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The annual rate of shop price inflation has eased to its lowest level for almost two years, according to an industry reading that credits food and fashion prices.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC)-Nielsen Shop Price Index showed the pace of price increases slowed to 2.5% over the 12 months to February from 2.9% the previous month.

It was the lowest reading since March 2022, the BRC said.

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It was driven by a significant contribution from food, with prices 5% up on a year ago compared with the 6.1% figure registered at the end of January.

The report pointed to price drops for meat, fish and fruit helping fresh food inflation down to 3.4% from an annual rate of 4.9% just four weeks ago.

The BRC credited easing input costs for energy and fertiliser and “fierce” competition for cash-strapped shoppers among retailers.

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‘We’re seeing fewer weekly customers’

A separate report by Kantar Worldpanel, which logs supermarket price and sales data, also pointed to an easing in grocery price inflation but it believed food shoppers would be spared a big acceleration in prices ahead.

Its strategic insight director, Tom Steel, said: “Though there’s been lots of discussion about the impact the Red Sea shipping crisis might have on the cost of goods, supermarkets have been pulling out all the stops to keep prices down and help people manage their budgets.

“This month, Morrison’s became the latest retailer to launch a price match scheme with Aldi and Lidl, after Asda made the move in January.

“More generally, we saw promotions accelerate this month after a post-Christmas slowdown. Consumers’ spending on offers increased by 4% in February, worth £586m more than the same month in 2023.”

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The BRC pointed out rising costs for things like furniture and electrical goods but extended offers on fashion, to entice spending by customers, during February.

It saw risks ahead to slowing price growth from a series of issues including disruption to shipping in the Red Sea to minimum wage and business rates hikes planned for April.

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Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive, said: “Easing supply chain pressures have begun to feed through to food prices, but significant uncertainties remain as geopolitical tensions rise.

“Prices of non-food goods will be more susceptible to shipping costs, which have risen due to the re-routing of imports around the Cape of Good Hope.

“Domestically, retailers face a major rise to their business rates bills in April, determined by last September’s sky-high inflation rate.

“April’s rates rise should be based on April’s inflation, and the chancellor should use the… budget to make this correction, supporting business investment and helping to drive down prices for consumers.”

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Former JD Sports chief Cowgill snaps up Applied Nutrition stake

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Former JD Sports chief Cowgill snaps up Applied Nutrition stake

The former JD Sports Fashion boss who presided over its soaring stock market valuation is taking a stake in Applied Nutrition, the fast-growing sports supplement maker, as it steps up preparations for a bumper flotation.

Sky News has learnt that Peter Cowgill, who left the high street giant just under two years ago, is acquiring a multimillion pound shareholding in Applied Nutrition in a personal capacity.

Sources said the purchase would be announced by the company on Monday.

Mr Cowgill knows the Liverpool-based business well, having orchestrated the acquisition of a roughly 30% stake in it during his tenure at JD Sports.

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Mr Cowgill said: “Having been instrumental in executing the investment by JD into Applied Nutrition in 2021, I have been delighted by the growth and profitable development of the business.

“I have always been really impressed by the management team and am excited to make a material personal investment into the company.

“I remain confident in its continued growth and success in a rapidly expanding marketplace.”

Mr Cowgill previously sat on the board of Applied Nutrition as a non-executive, but stepped down when he left JD Sports in 2022.

Sky News revealed earlier this year that Applied Nutrition had engaged bankers at Deutsche Numis to prepare the company for a public listing of its shares.

City sources said the company would begin initial meetings with institutional investors this week to familiarise them with it.

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It has also appointed Andy Bell, founder of the London-listed investment platform AJ Bell, as its chairman, further bolstering its credentials for an initial public offering (IPO).

Founded by Thomas Ryder, Applied Nutrition formulates and makes premium nutrition supplements for professional athletes and gym enthusiasts.

