It’s always somewhat reassuring to see folk live up to their nicknames, and Drastic Dave has certainly delivered on that front.

It’s always somewhat reassuring to see folk live up to their nicknames, and Drastic Dave has certainly delivered on that front.

In fairness, some of the difficult decisions revealed today were a long time coming and really should have been taken by the previous regime. The faintly ludicrous notion of a fleet of shuttle buses ferrying personnel between Cheshunt and Welwyn speaks volumes about the inherent inefficiency of Tesco’s infrastructure and the resultant rationalisation of the head office(s) should deliver ample cost savings over time.

This move, along with store closures, a withdrawal from planned developments and an ominously vague pledge to slash overheads by 30% will undoubtedly involve some bad news for employees, and one therefore feels for those affected in this way. Change is never easy, but internal feedback suggests that Dave Lewis’ openness and honesty is much appreciated by those in HQ and at the coalface.

The store closures, just over half of which are in the Express estate, reiterate the fact that the era of ‘build it and they will come’ for large stores is firmly behind us as well as indicating that the Tesco Express carpet-bombing strategy may well have been flawed.

There is also the issue of self-cannibalisation here to: several superstore managers I’ve spoken to have been more than slightly peeved on the impact of new Expresses on their business and we get the sense that Tesco will become more mindful of the fact that it is often eating its own lunch when it opens new space in the future.   

The jettisoning of some non-core operations (Blinkbox, Broadband etc.) comes as little surprise. Slightly more meaningful could be the re-evaluation of the Dunnhumby insights business. Lewis has rightly pointed out that Tesco doesn’t need to own it to benefit from its services and a disposal could bring in some welcome cash.

Lewis has been at pains to point out that the retailer’s liquidity situation is by no means desperate and that a fire sale or spin-off of other assets is not an essential path to take. That said, the potential cash available through a spin-off of Asian operations could prove to be an attractive proposition.

In terms of the UK business, there was plenty of encouraging news. Trading clearly headed in the right direction over Christmas (although the impact on margins is yet to be revealed) and the progress in convenience and online compares very favourably to news we’ve heard from elsewhere in the sector.

I’ve never met the bloke, but Matt Davies comes with a great reputation and his tenure at Pets at Home in particular seemed to have a lot going for it. Heartening noises also regarding staffing, availability, queue times and pricing – as the retailer puts it: ‘Giving the customer reasons to re-believe.’

Early days, but one gets the sense that Every Little Helps might be returning as a genuine philosophy rather than the jaded strapline it had become.