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Business briefing: Rishi’s dishes trigger slump in store sales

Hands on: Rishi Sunak visits the Emma
Bridgewater pottery factory in Stoke PICTURE: PA

SHOPPERS spent £155million less in supermarkets during the chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme in August.

Grocery sales growth slowed to eight per cent last month, figures from Kantar show, as people were also encouraged to return to the office and shielding came to an end for many vulnerable and at-risk people.

Kantar’s Fraser McKevitt said: ‘Diners’ confidence built throughout the month and footfall increased during each week of the scheme, culminating in the final bank holiday Monday when dining out accounted for a two-and-a-half-times greater share of consumer spend than the pre-Covid average.’

Despite the August slowdown, grocery sales increased 10.8 per cent overall during the 12 weeks to September 6.

Iceland was one of the biggest winners as its sales grew 20.8 per cent in the last quarter. The Co-op and Morrisons also performed well, recording rises of 13.4 per cent and 12.9 per cent respectively. Total online grocery sales soared 77 per cent year on year for August, bringing the cumulative increase in orders to £3.2billion since lockdown began, Kantar said.

Ocado, which launched its partnership with M&S at the start of the month, saw sales jump 41.2 per cent year-on-year as demand for online shopping continued to soar.

695,000 lose jobs in lockdown with young hit hardest

THE unemployment rate rose to 4.1 per cent in the three months to July while 695,000 workers have lost their jobs since lockdown began in March. The country’s jobless toll increased by 62,000 to 1.4million with those aged 16 to 24 hit hardest, reported the Office for National Statistics. ‘Coronavirus is still having a big impact on the world of work,’ ONS director Darren Morgan said.

Victoria’s Secret saved by an angel

STRUGGLING lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret has been bought by Next in a deal that will save more than 500 jobs. The chain, famed for its catwalk model ‘Angels’, like Devon Windsor (pictured), fell into administration in June. But Next has agreed to take over its UK stores in a deal with US owner L Brands.

Insurance ‘does cover Covid’

PUBS, restaurants and other firms shut in lockdown may land payouts after a ruling in a test case over whether insurers have to cough up. The High Court looked at eight policies and found that ‘disease clauses’ in most, but not all, gave cover. Christopher Woolard, of the Financial Conduct Authority, said the ruling was a ‘significant step’ to giving policy-holders clarity.

Fraud up as crooks take advantage of virus crisis

SCAMS have surged as criminal gangs exploit the pandemic, according to trade association UK Finance. Nearly 15,000 impersonation hoaxes were reported from January to June, up 84 per cent on the first half of last year. Frauds included phoney offers of Covid grants and fake flight refunds. ‘We are urging the public to remain vigilant against these vile scams,’ said UK Finance’s Katy Worobec.

BUSINESS BITES

■ FASHION chain H&M’s bounce back from lockdown was ‘better than expected’. It made a £177million profit in the 12 weeks to August 31, despite closing many stores amid the pandemic.

■ A WEBSITE ad for a craft beer subscription service made ‘misleading’ claims about a discount offer, the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled. The watchdog upheld a complaint that Beer52 told former customers they had ‘£19 credit in your account!’ when it only related to a specific discounted product.

■ THE Thomas Cook brand is back. Fosun Tourism Group, who acquired the collapsed holiday firm’s name for £11million last year, started trading as an online travel agent today.

■ FIRE-AND-REHIRE tactics deployed by some companies during the pandemic must be outlawed, says Sir Keir Starmer. Giving a speech to the Trade Union Congress from home as he is self-isolating, the Labour leader said the practice was wrong and against British values, adding the government should make it illegal.