Welcome to your weekly round-up of the top commercial news. This week, we had the news that rail fares are to rise substantially and the UK retail sector benefitted overall in July from the good weather and the World Cup. Bad news for two of the UK’s leading department stores and the retail giant Amazon appears to be considering an insurance comparison site in the UK.
The government has confirmed that UK rail fares are to rise 3.2% in January, the steepest in five years. While commuters have called again for a freeze in fares, leaders in the rail industry said that the rise was “underpinning once-in-a-generation investment”.
The UK retail sector had a boost in July from the extended run of good weather and the England football team’s performance in the World Cup. Senior statistician for the Office for National Statistics, Rhian Murphy, said: “Many consumers stayed away from high street stores in July, but online sales were very strong, supported by several retailers launching promotions. Food sales remained robust as people continued to enjoy the World Cup and the sunshine.”
House of Fraser was bought by Mike Ashley, founder of Sports Direct, hours after it went into administration. He paid £90 million and said that he wants to turn the chain into the “Harrods of the high street”. This week, the company has said that it is cancelling all online orders and refunding customers after a payment dispute with its warehouse operator.
Another department store is facing trouble. Debenhams is reportedly planning to cut up to 200 head office jobs in an attempt to reduce costs. The department store has already issued three profit warnings this year.
It appears that Amazon is thinking about setting up an insurance comparison site in the UK and is reportedly in talks with British insurers. Amazon has so far declined to comment.