Tesco CEO Philip Clarke said today it would take several more months for the company to begin to turn the corner with its in-store problems,  as he warned that there was little prospect of any improvement in economic conditions facing retailers.

Speaking after the company’s AGM in Cardiff, at which he issued an apology to shareholders for the falling levels of Tesco service, Clarke said he was feeling “more confident” about the ability of the company to get back on track as new staff began arriving in store in the second phase of its UK turnaround plans.

Clarke said 8,000 new staff would be in place by the autumn, many of them to ensure better availability.

But he said: “It will take more than a few months to get it right.”

Clarke, who was asked by one shareholder if he would resign if he had failed to turn around the UK operation by the time of the next AGM, said he felt “no pressure”, despite facing shareholders attacking levels of service in the UK, as well as several questions over the lacklustre performance of Tesco’s Fresh and Easy operation in the US.

“I started as CEO a year ago amid an uncertain economic outlook and that hasn’t improved and shows little prospect of improving,” he said. “We can’t wish that away much as we might want to.”

But he said stores which had been refitted and equipped with more staff were showing that its plans for the UK could work, with improved service, quality and availability.