Planet Business


Getting to know Paul McGowanBelfast-born Paul McGowan is the founder of Hilco UK, the restructuring specialist that hits the headlines whenever a retail company hits the wall. The former accountant/womenswear retailer and his business partners at Hilco have taken control of HMV, buying its debt from the administrators.

From furniture company Habitat to fashion chain A-Wear, Hilco is a past master at buying up struggling businesses and selling them on, while McGowan has variously been dubbed “the lead vulture coming in to pick over a retail carcass” (The Independent) and “the undertaker of the High Street” (The Sun). He’s undoubtedly too wealthy to care.

The Lexicon International values director

A press release for The Body Shop celebrating an imminent European Union ban on products tested on animals has drawn our attention to this delightful job title. It’s a position in the ethical retail group currently held by Paul McGreevy.

So what values does he direct internationally? They are those of Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, naturally. “The future of beauty must be cruelty free,” he said, on news that from March 11th onwards, sellers of new cosmetic products and ingredients in the EU must not test them on animals anywhere in the world.

On the Body Shop’s website, McGreevy also says that if he could change one thing about the world, it would be poverty.

In Numbers:

Amazonian Performance


Percentage jump in fourth-quarter sales at the world’s largest internet retailer, Amazon.


Number of shipment hubs added by the company in 2012, as it invested in new warehouses and faster distribution.


Percentage growth in ebook sales at Amazon last year. It is now “a multibillion dollar category”, says chief executive Jeff Bezos.

The List

On the defensive

A 22 per cent slash in defence spending – the deepest since the end of the Vietnam War – is one of the factors that led to an unexpected 0.1 per cent annual contraction in the US economy in the final quarter of 2012. More cuts are on the way. So where will the money be saved?

1 Fewer personnel: There’s no need to keep enough army and marine corps to fight two separate wars at once, a recent defence strategy review suggested.

2 Atomic reduction: Nuclear-armed submarines are not quite the imperial power must-have they once were.

3 The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: It’s the future of fighter jets (below) , but the programme to develop them has a long-term cost of $1.5 trillion. Snip.

4 Training: If Congress fails to agree a deal on the military budget, the Pentagon’s budget will face automatic sweeping cuts in March. Skimping on troop training is on the cards.

5 Weapons procurement: Tens of thousands of jobs could be in the firing line at contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Image of the week The Barbie cafe

What could possibly be on the menu at this new Barbie-themed cafe in Taipei’s Zhongxiao Dunhua shopping belt? We’ve seen pictures of pastel macaroons and iced cakes, but sadly no Peaches ’n’ Cream (the name of a much-coveted Barbie doll in the 1980s). The 660sq m (7,100sq ft) cafe is fashioned with doll-themed décor and dishes as part of Barbie-maker Mattel’s brand extension activities. If you do happen to be in the area, expect glitter, tiaras, tutus and lots of pink.