Ouch. If you think Kantar’s 12-week numbers look bad, you should see the four-week ones. Even with seasonal adjustment for the earlier Easter period, they look horrible. Let’s put it another way: if outgoing Tesco CFO Laurie McIlwee was previously reluctant to offer guidance on margins, pity the incoming one (or CEO Philip Clarke) when asked by City analysts to provide forward guidance on the basis of these numbers.
“Pity the CEO of a listed supermarket chain asked by analysts to provide forward guidance on the basis of the latest Kantar numbers”
Adam Leyland, Editor
In the meantime, as incoming Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe prepares to take over this summer, might the latest numbers prompt him to heed a lesson not only from Justin King’s time in charge but also the failure of Philip Clarke (for which McIlwee was blamed) in “kitchen sinking” the business?
With inflation largely disappearing out of the marketplace, and space race plans shuttered, there really is no hiding place in the figures. And what better time for Walmart boss Doug McMillon to jet in on a tour of an Asda superstore with PM David Cameron to announce the creation of 12,000 jobs over the next five years, involving the addition of 40 superstores, 100 supermarkets and 50 forecourts?
Timing is everything, they say. And in an interview with The Grocer last week, Clarke claimed Asda’s cautious investment in real estate over the past few years, together with its investment in selective and dramatic price cuts on KVIs in 2013, would stand it in good stead this year and in the future. But had he known all his competitors were going to implode at such a rate, all at the same time, would he have picked this moment to announce a major head office restructure? And with staff canteen also threatened with closure staff morale is at risk just as Asda appears to have some wind in its sails.
Above all, is Clarke set to make the same mistake as his rivals? The problem in this market is that there is too much capacity. Any retailer putting more capacity into the system - regardless of their size of the stores or geographic positioning - is a hostage to fortune. And though Asda’s doing better than its rivals, it’s not exactly growing at the rate of the discounters is it? It’s merely doing less badly than the rest.