Tesco group chief executive Philip Clarke has said there is “a long way to go” in implementing his strategy to revive the grocer’s core UK business but the project is “progressing well”.
Touring journalists around Tesco’s reworked Bishop’s Stortford store today, Clarke said the customer response to changes made in store as part of his £1bn strategy to ‘Build a Better Tesco’ had been “positive”.
The store itself is a tight 40,000 sq ft iteration of its Superstore format and the product mix has moved to a “food first” model with the category making up 87% of its space, up from 77% before its revamp, chief operating officer Chris Bush said.
Key changes to the store include improved sightlines in fresh produce and a dedicated team to that department; a refreshed bakery including a patisserie counter currently in trial stage; a reduced emphasis on overhead point-of-sale marketing; newly introduced ready meal and frozen lines and a reduction in kitchenware and DIY products which customers are now increasingly buying online.
In terms of technology, the store features ‘Scan as You Shop’ technology – which makes up 15% of customer transactions at the store; non-food click and collect and internet retailing director Ken Towle said Tesco had “broken ground” on its sixth dark store in Erith near Dartford set to open in the 18 months.
Operations and business planning director David Hobbs said that the senior operations group meets once a week in store to discuss the progress of the strategy to improve Tesco’s larger stores. The meetings, dubbed The Baldock Group named after the store that had been used to trial changes, are focused on 150 smaller projects underneath the umbrella of the overall strategy.
The mammoth task to turnaround Tesco’s supertanker of a UK business is clearly not an easy one and Clarke’s strategy is one of retail’s biggest talking points. However, the avid Liverpool fan – fresh from seeing his side defeated, he claims by the poor refereeing, against Manchester United at Anfield yesterday – appeared confident and relaxed in store this morning.
Clarke is still a shopkeeper at heart. Whether it’s apologising to customers for getting in their way or proudly showing off his “favourite” – a £1.89 pea and asparagus risotto mix to add into a stir fry – Clarke looks at home in the store.
Tesco is still in the early stages of its plan to refresh UK stores and today’s trip to show off new elements in a small number of stores will be overshadowed if its interim results, revealed next Wednesday, are poor. Moreover, some of the elements including overhead signage do not quite match the quality of their competitors in terms of the quality of imaging or the depth of the information they give customers about their producers and suppliers.
However, Clarke’s core message that the store experience is improving remains clear and store standards are noticeably higher in the revamped stores. It may be early days but anyone hoping to write off Tesco as a force for growth will have to wait a while longer.