After weak Christmas trading, Tesco issued a profit warning – its first in 20 years. Following this, their shares fell in value by some £5bn, but this was met with an announcement of the creation of 20,000 jobs in the coming years, as part of a project to train staff, improve existing stores and open new ones. Yet, Tesco has reported another quarter of falling sales.
Trading times have been challenging and the fact that the UK’s biggest supermarket is struggling is only further evidence to support this. In the 13 weeks to the 26th May 2012, Tesco reported a decline in like-for-like sales of 1.5%. Although much of the £1bn investment in Tesco is yet to be spent, the fact that sales have fallen for a full year must be of concern, not only to its Chief Executive, but also to analysts considering the economic future for the UK.
Consumer confidence remains low and together with tight budgets, shoppers are continuing to be very cautious of any unnecessary spending. Part of Tesco’s recent drive to drum up sales has been better customer service and a continuing promotion war with the other supermarkets. This particular sector is highly competitive and money-off coupons and other such promotions plays a huge part in the competitive process. Whilst low prices are obviously crucial, this is one sector where non-price competition can be just as important.
Although Tesco sales in the UK have been nothing to shout about – the Chief Executive said their sales performance was ‘steady’ – its total global sales did increase by 2.2%. The Chief Executive, Mr Clarke said:
‘Internationally, like-for-like sales growth proved resilient, despite slowing economic growth in China…Against the backdrop of continued uncertainty in the eurozone, it is pleasing to see that our businesses have largely sustained their performance.’
A boost for UK sales did come with the Jubilee weekend and with the Olympics just round the corner, Tesco will be hoping for a stronger end to the year than their beginning. The following articles consider Tesco’s sales and the relative performance of the rest of the sector.
Tesco’s quarterly sales hit by ‘challenging’ trading BBC News (11/6/12)
Tesco UK arm notches up one year of falling sales Guardian, Zoe Wood (11/6/12)
Tesco upbeat despite new sales dip Independent, Peter Cripps (11/6/12)
Tesco sales seen lower in first quarter Reuters, James Davey(11/6/12)
The Week Ahead: Tesco set to admit it is losing ground to rivals Independent, Toby Green (11/6/12)
Tesco’s performance in the UK forecast to slip again Telegraph, Harry Wallop (10/6/12)
Tesco: What the analysts say Retail Week, Alex Lawson (11/6/12)
Supermarkets issue trading updates The Press Association (9/6/12)
The Week Ahead: Supermarkets prepare to give City food for thought Scotsman, Martin Flanagan (11/6/12)
Asda’s sales growth accelerates Reuters, James Davey (17/5/12)
Asda sales increase helped by Tesco Telegraph, Harry Wallop (18/5/12)
Tesco v. Sainsbury’s in trading update battle Manchester Evening News (11/6/12)
Sainsbury’s out-trades Tesco on UK food sales Independent, James Thompson (10/6/12)
- Using some examples, explain what is meant by non-price competition.
- Why has Tesco been losing ground to its competitors?
- Given the products that Tesco sells (largely necessities), why have sales been falling, despite household’s tight budgets?
- Into which market structure would you place the supermarket sector? Explain your answer by considering each of the assumptions behind the market structure you choose.
- Why have Tesco’s rivals been gaining ground on Tesco?
- How might this latest sales data affect Tesco’s share prices?
- Based on what the analysts are saying about the food sector, can we deduce anything about the future of the UK economy in the coming months?
It’s not the first retailer to go into administration and it won’t be the last, but the well-known high street retailer Peacocks will continue to trade for the foreseeable future thanks to Edinburgh Woolen Mill.
The administrators were called in at the beginning of 2012, as Peacocks total debt reach £750 million and it was unable to restructure £240 million of this debt. Edinburgh Woollen Mill has bought the company out of administration, protecting 6000 jobs in the UK. However, at the same time more than 3000 workers will be made redundant, as 224 stores cease trading.
Throughout the recession, retailers across the UK have been struggling, as household incomes have remained low, causing consumer spending to fall. One of the administrators from KMPG, commented that:
‘This (the low consumer demand), combined with a surplus of stores and unsustainable capital structure, led to the business becoming financially unviable.’
The coming months will be crucial in determining whether more jobs are lost and if there are any further store closures. Much hinges on the ability of Edinburgh Woollen Mill to stabilize the financial performance of Peacocks and stimulate renewed customer demand. The following articles consider this take-over.
Peacocks closes 19 Ulster stores with 263 job losses Belfast Telegraph (23/2/12)
Peacocks Takeover: Edinburgh Woollen Mill buy retailer but 3,100 jobs lost BBC News (including video) (22/2/12)
Peacocks piqued by PIKs Guardian, Nils Pratley (22/2/12)
Edinburgh Woollen Mill buys Peacocks Independent, James Thompson (23/2/12)
Peacocks sold to Edinburgh Woollen Mill – KPMG The Wall Street Journal, Jessica Hodgson (23/2/12)
- Why has consumer demand in the retails sector fallen during the recession?
- What type of take-over would you classify this as?
