Tesco over-egging its profits by £250m (yes, that’s a quarter of a billion quid) rightly led to statements of shock across the media this week.
Explanations for its ‘fall from grace’ centre on issues are varied. They range from being caught in a sector-wide pincer movement between Aldi and Lidl and Waitrose, to a rise in internet shopping and the sense that shoppers have simply fallen out of love with Britain’s biggest retailer. It’s still making hundreds of millions in profit each year. But the CEO Dave Lewis probably can’t afford too many hits like this, even though his response to the outbreak of the crisis was swift and impressive.
I’ve worked as a comms person for Tesco, supporting local consultations designed to inform its planning applications for new stores. I was struck by the dedication and drive of those connected with the business; everyone bought into the vision. We’ve shopped there for years and been devotees of its Clubcard loyalty scheme, which we’ve used to ‘reward’ ourselves with meals at Pizza Express and trips to Longleat.
Seems like a good deal? The ‘savings’ detailed on our weekly shopping receipt, stating that we’d saved 34p compared to the same shop Sainsbury’s, suggested that it was. How they can confirm this when their in store pricing is so haphazard is a mystery, but ‘every little helps’ after all.
Then we moved to Wells last year and I underwent a conversion. Wells has fantastic food stores which hold their own against three supermarkets in a town of just 11,000 people. Their produce is better and often cheaper, by a huge difference in many cases. Buying three peppers for £1.20 or avocados for 25p from a wonderful stall near Tesco’s town centre store put the supermarkets’ promise of ‘value’ in a completely different light (what do you mean they’re half the price?). At this rate, the savings we could make on fruit and veg alone would add up to the cost of a family trip to Longleat over a few months. What’s not to like about that?
Local markets like the ones in Wells or my home town of Haverfordwest deserve support. They add to the distinct identity of a place, sustain local businesses and keep money spent with traders circulating in the local economy. The produce is tastier, lasts longer and saves money when compared to our old grocery shop.
Yes, we still use supermarkets to buy most of our shopping. But their grip is loosening on us, and that feels good. If you have the chance to visit the markets in Somerset, or anywhere else in England, I hope you check them out. You may even see me there with a bag on a Saturday morning.