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DAILY BRIEFING

An M&S less in Paris

Good morning,

Written by Rebecca Smithson, researcher
Edited by Tom Gillingham, associate partner

14 September 2021

While living in Paris last year, I was always drawn in by the occasional M&S like a homesick moth to flame, staring longingly at the English breakfast blend and crumpets. What could be more British than M&S, except perhaps bulldogs, the Union Jack and battered spam? However, for Brits living in France, this experience is on borrowed time.
 
M&S is mulling over plans to close its twenty shops in France, most of which are in Paris. Citing Brexit border delays and, as a result, hundreds of tons of food wasted, M&S is struggling to provide adequate stock to its EU shops, with only 80% of its products reaching the bloc.
 
Last year M&S’s international business accumulated Brexit-related costs of £6.2m, as overseas sales also dropped 17%. The figures prompted a rush of mitigating strategies, including an overhaul of its supply chain: in the Czech Republic, the company removed all fresh and chilled foods from stores, replacing them with products with long shelf lives.
 
This is not the first time that M&S has warned of shortages in certain regions, but you can’t help but wonder whether if similar scenes could follow closer to home as haulage driver shortages continue to hit food deliveries.
 
Back in the UK, the retailer is reviving a brand scrapped in 2000 in order to push its profits into the green after a 50% slump. After noticing that ‘St Michael’ branded items are popular online on second-hand retailers such as Depop and Vinted, it decided to launch three “vintage-style” items in its latest attempt to win over the under-25s, though a more cynical part of me can’t help but feel that it’ll take much more for the retailer to compete with “youthful” brands Boohoo, Zara and ASOS.
 
Nonetheless, it is interesting that while pulling out of another country, M&S is returning to a previously held identity in the UK, one associated with all things British. Is this an indication of nationalism or isolationism in British brand image?
 
Having closed 60 shops and cut 7,000 jobs in its recent overhaul programme last year, M&S is finally reporting boosted profits, with 2021 sales 2.6% only lower than in 2019. It does however pose the question: in a post-Brexit, post-Covid world, will business abroad be a necessary sacrifice to preserve the British institution?

News

Boris Johnson confirmed today that 32 million adults over 50 will be offered a Covid-19 booster jab in the coming months to ensure their protection against the virus continues. The NHS will also offer a dose to three million children aged 12 to 15 in a bid to reduce disruption to their education. (£)
 
Prince Andrew’s lawyer has described allegations of sexual assault against the Duke of York as “baseless, non-viable [and] potentially unlawful” during a pre-trial conference as he stated the Duke had not been “served” with the legal documents correctly. The Duke stands accused of the sexual assault of Virginia Giuffre when she was seventeen.
 
Chinese police are using a new anti-fraud app installed on more than 200m mobile phones to identify and question people who have viewed overseas financial news sites. The news comes as China cracks down on the tech sector, with regulators ordering app Alipay to turn over its data to a new, partly state-owned venture. (£)
 
Climate groups E3G, Global Energy Monitor and Ember have revealed in a new report that more than three-quarters of the world’s planned coal power plants have been scrapped since the signing of the Paris climate agreement in 2015. This means 44 countries no longer have access to future coal power, with 31 countries still planning to build at least one coal plant.

Business and economy

Energy prices have surged to eleven times above normal levels as power station closures, low wind speeds and a shortage in gas supply increase the pressure on the National Grid. Households are warned to “brace” for a further increase to their energy bills in coming months. (£)
 
ABTA has warned that the travel sector intends to cut two-thirds of UK jobs once furlough comes to an end. It blamed “overly cautious” coronavirus restrictions for limiting the industry’s chances of recovery, with a approximately 100,000 redundancies expected from October.
 
The property market is in the best shape to sell in more than two decades, according to OnTheMarket chief executive Jason Tebb, but sellers are being spooked by the lack of stock and the rapid rate at which homes are being purchased. Tebb claimed the trend would “plateau” within the coming months.

