Asda sales grow again after three-year slump

Asda logo

Supermarket chain Asda has reported its first quarterly like-for-like sales growth for three years.

Sales rose 1.8% in the second quarter after a bumper Easter, Asda owner Walmart said.

Figures were boosted by a combination of price cuts, more customers and rising inflation.

Last year Asda reported its worst quarterly performance on record when sales tumbled by 7.5%.

Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon said the world’s biggest retail was “encouraged” by the UK result.

“In June, I visited Asda to see the progress being made. Customers are responding to investments in price and store experience by visiting the stores more often and increasing their basket sizes,” he said.

“There’s still much more to be done, but we’re clearly headed in the right direction.”

Asda is the third-largest UK supermarket chain behind Tesco and Sainsbury’s, .

Topshop bosses out of fashion in Arcadia shake-up

People walk past Topshop, Oxford Street

Top Shop is the jewel in the crown of billionaire Sir Philip Green’s retail empire.

But with the chain losing its sheen amid tough competition there are fresh attempts to keep it ahead of the game.

In the latest shake-up at Sir Philip’s parent company Arcadia, Top Shop’s creative boss Kate Phelan is leaving, as is Top Man’s Gordon Richardson.

Arcadia has announced that they will be replaced in a combined role by former Vogue art director David Hagglund.

In addition to this latest creative appointment, a new chief executive starts next month – Paul Price.

It signals a new era for Top Shop, once the go-to destination for young shoppers keen to snap up the very latest fashion trends on the High Street.

Profits at Arcadia, which also includes Miss Selfridge, Burton, and Dorothy Perkins, plunged by 79% last year.

Tough competition in the clothing market – and the failure of the now-defunct BHS chain – contributed to the poor performance.

Ms Phelan moved to Top Shop from fashion magazine Vogue in 2011, and Mr Richardson has been at Top Man for 17 years.


In Arcadia’s statement, Sir Philip said: “The appointment of David Hagglund, in the newly combined role, continues to mark the start of a new era for Topshop Topman in moving both brands forward in their ongoing global expansion.

“I am delighted to welcome David who will be joining Paul Price, our new chief executive, on the same day and I look forward to working with them both to drive the business forward.”

Top of their agenda will be Top Shop’s future. Nimbler online rivals such as Boohoo and Misguided are eroding Top Shop’s market share. They’re cheaper, too.

Online retailer Boohoo thanks to new overseas markets.

And online fashion retailer Asos has also been eating Top Shop’s cake, with sales jumping in its .

We will have to wait and see whether Top Shop seeks to move upmarket, or tries to up its game in the fiercely competitive online world.

Top Shop bosses out of fashion in Arcadia shake-up

People walk past Topshop, Oxford Street

Top Shop is the jewel in the crown of billionaire Sir Philip Green’s retail empire.

But with the chain losing its sheen amid tough competition there are fresh attempts to keep it ahead of the game.

In the latest shake-up at Sir Philip’s parent company Arcadia, Top Shop’s creative boss Kate Phelan is leaving, as is Top Man’s Gordon Richardson.

Arcadia has announced that they will be replaced in a combined role by former Vogue art director David Hagglund.

In addition to this latest creative appointment, a new chief executive starts next month – Paul Price.

It signals a new era for Top Shop, once the go-to destination for young shoppers keen to snap up the very latest fashion trends on the High Street.

Profits at Arcadia, which also includes Miss Selfridge, Burton, and Dorothy Perkins, plunged by 79% last year.

Tough competition in the clothing market – and the failure of the now-defunct BHS chain – contributed to the poor performance.

Ms Phelan moved to Top Shop from fashion magazine Vogue in 2011, and Mr Richardson has been at Top Man for 17 years.


In Arcadia’s statement, Sir Philip said: “The appointment of David Hagglund, in the newly combined role, continues to mark the start of a new era for Topshop Topman in moving both brands forward in their ongoing global expansion.

“I am delighted to welcome David who will be joining Paul Price, our new chief executive, on the same day and I look forward to working with them both to drive the business forward.”

Top of their agenda will be Top Shop’s future. Nimbler online rivals such as Boohoo and Misguided are eroding Top Shop’s market share. They’re cheaper, too.

Online retailer Boohoo thanks to new overseas markets.

