Tesco UK chief executive Richard Brasher has warned against grouping consumers together and assuming they will react in the same way in response to the tough economic times.

At the Retail Week Conference, Brasher said: “We need to treat people on an individual basis. There is no single definition of how customers will react, whether they will trade up or down. Averages don’t work, where consumer groups are in mass. We need to target customer by customer, store by store and town by town.”

Brasher added: “We need to listen more carefully, patiently and to how customers are living their lives, hopes, ambitions and needs.”

The rise in fuel prices is a real challenge for reatilers and out of town retailers, Brasher said. “One macro event is multiplied by the experience the customers have”. Brasher referenced £12 a week as an extra cost that hits consumers as being equivalent to 5% on income tax.

Brasher spoke about the trend towards people fighting back against the downturn by taking the control of their circumstances. Brasher said: “Customers are taking control of their own sufficiency and own destiny. A high proportion of customers are cooking food from scratch, doing their own DIY and spending less on credit cards.”

He added that people are still optimistic despite the circumstances. “Customers still want this year to be better than last year. Dreams are still alive in the downturn. Retailers should focus on their aspirations and help them to realise them. Small indulgences for the shopper are important.”