Tesco boss to outline battle plan

man carrying Tesco shpping bagA key week in the retail sector will be dominated by Tesco's results but there will also be figures from Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and WH Smith.

The boss of Tesco will lay out his £1 billion battle plan for winning back customers on Wednesday as he bids to turn the business around following a disastrous winter.
Chief executive Philip Clarke will provide further details of a blueprint to halt the supermarket giant's declining UK sales by lowering prices, hiring more staff and revitalising its jaded stores.

The need for action will be highlighted as the company is expected to reveal that underlying profits rose 1.7% to £3.9 billion in the year to February 25 - much slower than the 12% growth in the previous year.

Mr Clarke, who took over from Sir Terry Leahy a year ago, is facing the biggest challenge of his career as he comes under pressure from shareholders to make drastic changes, such as quitting its loss-making Fresh & Easy chain in the United States and ditching its banking arm. But it is thought he will snub these calls and will focus mainly on a transformation plan for the UK supermarket business, whose market share earlier this year slipped below 30% for the first time since 2005.

The group is still the biggest player in the supermarket sector but its dominance is being challenged by resurgent rivals including Asda, which is guaranteeing to be 10% cheaper than the competition, and Sainsbury's, which has launched its own brand price matching scheme. Discounters Aldi, Lidl and Iceland have also upped the ante by grabbing share of the market.

Meanwhile, people buying summer clothes in March's heatwave and a spate of special offers are expected to have given Marks & Spencer's non-food sales a much needed boost.

The group, which has more than 700 stores in the UK and is set to update the market on Tuesday, reported a 1.8% fall in like-for-like general merchandise sales in the 13 weeks to December 31 although food sales put in a better performance, up 3%.

But the City expects a better performance from the clothing division in the first three months of 2012, with sales expected to be up 0.2% - its first growth for nine months - as M&S puts on more special offers at the expense of margins.

The weather has also helped as British Retail Consortium recently reported that footwear sales saw their best performance in March for five years, while clothes sales were their best since the pre-Christmas discounting frenzy.

© 2012 Press Association
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