Philip Clarke took to the podium today at today’s IGD conference to offer his (latest) vision of the future. With all the unanswered questions currently facing Tesco’s boss - as outlined in last Saturday’s edition by The Grocer’s chief reporter, Ian Quinn - it probably made a nice change for him to look past the present.
Key to his vision was the forging of closer ties between retailers and suppliers (presumably not in the sense in which a snake develops ‘closer ties’ with the mouse it’s just eaten). He envisioned Tesco and its suppliers sharing consumer data to develop increasingly sophisticated personalised offerings, in particular online and via smartphones - not merely reacting to shoppers’ demands but actively anticipating them.
That dream sounded all the more ambitious in light of the latest data from Kantar Worldpanel, which showed Tesco’s sales for the past three months growing by 3.3% against the same period last year - behind the 4% rate of growth across the market as a whole. Far from anticipating shoppers’ needs, it’s looked positively leaden-footed of late.
While Kantar’s Ed Garner singled out Sainsbury’s as the big winner among the major supermarkets, discounter Aldi continued its stellar run of form with growth of more than 25%.
In a rare interview, joint MDs Matthew Barnes and Roman Heini last week whipped out their own crystal balls for The Grocer, explaining how Aldi was gearing up for the future. That involves sacrificing some of the simplicity at the heart of Aldi’s model and, ironically, bringing the discounter closer into line with the supermarkets it has recently been outperforming.
Their ideas were less sci-fi (or even Wi-Fi) than Clarke’s. Think ready meals instead of mind-reading Clubcards. But both strategies reflect the obvious truth that to stand still is to move backwards.