I get no pleasure from mocking the afflicted (unless it's Stephen Byers and his misinformed posse at the DTI). But I couldn't resist a smirk this week while pondering the antics of certain downmarket Sunday rags and some of the third rate analysts who populate the Square Mile. Objective comment and reporting is one thing. But, as they've shown during recent months, part of their mission appears to be to turn over as many stones as possible in retail grocery, ignorantly denigrating all and sundry along the way. But surely even those self appointed super-critics will be hard pressed to be snide about the latest trading statement from Britain's top grocer. It was left to one of the City's more perceptive analysts, David McCarthy of Schroder Salomon Smith Barney, to come up with a word to sum up Tesco's performance: "Stunning". Actually, David, it's even better than that. For surely there's never been a British grocery act with quite so much performing skill? But the most remarkable feature of the Tesco machine must be its expansion into non foods. Sales of 8,000 widescreen tvs and 14,000 DVD players were tapped through its checkouts at Christmas. That means a bigger challenge for specialist non food players. And who said the Brits had no answer to Wal-Mart's non-food expertise? Add that Terry Leahy and his team are so far the only British grocers to put together a meaningful overseas expansion strategy to rival world conquering Ahold, and you have the scale of the performance. So how does he top that? Leahy and his Cheshunt disciples will need to have even bigger things in mind if they want to keep the insatiable City folk satisfied. Will he boost his non-foods armoury with the takeover of a specialist high street operator? Come to think of it, has a union with Marks & Spencer really ever left his agenda? But it makes you wonder if even the mighty Ahold will now think twice before making its much predicted excursion across the Channel. Clive Beddall, Editor {{OPINION }}