Notes to the accounts
1 Accounting policies (continued)
Gross sales and revenue
Gross sales are the amounts receivable by the group for goods and services supplied to customers, net of discounts but including sale or return sales and VAT.
Sales of goods and services are recognised as revenue when the goods have been delivered or the services rendered. Revenue in respect of ‘sale or return sales’ which represents concession income is stated at the value of the margin that the group receives on the transaction. Staff discounts are deducted from revenue. Revenue is recognised in respect of sales under bill and hold arrangements when the goods are segregated for the customer’s benefit at their request, and made available for delivery. Sales of gift vouchers are treated as future liabilities, and revenue is recognised when the gift vouchers are redeemed against a later transaction. Certain companies within the group sell products with a right of return, and experience is used to estimate and provide for the value of such returns at the time of sale.
Inventory is stated at the lower of cost, which is computed on the basis of average unit cost and net realisable value. Inventory excludes merchandise purchased by the group on a sale or return basis, where the group does not have the risks and rewards of ownership.
The group’s principal retirement benefit scheme is a defined benefit pension fund with assets held separately from the group. The cost of providing benefits under the scheme is determined using the projected unit credit actuarial valuation method. The current service cost and gains and losses on settlements and curtailments are included in operating expenses in the consolidated income statement. Past service costs are similarly included where the benefits have vested, otherwise they are amortised on a straight-line basis over the vesting period.
The expected return on assets of funded defined benefit pension plans and the imputed interest on pension plan liabilities are included in finance costs.
Differences between the actual and expected return on assets, changes in the retirement benefit obligation due to experience and changes in actuarial assumptions are included in the consolidated statement of comprehensive expense and income in full in the period in which they arise.
There are a number of unfunded pension liabilities, where the actuarially assessed costs of providing the benefit is charged to the income statement. There are no assets supporting these arrangements.
The group has a scheme to provide up to six months paid leave after 25 years’ service (long service leave). The costs of providing the benefits under the scheme is determined actuarially. The financing elements of these costs were previously recognised in operating expenses. However, for the year ended 30 January 2010, the group has changed its accounting policy in respect of the financing elements of long service leave to include them in finance costs. This treatment of the financing elements of long service leave costs will provide more meaningful information in respect of business performance. For the year ended 30 January 2010, this change in accounting policy has decreased operating expenses and increased finance costs by £15.6m. The prior year has been restated accordingly, resulting in increased operating expenses and increased interest income of £0.2m. Net assets and equity are unaffected by this change in accounting policy.
The group’s freehold and long leasehold properties were last valued by the directors, after consultation with CB Richard Ellis, Chartered Surveyors, at 31 January 2004, at fair value. These values have been incorporated as deemed cost, subject to the requirement to test for impairment, in accordance with IAS 36. The group has decided not to adopt a policy of revaluation for the future.
Other assets are held at cost.