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?
Unemployment figures for the UK have been going in the wrong direction for some time. With consumer expenditure, investment and hence aggregate demand remaining low, job creation has been severely lacking. However, 2 pieces of news have emerged in the last couple of days, which as David Cameron said was ‘a massive confidence boost for the UK economy’. Tesco and Nissan have both announced the creation of thousands of new jobs.
Over the next 2 years, Tesco has said that it will create 20,000 new jobs through store improvement and the opening of new stores. Whilst it is not clear how many will be full-time, part-time or apprenticeship placements, it still represents net job creation. This huge investment represents what many are calling a ‘fight-back’ from Tesco, who issued its first profit warning in 20 years, following weak Christmas trading. That announcement slashed their shares by over £5bn and is perhaps partly responsible for this planned investment.
Despite this good news, criticisms have emerged that the major supermarkets are simply inflating the job creation figures and that the actual number of new jobs will be significantly less than the 20,000 suggested. This follows allegations made towards Asda, who claimed to have created 30,000 jobs. However, evidence from records at Companies House suggests that new job creation by the company was closer to 7,000. Whatever the true figure, it still means new jobs, which can only help UK unemployment data.
In addition to this, Nissan has also announced that it will be creating 2,000 new jobs, as it begins production on a new model at its Sunderland factory. The jobs will be created as part of a £125m investment, including a £9.3m grant from the government. This is especially good news, given the area where many of these jobs will emerge. The North East is a region that has been hit particularly hard by the recession and the grant from the government has come from its regional growth fund. Nissan has said that even in hard economic times, it is possible to sell cars, as long as they are competitively priced. Neither of the plans discussed above will create jobs immediately, but perhaps the key is that it creates confidence, which is a rarity in the UK with the current economic situation. The following articles consider these job creation plans and their wider implications.
Tesco plans to create 20,000 UK jobs over 2 years BBC News (5/3/12)
Tesco to create 20,000 jobs in UK fight-back Telegraph, Jamie Dunkley (6/3/12)
Tesco’s UK boss defends ‘new jobs’ claims Sky News (5/3/12)
Tesco to freshen up with 20,000 new staff Financial Times, Andrea Felsted (5/3/12)
Now Tesco creates 20,000 jobs – with pay Independent (9/5/11)
Nissan to build new car in Sunderland BBC News (6/3/12)
Nissan pledges 2,000 new jobs at North East plant Sky News, Gerard Tubb (6/3/12)
Nissan Invitation compact car set to create 2,000 jobs Telegraph, Roland Gribben and David Millward (6/3/12)
Nissan to create 2,000 new jobs by building compact car in Sunderland Guardian, Dan Milmo(6/3/12)
- Explain the process by which net job creation should provide a boost to the economy.
- Will these new jobs have any impact on the government’s budget deficit?
- Why is there concern that the supermarkets are inflating the employment creation figures?
- What type of unemployment has been created by the recession? Why have certain areas, such as the North East been affected so badly by the recession and austerity measures?
- Which factors could have led to Tesco’s weaker trading figures towards then end of 2011? Why did this lead to a £5bn loss in the value of the group’s shares?
- Nissan has said that cars can be sold as long as they are competitively priced. To what extent do you think price is the main competitive weapon in the market for cars and in the supermarket industry?