And online fashion retailer Asos has also been eating Top Shop’s cake, with sales jumping in its .

We will have to wait and see whether Top Shop seeks to move upmarket, or tries to up its game in the fiercely competitive online world.

Android newbie HMD’s Nokia 8 flagship lets you livestream ‘frontbacks’

Rebooting the venerable Nokia smartphone brand has not been a rush job for HMD Global, the Foxconn-backed company set up for the purpose of licensing the Nokia name to try to revive the brand’s fortunes on smartphones.

But after starting with basic and mid-tier smartphones, it’s finally outted a flagship Android handset, called the Nokia 8, which it will be hoping can put some dents in Samsung’s high end. And/or pull consumers away from Huawei’s flagships handsets — or indeed the swathe of Chinese OEMs surging up the smartphone market share ranks.

With the Nokia 8, HMD is putting its flagship focus on content creators wanting to livestream video for their social feeds.

Competition in the Android OEM space has been fierce for years and there’s no signs of any slack appearing so HDM faces a steep challenge to make any kind of dent here. But at least it now has an iron in the fire. As analyst CCS Insight notes, the handset will be “hugely important in getting Nokia-branded smartphones back on the mobile phone map”.

Specs wise, the Nokia 8 runs the latest version of Android (Nougat 7.1.1) — which HMD is touting as a “pure Android experience”, akin to Google’s Pixel handsets. (There’s a not-so-gentle irony there, given Nokia’s history in smartphones. But clearly HMD is going full in on Android.)

On the hardware front, there’s a top end Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, plus 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal memory (expandable thanks to a MicroSD card slot). While the 5.3 inch ultra HD resolution display puts it on the verge of phablet territory — and squarely within the current smartphone screen size sweet spot.

Also on board: dual rear cameras, both 13MP (one color, one B&W), and a 13MP front facing lens — all with f/2.0; using Zeiss optics; and with support for 4K video.

The flagship camera feature — and really phone feature too — is the ability to livestream video from both front and back cameras simultaneously.

HMD is trying to coin a hashtaggable word to describe this: “bothie” (as opposed to a selfie)…

Hello #Bothie! The world’s first smartphone to broadcast live with both cameras simultaneously. Meet the #Nokia8. pic.twitter.com/nMLl8h6YZe

— Nokia Mobile (@nokiamobile) August 16, 2017

This split screen camera feature can also be used for photos — so they’ve basically reinvented Frontback. Well done.

“Content creators can natively broadcast their unique #Bothie stories to social media through the Dual-Sight functionality located within the camera app. Fans can also enjoy unlimitedphoto [<16MB in size] and video uploads to Google Photos,” HMD writes.

This could prove a sticky feature for social media lovers — perhaps especially the dual video option, which lets people share twin perspective video direct to Facebook and YouTube via the camera app.

Or it could prove a passing fad, like Frontback. Time will tell. CCS Insight describes it as an “interesting approach” but also cautions on whether consumers will take to it.

Commenting on the feature in a statement, HMD’s Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer, said: “We know that fans are creating and sharing live content more than ever before, with millions of photos and videos shared every minute on social media. People are inspired by the content they consume and are looking for new ways to create their own. It’s these people who have inspired us.”

Elsewhere on the device, there’s a spatial surround sound recording tech that uses three microphones and is apparently drawing on Nokia’s Ozo 360 camera division, plus USB type C charging port; a 3.5mm headphone jack; and a non-removable 3090 mAh battery.

The handset, which is clad in an aluminium unibody casing and has a fingerprint reader on the front for device unlocking and authentication, is described as splashproof rather than waterproof.

Global RRP for the Nokia 8 is €599, with a rollout due to start in September. The handset comes in a choice of four colors: Polished Blue, Polished Copper, Tempered Blue and Steel.

Asda grows again after three-year slump

Asda logo

Supermarket chain Asda has reported its first quarterly like-for-like sales growth for three years.

Sales rose 1.8% in the second quarter after a bumper Easter, Asda owner Walmart said.

Figures were boosted by a combination of price cuts, more customers and rising inflation.

Last year Asda reported its worst quarterly performance on record when sales tumbled by 7.5%.

Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon said the world’s biggest retail was “encouraged” by the UK result.

