Tesco boss Dave Lewis has played down fears over a Brexit and insisted the grocer would not be “significantly disadvantaged” by the EU referendum.
Millions of people across the country go to the polls today for the crucial vote on whether the UK should remain in the Union or leave.
A number of retail chiefs including Waterstones boss James Daunt and Theo Paphitis have voiced their opinions publicly, while former Marks & Spencer boss Lord Rose has headed up the remain campaign.
Tesco has remained “a-political” throughout months of fierce debate and Lewis said the supermarket giant would take the result in its stride, even if it caused a downturn in the value of the pound.
“Whatever happens as the result of the vote today, it’s something that’s going to affect the industry and not Tesco disproportionately.”
Dave Lewis, Tesco
“We don’t know what the outcome will be today. We’ve scenario planned a number of different outcomes,” he said.
“If, for any reason, there was to be a significant run on Sterling, it would have an impact on the price of sourcing of some of the categories and we, like others, would have to sit down and decide what that meant in terms of the commercial sustainability of it.
“But we won’t be premature and we certainly won’t be disadvantaged versus anyone else. Whatever happens as the result of the vote today, it’s something that’s going to affect the industry and not Tesco disproportionately.”
Despite being Britain’s biggest retailer, Lewis insisted that following analysis of its scenario planning, there was not “something that would significantly disadvantage Tesco, vis-a-vis the marketplace”.
He added that it was therefore “appropriate” for Tesco to remain neutral in the debate.
Lewis’ comments came as Tesco unveiled a 0.3% uplift in like-for-like sales in the UK during its first quarter and revealed the sale of its Harris + Hoole coffee shop chain to Caffe Nero.
The supermarket giant refused to disclose how much it sold the business for, but Lewis declared that Tesco was now happy with its portfolio of businesses, having also offloaded its Giraffe restaurant fascia, Turkish business Kipa and Dobbies Garden Centres this month.
Lewis said: “We have no plans on our stocks for asset sales.
“But my message to my team internally is that as we review our business performance, we’ve got to make sure we are generating an appropriate return from the investments that we have.
“You never say never, but now we feel that we’ve got a portfolio that we can and should be putting all of our efforts into growing and improving.”
Amazon’s Fresh threat
One of those businesses is Tesco’s online grocery proposition, which faces a new competitor following the launch of Amazon Fresh.
In research conducted exclusively for Retail Week, the etail titan was found to be 17% cheaper on average than Tesco in a comparison of more than 360 branded goods, but Lewis insisted he was happy with the supermarket giant’s price position.
“That’s not the outcome of the pricing research we’ve been doing since it started,” Lewis said when asked about the results of the Profitero study.
“When we have looked at the average baskets, we are really quite happy with the competitiveness of the offering.
“But like we always do, we will track the market and make adjustments to our offer as we think is necessary.”