Some daunting figures once again from Tesco in its results last week £3.5bn profits on sales of £68bn but perhaps the scariest aspect is new chief executive Philip Clarke’s view that the company can do better.
The company’s like-for-like sales figures in the UK were flat, but nobody is writing its obituary just yet, probably because most people agree with Clarke that there is still room for improvement.
What the figures do tell us however, is that the company only achieved growth in the UK because last year it developed new sales space. Not an insignificant amount this 2.8 million sq ft (gross) added to its holding in 12 months but it does raise the question as to whether the company is actually satisfying its customers in the way that it used to. The name Tesco is increasingly being used as a byword for faceless corporate expansion at a time when the public is increasingly switched on to community values, sustainability and ethical trading, and even for those consumers whose consciences don’t stray outside their wallets, rising fuel prices and more restricted household budgets are curtailing the big out-of-town shopping trips that the supermarket chains have built their success on. As a result, all the major mulitples are now buying or building local convenience stores as quickly as they can.
But can we stop it? Actually this is more likely now than once seemed possible. With widespread public anger at perceived corporate greed and a new localism agenda in public life, it’s just possible that councils could become more sympathetic to an alternative retail landscape.
It would be foolish to write Tesco off and I’m not going to stand at the head of the very short queue of people willing to do so. But the game is changing, and councils who previously appeared to just nod multiple supermarket developments through might just be thinking a bit harder in future.
I paid a visit to our much-heralded Convenience Retailer of the Year, The Village Stores in Walthamstow, again last week, and what a joy it was.
Our regular description of it as a Spar store with a difference sums it up neatly, but also falls far short of doing it justice. All c-stores sell bread and pizza, but they bake it to their own recipe in their own ovens. And to go with that there are ranges of fabulous meat, cheese, and prepared meals to die for. And the locals love it too.
So my congratulations to James and his team not just for winning our top award, but also for creating a truly original and successful store. If you’re ever in north east London it’s well worth a visit.