“In June, I visited Asda to see the progress being made. Customers are responding to investments in price and store experience by visiting the stores more often and increasing their basket sizes,” he said.

“There’s still much more to be done, but we’re clearly headed in the right direction.”

Asda is the third-largest UK supermarket chain behind Tesco and Sainsbury’s, .

Hyundai plans long-range premium EV in strategic shift

PHOTO GALLERY: Hyundai fuel cell electric crossover








PHOTO GALLERY >>

SEOUL — Hyundai Motor Co. said on Thursday it was placing electric vehicles at the center of its product strategy — one that includes plans for a premium long-distance electric car as it seeks to catch up to rival automakers.

Like Toyota Motor Corp., Hyundai had initially championed fuel cell technology as the future of eco-friendly vehicles but has found itself shifting electric as Tesla Inc. shot to prominence and battery-powered cars have gained government backing in China.

Toyota is now also working on longer distance, fast-charging electric vehicles, local media have reported.

Hyundai is planning to launch an electric sedan under its high-end Genesis brand in 2021 with a range of 310 miles per charge. It will also introduce an electric version of its Kona small crossover with a range of 242 miles in the first half of next year.

“We’re strengthening our eco-friendly car strategy, centering on electric vehicles,” Executive Vice President Lee Kwang-guk told a news conference, calling the technology mainstream and realistic.

The automaker and affiliate Kia Motors Corp., which together rank fifth in global vehicle sales, also said they were adding three plug-in vehicles to their plans for eco-friendly cars, bringing the total to 31 models by 2020.

To see the full product pipeline for Hyundai, Kia and Genesis, click here.

Underscoring Hyundai’s electric shift, those plans include eight battery-powered and two fuel-cell vehicles — a contrast to its 2014 announcement for 22 models, of which only two were slated to be battery-powered.

Hyundai also confirmed a Reuters report that it is developing its first dedicated electric vehicle platform, which will allow the company to produce multiple models with longer driving ranges.

Last year, it launched its first mass-market pure electric car IONIQ, but the vehicle’s per-charge driving range is much shorter than offerings from Tesla and General Motors.

Hydrogen crossover

Hyundai unveiled a near production version of its new fuel cell crossover with a driving range of more than 360 miles per charge, compared with the 258 miles for its current Tucson fuel cell SUV.

The midsize crossover will be launched in Korea early next year, followed by U.S. and European markets.

A fuel cell electric bus is slated to be unveiled late this year, while a sedan-type fuel cell car is also planned. Even so, analysts noted that gaining traction with fuel cells was going to be a long hard slog partly due to a lack of charging infrastructure.

“Hyundai will achieve economies of scale for fuel cell cars by 2035 at the earliest,” said Lee Hang-koo, a senior research fellow at Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade.

“Before that, Hyundai has no choice but to rely on battery cars,” he said.

Hyundai launched the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell vehicle in 2013, dubbed the Tucson Fuel Cell, but sales trailed Toyota’s rival offering, Mirai.

Hyundai has sold about 862 of Tucson Fuel Cell vehicles since its 2013 launch, while Toyota sold some 3,700 Mirai Fuel Cell vehicles since its 2014 launch.

In Korea, there are 10 fuel cell charging stations, only one tenth of 100 in Japan, Hyundai said.

Hyundai plans long-range premium electric car in strategic shift

SEOUL — Hyundai Motor Co. said on Thursday it was placing electric vehicles at the center of its product strategy — one that includes plans for a premium long-distance electric car as it seeks to catch up to rival automakers.

Like Toyota Motor Corp., Hyundai had initially championed fuel cell technology as the future of eco-friendly vehicles but has found itself shifting electric as Tesla Inc. shot to prominence and battery-powered cars have gained government backing in China.

Toyota is now also working on longer distance, fast-charging electric vehicles, local media have reported.

Hyundai is planning to launch an electric sedan under its high-end Genesis brand in 2021 with a range of 310 miles per charge. It will also introduce an electric version of its Kona small crossover with a range of 242 miles in the first half of next year.

“We’re strengthening our eco-friendly car strategy, centering on electric vehicles,” Executive Vice President Lee Kwang-guk told a news conference, calling the technology mainstream and realistic.

The automaker and affiliate Kia Motors Corp., which together rank fifth in global vehicle sales, also said they were adding three plug-in vehicles to their plans for eco-friendly cars, bringing the total to 31 models by 2020.

