So far so good for new Tesco CEO Dave Lewis.
‘Drastic Dave’ was true to form today, announcing the closure of Tesco’s cramped and scruffy Cheshunt HQ in favour of the sunlit uplands of Welwyn Garden City and 43 non-performing stores. He’s also ‘exploring’ the sale of data business DunnHumby, with which WPP has been linked. Blinkbox has been sold to TalkTalk for £5m.
Trading, in comparison with Tesco’s recent fortunes and other rivals like Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, was actually pretty good: just 0.5 per cent down year on year at Christmas and 2.9 per cent in the 19 weeks to January 3. Which should be good news for ad agency Wieden+Kennedy whose Christmas campaign didn’t win many plaudits from industry insiders but made a pretty good fist of a very bad job, with Tesco beset by accounting scandals and management suspensions. Halfords CEO Matt Davies is coming in to run the UK and Irish stores.
Lewis (left) clearly hopes that these measures and a load of price cuts, already working to some effect, will enable him to get Tesco back on track while allowing the company to hang on to its overseas empire and banking business. If he can pull this off then it’s the thanks of Parliament and a dukedom for Dave.
Lewis’s prospects, in so far as we can determine them, look markedly better than those of Marc Bolland at M&S. M&S non-food sales slumped 5.8 per cent over the extended Christmas period. Which prompted yet more M&S excuses – the weather, a rickety website and Christmas delivery problems – and these are becoming collector’s items.
M&S womenswear, still the cornerstone of its non-food business, has been on a declining path ever since previous boss Sir Stuart Rose fell out with former Next founder George Davies whose Per Una department within a shop provided flair and affordable fashion. That was over a decade ago now and M&S has utterly failed to replace the (admittedly very expensive) Davies.
But Rose and, latterly, Bolland have had plenty of time to fix the problem and they haven’t. The only thing keeping Bolland in his job seems to be the board’s inability to think of anyone else. But why the M&S board thought a CEO of Morrisons was the right man to run a business that’s half fashion is a mystery in itself.