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.
- 2 Maisie Williams has an excellent message for one confused fan
- 4 Tampon tax scrapped in Canada after petition convinces conservative government
- 5 Kate Moss on the naked Calvin Klein shoot and the obsession that ended her relationship
Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
Maisie Williams has an excellent message for one confused fan
Archaeologists discover 2,400-year-old gold bongs in Russia
Tampon tax scrapped in Canada after petition convinces conservative government
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after British tourists complain of 'awkward' holidays
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
iJobs Money & Business
£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...
£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...