Belfast Telegraph

Tesco chief to reveal plan to tackle retail giant's falling sales

By Peter Cripps

Tesco boss Philip Clarke is to unveil his plan to fix the retailer after a year of declining sales and market share erosion.

The UK's biggest private sector employer and the second biggest employer in Northern Ireland, which rocked the City with its first profits warning in 20 years in January, is expected to reveal further pressure over the three months to the end of February, with underlying sales down 2%.

While profits for the last year will still hit £3.9bn, the rise of 1.7% is much slower than the 12% a year earlier and will put pressure on Mr Clarke to unveil a strategy.

He is likely to admit that its stores are tired and lack warmth and that more staff, friendlier service and a back-to-basics approach are needed.

A recent trial of 200 new-look stores has offered encouragement and will prompt Tesco to commit £400m to revamping its 2,800 UK stores.

Mr Clarke took over from Sir Terry Leahy a year ago, having previously been international and IT director. But the Liverpudlian started his career stacking shelves in a Tesco store and claims he understands retail and knows how to make stores appeal to shoppers.

He has said he plans to cram a three-year overhaul into the next 12 months, including a raft of initiatives dealing with online sales, pricing and home delivery.

Tesco's website will be overhauled to better compete with internet rivals such as Amazon and a new pricing strategy will see it combine constant low pricing on staple items with promotions.

There will also be more focus on the quality of its food, and Mr Clarke is expected to confirm that the chain's expansion in the UK will slow as it opens fewer large out-of-town stores.

Several year of success under previous chief executive Sir Terry drove Tesco's market share beyond 30% but the resurgence of rivals including Sainsbury's and Morrisons and the recent failure of Tesco's £500m Big Price Drop has seen the chain fall back below that milestone.