Numbers with meaning

Can you visualise £62bn? It's not easy to do. For one thing, it requires more zeros than are available on a standard pocket calculator display. But £62bn is what Tesco achieved in global sales in the past year.

To put this in context, it's about one 25th of the entire UK economy and more than the country's entire defence budget. Tesco's UK sales of £42bn are the equivalent of one pound in every seven spent in retail on these shores.

Here are some more scary numbers from the giant corporation: Its latest financial results proudly announced that it has opened two million square feet of new selling space in the UK in the past year, and it aims to repeat the feat next year. Tesco already has just under 2,480 sites in the UK, and is opening new ones at a rate of about 20 a month. On a more local level, I read that it is planning to open its 11th store in Reading alone.

Should we be outraged? Yes, we probably should, but us being angry won't prevent Tesco from fulfilling its objectives. Much better for us as the independent trade is to think about how we can be better at what we do.

Our new campaign, Fight Your Corner (see p15), is all about meeting the challenges of today. It will be partly defensive, as we will try to deliver to you everything you need to fight a multiple retail planning application in your area but, more positively, it's also going to be about helping the independent sector to raise standards.

Nobody in the independent trade can match Tesco's square footage, or the pounds taken through its tills, but as a whole the sector is still a powerful force with a bright future. Tesco might have 2,500 stores, but so does Spar, and Booker Premier. We have some serious players on our team. Let's go out and get the results we deserve.

Display of ignorance

There's more scary maths from the Scottish parliament this week, as the consultation document on the tobacco display ban north of the border proposes that stores should not be allowed to display more than a single packet of cigarettes at a time. The same document claims, ludicrously, that making the necessary adaptations will only cost a small store £160!

So either the Scottish trade is benefiting from the most competitive shopfitting rates in the Western world, or the government is unable to add up. Or there is, of course, the possibility it is misleading potential respondents to the consultation to get the outcome it wants.

In any case, it's a disgrace. Three basic requirements for any government are to act fairly, reasonably and get its sums right. This document fails on all three, and I hope that everyone uses the consultation process to say so.