It is the official nutrition partner of a range of English football clubs, including Premier League side Fulham, and the Scottish Premiership side Glasgow Rangers.

The company, which sells its products in over 60 countries, also has partnerships with professional boxers, MMA stars and in sports including basketball, cycling and rugby league.

Applied Nutrition’s largest brands include ABE – All Black Everything – which is a pre-workout range now stocked by Walmart, the world’s biggest physical retailer and former owner of Asda.

Other products in its portfolio include BodyFuel, a hydration drink.

Employing more than 200 people, Applied Nutrition has seen rapid growth in recent years, and is heading towards a £100m sales milestone during the current financial year.

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A significant chunk of that growth is expected to come from the US, where it has established a subsidiary in Texas.

Accounts for the year to the end of July last year disclosed a 74% rise in turnover to £61.2m, with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rising by 80% to £18.1m.

Mr Ryder and Steven Granite, the company’s chief operating officer, are also big shareholders in Applied Nutrition.

A successful listing for the company, which could take place as early as this year, would represent a boost to the London Stock Exchange’s efforts to attract fast-growing companies to float.

Decisions by a growing number of companies to shift their listings to the US – with Paddy Power-owner Flutter Entertainment becoming the latest example – have cast a pall over the City.

Last year saw the number of companies going public in London halving, with proceeds raised from initial public offerings (IPOs) falling by 40% year-on-year.

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Grocery delivery giant Getir in talks about radical restructuring

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 Grocery delivery giant Getir in talks about radical restructuring

Getir, one of the world’s largest grocery delivery platforms, is in talks about a radical restructuring just two years after it was valued at nearly $12bn (£9.6bn).

Sky News has learnt that Getir, which was founded in Turkey and now operates in five markets including the UK, is examining a number of options as part of talks with its leading investors.

Sources said this weekend that this could involve a break-up of the rapid delivery group, an exit from a number of its remaining markets or some form of emergency restructuring mechanism.

A source close to the company denied that any form of insolvency process was under consideration, saying that if it decided to exit a country it would do so “in an orderly fashion”.

Another insider added that the next few days were “make or break” for the company, with key decisions about Getir’s future expected to be taken as early as the next fortnight.

A drastic restructuring could put thousands of jobs at risk across the markets in which it operates, although further details of the options under consideration were unclear this weekend.

AlixPartners, the restructuring firm, is understood to be advising on the situation at Getir.

The crisis talks highlight the slumping valuations of technology companies once-hailed as the new titans of major economies.

At one point, Getir was valued more highly by private investors than Marks & Spencer and J Sainsbury combined.

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Getir is backed by prominent investors including Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund, Sequoia Capital and Tiger Global.

The company was one of the hottest start-ups of the coronavirus pandemic, when financiers rushed to plough billions of dollars into businesses they believed would benefit from structural shifts in the economy.

Getir, which means “bring” in Turkish, was valued at $11.8bn (£9.5bn) when it raised more than $750m (£603m) in a funding round in early 2022.

By the autumn of last year, when it secured a further $500m (£401m) from existing backers, it was worth just $2.5bn (£2bn).

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In the last year, a string of “unicorn” companies have been forced to accept huge valuation discounts in order to secure the funding necessary to survive.

Last September, Getir also announced a sharp cut in the size of its workforce, axeing roughly 2,500 jobs, or about 10% of its global employee base.

It also pulled out of Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Founded in 2015, Getir was one of a crop of companies promising city-based consumers rapid delivery of groceries and other essential products.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the industry saw sales explode, with emerging trends such as working from home fuelling investor confidence that the boom was sustainable.

Many of its rivals have already gone bust, however, while others have been swallowed up as part of a desperate wave of consolidation.

Getir itself bought Gorillas in a $1.2bn stock-based deal that closed in December 2022.

“Our business is very agile and fast-paced,” a Getir spokeswoman said on Saturday.

“Getir principally doesn’t comment on rumours or on internal matters, however, whenever decisions have been made, we will announce them as we have done in the past.”

