This slide from one of Philip Clarke’s final presentations as Tesco boss highlights the retailer’s family of operations and brands.

Of the 34 logos on the slide, there are 26 that remain within the Tesco business.

Tesco portfolio

How Tesco’s portfolio looked under Philip Clarke

Today’s disposal of Dobbies means the garden centre business joins Tesco Korea, venture brands, Blinkbox, Giraffe, Hudl, Tesco China and Nutricentre in either being sold or closed.

Tesco’s Turkish business Kipa was never on the original slide, but that has been disposed of too.

It does not seem hugely implausible that Harris + Hoole and Euphorium Bakery might leave the final casualty list at 10.

Much of the narrative around this dismemberment is painted as Dave Lewis dismantling the Philip Clarke vision of a Tesco that would be fit for the digital age, with large stores that would reassert destination status thanks to the addition of compelling foodservice operations.

It’s worth remembering, however, that a number of the departed business units, including Dobbies, were brought into the fold by Sir Terry Leahy.

Failure to maximise synergies

Tesco extra dover

Tesco extra dover

Leahy’s rationale for acquiring Dobbies (principally the ageing population and a growing interest in sustainability) was sound, but the transformation of the logic into commercial benefit was sadly lacking.

There are one or two co-located stores, there were sporadic and half-hearted attempts to use the Dobbies range within seasonal aisles in larger Tesco locations and, quirkily, there was a Dobbies café in Dundee’s Tesco Extra.

Aside from these initiatives, Dobbies largely sat in glorious isolation, similarly to Giraffe, which had several co-locations but no other endeavours to maximise synergies.

Could or should there have been Giraffe-branded ready meals on sale in Tesco supermarkets, for example?

When Tesco was looking at offloading data arm Dunnhumby, Dave Lewis’s logic was that Tesco did not need to own a business to benefit from its presence or its services. The same holds true for many of the jettisoned units.

Tesco does not need to own Giraffe to benefit from the footfall it drives to the Watford Extra.

It doesn’t need to own Harris + Hoole to benefit from the awesome coffee shop in Tooley Street Metro.

Indeed, one of the most successful restaurants in the Tesco empire is the Nando’s in Wembley Extra – a business in which Tesco has no equity.

“If I was a shareholder, I’d be incredibly heartened. If I was a competitor, I’d be more than a little worried”

Bryan Roberts, TCC Global

Tesco has been looking to regain focus and simplicity while cleaning up its balance sheet – and most of these disposals and closures have certainly gone some way to achieving that.

The retailer is looking forward by looking back, re-establishing itself as a food-driven retailer that will succeed by putting the shopper back at the heart of the business with a renewed sense of purpose and clarity.

We’ve seen the disastrous results of putting the shareholder first. The fact that Tesco is now focusing on the shopper is becoming evident across the estate, both in existing stores and lovely windows into the future like the recent relocation in Bicester.

If I was a shareholder, I’d be incredibly heartened. If I was a competitor, I’d be more than a little worried.

  • Bryan Roberts is insights director at TCC Global