James Moore: Tesco needs to turn up the heat as marketplace gets a whole lot chillier
Outlook Just as it looked as if Tesco was turning the corner it's back into reverse gear again. Sales are declining and the brushfires that were burning across the empire seem to have flared up again.
The grocer's big hypermarkets are out of fashion and offering too much of the sort of product that consumers can more easily and cheaply purchase online from competitors such as Amazon that pay minimal business rates (no shops) and minimal corporation tax (supine politicians and tax authorities).
Tesco's food sales have been hit by the horse-meat crisis in the UK, it is faced with economic difficulties in central Europe and regulators have clipped its wings by restricting opening hours in South Korea.
It's struggling with these potholes while its competitors motor on (except poor Morrison's, which is awaiting the RAC).
Shareholders may have to accept that this sort of patchy performance is becoming the new norm for a business whose fortunes are hugely dependent upon the struggling consumer.
It can make things better than they are: too many stores are still unfriendly places to shop and if you're going to go to a supermarket, as opposed to an out and out discounter like Aldi, you're going to go somewhere you feel loved. If you're disabled, have children, if you simply want a little help, life tastes better at Sainsbury's in too many places where the two compete head to head. The numbers tell their own story.
This is a problem that can be solved as more stores are subjected to chief executive Philip Clarke's makeover programme. It's also dangerous to read too much into a single set of quarterly numbers. It's easy to forget how well Tesco did over Christmas.
And this is no crisis, more a reflection on how surprising it is to see this once unstoppable juggernaut stuttering. It's not even as if the company hasn't made visible progress in some areas. It's still way ahead of the curve online, even if making money from the non-food part of that channel is still tough.
But fundamentally, Mr Clarke is never likely to enjoy the sort of gushing acclaim that his predecessor Sir Terry Leahy – who stepped down at exactly the right time – took for granted. Tesco is a much bigger, more mature, and slower-growing business now, and the world it operates in is a different place. A chillier one. Mr Clarke could be judged a success if he can just locate a fuel source for a heater.
Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete vomits again after photographs of Reeva Steenkamp's body are shown in court
Arrest made after man is found by the side of the road with his penis cut off
Malaysia flight MH370: Pitbull song lyrics bear uncanny resemblance to missing plane mystery, according to YouTubers
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Focus shifts west as Indian Ocean becomes latest search area for the aircraft and its passengers
'A charlatan' who scores 'cheap political points': Jeremy Paxman reopens war of words with Michael Gove over the World War One centenary
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
How climate change helped Genghis Khan: Scientists believe a sudden period of warmer weather allowed the Mongols to invade with such success
- 1 Arrest made after man is found by the side of the road with his penis cut off
- 2 Girl found in the Amazon rainforest with neighbour Grover Morales after going missing for 7 months
- 3 Tim Berners-Lee on creating the web: 'I never expected all these cats'
- 5 First Kiss viral video was just a clothing advert starring actors
iJobs Money & Business
£32000 - £36000 per annum + generous benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: * TAX * ...
£37000 - £40000 per annum + £20000 benefits package: Pro-Recruitment Group: **...
£55000 - £70000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: In-House Corporat...
£80000 - £100000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: In-House Opportu...