M&S says annual profits tumble on restructuring

LONDON: British clothing-to-food retailer Marks & Spencer reported a collapse in annual net profits on Wednesday, hit by a costly restructuring.

Bottom-line net profit tumbled almost 80% to £24.7 million (RM24 million) in the group’s financial year to March 31, M&S said in a statement.

That compared with profit after taxation of £117.1 million a year earlier.

Pre-tax profit meanwhile dived more than 62% to £67 million, while total sales firmed 0.7 percent to £10.7 billion.

The performance was dented by £321.1 million in costs linked to the retailer’s ongoing store closure programme in Britain.

“In November I outlined the need for accelerated change at M&S,” said chief executive Steve Rowe.

“The first phase of our transformation plan … is now well underway and the actions are taken have increased the velocity of change running through our business.

“These changes come with short-term costs which are reflected in today’s results.”

The company also warned that its website was “too slow”, adding it was lagging behind online competitors.

The results were published one day after M&S revealed it will shut more than 100 “underperforming” UK stores in total.

The high-street chain, which has already shut 21 branches as part of the overhaul, on Tuesday expanded its closure plans as it aims to shift at least a third of sales online.

The London-listed giant did not specify the number of job losses — but thousands of positions are believed to be at risk, according to media.

Back in 2016, M&S embarked upon a five-year overhaul of its UK stores amid fierce competition from supermarkets and budget garment chain Primark — and particularly from online giants like Amazon. The restructuring was accelerated last year.

“In the last year traditional retailers like Marks have faced a perfect storm of rising costs, a constrained consumer, and the relentless growth of online competition,” said Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Laith Khalaf.

The retailer had a total of 1,035 UK stores at the end of its 2017/2018 financial year. — AFP

Gap ‘terribly sorry’ over China map shirt omitting Taiwan

BEIJING: US clothing retailer Gap has apologised to China over a T-shirt with a map showing the mainland but omitting Taiwan, becoming the latest foreign firm to run afoul of Beijing’s policy on the self-ruling island.

China, which considers Taiwan a rebel province awaiting reunification, has taken airlines, hotels and other companies to task in recent months for listing the island as a separate country on their websites.

The Gap shirt, which was sold in overseas markets, features a map of China, but Taiwan does not appear to the southeast of the country, according to a photo of the company’s online store posted on the Twitter account of the official People’s Daily newspaper.

The state-run Global Times newspaper said the map also omitted South Tibet and the South China Sea, and that the issue sparked a social media frenzy in China after a photo was posted of the shirt at an outlet store in Canada.

Hundreds of people complained on Gap’s official account on China’s Weibo microblogging website, the daily said.

The US company issued its apology on Weibo late Monday, saying it “respects the integrity of China’s sovereignty and territory”.

“We are terribly sorry for this unintentional mistake. We are doing internal checks to correct the mistake as soon as possible,” Gap said.

“We have removed the product from the Chinese market and destroyed them all.”

The company said it strictly abides by Chinese law and will devote itself to greater scrutiny to avoid similar errors in the future.

The Global Times quoted Gap as saying that the T-shirt had not been released in China.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang took note of the apology and would not say at a press briefing whether the government had complained to Gap.

“We have noticed this (Gap) statement and we will pay close attention to it,” Lu said.

US hotel chain Marriott, Spanish clothing giant Zara and a slew of airlines have faced China’s wrath for not classifying Taiwan as part of China on their websites.

The White House hit back at the push earlier this month, calling the demands placed on airlines “Orwellian nonsense”.

The Chinese Civil Aviation Administration had sent a notice to 36 foreign airlines, including a number of US carriers, on April 25, asking them to comply with Beijing’s standards, according to the White House.

In January, Australia’s Qantas Airways changed its website classification of Taiwan and Hong Kong from separate countries to Chinese territories, blaming its earlier approach on an “oversight”.

Taiwan has been self-ruled since splitting from the mainland after a 1949 civil war, maintaining its own government, military and independent foreign policy. — AFP

The art of influencing

SHE GOES by the name of lovelumi on Instagram, or Lumi as she likes to call herself.

A secretary assistant by day, beauty enthusiast by night. Her unique moniker derived from the word ‘lumiere’ which means light in French accurately reflects her personality as a person; funny, whimsical, and mischievous almost.

Staying true to her name, the 27-year-old beauty maven wants to be the light that brightens up the people around her and herself.

Lumi’s obsession towards cosmetics and skincare started to manifest when she was 20.

After reading blogs from Jane Chuck and other venerable influencers, she discovered the potential of earning money through blogging but later realised that it wasn’t the best reason to pursue it.

She asked: “If your intention was to earn money as the priority then where is your passion?”

Given the rise of the social media landscape in the last decade, her shift from blogging to Instagram was bound to happen and surely, it did.

