Coffee House

No wonder Philip Clarke was axed – Tesco has lost its way

23 July 2014

2:05 PM

23 July 2014

2:05 PM

I really wouldn’t want to be chief executive of Tesco, I wrote in January, because the ‘too big, too dull, too dominant’ supermarket giant, besieged by discounters, has become ‘a business-school case study of a brand that has lost all positive emotional connection to its customers’; the incumbent Philip Clarke, a Tesco lifer with scant hope of measuring up to his predecessor Sir Terry Leahy, had ‘everything to lose’.

Well, now he’s lost it — to be replaced by Dave Lewis, a Unilever executive who knows how to turn dull products into sexy brands, Dove soap and Lynx deodorant being two of his triumphs.

If Clarke’s departure, after only three years in post, looked as inevitable as that of David Moyes from Manchester United — or what’s to come for England cricket captain Alastair Cook — the more significant story from Tesco this week was actually the other one, about its plan to develop 4,000 homes on some of the 300 sites in its land bank.

Sainsbury’s has similar schemes in hand, we’re told. More houses and no new superstores are just what Britain needs, so there’s another bit of good news.


GoveThis is an extract from Martin Vander Weyer’s Any Other Business column in this week’s magazine. Click here to read for free with a trial of The Spectator app for iPad and iPhone. You can also subscribe with a free trial on the Kindle Fire.


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  • jack

    Good! This wretched supermarket chain has killed off individually run businesses, and then created homogenized, characterless junk throughout the UK.

  • Augustus

    Their ordinary shares have certainly plummeted since last summer – from 375p to 275p.

    • Hexhamgeezer

      Which means I spend more time in Wetherspoons than Starbucks!

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Reinstate ‘One in Front’ and all will be forgiven.

    Simples.

  • Alexsandr

    tesco model was middle of the road.
    market has now split between quality (Sainsbury, Waitrose, M&S) and el cheapo(Aldi, Lidl Asda and now Morrisons
    rather left Tesco without a place in the market.

    • ButcombeMan

      Tesco has no place in the market other than massive presence. It has no love factor, hardly anyone goes there because they like the brand, many people actively dislike the brand and much more importantly really DISTRUST the brand.

      Leahy did that, it is his legacy, and Clarke and the Chairman & non retailer Broadbent, did not understand how to deal with it.

      There are some (relatively) “loved” retail brands in the UK, The John Lewis Group is the best known example, Lidl/Aldi, Booths, & Sainsbury also have /devoted/ customers.

      it is hard to believe many people think of Tesco like that. It bullies suppliers, councils & planners, shoppers (through dubious “offers” and trick post code pricing). Punters go to Tesco largely because it is there, everywhere.

      It plays with areas that other retailers specialise in, it damages those other businesses, it does this half-heartedly with crap electric goods, especially TVs, it does it with garden center goods (for a few short weeks). Subliminally, punters know that.

      Tesco is a corporate pirate trying to do everything and doing most of it relatively badly.

      The remedy lies in a very long image & particularly BRAND building effort, right across every aspect of the business, based on fairness and good value for goods in every food sector. Based on fairness to planners and communities. Building trust. It is a ten year strategy but it needs to be done in three.

      Playing with coffee shops, a few selected prices and juggling fuel prices does not hack it. The problem will take years to solve A lower dividend is inevitable.

      We will not be able to say it is truly solved until large numbers of people are ACTIVELY CHOOSING Tesco.

      The last big retailer that went this wrong was Dixons, they are stiil re-building.

      • Alexsandr

        maybe tesco will split. can they really offer the same product under the same brand all over the country?

        • ButcombeMan

          There are kids in the city consultancies who think that would be a good idea. It would just increase costs (though Sainsbury are apparenty to do it with Netto). Stupid. You cannot out Lidl, Lidl.

          It is too late for that and they would end up competing against themselves. But they are immature silly kids who say this.

          Tesco have more information about their customer base, by outlet, than any retailer. All they need to do is re-brand their small shops as “Tesco Essentials” then vary the stock of those shops by profiling the customers and what they buy. Job done..BUT the basic essentials have to be in there, at Lidl/Aldi competitive prices.

          That model works perfectly. What they should not do is take on massive extra space.

          Tesco do have a habit of having too many lines of what is essentially the same product.

          Just take a look at how many brands of tinned tomatoes they have. how could anyone think that gave best value?

  • paulme

    Aldi Lidl helps.

  • post_x_it

    “Philip Clarke […] had ‘everything to lose’ […] now he’s lost it.”
    Everything? Really? I understand he walked away with rather a lot in his Tesco Finest savings account.

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