With the grocers’ reporting season well under way, all eyes will be on Tesco next month when it reveals its preliminary results.

Tesco has been quiet of late. The limelight has definitely been on rivals Morrisons, which posted results a fortnight ago, and Sainsbury’s, which unveiled its fourth-quarter figures on Wednesday.

But there is renewed anticipation about how Tesco has performed. Nobody doubts that Tesco is a great business and should bounce back from its recent lack of form, but it is unclear if that will happen soon.

Many believe Tesco is juggling too many balls, and because it brought up the rear over the festive results season it needs to hone those circus skills. Take the Discounter range, for example. While Tesco has remained adamant the range is a worthwhile initiative, many critics fear it creates confusion and isn’t hitting its targets. It is right for the grocer to be price-competitive in the present climate but Discounter wasn’t the only route it could have chosen. Tesco reacted to the rise of hard discounters Aldi and Lidl when its real competition remained the rest of the big four.

Aldi and Lidl will only ever account for a small chunk of the market and, after the initial excitement of those stores, most consumers have found that more established names such as Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are just as cheap and offer greater choice.

Tesco hasn’t chosen a clear path in the downturn. With Sainsbury’s, consumers will now automatically think of Switch and Save, or with Morrisons, its fresh and value offer is front of mind. With Tesco, there are many conflicting messages.

Since there is little to choose between the big grocers in terms of price in terms of promotions, Tesco needs something else to draw in the customers. The grocer became the UK’s market leader because it was a great business and offered customers what they wanted.
It just needs to find its feet again and that is probably only a matter of time.

Jennifer Creevy is news editor of Retail Week