Columns of note

Clare Foges discusses the predicament of women’s working hours in the Times. Asking what the most advantageous course for the rights of women in the UK would be, she outlines her worry that an increased number of court cases regarding flexible working will turn women aged 25 to 40 into a “don’t-touch-with-a-bargepole” prospect for employers. (£)
 
Vicky Allan asks whether Glasgow will be the most exclusionary COP conference yet in the Herald with delegates from poorer nations reporting difficulties accessing accommodation and vaccines in Scotland. She debates whether postponement or going ahead without key voices on climate change would be worse for the climate crisis.

Cartoon source: Daily Telegraph

Markets

What happened yesterday?

Bank and oil issues helped the FTSE 100 rise yesterday, despite concerns over China’s crackdown on tech company Alipay, leading the Hang Seng index to fall more than 2%.
 
The FTSE 100 closed up 0.6% at 7,068.43 and the FTSE 250 finished up 0.18% at 23,775.73. In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 0.76% to 34,869.63, while the S&P 500 was up 0.23% to 4,468.73, while the Nasdaq Composite ended the session 0.07% weaker at 15,105.58.
 
In UK company news, Royal Mail gained 3.23% following news that the Post Office will begin handling packages for Amazon. WH Smith advanced after US activist investor Causeway Capital became the biggest shareholder in the retailer with a 9.05% stake. Rolls-Royce and Babcock were both up after agreeing to sell their stakes in in AirTanker Holdings Limited to Equitix Investment Management.

What’s happening today?

Finals
Diurnal Grp
MJGleeson
Ncc
Petra Diamonds
Thinksmart Ltf

Interims
Accesso Tech
Bluejay Min
Cloudcall Grp
Corero Network
Ekf Diagnostics
Ekf Diagnostics
Filta Group
Harworth gp
JD Sports
Kistos
Made.com
Ocean Out
Portmeirion
Propty Franchis
Sanne Group
Smart Metering
Staffline
Stm Grp.
Team17 Group
Tp Grp
Cr Education H
Xaar

AGMs
Baker Steel
Jade Road Inv
Mercia Asset
Tremor Int Ltd

UK Economic Announcements 
(07:00) Unemployment Rate
(07:00) Claimant Count Rate

International Economic Announcements 
(13:30) Consumer Price Index (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

Although English is listed as an official language in almost a third of the countries in the world, the UK isn’t one of them. (Source: @qikipedia)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Justice (including Topical Questions)
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Non-disclosure agreements
 
Motion
Consideration of a Business of the House Motion
 
Legislation
Health and Social Care Levy Bill: All stages
 
Adjournment
Theory test centre in Scunthorpe
 
Westminster Hall debates
Black Maternal Health Week
Reducing fire risk in high rise social housing
Role of shipping emissions in decarbonising the UK
Real fur sales in the UK

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Plans for mountain guiding professionals and other touring service providers to not require visas or work permits for travel to EU countries, similar to arrangements for UK musicians and performers

Commonwealth Fund Mirror report ‘Mirror 2021: Reflecting Poorly’, published on 4 August, and the drop of the UK NHS from first to fourth place in their rankings of country’s health care systems
 
Ensuring long-term, ring-fenced funding is available for supported housing
 
Level of cancellations of influenza vaccinations and routine blood tests
 
Legislation
Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill [HL] – third reading

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – second reading
 
Orders and regulations
Draft Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products and Energy Information (Lighting Products) Regulations 2021; Draft Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products and Energy Information (Amendment) Regulations 2021
 
Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps etc.) (England) (Revocation and Amendment) Regulations 2021
 
Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021; Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021
 
Draft Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships) (Amendment) Regulations 2021
 
Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) (No. 2) (High- Risk Countries) Regulations 2021
 
Draft Capital Requirements Regulation (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Scottish parliament 

Parliamentary Bureau Motions
 
Topical Questions
 
First Minister’s Statement: COVID-19 Update
 
Scottish Government Debate
A Caring Nation – Recovering, Remobilising and Renewing Health and Social Care in Scotland
 
Committee Announcements
 
Business Motions
 
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
 
Decision Time
 
Members’ Business
Karen Adam: 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

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