In praise of Tesco

It is an easy drive to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury or Waitrose from my home. None of them are easy to reach by train or bus. I think we are well served by our competitive supermarkets – but not by our monopoly public transport.

It was typical of the OFT and the Competition Commission to pick on successful UK businesses for their latest set of press releases, and amusing to see a Judge stand up to the OFT and criticise it for its very New Labour failing of chasing headlines, without proper concern for due process and the impact of its populist remarks.

The Supermarkets stand accused of responding to the government and popular pressure to pay farmers more for the milk they supply. The Competition Commission apparently thinks we are short of quangos in this country, and wants the public to fork out for another one, this time to act as an overseer of all the supplier contracts supermarkets enter into. When will these people learn that we are not short of regulators, and that there is a price to pay for endless layers of supervision?

If the guardians of competition want to do something useful they should look at the exploitation of monopoly, with high costs and high prices, in some of our important services. Why don’t they investigate:

1. The surge in costs at Network Rail after nationalisation, and the high access charges to track
2. The high and rising costs of the postal service
3. The absence of cost effective and reliable train services in many places
4. The poor performance of many rubbish collection services allied to high Council taxes
5. The rising costs and poor performance of some water monopolists over flood control, with rationing when it’s dry weather for a bit.
6. The high charge for a BBC licence allied to its persistent pro bigger government and pro EU bias

If I don’t like one of the local supermarkets I can go to another or to the corner shop. I think they all do a fantastic job with sensible prices, They offer high quality, great choice, flexible hours. Tesco is the market leader currently,because more people choose to shop there than elsewhere. If Tesco ever lost its understanding of what we, the customers want, if it became too expensive or stocked the wrong things, it would lose its position. There is plenty of aggressive competition from others trying to take the first place away from the leader. Tesco’s record at running a profitable, socially accoutnable business is excellent. Its stores participate in their local communities,and the buyers flex the product range as they see customer tastes altering.

If I don’t like my rubbish service I still have to use it, and have to pay the bill under threat of prison if I withheld money for poor performance. If I don’t like the local train service, or find it is not convenient, I have to lump it. If I want a different water service I am out of luck. If I don’t want the additives in the water which are standard supply I have to put up with them.

It’s high time the government, the Competition authorities and the regulators got stuck into these real examples of poor service and high price. Meanwhile, the fact that so many of my constituents choose to go to Tesco shows they must be doing something right.

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18 Comments

  1. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Well said John ! Those idiots on the left never fail to amaze me with their economic ignorance ! One point though is that Marks & Spencer have been having a lot of sucess with Plan A whereby they are doing their bit for the enviroment by offering more organic food & drink , selling more fairtrade products , cutting down on packaging as well as reducing energy & water usage , curbing carbon miles , helping charities to a greater extent , boosting recycling / cutting paper usage and begining to charge for plastic bags as well as having healthy eating advisers in store . Money from charging for carrier bags will go to an enviromental charity Groundforce UK . Each store has its Plan A Champion who is in charge of driving this agenda through – I should know I am the Plan A Champ at our M&S branch in Summertown , Oxford ! If we want to talk about ethical capitalism going full steam ahead then I think a few kind words about the nations favourite grocer might not be a bad idea . We have slashed the salt & preservatives in our foods and have said that if you donate any old M&S clothing to Oxfam then you get a

  2. Bazman
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    The next scam will be the compulsory fitting of water meters and the alignment of gas to somewhere near electricity prices. Using green issues and unfairness to people without access to a gas supply. Writes itself.
    In these monopolised and other industries such as the ones selling thing we cannot go without, such as milk, fuel, and so on. The profits these companies seem to be a form of tax on the public much like any other tax. The government being complacent towards any price control because of the tax it receives and pressure from these companies. While the public just keeps on paying.
    You can't deny the increases in the costs of raw materials and energy, but wages are low. Check the job papers all you economists! You don't see the same price inflation in electronic goods, coffee, clothes and many other things just keep getting lower. Beer the same.
    The main increases seem to be in necessities not luxuries. I use the term luxuries very loosely to mean anything you could do without. I know you could do without beer.
    Is wrestling fixed?

