All 6 entries tagged Tesco

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January 27, 2009

Pluck off, Tesco.

Not everything about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “Chicken Out” campaign is perfect.

Getting people to pay more for the same amount of food is a tough ask, especially in a recession.

And he’s only ever persuaded the ‘working class’ to swap to better quality chickens by showing them the inside of a chicken shed.

But last night’s one-off update on his campaign made me pretty angry at my own supermarket-of-choice, Tesco.

Anyone who watched the original series will know they were less than helpful in providing an on-screen interview.

Last night, he finally got one, but it was with Tesco PR woman Darshini David. A former BBC business presenter, she came across abysmally. I suspect her job is mostly to be Tesco’s TV ‘face’, and if last night was anything to go on, she’s rubbish at it.

She claimed Tesco are ‘leading the way’ on chicken welfare.

No, they clearly are not. Sainsbury’s, the Co-op and Waitrose are light-years ahead of them, and it’s clear for anyone to see.

Why won’t Tesco admit on its packaging that chickens are grown indoors (instead of using subtle, yet blatant, marketing speak to imply otherwise)? Darshini: “We don’t want to patronise them”.

Is the nutritional information section patronising? No.

Is it patronising to give us a choice between ‘Free Range Eggs’ and ‘Barn Eggs’? Apparently not.

Is Darshini David patronising? You betcha.

The point Hugh F-W should have made in the interview (but sadly didn’t) is that many people are only aware of Britain’s chicken welfare standards because they’ve seen his show or read newspaper articles related to it.

Unfortunately that’s a very small majority of the British population. Only 2.5 million people watched last night’s show. I would imagine more than half of last night’s viewers were middle-class people who probably read The Guardian or The Independent.

So what of the other 57.5m people in the UK? Tesco doesn’t want to patronise them, but they don’t mind if they’re in complete ignorance either.

I’m seriously tempted to shop elsewhere having seen last night’s arrogant and disgraceful performance.


December 11, 2008

Half–price, my arse…

The Times has fallen for Tesco’s boast of a 50% off sale starting tomorrow.

Offers include…

  • Isla Negra Cabernet Sauvignon Was £7.49 now £3.74
  • Tesco Oak Smoked Scottish Salmon 400g Was £10.98 now £5.49
  • Tesco Creamy Brie 350g Was £2.69 now £1.34
  • David Beckham – Instinct After Dark 30ml – Was £17.50 now £8.75
  • Tesco Finest Crackers Was £20 now £10
  • Boxed Cards – all lines Half Price

Let me translate.

If you bought any of these things today, yesterday or last week, you were mugged.

Isla Negra Cabernet Sauvignon, for instance, should never have been sold at £7.49. In fact, it probably wasn’t in very many stores. But that daft price point allows Tesco to claim that the new £3.74 price represents ‘half’ of something. ASDA were selling it for £3.33 the whole time.

David Beckham Vinegar Perfume – Which mugs bought it for £17.50? Other shops were selling it for £9.79 all along.

Boxed cards and Crackers – Tesco’s probably realised many people have already bought their stash for this year and they’ve got a tonne left over.

Tesco Creamy Brie – go and look at a supermarket comparison website. Like the wine, it was overpriced in the first place.

How long before people get wise to this nonsense?


January 24, 2007

How much Tescofication are you willing to take?

Go on, you know you’re feeling guilty. Every time you go under the strip lighting there’s a tug on your moral conscience. You’re screwing with African farmers, filling the ozone layer with food miles and making small businesses go bust.

And yet you can’t stop yourself.

Don’t worry, neither can I. Our society’s changed so that convenience matters more to us than conscientiousness.

The supermarkets even bitch about each other. Sainsbury’s reckon their rivals Tesco will have 43% of the market by 2010, and that something should be done to stop them. They don’t mention the fact that, while smaller, they are as guilty as anyone else.

Only around 15% of the cost of a loaf of bread goes back to the farmer who grew the wheat. It’s about 30% for eggs and 40% for carrots. Few goods offer more than half of their store price to the producer.

Dairy farmers have been particularly badly hit. In 1995 they got around 59% of the retail price of milk. Today it’s just 35%. The supermarket’s share has risen from 3% to 30%. So it’s pretty clear who’s winning that battle1.

And there’s been a double-whammy for farmers. Because while most products have seen inflation of 48% since 1990, food prices have risen just 27%. It means farmers’ incomes have been plummeting in relation to everyone else’s.

So at what point do we stop praising the international success of a British business and start telling them to get their house in order? Do we expect them to start closing stores? Would a greater variety of supermarket owners make any difference to producers? Are we happy with the inevitable situation where there are only four or five food retailers in the UK?

