Tesco: Hero or Villain – You Decide


For the last 20 years, Tesco has moved indomitably to become the UKs largest retailer. From being just a successful supermarket, Tesco now sells everything from mobile phones, to printer cartridges, to the latest designer fashions. Tesco even has its own bank.

In becoming the giant it has today, Tesco stores have popped up like daffodils in Spring – although in the case of Tesco, the daffodils have been popping up all year round. There are enormous ‘out of town’ Tesco Extra stores – selling you everything you could possibly imagine. There are Tesco Metro stores on the high street and on shop corners – sometimes there are more than one on the same street!! There are Tescos everywhere!

As Tesco have grown, there are many positive and negative commentators who preach the relative benefits (or not) of the success the organisation has achieved – far in excess of any of their competitors. Some say that Tesco’s growth has been to the detriment of the British high street – forcing many smaller retailers to close down because they simply could not compete with Tesco’s buying power. Why buy my meat from the local butcher, when I can buy it along with everything else during my weekly shop at Tesco?

Now there are many reasons as to why we should preserve the great British High Street, and I am by no means writing in support of the demise of smaller businesses. However, it is important to look closer at what Tesco have done from a CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE perspective, to understand why they have been so successful while others have not.

Being blunt, Tesco have done what every retailer should have done – they have given millions of British consumers ‘what they wanted’ – QUALITY, CHOICE, FLEXIBILITY, RELIABILITY and CONVENIENCE. Tesco successfully identified that we wanted our weekly shopping experience to be easier, without the hassle. If they could create a proposition that not only allowed mum and dad to get their baked beans, but also pick up the school uniform for the new term at the same time, most mums and dads would be happy with that. And we were……are.

Tesco committed to listen to the things that were most important to customers and deliver the shopping experience we want:

Tesco never used to be as enormous as they are today – they earned it (I would argue), by meeting customer expectation. If we, the customer, did not want what they were offering, we would never have shopped there. But the proposition is just too compelling. Everything we need located in the right place, or accessible online at the price we want – it is a winning combination.

So I appear to be erring on the side of ‘hero’ at the moment – BUT – I do acknowledge, that the bigger Tesco became, the more difficult it has become for the independent retailer to compete – on some things they will never be able to compete (such as being able to sell food and non food in one high street store for example). However, I strongly believe that if ALL businesses LISTEN to the British consumer, and give us what we want, they too can be as successful as Tesco (albeit in relative terms).

Businesses make money because they meet our needs – we cannot take away from Tesco that they achieved this. HOWEVER, things are starting to change…..Tesco’s dominance is being challenged……their financial perfiormance is starting to suffer…….just read this article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17767565 – even Tesco is infallible.

At this point, the commentators who are thinking Tesco = villain have finally got the headlines they have been looking for. Tesco have got their comeuppance. Tesco have got too big for their boots. Many large organisations in the UK would potentially put their head in the sands and put everything down to ‘trading conditions’.

I actually think, that despite some of the negative effects Tesco’s growth has had on the high street, as an example of how a big business should react when things are going wrong, Tesco is shining. Instead of putting their head in the sands, Tesco had the COURAGE to acknowledge that they had to fix things. They had the CONFIDENCE to admit they were not getting everything right, and they announce their plan:

UK Plan – Building a Better Tesco:

  • £1bn commitment this year to improve the shopping trip for customers – including c.£0.4bn of capital investment – focused on six key elements:
    • 1. Service & Staff – more staff for existing stores, initially in fresh food departments
    • 2. Stores & Formats – faster store Refresh programme; introducing warmer look and feel
    • 3. Price & Value – better prices and promotions, more personalised offers
    • 4. Range & Quality – better ranges, starting with re-launching the Tesco brands
    • 5. Brand & Marketing – better, clearer, more relevant communication with customers
    • 6. Clicks & Bricks – Click & Collect roll out, transforming range and online presence

Tesco had acknowledged that the customer experience was not good enough. This is despite the company still making a profit in the BILLIONS. As a customer experience professional, I recognise how hard it is sometimes for senior leaders of organisations to admit they have got things wrong. It is also still (shamefully and unfortunately) not often, that senior leaders of large organisations recognise the significance of the customer experience on financial performance.

Tesco are a HERO to me because they have – they recognise how important we are – the customer, the consumer – to the long term health and survival of their business. They have recognised that the number 1 thing to fix on their plan is SERVICE. They have committed to invest in getting things right. I noticed an interactive customer feedback board in my local Tesco a couple of weeks ago – not only are they saying they are going to do something, they have acted immediately.

How many of us would like to work for a senior leadership team that has done this? If Tesco can, any organisation in the UK can. Now if we can just to get to a place where they do so without any more damage to the high street………..

So you decide – Tesco: hero or villain?

You are very welcome to comment on any of my blogs.

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