Tesco is hoping to offset the mundane nature of the weekly food shop by turning its out-of-town supermarkets into ‘exciting retail destinations’ offering everything from yoga classes to cookery courses.
The company’s new superstore in Watford will be the first to trail the new approach when it opens next month. It will feature a 600 sq ft free ‘community space’ for local groups as well as a nail salon, and will also be the first to have a Giraffe restaurant, Harris & Hoole coffee shop and Euphorium bakery – all brands in which Tesco has a stake – under one roof.
Last year the company issued its first profit warning in two decades and was hit harder than its rivals by the horsemeat scandal. It was also forced to sell its Fresh and Easy chain of convenience stores in Arizona, California and Nevada, losing more than $1bn.
Tesco’s UK managing director Chris Bush has admitted that the bid to create “exciting” retail destinations is an attempt to lure shoppers off the internet and back into the shops. “In the past, large hypermarkets were popular because they offered a massive range of products and people liked being able to buy everything under one roof – it made life easier. The internet has changed all that – people don’t even need to leave their homes to go shopping and more people are using convenience stores for regular top-up shops.”
He added: “Our customers pay to put fuel into their car and drive away from their homes to visit us, so we need to give them good reasons to come to our larger stores.”
In an interview in this week’s The Grocer, Mr Bush explained how part of his “vision” for turning stores into “exciting” destinations is “because customers can have a meal or coffee with their friends and family, browse for clothes and get their hair done. They can go to yoga classes or attend cookery classes in a space available for the local community to use.”
In the coming months, another of Tesco’s biggest stores, in Stockton on Tees, will include a gym where people will be able to take pilates and zumba classes. And parents are to be tempted through its doors courtesy of a soft play area on the ground floor of the 120,000 square foot store.
Tesco’s efforts to get people into its shops are part of a wider shift among retailers, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Tom Ironside, BRC’s director of business & regulation, said: “Many of our members are exploring how they can become closer to the communities they serve by using their space creatively.”