Tesco is the UK's leading supermarket chain and narrowly overtook Carrefour in 2013 to become the world's #2 retailer, though performance since then has been dented significantly by a brutal price war in the UK and sliding sales in several other key markets. The original platform for Tesco's growth was established in the 1970s and 1980s when former managing director Ian MacLaurin fought a long and drawn-out battle with the store's founding family to drag the brand upmarket, before overseeing a range of innovative schemes during the 1990s. It leapfrogged domestic arch-rival Sainsbury's in 1995 to become Britain's biggest food retailer, and continued to steadily extend its lead while also broadening its footprint considerably with an aggressive move into non-food merchandise. In 1999, the group went one step further, becoming the UK's most profitable retailer as well, after Marks & Spencer announced a dramatic fall in net earnings. It broke the £3bn profit barrier for the first time in 2008. After that, Tesco began looking mainly to the international market for further expansion. Most of its non-UK operations are concentrated in Eastern Europe and Asia; a bold attempt to break into the US market in 2007 ended in failure five years later, and that setback was followed by a series of reverses in other markets, leading to a change of CEO at the end of 2014.
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Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Oct 2015: British supermarket giant Tesco withdrew its CRM and analytics agency Dunnhumby from sale. Potential buyers had included a consortium bid led by WPP, but the offer was deemed insufficient. Tesco had been seeking a price of as much as £2bn, but bids received valued the business only at around £700m. Tesco CEO Dave Lewis told an investor conference, "Having looked at all those proposals – of which there were many – we came to the conclusion that the most value-creating option for Tesco shareholders was to retain [Dunnhumby] in the group. Data and its ability to help us build customer loyalty is a big part of the customer proposition from a Tesco point of view. We've always been proud of that business, so we are happy to retain it and we will invest in it and grow it ourselves going forward."
Adbrands Weekly Update 24th Sep 2015: Tesco has been claiming significant progress in the turnaround of its UK supermarket business, yet its share of the grocery market slipped to 28.2% for the latest 12 week period, according to Kantar Worldpanel. That's the lowest level since at least 2010. Meanwhile Aldi, which overtook Waitrose for 6th place by market share earlier this year, continued to narrow the gap with its next target, The Co-op. Currently, the latter is the UK's 5th largest grocer at 6.4% share, but Aldi's position edged up to 5.6%. Also this week, Tesco announced plans to abandon 24-hour trading in selected large stores, where sales after midnight don't justify the costs of staying open.
Adbrands Weekly Update 10th Sep 2015: Tesco signed off on the previously reported sale of its single biggest international division, Homeplus in South Korea, to an investor consortium headed by MBK Partners. The final sale price is just over £4.0bn in cash.
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Sept 2015: Tesco is finalising terms for the sale of its single biggest international subsidiary, the Homeplus retail group in South Korea, with revenues in excess of £5bn. Trading there has weaked significantly, and the unit reported an operating loss for its most recent financial year. Tesco opened exclusive negotations with local private equity group MBK Partners, which has offered $6.6bn for the business. Homeplus is South Korea's second biggest retailer after E-Mart.
Adbrands Weekly Update 14th May 2015: Tesco is preparing to put its branded mobile phone operation, a joint venture with O2, up for sale. It is the largest private label MVNO service in the UK, and a deal could generate "millions of pounds". Tesco's share of profits from the service was reported to be around £100m last year. Though O2 would be the most obvious buyer, that deal is considered unlikely because O2 UK is itself in the process of being sold to Hutchison Whampoa. However a deal could appeal to TalkTalk, which has already acquired Tesco's Blinkbox streaming video service. Separately, there were reports that research giant Nielsen has expressed interest in bidding for Tesco's loyalty marketing division Dunnhumby, also up for sale. WPP is already thought to have put its hat into the ring for that auction. Also this week, Tesco announced the closure of its remaining Homeplus stores in the UK, an experimental sideline selling only non-foods products.
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Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: Jack Cohen started selling cheap groceries from a market stall in London's East End in 1919. His first products were fish paste and sugar syrup, but in around 1924 he began to retail packet tea, supplied by wholesaler TE Stockwell. This he named Tesco, a brand created from an amalgamation of the names TE Stockwell and Cohen. The name stuck, and Jack Cohen opened his first Tesco shop in Edgware in 1929. Business boomed and a series of other shops were opened in and around London before the start of World War II. Cohen had become increasingly influenced by the sales philosophy of American retail groups, and he got his first opportunity to put them into practice after the war. The company went public in 1947, and Cohen moved to self-service shopping the following year. The Tesco philosophy, as conceived by Cohen, was "Pile it high and sell it cheap". (Another favourite slogan, first coined in his market trading days was "Always keep your hand over the money and be ready to run.") In 1956, he opened the first UK supermarket, broadening the product range to include fresh food and clothing.
