Tesco has been accused of putting up its prices faster than its major rivals and giving Sainsbury’s and Waitrose a “free ride”.
Bernstein Research has claimed that Tesco raised its prices at an average growth rate of 4.6% a year from 2010 to 2013.
In a bearish note titled Good at Everything to Not Great at Anything, analyst Bruno Monteyne claims Tesco moved from being within 1% of Asda’s prices to between 5% and 9% today.
He said Tesco has “lost its differentiation”. “Tesco is not value, not quality, just everywhere,” Monteyne said.
He said: “Tesco’s prices are now closer to Sainsbury’s prices than Asda’s, changing the competitive dynamics of the UK food retail market.
“Tesco’s higher price points enabled Sainsbury’s (and even Waitrose) to match their branded product prices against Tesco; effectively giving them a free ride. 70% of Sainsbury’s products are now priced identically to Tesco; this meant that anyone that desired quality food five years ago but was put off by the higher prices they would have to pay for Kellogg’s Cornflakes and Heinz Baked Beans at Sainsbury’s no longer has any reason to stick with Tesco.”
Monteyne, who worked for Tesco for ten years including as supply chain director for Asia, argued that Sainsbury’s and Waitrose’s brand perception allowed them to charge a 7%-10% and 15% premium on own label products respectively, putting them in a stronger position than Tesco.
Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke last week vowed that his strategy to make the retailer a multichannel leader and refresh its UK stores is the right one. The grocer reported a 1.5% slump in UK like-for-likes in the third quarter.
The Bernstein Research note said Clarke’s “unconvincing” strategy is no different to his predecessors’ and the Clarke “wrongly tries to move Tesco upmarket”.
A Tesco spokesman said: “We don’t agree with the opinions in this note and we reject the claims about our prices. We compete very hard on price and quality to give customers the value they want from Tesco.”