  3. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Well said John ! Those idiots on the left never fail to amaze me with their economic ignorance ! One point though is that Marks & Spencer have been having a lot of sucess with Plan A whereby they are doing their bit for the enviroment by offering more organic food & drink , selling more fairtrade products , cutting down on packaging as well as reducing energy & water usage , curbing carbon miles , helping charities to a greater extent , boosting recycling / cutting paper usage and begining to charge for plastic bags as well as having healthy eating advisers in store . Money from charging for carrier bags will go to an enviromental charity Groundforce UK . Each store has its Plan A Champion who is in charge of driving this agenda through – I should know I am the Plan A Champ at our M&S branch in Summertown , Oxford ! If we want to talk about ethical capitalism going full steam ahead then I think a few kind words about the nations favourite grocer might not be a bad idea . We have slashed the salt & preservatives in our foods and have said that if you donate any old M&S clothing to Oxfam then you get a

  4. Cliff
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    The British as a people seem to have an inbuilt hatred of success. People seem to enjoy knocking Tesco but, Tesco only grew because people chose to buy from them as they offered a service that people wanted.
    We seem to enjoy building people up and then kicking them back down again. I think of Mr and Mrs Beckham as an example of this, but there are many more.
    We see a nice car or a beautiful home and we seem to have to slag off the owners. We can't say that we will do such and such so that we too could afford the same.

    Tescos run an efficient business and market themselves very well. They react to trends, often before the change. I would like to see Tesco's senior management run the country; at least we may see the end of the headline grabbing, knee jerk legislation that we have become accustomed to under this government. Tesco's managers would also give the majority of the people what they wanted, rather than feeding their own egos.

    I agree John, we do have little choice in relation to rubbish collections etc….I think though, in terms of rubbish collection, it could be a lot worse….I think of our neighbours, the people's republic of Bracknell and their council's policy for rubbish collection dis-services as a prime example….The scary thing is, the same company (SEETA) operates both ours and Bracknell's rubbish services.

    My final thought, what is the main difference between Tescos and our public services sector?…. Tescos provide a service that is value for money and what people want. The public sector provides, in general terms, the exact opposite.

  5. Curly
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    It's high time that the government and it's quangos just learned to keep their wretched fingers out of private businesses. They need to recognise that consumers will decide, by their own choices, how a retailer is run and how successful or not it will be.
    At the end of the day, there will always be some sort of market led agreement between retailers and their suppliers that will satisfy the customer, without the need for any interference from outside regulators.

  6. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Yes you are right about that John ! As an employee of the said company I was just trying to point out that just as TESCO do not deserve the criticism that is slung at it M&S deserve some credit for being progressive on things like global poverty & green issues that David Cameron has been addressing during the course of his leadership . Based on what you have said in terms of your praise of TESCO and then saying no ads on the site are you not guilty of advertising TESCO ? What is the difference between your pro – TESCO blog and my pro M&S response ? I am at a loss to see how you avoided offending the no advert policy while I apparently did ?
    Any clarification would be much appreciated …
    What is the difference ?
    I feel like Chief Inspector Japp when Poirot explains how a crime was committed – utterly baffled !
    Reply: I allowed both!

  7. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Yes you are right about that John ! As an employee of the said company I was just trying to point out that just as TESCO do not deserve the criticism that is slung at it M&S deserve some credit for being progressive on things like global poverty & green issues that David Cameron has been addressing during the course of his leadership . Based on what you have said in terms of your praise of TESCO and then saying no ads on the site are you not guilty of advertising TESCO ? What is the difference between your pro – TESCO blog and my pro M&S response ? I am at a loss to see how you avoided offending the no advert policy while I apparently did ?
    Any clarification would be much appreciated …
    What is the difference ?
    I feel like Chief Inspector Japp when Poirot explains how a crime was committed – utterly baffled !
    Reply: I allowed both!