To see the full product pipeline for Hyundai, Kia and Genesis, click here.

Underscoring Hyundai’s electric shift, those plans include eight battery-powered and two fuel-cell vehicles — a contrast to its 2014 announcement for 22 models, of which only two were slated to be battery-powered.

Hyundai also confirmed a Reuters report that it is developing its first dedicated electric vehicle platform, which will allow the company to produce multiple models with longer driving ranges.

Last year, it launched its first mass-market pure electric car IONIQ, but the vehicle’s per-charge driving range is much shorter than offerings from Tesla and General Motors.

Hydrogen crossover

Hyundai unveiled a near production version of its new fuel cell crossover with a driving range of more than 360 miles per charge, compared with the 258 miles for its current Tucson fuel cell SUV.

The mid-sized crossover will be launched in Korea early next year, followed by U.S. and European markets.

A fuel cell electric bus is slated to be unveiled late this year, while a sedan-type fuel cell car is also planned. Even so, analysts noted that gaining traction with fuel cells was going to be a long hard slog partly due to a lack of charging infrastructure.

“Hyundai will achieve economies of scale for fuel cell cars by 2035 at the earliest,” said Lee Hang-koo, a senior research fellow at Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade.

“Before that, Hyundai has no choice but to rely on battery cars,” he said.

Hyundai launched the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell vehicle in 2013, dubbed the Tucson Fuel Cell, but sales trailed Toyota’s rival offering, Mirai.

Hyundai has sold about 862 of Tucson Fuel Cell vehicles since its 2013 launch, while Toyota sold some 3,700 Mirai Fuel Cell vehicles since its 2014 launch.

In Korea, there are 10 fuel cell charging stations, only one tenth of 100 in Japan, Hyundai said.

Pain in Spain: are tourists still welcome?

Striking workers of the private Grupo Eulen security company at the El Prat airport in Barcelona, 16 August 2017

Visitors to Barcelona may be expecting some hostility after the anti-tourism protests that have shaken one of Spain’s biggest holiday destinations.

On arriving at the city’s airport, they may notice signs that all is not well.

But any protesters with raised fists are more likely to be striking airport workers in pursuit of better pay and working conditions.

Spanish Civil Guards have been called in to handle security as the indefinite stoppage goes on.

Once the tourists arrive in the city centre, they are likely to notice anti-tourist graffiti or signs telling them that rents are now unaffordable for locals because of the demand for holiday accommodation.

Such campaigns are now being seen elsewhere in Spain, the world’s third-biggest tourism destination, while the tourism industry is concerned at the potential global effect.

“Tourism is of immense economic benefit to European destinations and has become even more important in recent years,” says a spokesperson for Abta, the UK travel agents’ association.

“Most people appreciate these benefits and accept that at certain times of year, they will have to share their cities with significant numbers of tourists from around the world.”

Abta, perhaps unsurprisingly, blames the problem on the rise of online services such as Airbnb, which threaten its members’ traditional business model while promoting a huge expansion in illegal tourist accommodation in cities such as Barcelona.


“The rapid growth of the peer-to-peer economy in recent years has led to significant increases in visitors to some cities, but due to the lack of licensing and regulation in this sector, it is impossible to fully understand tourism numbers,” it says.

“We need mechanisms in place to manage numbers in crowded destinations, for the benefit of holidaymakers, destination residents and the travel industry. Logically, these measures would need to take account of both hotel visitors and peer-to-peer accommodation users.”

Abta may have a point, though. According to some estimates, as many as 40% of Barcelona’s tourist apartments are being rented out without the authorities’ permission, making it much harder for local people to find affordable accommodation.

For now, tour guide operators and other local businesses say privately that the anti-tourist backlash has made little difference to the influx of visitors.

And the Spanish government must be hoping they are right.

More than 75 million tourists visited the country last year, and the number is expected to hit a record 83 million in 2017.

With Spain still recovering from its crippling economic crisis, tourism is more important to national well-being than ever before.

Lucy Fuggle, head of content at TrekkSoft, which provides logistics and software to travel firms, sees the discontent as a sign that tourism needs to change. “The backlash is concerning, but more so for the sentiment than the economic impact,” she says.


