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Correspondent’s week

Tamsin Waghorn

After a manic week last week and a very big weekend celebrating my birthday, I am pleased to discover that Monday is looking quiet, with figures from Monsoon and two other small stories to write up.

I keep my head down and head off to a flash drinks party in the evening given by GUS, owner of Argos and Homebase.

The newsflow has picked up by Tuesday, with spark-ling Christmas sales figures from both supermarket juggernaut Tesco – where the UK shopper now spends a staggering 1 in every 8 – and music retailer HMV.

HMV boss Alan Giles is in fine fettle after his company’s DVD sales figures dispelled fears that piracy was swiping sales from his shelves.

On Wednesday morning, I make one of my rare early-morning visits to the gym before catching up with WH Smith chief executive Kate Swann.

People say that she has a schoolmistress air but to me she just seems extremely efficient which is vital if she is to succeed in turning around a business such as WH Smith.

Sales are not rising but Swann is doing well at improving profits by keeping prices up so she seems rather pleased with herself. There is still a long way to go, though, for that chain, if you ask me.

Drug companies are also on my patch so I have lined up my first meeting with GlaxoSmithkline’s PR team at lunch. I learn about all the wonderful drugs it has in the pipeline, including a malaria vaccine. I Just hope the company gets them into pharmacies soon.

Thursday kicks off with a presentation about B&Q’s expansion across the world. Parent group Kingfisher tells us that its stores in China have fish tanks in them and the stores sell a lifetime service of fish tank cleaning (the cleaners make money by selling new fish when the old ones die).

In China, B&Q is known as bai an ju, which translates as “comfortable homes for everyone.” All the chat makes me excited about my trip to China in April.

I also pick up other useful facts such as the Russians just can’t get enough of B&Q’s gold taps and the Polish love their DIY.

Meet up for lunch with a PR who has lots of retail clients and then dash back to the office to speak to the finance director of Debenhams. The department store group is on a big expansion drive and planning to open lots of mini-Debenhams, with the first one opening in the spring in Cornwall.

The group will concentrate on women’s accessories and lingerie as well as having a cafe. Sounds right up my street.

At the crack of dawn (or so it seems to me) I meet up with Standard Life Investment’s Richard Batty who gives me an update on such mind-boggling topics as the US account deficit and currencies.

The Christmas updates end with Government figures saying it was the worst festive season for retailers for over 20 years. That’s not what my bank balance was telling me after my Christmas shopping.

Despite having early deadlines, I get time at lunch to nip across London Bridge to Borough market to sample the fare.

After writing my final few articles for the week, I dash home to meet up with friends and enjoy a well-deserved glass of wine.

Tamsin Waghorn is City and finance reporter for the Daily Express”Right now my head’s in a Bruce Love and Corey Boles sandwich.” – Bright Grey’s Mark Locke finds himself in an awkward situation.


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