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Today's business and finance round up 22nd November 2021

🎄Early Christmas shopping boosts Oct retail sales

22nd November 2021

Good morning London stockbrocker Finncap has become the first City firm to offer staff unlimited paid leave. Such a perk is increasingly common in the tech industry but finance has been slower to adapt. Finncap hopes the new policy will help prevent employee burnout but some firms have found that it can actually lead to staff taking less holiday.

Today's stories

  • Early Christmas shopping boosts Oct retail sales

  • Unilever sells tea business to private equity

ECONOMYEarly Christmas shopping boosts Oct retail sales

What’s going on?Retail sales rose in October for the first time in six months, driven by concerned Brits starting Christmas shopping early to avoid shortages this festive season.

Why is this important?

Retail sales volumes rose by 0.8% in October from September – better than the 0.5% expected by economists – and are now 5.8% higher than their pre-pandemic levels.It was spend on non-food items, like toy and sports equipment, that boosted retail activity after months of no growth following the reopening of the high street in April. Retailers reported that shoppers have started Christmas shopping early to avoid disappointment amid global supply chain turmoil.The proportion of online sales fell to 27.3% as consumers returned to the high street. It’s the lowest level since the start of the pandemic but still significantly higher than pre-Covid, suggesting a permanent shift to higher levels of internet shopping after the pandemic.TakeawayHousehold incomes are facing pressure from rising inflation, the end of furlough and rising energy prices. And with some weeks left until the big day, retailers will be hoping that the consumer spending momentum will continue.

CONSUMERUnilever sells tea business to private equity

It was brewing for some time - almost two years — but Unilever has finally offloaded its struggling tea business. Last week the consumer goods giant agreed to sell its tea business, which includes brands like PG Tips and Lipton, to private equity giant CVC Capital for £3.8bn after seeing off rivals Advent and Carlyle.CVC is well known for investing in recognisable brands, it owns Formula One and Swiss watchmaker Breitling. In recent years Unilever has been reshaping its portfolio to keep up with changing consumer tastes as traditional tea falls out of fashion in favour of coffee and herbal teas.It sold its flagging margarine and spreads business to another private equity firm for $7bn in 2018. And the company recently ran a process to sell a handful of personal care brands but failed to find a buyer.The sale process of the tea business was dogged by some controversy. Unilever has faced accusations of poor worker treatment including low wages and failing to protect workers its tea plantations in east Africa.Potential buyers expressed concerns about these issues. But according to a source of the FT, "executives at CVC believe that improving the unit’s environmental, social and governance credentials will ultimately help them to sell it at a profit."

Stat of the day

The top 25% most-active Twitter users are responsible for 97% of all tweets

Other stories to keep you in the loop

  • Government borrowing exceeds forecasts as interest costs rise

  • Nationwide's profits more than double as economy rebounds

  • Ryanair to quit London Stock Exchange in December over Brexit

  • HMRC expects to recover less than half £5.8bn lost in Covid fraud and errors

  • New homes in England to have electric car chargers by law

  • Subway co-founder Peter Buck, who turned $1,000 into a billion, dies

Interesting links from around the web

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