Communications key for Tesco

20 April 2011

CHESHUNT: Tesco, the world's third largest retailer, is placing communications at the heart of efforts to drive growth across the globe.

Philip Clarke, Tesco's recently-appointed chief executive, has worked for the Cheshunt-based operator for 35 years, and reported he was seeking to reach shoppers in a different way.

"I want to engage in a new dialogue with customers ... and with all of the stakeholders so they get to see what a good company we are," he said.

Clarke's broader strategy incorporates a range of goals, including forging ahead in both the firm's home market, the UK, and internationally, alongside boosting the returns generated via various channels.

"We'll have growth in terms of our sales, in terms of the number of stores that we have [and] the ways in which we're able to sell things, online and through our services businesses," he said.

Turning to the UK, Clarke argued there was room for enhancing performance levels in certain core aspects of its activity.

"We can do better and we are taking action in key areas - for example, to drive a faster rate of product innovation and to improve the sharpness of our communication to customers," he said.

"When you put the right products in front of customers they are still prepared to spend. That's what we've got to do: set the stores up right, set the business up right, so we can trade in these more challenging times."

Among the organisation's primary fields of focus domestically are non-food segments like clothing, general merchandise and consumer electronics, all of which constitute highly promising sectors.

"It's just about execution. Tesco's the market leader. It should get back to leading," Clarke said.

Looking abroad, Asian and European emerging nations delivered nearly two-thirds of Tesco's latest lift in profits, indicating the potential displayed by economies from the Czech Republic to Malaysia.

The rising affluence experienced by shoppers in many Asian countries, in particular, has fuelled interest in modern retail formats.

Indeed, Clarke suggested buyers are "flocking into stores" in places like Thailand, being exposed to new products for the first time in the process.

Elsewhere, Tesco's attempts to crack the US with its Fresh & Easy banner have proved somewhat mixed to date, but it remains optimistic concerning the prospects of this venture.

"The customers who shop at Fresh & Easy absolutely love it. The customer ratings are terrific. We just have to get more customers into the store to appreciate it," said Clarke.

"How do you get the message across about fantastic food, no additives, no preservatives, at unbelievably good prices? It's almost a miracle."

"A lot of effort's going into making sure that is communicated more strongly, and the offer continues to improve."

Sustainability comprises another central prop in Tesco's future plans, moving beyond solely tackling issues like climate change, and instead embracing a more overarching definition.

"You'll see the Tesco agenda on sustainability widen, to include nutrition and diet, education and health," Clarke said.

"Because we feed millions and millions of families around the world, we've got a real contribution to make there."

Data sourced from Tesco; additional content by Warc staff