She continues to work with brands to share relevant insights, giveaways and honest opinions on product reviews to her legion of socially savvy audiences while fostering and build relationships with her established fan base.

Her approach of honest opinions becomes an alternative approach for brands to understand how the general public truly feel about the products, at the same time acts as a wake-up call for the brands to develop products that are actually good.

She explained: “Putting on make-up is not about trying to impress anyone; it’s about feeling good about yourself and being comfortable in it. There is no rule except to have fun exploring and finding a look that brings out the best in you.”

Despite her first surge in popularity was at the height of blogging craze, and herself as a niche influencer among the well-established, in fact, Lumi never really acknowledge herself as an influencer.

She feels very much relatable to the other people in just being in her own skin.

“Up until today I don’t know what to call myself, except that I am just a sales person online, I guess you can call me that for the reviews I did,” she jokingly said.

“It’s not that I am straying myself away from the label, I just want to be myself rather than trying to pull off a certain persona.”

Lumi’s strong perception towards the elaborated phenomenon of social influencers flexing their wealth nowadays was made unquestionably clear.

In a statement she posted on Instagram together with an unboxing video parody, she warned: “What you’re about to see next are things that could either trigger (most) social influencers while some would nod and laugh in agreement.”

“I mean there’s nothing wrong with unboxing packages or swatching products because I’m also guilty as charged for most of it.”

Then she clarified: “There’s no specific reason to why I made these except that I find it funny and it’s just for fun! I hold no responsibility for potential hate shade but I’d gladly take the blame for medical wheezing problems from laughing too hard.”

Her satire humour shed light on the obvious of unspoken truth that many are afraid to mention.

Yet, by gently poking fun of the matter albeit being unapologetic and so nonchalant at it, she certainly isn’t afraid to be outspoken, disregarding that some might be offended.

Nevertheless, she respects and understands what the influencers are trying to achieve.

She took the opportunity to address some misconceptions many have about them, “While they are seen receiving free luxurious items and luxe pampering, some are struggling in an attempt to monetise the business.”

Through her full-time job, Lumi is able to familiar herself in managing documents and paperwork and has become exceptionally perceptive when it comes to handling contracts.

She said: “Many young influencers view opportunities as an exchange to fame, thus overlooking the fine details within the given contract.”

So what truly constitutes an influencer, when social media following can be easily bought to increase the perceived influence?

She questions the legitimacy of some, “You don’t need numbers, and material goods to get you recognised as a person, and neither will they get you recognised on the streets.”

Truth is, not all influencers are brought up equally.

Some brands invest in prominent high-profiles with hefty following and readership, some prefer a large cast of smaller authentic forces, and others embrace both power figures and niche personalities.

The gift of beauty

LEAVE the stresses of the office behind and indulge in the latest beauty and wellness offerings at The Gardens Mall this May.

Running until Sunday at The Gardens Mall’s South Palm and South Atrium, the Beauty and Wellness showcase features products and promotions by brands including Origani, KENS Apothecary, SK-II Boutique Spa by Senze Salus, and Sulwhasoo, Dr.ForHair and Decorte of Isetan.

To celebrate the launch of the beauty & wellness showcase, guests such as Alicia Tan, Elecher Lee, Khainina Khalil, Kelly Chin, Faafirds, and Lee Ming were invited to stroll along the fair as they were introduced to each brand’s star product.

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, drop by for gift ideas to pamper the special lady in your life with a complete beauty and wellness experience. Get recommendations from beauty and hair experts and also treat yourself to some quick pampering sessions while you’re at it.

Shoppers who spend RM600 (RM550 for The Gardens Club members or purchases made from participating booths on the Ground Floor) and above in a single receipt* at any of The Gardens Mall’s specialty stores will be entitled to redeem a set of bathroom accessories.

Japanese manga strip fetches record price at Paris auction

PARIS: A rare series of sketches of Japanese manga artist Osamu Tezuka’s robot character Astro Boy sold for a record 269,400 euros, (RM1,271,501) in an auction in Paris Saturday.

“It’s a world record for this artist whose works are few in the market,” said Eric Leroy, an expert on comic strips in the auction house Artcurial.

The winning bid was five times the pre-sale estimate and Leroy put this down to “the rarity and exceptional character” of the China ink and water colour strip measuring 35 centimetres by 25cm.

It drawn at the end of the 1950s and comprises six panels showing Astro Boy fighting an enemy.

The buyer was a “European collector who had been dreaming for a long time” of buying the sketch, he said.

“Astro Boy is an emblematic work which has nursed a whole generation of collectors,” he said.

Astro Boy was serialised in Japan from 1952 to 1968 centred around an android with human emotions who is sold to a robot circus but saved from servitude by a professor who creates a robotic family for him. — AFP