‘Woman has Baby’ was Private Eye’s front cover on the birth of Prince George. So here’s another headline from the Private Eye school. ‘Supermarket updates Store’. It almost beggars belief how extensive the coverage has been of Tesco’s Watford Extra refurbishment. It’s as if the wheel has just been reinvented.
Of course, as you would expect, we’ve been to see it, and you’ll find analysis and loads more pictures and other information at thegrocer.co.uk/tesco. But it felt as if the entire British media was in tow, last week, with the BBC accompanying CEO Philip Clarke down the aisles.
That’s not to say Tesco’s Watford Extra isn’t impressive. It absolutely is. Most of the ideas (misty veg, community centres, children’s playcentre, coffee shop, restaurant, pizzeria, food court, virtual aisles, nail salon) are rehashed. But it’s a testament to the energy of the Tesco executive, as much as the new PR team, that it’s pulled together so many ideas, in a single store, from around the world, in a relatively short space of time, to create this mash-up.
Now all it needs, to continue this music vernacular, is to produce a hit. Or, rather, using different sampling techniques, a series of hits. But that’s no small task. Tesco Watford is an expensive refurbishment but it’s still a trial store. And if it does work, it will cost a lot more than the £1bn Tesco has allocated to store refurbishment, to roll out.
At the same time, this reinvention is coming with the economy still, basically, in the doldrums. Some of the best ideas can fail simply by falling on stony economic ground. And who’s to say the structural changes Tesco Watford has tried to anticipate with its ‘virtual aisles’ of GM is going to be any more effective than, say, Argos?
And one final thought. With Tesco making food front and centre of the new Watford offer, Extra MD Tony Hoggett told us “a food store can never be at the mercy of a big general merchandise shop”. But what on earth was the previous management doing allowing a supermarket to be configured with the fresh produce at the back of the store? I know it’s fashionable to knock Sir Terry Leahy (and hugely unfair), but some of the decisions in the last days of his empire were eccentric, to say the least.