Former Ikea boss Mikael Ohlsson is swapping flat-pack furniture for the fruit and veg aisle, as a newly appointed non-exec director of troubled grocer Tesco.
His imminent arrival, along with that of Compass chief executive Richard Cousins, will encourage investors that the Tesco board is finally being freshened up.
One of the criticisms made of the food giant’s board was that there was insufficient retail knowledge on it, meaning that the right questions might not be asked of executives – whether about supplier payments or trading strategy.
Ohlsson’s experience will help address that imbalance and looks directly relevant.
Like Tesco, Ikea is an international business. Like Tesco – or at least like Tesco once was unassailably perceived to be – it is a value retailer.
But unlike Tesco in recent times, Ikea has a sense of purpose shared from the shopfloor to the boardroom. It knows what it stands for, what its promise to the shopper is, and is structured to reflect that.
Its business mission is to “create a better everyday life for the many people”. That ambition is reflected in some of the values, as well as the value, at the heart of the retailer, such as the need to “earn our money before we spend it” and its approach to people.
All together, as Ikea puts it on its website, its “values are the foundation of our work and our inclusive, empathising, open and honest culture.”
As Dave Lewis seeks to strip away the bad habits that appear to have developed at Tesco over a period of years, Ohlsson’s counsel and challenges should be highly beneficial.
Cousins held in high regard
As for the well-regarded Cousins, there was speculation about whether he might be lined up as the successor to Sir Richard Broadbent as chairman. That was however counterbalanced by questions about how much time he actually has to spend on Tesco.
When he stood down just a few months ago as a non-exec of Reckitt Benckiser, the FMCG giant said it was because he was “assuming an increasingly day-to-day operational role as CEO of Compass which he has concluded will impact on his ability to devote sufficient time to his role as a non-executive director of RB.”
Does the latest twist indicate that perhaps he will leave Compass and devote himself to Tesco should he assume the chairman’s role? If not, can he make the necessary impact on the grocer’s board?