Sir: Very few people are unquestionably loyal to anything or anyone, save religious movements (‘Key questions on Lidl’s Smarter shopping card,’ 29 August, p14). The problem Tesco had was that it believed it was buying loyalty with its card, and it also believed this gave it insight into the habits of the typical shopper. Wrong.
As Lidl quite rightly insisted, and Sainsbury’s understands, these cards simply promote repeat visits and increased purchases. They also used to give you insight you could get nowhere else. But in the case of the Tesco convenience offering, its penetration was much too small to be useful, and simple card possession skews purchases.
In retail terms, people are loyal to brands that meet their expectation for being easy to get to, with good ranging, in-store experience and availability. The Tesco Clubcard is unable to give insight in smaller stores, is very expensive to run, and nowadays gives little insight you can’t get elsewhere. Had it kept better track of real loyalty (managing real availability and locally responsive ranging) Tesco would not have the issues it has today. Better card models exist (including Waitrose, Booths and Lidl).
If the Tesco Clubcard were a footballer it would be Mario Balotelli. Fitfully brilliant but past the sell-by date and ripe for transfer. The million dollar question I am sure the purchaser will be asking is this: how long before the transfer is made permanent and Tesco moves to a different model?
Colin Harper, CEO, RetailVitalStatistics