“Tourism will continue – there’s no doubt about that – but we see some changes that need to happen, such as improved regulations and better distribution of visitors across cities.

“In our work with tour and activity suppliers and tourism boards, we’ve noticed that visitors are increasingly seeking unique experiences in less ‘typical’ destinations,” Ms Fuggle says.

“It’s a step away from the cookie-cutter package trip, and if more visitors turn to this, we could see less dense distribution in struggling cities such as Barcelona and Venice. It comes at a greater cost to the consumer than budget city breaks, however.”

It’s probably too late for the protesters to have much impact on this year’s tourism numbers.

The surge in visitor numbers is being fuelled by powerful global economic forces. As the appeal of other once-popular destinations such as Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt is waning because of security concerns, Spain looks even more attractive as a haven for sun-worshippers.

But the impact of the anti-tourist campaign could well be felt in 2018 and beyond.

The Catalan Tourist Board is a regular exhibitor at London’s World Travel Market tourism fair, held every November, along with 11 other Spanish travel organisations.

After some bumper years, the Spanish tourism industry will have to work hard to ensure that it too does not fall out of fashion.

Daily Stormer: Cloudflare drops neo-Nazi site


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The Daily Stormer has been a source of significant controversy in recent days

A neo-Nazi site that disparaged a woman who died during protests in Charlottesville has faced another wave of rejection by web companies.

The Daily Stormer’s account with Cloudflare – which protects websites from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks – has been terminated.

Cloudflare’s chief executive Matthew Prince said he had “had enough”, in a .

However, he added that he felt conflicted over the decision.

“Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet,” wrote Mr Prince.

“No-one should have that power.”

On Sunday, the Daily Stormer published an article denigrating Heather Heyer, 32, who was killed after a car rammed into protesters against a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

This led to a backlash in which the site had to switch domain name registrars twice in 24 hours, after from their services.

Cloudflare’s service involves handling web users’ requests to view a site and filtering out those that appear to be coming from systems set up to overload the site.

Without such protection, websites can sometimes be knocked offline.

Mr Prince said leaving the site open to DDoS attacks could lead to “vigilante justice”, published later on Wednesday.

However, he also said: “Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion.

“The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.”

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EXPLAINED: What is a DDoS attack?

Earlier in the week, the Daily Stormer was set up as a site on the dark web and later relocated its open web presence to a Russian domain name ending “.ru”.

A spokesman for the Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor said it had asked web firm Ru-Center to shut this down.

A BBC check on Thursday morning found that the .ru address no longer appeared to be working.

The Daily Stormer has faced frustration elsewhere in recent days.

Three Twitter accounts associated with the site that had previously been active were suddenly listed as “suspended” on Wednesday.

And cyber-security researcher Joseph Evers an internet chat channel he said was used by staff at the Daily Stormer.

Describing himself as having once been a “free speech absolutist”, Mr Evers added: “I’m glad to do my small part in countering white supremacy.”

Besides the Daily Stormer’s case, this week Paypal reiterated its stance on blocking donations to organisations that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance.

“This includes organizations that advocate racist views, such as the KKK, white supremacist groups or Nazi groups,” the payment-processing firm said.

Internet companies were facing a “dilemma” over how to balance support for freedom of speech with a desire not to encourage hate groups, said Prof Eric Heinze, at Queen Mary, University of London.

“Had the Charlottesville events not occurred, the hate sites would still be operating from Cloudflare, GoDaddy, and other such venues,” he told the BBC.

“Some might call it satisfactory to wait until actual harm occurs before closing such a site. But others will say that’s too little and too late.”

UK retail sales growth continues in July

Supermarket shopper

UK retail sales growth slowed in July as consumers cut back on buying most goods other than food, according to the latest official figures.

Sales grew by 0.3% compared with June, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Strong food sales drove the growth, while most of the other main sectors showed a decrease.

The gap between wages and inflation is continuing to widen, putting pressure on household spending.

In June sales rose by 0.6% against May.

Ole Black, ONS senior statistician, said it was a “relatively subdued picture” in retail sales”.

“Strong food sales have been responsible for the growth of 0.3% in July compared with June, as all other main sectors have shown a decrease. Whilst the overall growth is the same as in June, trends in growth in different sectors are proving quite volatile,” he said.