- Who are Peacocks’ main competitors? In which market structure would you place the retail sector? Explain your answer.
- The Guardian article refers to the Management-buy-out of Peacocks in 2005. What is a management-buy-out? What were the problems associated with it?
- What are the problems that have been identified as causing Peacocks to go into administration?
- To what extent do you think the Management-buy-out of 2005 is the main reason why Peacocks has fallen into administration?
There has been much talk of a double-dip recession, with many suggesting that the UK economy is already in a recession. However, according to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), a recession is not inevitable. Although the businesses surveyed showed that the economy had significantly weakened, John Longworth the Director General of the BCC said that a ‘new recession is not a foregone conclusion’.
Even though many of the figures showed a continued weakening of the economy, the results are still not as bad as they were back in 2008. The concern is that if the weakness continues, as it is predicted to do in the first quarter of 2012, confidence will remain low and then the economy may stagnate and a recession becomes a more likely scenario. Action is needed to prevent this from happening, especially with the eurozone crisis still causing concern. As John Longworth said:
The UK does have the potential to recover and make its way in the world. We have the talent, the energy and the enterprise. All we need is an environment that puts business first.
At the beginning of December 2011, many analysts thought retail sales would remain low, as they had been throughout 2011. However, British consumers came through in the second half of December and retail sales were up by 4.1% compared with a year ago. According to the British Retail Consortium, this Christmas rush should not be seen as a fundamental change in the direction of the economy and will have done little to boost the overall annual sales of most retailers.
Recession ‘not foregone conclusion’ Guardian (10/1/12)
UK economy likely to shrink amid eurozone crisis, says BCC The Telegraph, Angela Monaghan (10/1/12)
UK recession is not yet inevitable, survey says BBC News (10/1/12)
UK risks recession and lengthy stagnation – BCC Reuters, David Milliken (10/1/12)
U.K recession fears build Wall Street Journal, Ilona Billington (10/1/12)
BoE stimulus expansion may not be enough for recovery, BCC says (quick ad before article appears) Business Week, Scott Hamilton (10/1/12)
- How is a recession defined?
- What data has the BCC used to come to the conclusion that a recession is not inevitable?
- What action is needed by the government to tackle ‘short term stagnation and a lack of business confidence’?
- What could explain the 4.1% increase in sales in December compared with the previous year? Why is this data not thought to represent a ‘fundamental change in the circumstances of UK consumers’?
- What is expected to happen to UK inflation and employment during the first quarter of 2012?
- Why does the eurozone crisis present a problem for confidence and British exporters?
There’s been a lot of bad news about the economy, but perhaps things are looking up. Inflation is now at 4% and the latest data suggests that unemployment has fallen, with more jobs being created in the private sector. An estimated 143,000 jobs were created, many of which were full-time and the ILO measure if unemployment is down by some 17,000. There is still some doom and gloom, as growth in annual average earnings has fallen slightly and this will undoubtedly affect retail sales. Numbers claiming JSA have also increased marginally to 1.5 million and youth unemployment has seen a small increase to 20.4%. A big area of concern is that unemployment might rise in the coming months due to the time lag. Growth in the last quarter of 2010 was negative and this could increase unemployment when the full effects are felt in the labour market later in the year. Howard Archer, the Chief Economist at HIS Global Insight had this to say about the latest data.
‘Despite the overall firmer tone of the latest labour market data, we retain the view that unemployment is headed up over the coming months. We suspect that likely below-trend growth will mean that the private sector will be unable to fully compensate for the increasing job losses in the public sector that will result from the fiscal squeeze that is now really kicking in. Indeed, we believe that private sector companies will become increasingly careful in their employment plans in the face of a struggling economy and elevated input costs.’
The wage price spiral hasn’t begun as many though, and this may encourage the Bank of England to keep interest rates down, especially as inflation has come down to 4% and concerns about growth still remain. So despite good news about unemployment overall falling, young workers, women and public sector workers have not benefited. Youth unemployment is up, more women are claiming JSA and more jobs in the public sector are expected to be cut this year. The following articles consider the implications.
UK Unemployment: What the experts say Guardian (13/4/11)
Good news on jobs BBC News blogs: Stephanomics, Stephanie Flanders (13/4/11)
Unemployment falls, but young are left on the shelf Independent, Sean O’Grady (14/4/11)
Unemployment falls but jobs market remains fragile Telegraph, Louisa Peacock (14/4/11)
UK unemployment data reveals downturn victims as jobless total drops Guardian, Heather Stewart (13/4/11)
FTSE boosted by dip in unemployment The Press Association (14/4/11)
Unemployment falls: reaction (including video) Telegraph (14/4/11)
- What is the ILO method of measuring unemployment?
- To what extent does the change in unemployment and inflation conform with the Phillips curve?
- What can explain the fall in the unemployment rate, despite the decline in the economy in the last quarter of 2010?
- Explain how the FTSE was affected by the lower unemployment rate.
- Why is unemployment expected to rise later this year?
- Why has there been a rise in the numbers claiming JSA, despite unemployment falling?
- What is meant by the wage-price spiral and why has it not occured?