News Column

I've never run a shop but I can improve Tesco, says new boss

September 2, 2014

Zoe Wood

Tesco's new boss has said that it needs a "fresh perspective", and his lack of shopkeeping experience did not mean he was the wrong person to turn the ailing supermarket around.

In his first public comments as chief executive, Dave Lewis conceded his appointment was interesting in that "I have never run a shop in my life" but noted that retail expertise had not previously been in short supply at Tesco, which on Friday fired off its third profit warning in eight months.

"Phil Clarke [his predecessor] is a great retailer," Lewis told the Evening Standard on his first day in the job. "The issue for Tesco is, is that what they need now? Because great retailing in that seat hasn't been the thing that has worked, so they do need a fresh perspective."

In an email to staff Lewis also spelled out priorities including tackling heavy market-share losses in the UK, but promised not to take hasty decisions.

Lewis's reign at Tesco got off to a lacklustre start with the shares among the biggest fallers in the FTSE 100 yesterday as investors digested the weekend news that one of its biggest shareholders, Chicago-based Harris Associates, had cut its stake from 3% to 1% because the company's outlook was too risky "to justify [having] a big position". More than pounds 1.3bn was wiped off Tesco's market value on Friday after its shares fell to 230p - their lowest level in 11 years - and on Monday they closed down again, off nearly 2% at 225.55p.

Lewis, who joined from shampoo and deodorant maker Unilever, has promised to review "every aspect of the group's operations" in an attempt to revive the fortunes of the UK's biggest retailer. The chain is losing shoppers to no-frills chains Asda, Aldi and Lidl and is being dragged down by its sprawling hypermarkets, now out of fashion with shoppers who increasingly flit between smaller top-up shops and home delivery services. Recent market data showed Tesco with a 28.8% share of the UK grocery market, down from 30.2% a year ago.

Lewis's start date was brought forward after last week's profit warning - he had been due to replace the ousted Clarke at the beginning of October.

He is thought to have spent much of his first day in charge locked in meetings in London and with top executives at Tesco's Hertfordshire headquarters, with analysts speculating there will be changes within the domestic team led by UK managing director Chris Bush.

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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