UK leading grocer defends strong position in face of rising fears from rivals
Tesco finance director Andrew Higginson has defended the grocer's strength in the UK market against rising fears that it has become too dominant.

The retailer's Christmas trading update revealed its performance to be head and shoulders above most of the industry. UK like-for-like sales leaped 7.6 per cent in the seven weeks to January 8. International sales climbed 16.1 per cent, while group sales were up 13 per cent.

Higginson said: 'It's a fallacy that there is any dominance. No one is forced to shop at Tesco, people choose to shop at Tesco. Ninety per cent of shoppers have a choice of three different supermarkets within a short drive of where they live. If they can't buy what they want from Tesco, they'll go somewhere else. People vote with their feet and that's what keeps us on our toes.'

Tesco takes more than£1 in every£8 spent in UK shops and is poised to become the first UK retailer to make profits of more than£2 billion when full-year results are unveiled in April. Such statistics, along with a push into the convenience market and increasing power in non-food, has led to criticism.

Association for Convenience Stores chief executive David Rae said: 'You can't deny that Tesco, along with the other grocers that make up the big four, controls in excess of 75 per cent of the total grocery market. We are moving inexorably into a position where in some areas there is no choice for the consumer apart from Tesco.'

The Association, along with the Women's Institute and Friends of the Earth, is awaiting a response from the Office of Fair Trading on its demand for a new investigation into the food retail market in the UK.

- Sir Terry Leahy, Stuart Rose and Lord Kirkham will be among more than 50 speakers at the Retail Week Conference 2005 on March 16 and 17. See for more details.