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Business Comment

Simon English: Going may be bumpier yet for the Tesco wagon

Outlook In the old days, when Tesco showed slight signs of wobbling, it would always quickly correct itself.

Under the firm, even masterful, guidance of Sir Terry Leahy, this quarter's slip in sales would always turn out to be next quarter's brilliant strategy. He was ahead of the game and ahead of the curve. Rivals wilted.

If some fools in the City or some tools in the press questioned his moves, why should he care? He's Sir Terry and he knows more than you.

Philip Clarke doesn't have that aura. It is his misfortune to have taken charge just as a vicious consumer recession was brewing (Leahy's retirement timing was typically impeccable) but even allowing for that, he's got some convincing to do.

It's not just that yesterday's sales update (don't call it a profit warning, plead the spinners) was bad.

It's that several wheels seem in danger of coming off at once. The Big Price Drop didn't work.

Other offers, Double Points, Discount Brands, seem unnecessarily fiddly, and consumers have noticed. If the UK profits fall, Mr Clarke doesn't have the money to invest in getting America right. So he scraps the US adventure. Shareholder confidence plummets and Asda takes advantage. Tesco flounders. It could happen.