
“Frasers does not see the failures of listed public companies such as Debenhams, Goals and SRG [Studio Retail Group] as isolated incidents, but rather as manifestations of systematic governance failures and a lack of corporate and individual accountability,” the company adds.
Frasers lost around £150m on its approximately 30% stake in Debenhams when the failed department store fell into administration in 2019, while the company’s 19% stake in Goals Soccer centre was lost when the football pitch operator delisted amid an accounting scandal.
Calling it an “urgent priority of government” to increase the meaningful regulation of UK business, Frasers wants there to be full investigations for the collapse of all listed businesses and fines and/or criminal penalties imposed on any individuals found to have been “complicit in or responsible for” any wrongdoing which contributed to their failure.
Announcing its acquisition of Studio Retail on Friday, Frasers said the purchase will provide the business with “expertise and synergies” that will accelerate its ambition to elevate the customer journey through the introduction of a flexible repayment proposition, a feature of the Studio business.