I spoke to a greengrocer today who was annoyed not just with Tesco’s attitude to producers and small rivals, but with the people who accept it and only shop there. He works alone, in the cold, for ten hours a day, starting very early. He pours blood, sweat and tears into his job.

Is it about time Tesco and others started being put under the same pressure as him by consumers and government? Or are we happy with the convenient monopoly which makes life easy for the big supermarkets?

1. National Farmers’ Union figures


January 23, 2007

Supermarkets are getting an easy ride from the Competition Commission

Supermarket share prices, 23rd Jan 2007 It’s several years since supermarkets were last checked to see if they were anti-competitive. Since then, the answer’s become even clearer. Corner shops and convenience stores are lucky if they’re reporting declining sales. At least they haven’t shut up shop already.

But despite this, the Competition Commission has given the supermarkets plenty of breathing space while outlining their ‘emerging thinking’ today. And where’s the evidence? Well, it’s on the right. If the stockbrokers think that an across-the-board rise in supermarket share prices is appropriate, it probably means they’re going to get an easy ride.

The inquiry says it’s now going to “go local”. But you have to wonder if they’ll bother to speak to any of the thousands of people put out of business by the 800lb gorillas in the market.


October 03, 2006

Is a monolithic Tesco a bad thing?

Tesco has announced half-year profits of over £1bn today, double what they were getting only five years ago. As usual, the news generated as much fury in the media as when the big banks reveal how much they’re ripping us off by.

But should we be getting uptight about Tesco doing so well? For one thing, almost all of the growth has come from the supermarket’s 949 foreign stores, which are growing three times faster than the UK ones. Having said that, second-quarter sales in the UK alone rose 6.6% (up from 4.5%), partly through the growth of non-food items.

Environmentalists and farmers will probably be up in arms. But are there advantages to having a dominant player in the market? Let me give you an example. Pressure groups can focus on beating one giant easier than tackling a thousand minnows. For instance, if you want better standards for cooped-up chickens, you’d have a much bigger impact trying to convince Tesco of the need for improvement than lobbying the thousands of butchers in the UK. When Tesco changes something for the better, they take between a fifth and a sixth of the grocery market with them.

True, the opposite can also occur. And despite Terry Leahy’s protestations, Tesco has had a major impact on the vibrancy of the British High Street. But we should give Tesco credit where it’s due. It’s commitment to Dolphin Friendly tuna (yes, even Tesco Value tuna is dolphin safe), minimum standards in agriculture, policies on GM and recycling is commendable, and has a big effect.

While we might shout at Tesco for being so dominant, we need to recognise that when they change something for the better, their influence spreads a long way. Not only that, but on many issues concerning the public, Tesco is starting to be a market-leader rather than a follower.

So well done to Tesco on making big profits: it’s not a natural reaction for Britons to praise such a feat. But Sir Terry Leahy mustn’t rest on his laurels. There’s many more battles which Tesco should be leading on.


September 15, 2006

If Tesco was a politician…

Michael HowardIf Tesco was a politician, who would it be? I think it’s Michael Howard. There’s something about their new commitment to locally-sourced food which reminds me of the Rory Bremner sketch that summed up Howard’s 2005 election campaign. “Don’t be afraid… I’m not going to hurt you!”

According to The Guardian Tesco is to open its regional buying offices to local producers and help them bring products to the market.

For many farmers and producers it’s a bit like sharing a bed with the Devil (or with a politician). Tesco has been the undoing of hundreds – if not thousands – of local butchers, bakers and greengrocers, such as in my home town of Tetbury where we’re left with one butcher, one baker and no greengrocer. Previously we had a total of six.

So should we be congratulating Tesco for its new ‘community’ initiative, or suspect that it’ll just be a niche initative which won’t undo the harm their supermarkets have done to locally owned retailers in the past decade?

From an environmental point of view, anything which reduces ‘food miles’ has to be a good thing. It makes no sense to drag carrots from Belgium when there’s perfectly good ones 500 yards from a Tesco supermarket. But Tesco’s plan is for “regional buying centres”. In theory, this means local produce made in Gloucestershire will have to be sent to Birmingham or Bristol, only to be sent straight back again. It’s not exactly progress. The way forward is for individual store managers to have local buying power, but that’s not the way supermarkets work.

Friends of the Earth have said they fear this may be just a ‘token gesture’, and I’m inclined to agree. While the environmental benefits may be welcome, this will do little to make our High Streets diverse and locally-owned. And it’s not exactly a great victory for David over Goliath.

As Michael would say: “Are you eating what we’re eating?”


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