This is why Tesco works so hard to understand customers better than anyone else. We get to know their likes and dislikes and study what they buy and how they shop. Then, armed with this intelligence, we adapt. The offer we have made for T&S stores is a living example of this drive to move with the customer.
Lifestyles and customer attitudes are changing. Households are getting smaller. More of us live alone. We have busier lives with less time to spend on preparing meals. As a result, more customers want to shop conveniently and locally. Demand for foods such as chilled ready meals and pre-packed salads is increasing dramatically.
I know only too well how difficult it is to balance the precious time outside of work with a desire to prepare a nutritious but quick meal. This is where ready-to-cook vegetables, quick roasting joints of meat and fresh fruit come into their own. And being able to pick it all up on your way home makes it even easier
Tesco spotted this trend a few years ago, which is why the Tesco Express c-store was born. Express stores already serve around 100 communities throughout the UK, providing a wide range of quality products at lower prices. If successful, the deal with T&S will mean hundreds more neighbourhoods receiving the same benefits.
Tesco Express brings many of the benefits of a superstore ­ price, choice, and a modern shopping environment. But it is more like the traditional corner shop. Most people live within a 10-minute walk of the store and make short but frequent visits.
Our staff also make Express stores special. Most of them live near the store and know the area and the local people very well. Some say Tesco cannot provide the sort of personal service offered by smaller independent convenience retailers. We know different, and so do the local people who shop at a Tesco Express.
I came across a good example of this when I was talking to a customer in an Express store shortly after we announced the offer for T&S. She was an elderly lady who lived nearby and came in to the store most days to shop. This lady ­ I'll call her Mary ­ was on first-name terms with the manager and all his staff, who regularly stopped to chat. Mary had seen a newspaper ad for a portable TV on sale at Tesco and really needed to replace her set. Unfortunately the TVs were only available in larger stores, and Mary does not drive. She mentioned this to Rob, the manager, and the next time Rob was near a Tesco Extra he popped in and collected the TV for her. This shows that no matter how big we grow as a business, delivering great service to every customer is important to us.
Putting the customer at the heart of everything you do is the key to success in retailing. Those retailers that recognise this and change with customers will thrive ­ whether they are large or small. Many of the 55,000 convenience shops in this country are already changing and are very successful businesses as a result. If successful, the T&S deal will allow us to convert another 450 to Tesco Express over the next three to four years, and to maintain a successful business with 400-500 stores branded One Stop and Day & Nite, with an independent head office in the West Midlands. As others have said, this will contribute to a thriving convenience sector and bring great value, quality and convenience to more neighbourhoods.