And that is exactly what happened this week with the launch of its new discounter range. With twee old-fashioned names like Country Barn and Oak Lane, Tesco is copying retailers like Aldi by putting branded discount ranges on its shelves.
It’s the ultimate compliment for the discounters, particularly as the combined market share of Aldi and Lidl is barely a sixth of that of Tesco. But it’s hard to imagine the discounters sitting back and letting the big boys win back their hard-earned gains. In Ireland a similar move by Tesco has resulted in a bitter and very public war of words.
There is definitely a whiff of panic about Tesco’s move. If the discounter range – with its dedicated bargain aisle – is Tesco’s answer to the downturn, what does that say about its established and even cheaper value range?
Everyone is getting in on the act (page 3) and Asda boss Andy Bond raised an interesting prospect this week with his statement that inflation has now peaked. While non-food retailers have laboured this year, the grocers’ like-for-likes have stood out, propelled largely by inflation. If Bond is right, and volumes remain static across the market, then the figures might start to look a lot less impressive.
The final straw?
Never in most of our lifetimes has there been a week of turmoil on the global finance scene like this. But while this is clearly not good news for the UK economy, retailers need to put it into context. There might be less champagne being sold at Canary Wharf, but as Debenhams boss Rob Templeman pointed out this week, the collapse of a US bank is unlikely to be a big issue for many UK consumers.
As our story on page 1 reveals, the bigger issue is that many retailers will feel the shockwaves from this week’s collapses in how they do their business. Securing finance and credit insurance – two of the biggest issues that challenge retailers in difficult times like these – are likely to become harder. And that unfortunately could be what pushes some retailers over the edge.