Posted: 12/03/2019

Independents’ success a factor in Tesco’s major counter cull

Tesco announced in January that it would be removing counters from around 90 stores across the UK

The popularity of independent food retailers played a part in Tesco’s decision to axe a large swathe of fresh counters from its stores, according to several industry commentators.

When announcing the removal of serveovers in close to 100 stores, Tesco cited time-poor shoppers as a factor, but Jamie Rayne, MD of consultancy Shoppercentric, said many consumers just preferred what indies offer. 

 “If anything, the increasing confidence in the independent sector may well have nudged Tesco into their decision,” he said.

“Shoppers are recognising the benefit of shopping around for their groceries and that independents have a lot to offer in terms of range and staff expertise, which can make a special trip to these stores worthwhile.”

Shoppercentric’s latest Stock Take report states that consumer preference for buying local and British has helped rejuvenate the independent sector.

Catherine Shuttleworth, chief executive of retail and shopper marketing agency Savvy, told FFD: “One of the reasons these big in-store offerings from the supermarkets aren’t working is because there’s been a massive upsurge in local independents and farm shops. 

“People are looking for local goods and goods that are different when it comes to fresh food, because they’re becoming a lot more choosy.”

Although she predicted a “big resurgence” in specialist food stores, Shuttleworth did question whether other supermarkets would follow Tesco’s lead. 

For example, Morrisons views its Market Street concept as a point of difference and will continue to offer it. 

Independent retail expert David Gilroy, co-founder and managing director of Store Excel, said it was expensive to have a counter manned for 84 hours a week, but he pointed out Tesco was removing counter services “selectively” from stores where it did not work commercially.

“They are not eliminating them across the board,” he said. “The other supermarkets have been doing this quietly but on a case-by-case basis. Tesco is simply doing some long overdue housekeeping.”

Jason Tarry, Tesco CEO for the UK and Ireland, said in January that the chain expected to remove serveovers in about 90 stores.

A Tesco press statement said: “Not only are customers shopping in different ways, but we know that they have less time available to shop, too – which means they are using our counters less frequently.”

This story appeared in the March issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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