Belfast Telegraph

Tesco chief vows to step up giant's overhaul

By Jamie Grierson

The boss of Tesco said it could take 18 months for the supermarket giant to move ahead of its rivals as he moves to reset the business after years of tough trade.

Philip Clarke told a daily newspaper he plans to cram a three-year overhaul into the next 12 months, including a raft of initiatives dealing with online, price and home delivery.

The chief executive, who replaced Sir Terry Leahy last year, said: "We had a three-year plan for the UK, but now we're going to do it all in 2012. This is the beginning of a big change."

His comments comes after Tesco said it would create 20,000 jobs in the UK over the next two years in customer service, refreshing existing stores and opening new ones.

Mr Clarke also said the group's US arm Fresh -amp; Easy could break even later this year after racking up around £700m in losses since its 2007 launch.

The Liverpudlian admitted Christmas had been disappointing after its Big Price Drop campaign flopped, prompting a £5bn slump in its market value.

The grocer has lost market share as it triggered a price war with rivals, including Sainsbury's Asda.

Mr Clarke said: "Last summer was tough as we were diagnosing what had gone wrong in the UK, testing ideas. Christmas wasn't great, but it hasn't been great for two or three years."

"It's fairly obvious to me that we had been asking our colleagues to do too much. Now they can get ahead again."

Tesco is being supported by a strong performance in its overseas operations. Mr Clarke said Tesco is now market leader in Slovakia, Hungary, Thailand, Malaysia and Ireland.