Once again Tesco’s nifty footwork appears to have stolen a march on the lumbering Sainsbury stegosaurus. The champ’s latest wheeze - albeit still on the drawing board - is a scheme whereby shoppers’ loyalty is rewarded not with points redeemable against future spending but with a tax-efficient Individual Savings Account - the savings scheme due to supersede PEPs and TESSAs in 1999. Chancellor Gordon Brown referred to the scheme, albeit not in detail, when he presented his consultative paper, the so-called ‘Green Budget’, on 25 November. Says a spokesman for the supermarketeer: ‘Tesco has a strong ambition to be at the forefront of the development of the Individual Savings Account, and we have already submitted our suggestions on pensions to the government. By introducing a benefits scheme such as this, those who are unable to save for their retirement, either because they are unemployed or self-employed, would be able to build-up some sort of nest-egg.’

As ever, an unnamed ‘industry source’ poured cold water on an innovative idea: ‘Customers are not really going to be able to save very much in the long term. They’ll probably find a six-pack more enticing than a few pounds sitting in an account’, sneered the ‘source’.