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Big boiler manufacturers cannot guarantee ‘boiler tax’ refund for ‘ripped off’ customers

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Big boiler manufacturers cannot guarantee 'boiler tax' refund for 'ripped off' customers

Three of the “big four” boiler manufacturers for the UK cannot guarantee customers will be refunded the so-called “boiler tax” that companies added to new boilers earlier this year.

In January boiler-makers hiked costs by up to an extra £120 per boiler to cover anticipated penalties for a green scheme – which has now been delayed.

Ministers had told them to ensure 4% of their sales were heat pumps rather than gas boilers, or they would face a £3,000 fine per missed installation.

As heat pumps run on electricity rather than gas, the move was designed to boost energy security, and lower air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

The energy security secretary Claire Coutinho accused the manufacturers of “price gouging”, and told LBC heat pump sales were already so high that they anticipated few penalties.

Boiler makers said the unachievable targets would create multi-million-pound penalties they could not afford, so upped the price of gas boilers to cover the anticipated charges.

But in March, the government delayed the heat pump target – also known as the clean heat market mechanism (CHMM) and dubbed the “boiler tax” – to April 2025, following resistance from the boiler industry.

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Three of the “big four” boiler manufacturers, Bosch, Vaillant and BAXI, this week told Sky News they were refunding the “boiler tax” cash to the distributors and retailers to whom they had sold boilers.

But they said it was those companies’ responsibility to return the money to households, because manufacturers tend not to have a direct relationship with consumers themselves.

No one from Ideal Heating was available to comment or confirm its plans.

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‘Out of pocket’ households

It comes as energy thinktank ECIU estimates the four firms together would have collected £40m via the so-called boiler tax, based on the average amount levied and an average number of boilers sold per month in the UK.

Jess Ralston, ECIU’s head of energy, said: “The manufacturers introduced the boiler tax, not the retailers, so it feels like they are passing the blame to a middle party.

“They had been suggesting the fines should be removed, so they must have thought it was a possibility they’d have to refund the boiler tax – it doesn’t seem they put in place any mechanisms for that eventuality, leaving someone else on the hook.”

Gillian Cooper, director of energy at Citizens Advice, said: “Now that boiler retailers have rightly been promised refunds, it’s essential they pass those refunds on to consumers.

“Anyone who purchased a boiler between 1 January and the end of March this year may have been forced to pay more than they should have, leaving them out of pocket.

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“Not only have people been ripped off, but the government’s decision to delay the Clean Heat Market Mechanism in response to manufacturers’ pressure will leave consumers exposed to volatile gas prices for longer.”

After the government confirmed the CHMM delay, retailer Wolseley, which sells boilers made by Vaillant, confirmed it was taking responsibility for issuing refunds on boiler sales.

Clean home heating company Warmur urged boiler manufacturers to “proactively contact customers they know to have had a boiler fitted since 1st January and help them arrange a refund”.

What did boiler manufacturers say?

BAXI said its consumers will receive a refund because it is returning “any funds already collected to our merchant distributors, who then supply products to a 35,000-strong installer community, who then sell onto consumers”.

“We are part way through completing that process, although we stopped adding the surcharge from Monday 18 March.

“In the small number of cases where we sell direct to consumers through warranty relationships, we will be refunding the surcharge to them directly.”

A Vaillant spokesperson said: “Vaillant has communicated with its direct merchant customers that the boiler levy has been removed as of the 19th March 2024 and all levies charged since 1st January 2024 will be refunded in full.”

“Vaillant can only ensure our direct customers are refunded, and it is not visible to us to what extent installers and merchants have passed the levy on.”

A Bosch spokesperson said: “We have refunded in full to our merchant customers 100% of the levy charged on boilers we sold to them in the period 1 January 2024 – 15 March 2024.

They added: “Our trading relationship is with the merchant and we have returned the levy to them. We do not sell boilers to end consumers.”

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