Dave Lewis has 99 problems. The Tesco boss really is doing his best to improve the poor stature of the big four grocer and it’s not easy given that it’s facing a potential criminal probe and shareholder lawsuit, the industry price wars, divesting assets left, right and centre, and a record loss of £6.38bn in April. But the likelihood is that Lewis, nicknamed ‘Drastic Dave’ after he restructured consumer goods giant Unilever, is Tesco’s would-be rescuer.
Tesco is still Britain’s biggest retailer, holding on to 28% market share. This morning it reported a 1.3% fall in first quarter like-for-like sales but given the context – this ain’t bad. The drop is Tesco’s smallest decline in over a year and marks the beginning of a turnaround in fortunes. Sales are shrinking at a slower rate than in the previous year while transaction volumes grow, suggesting that the supermarket chain is reeling customers back in.
"Whilst the market is still challenging and volatility is likely to remain a feature of short-term performance, these ... results represent another step in the right direction," said Lewis. "We do feel we are more in control than perhaps we were a year ago...but nobody ever said this was going to be quick or easy."
He added: "We set out to serve our customers a little better every day and the improvements we are making are starting to have an effect.
We are fixing the fundamentals of shopping to win back customers and relying less on short-term couponing. Customers are experiencing better service, better availability and lower, more stable prices and are buying more things, more often, at Tesco.
These improvements have come during the restructuring of our office and store management teams, which testifies to the focus, skill and commitment of colleagues across the business. We have also seen an improved performance in our international markets, as we continue to focus on serving customers better.
Whilst the market is still challenging and volatility is likely to remain a feature of short-term performance, these first quarter results represent another step in the right direction."
There is still a lot of work to be done but as they say, every little helps.