The group grew rapidly through acquisition, swallowing other retail chains around the country. Another American import was Green Shield stamps, introduced in 1963. At the time, legislation forced all retailers to sell goods at the manufacturer's specified price. With no opportunity to discount, it was hard for any store to develop its customer base by competing on price. However, Green Shield stamps allowed customers to build up loyalty points, which could be redeemed for cash or against other goods. These proved popular with Tesco customers, and as the business got bigger, so did the stores. Tesco coined the term superstore in 1968 when it opened a 90,000 sq ft store in West Sussex, then the largest in Europe. Cohen was knighted the following year.
During the 1970s, Tesco found its development increasingly hampered by its generally down-market image, a legacy from the "pile it high" days, as well as by Cohen's autocratic, aggressive and often undisciplined leadership style. Ian MacLaurin, a former management trainee who had worked his way up to become the company's managing director, dubbed Cohen "Slasher Jack" in his autobiography, and described company board meetings as being "like a meeting of the Chicago mafia, with Jack in the role of Godfather". Nevertheless, the group slowly began to move upmarket, closing older city centre outlets in favour of out-of-town superstores. Tesco introduced the first supermarket forecourt petrol station in 1974, and slowly rolled out the concept nationally. Despite the move upscale, Tesco didn't abandon its reputation for keen prices - its "Operation Checkout" discounting promotion in 1977 increased the store's market share from 7% to 12% in just one year. That year also witnessed the first cracks in Cohen's steely control of the business, after MacLaurin and Cohen clashed over the issue of Green Shield stamps. Cohen saw them as the cornerstone of the business, but MacLaurin argued that they promoted a downmarket image for the store. To Cohen's dismay, Tesco's board of directors supported MacLaurin over the company's founder and the scheme was dropped.
The 1980s became a time of considerable transition for the group. Sir Jack Cohen died in 1979, and was replaced as chairman by his malleable son-in-law Leslie Porter. Within the company, MacLaurin began a complete overhaul of the business, gradually prising it away from Porter and the Cohen family in what became an increasingly bitter struggle. MacLaurin replaced Porter as chairman in 1985. His first challenge was a bid by Cohen's daughter Dame Shirley Porter to join the board, but she was rebuffed.
The 1990s saw a series of innovations which left Sainsbury's standing. The remaining city centre stores were given a complete overhaul, rebranded as Tesco Metro from 1992 onwards, while the petrol forecourt outlets were grouped under the Tesco Express brand. The Tesco Clubcard, introduced in 1995, was a brilliant innovation, replacing the old trading stamps concept with a more upmarket reward scheme which also allowed the store to track purchasing habits in extensive detail. It was rapidly adopted by other retailers, including Sainsbury's, which was also quick to copy Tesco's launch of a banking service in partnership with Royal Bank of Scotland in 1996. In 1997, Tesco was the first UK food retailer to offer an Internet-based home shopping service, and the Tesco Extra hypermarket format was launched for the biggest stores the same year. A year later MacLaurin retired as chairman. Following the lead of Dixons, the home shopping service was bundled into a free ISP service, Tesco.net, in 1999.
Over the following years, the group became increasingly active in the international market. An initial foray into the Republic of Ireland in 1979 was abandoned during the 1980s. In 1993, the group made another attempt to go abroad, acquiring 100 Catteau supermarkets in northern France for £158m. By 1995, the group had added a hypermarket in Paris and a wine shop in Calais, both under the Tesco name. However all were sold two years later. Eastern Europe proved more fruitful for the group. In 1994, Tesco bought a controlling share of the Global S Markt supermarket chain in Hungary, followed by Poland's Savia chain and other stores in 1995. Tesco entered the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1996, spending £79m to buy American supermarket chain K-mart's stores there. In 1997, the group returned to Ireland, buying 109 stores from Associated British Foods for £630m to become the country's leading supermarket business. In 1998 the group acquired Lotus, the second largest retailing business in Thailand with 13 modern hypermarkets, and followed this in 1999 with a partnership deal with Samsung Corporation to develop hypermarkets in South Korea. In March 2000 the group announced plans to open 20 hypermarkets in Taiwan over the next five years. At the end of 2000 the group announced it had teamed up with Asian conglomerate Sime Darby to open 15 hypermarkets in Malaysia.
Building on the success of its online operations, Tesco took a 35% stake in the online operations of US grocery retailer Safeway. The British company agreed to adapt its successful UK model for Safeway's GroceryWorks service. In 2001, the group acquired a controlling stake in The Nutri Centre, a specialist mail order retailer selling complementary medicine products. Later the group said it would take on UK high street clothing retailers Gap and Next, following negotiation of an exclusive licence to import Cherokee American clothing, already sold exclusively through Target stores in the US and Zellers in Canada. At the end of the year, the group announced that it would acquire British convenience store operator T&S Stores for around £530m in shares and debt. See full profile for current activities
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