Tesco is a spent force which has failed to adapt to changing shopper trends and engage with communities across the UK, according to independent retailers.

Last week Tesco announced that chief executive Philip Clarke would stand down on the back of declining sales and challenging trading conditions.

Mark Canniford, a Spar store owner in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, said Tesco had upset too many people by flooding the market.

“Every time they open a store somewhere, there are two dozen people bad-mouthing them because they hurt the community,” he said. “They may say customers want them, but they don’t account for those in the community who don’t.” The root of the anger lay in empty units being converted into Express c-stores, he added.

Nick Lloyd, managing director of Symonds’ Budgens, which owns eight stores in the West Country, said Tesco had lost its engagement with the customer. “It has lost its way. It just focuses on price without getting the basics right - availability and service - and they’re too worried about what Aldi and Lidl are doing,” he said.

Today’s customers have become savvier but not just on price, he added. “The world’s changed, people want to engage with a business and a quality product.”

Nigel Dowdney, who owns two stores in Norfolk, said Tesco had not reacted quickly enough to the recession and changing shopper habits. “People are going to discounters and their local shops more, and Tesco don’t meet the requirements of communities.”

Tesco had also lost its fear factor among independents, he added. “Any mention of Tesco Express used to scare the pants off me, but not anymore. We have one up the road and our footfall and sales are up.”

Mark, who operates near a Tesco Express, said sales had grown by “doing the profitable stuff better than they do, such as food to go and off licence - and we’ve got better customer service.”

Paying the price of decline

Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke will be replaced by Dave Lewis, currently president of Unilever’s personal care business, on 1 October 2014. Lewis will become the first Tesco boss not to be recruited from within the company. Tesco said sales and trading profit in the first half of the year were below expectations. In June it posted a 3.7% drop in UK like-for-like sales, marking the third consecutive quarterly decline. But the group is on target to refresh 450 Express stores this year.