Why I Feel Sorry for Tesco (Kind of)

I was thinking about writing this early this morning. I was going to just put the boot in rather joyously (much like everybody else practically) about their £6.4 billion pre-tax losses. Let’s face it every little may well help but the list of Tesco’s misdemeanours is rather lengthy.

In summary, Tesco simply got lost within it’s own bubble. It got too big for its boots, believing that they were the centre of everything. They became like the local ASBO kids on the estate, riding the criticism like a badge of honour, believing that they were untouchable. Perhaps for some time they were just that, but as soon as you believe your own hype, the wheels will soon start to fall off. Just ask Justin Beiber!

The Tesco machine was looked upon as decimating local communities and businesses, accused of riding roughshot over planning rules and had a reputation in squeezing their suppliers for every last penny they could. Their influence in some markets was arguably too great, in books and music sales for example. Crucially, they lost public confidence. Their prices were no longer amongst the cheapest, 8% more expensive than rival Asda, let alone Aldi or Lidl and together with reports of customer service standards slipping Tesco has now become the retail equivalent of Katie Hopkins. Except Tesco is getting its comeuppance (unlike Katie – just yet) and practically everyone is revelling in it.

In fairness, so was I.

Then I thought about the staff, around 2000 of them, at risk of losing their jobs at the 43 UK stores earmarked for closure. Whatever we think about the corporate Tesco machine, that’s 2000 ordinary workers, certainly not earning anything like millions, staring unemployment in the face. I also got to thinking about their community work and their network of Community Champion staff. I have seen, first hand, local Tesco stores providing funds, food and drink and staff time to help community projects. That doesn’t excuse all their evils of course, but I know many people who have been very grateful for this support.

Just like the banks, who created an unprecedented global financial crisis. It wasn’t those at the very top who lost out. It was the ordinary workers in the branches that had to close and the ordinary people everywhere who have suffered from the resulting age of austerity.

So, despite the initial glee at the news of Tesco’s losses, the worst ever in retail history, that I felt. It’s tinged with a little regret and the hope that lessons can be learned to put right at least some of what Tesco got very, very wrong.

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