  8. Neil Craig
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Once the prime functions of local government were keeping the streets clean & repaired, rubbish collection, schools & sometimes water supplies. We have privatised the last, rubbish collection is being reduced to fortnoghtly & there is talk of additional charges for it. Scools could be better run on a voucher system & roads are no longer a particularly local matter since cars can travel more than a few miles. We must be getting close to the point where rates are down to zero because local government has nothing to do.

  9. mikestallard
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    What is really interesting about this blog is the enormous number of readers who seem to read it and not contribute. There is, I am sure a technical name for them, but, to be truthful, I have forgotten it.
    Where did the Tesco and M&S champions suddenly spring from?

    And, by the bye, you are totally right about competition. Yesterday I went to the Vet. We were not kept waiting. The vet was Spanish and she knew all about the dog's problem. She apologised for the cost of the drugs. Altogether a nice experience. I couldn't help thinking of the terribly wasteful NHS which does the same thing for humans….

  10. Jonathan Sheppard
    Posted February 16, 2008 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    One area I thing does need to be addressed is the Out Of Town area where superemarkets moved into during the 1980s. They set up shop (literally) and traded happily away. Then there was a clamp down where regulators and planners saw out of town developments as bad, as they were seen to damage town centre retail, and the local high street.

    The supermarkets moved out of selling mere groceries into clothes, toiletries electronics etc. They built their mezzanie levels adding 40-50% extra floor space into their existing Out and Edge of Town development – yet on many Out of town retail parks they have an effective monopoly because the planning system has in the past prevented the likes of Boots or say clothing retailers from getting sites.

  11. Steven_L
    Posted February 16, 2008 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    I think Tesco is fantastic. I went there tonight and purchased a

  12. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted February 16, 2008 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Dear John,

    Thanks very much for clearing that up ! I am enjoying reading your blog very much – please keep up the good work !

    Kind regards
    Matthew

  13. david
    Posted February 16, 2008 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I do hope Mr Redwood has cleared his praise of Tescos with Mr Cameron and his puppet meister Zac Goldsmith, if not he could be in trouble.

  14. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted February 16, 2008 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Dear John,

    Thanks very much for clearing that up ! I am enjoying reading your blog very much – please keep up the good work !

    Kind regards
    Matthew

  15. Dave Sparrow
    Posted February 16, 2008 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    @mikestallard

    I think the term you're looking for is "Lurker".

  16. Bazman
    Posted February 16, 2008 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    More of Lidl and Aldi fan myself. The products are very good and interesting few brand names though. Service is a little surly and scant, but at these prices you won't complain.
    You now have permission if you are posh! Use your old Harrods and Harvey Nicks bags to be green.
    http://www.talkingretail.com/news/7583/Waitrose-a
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/

  17. Frugal Dougal
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    I've just discovered this website, and I think the comment is very incisive.

    In Cambridge, we have a problem in Mill Road, where Tesco's has planning permission to open a Metro branch, but are experiencing a great deal of opposition on the details. The anti-Tesco campaigners say that the "vibrant" nature of Mill Road would be threatened by Tesco, who merely want to open a small shop among small shops. Unless Tesco's plans to start selling wigs, Rosaries, cannabis seeds, hard-core porn or second-hand firearms, the small shops in Cambridge's Mill Road are safe.

  18. Andrew Henderson
    Posted December 23, 2008 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    In general, as a shareholder, and former employee, I would agree Tesco does a good job.

    However there are examples of petty, (less desirable moves ? ed) against their customers that should annoy us as they are ultimately self-defeating.

    e.g. persistent pricing of larger packs of the same product at higher prices by weight ( counter intuitive to the average shopper , not what they expect) and the same disguised by displaying the price per weight at different values ( per 100g and per kilo).

    This (seems like-ed) an attempt to mislead customers, and is environmentally unfriendly to boot.

    Take a look, John, in your local Tesco.

    The Tesco board should be made aware of this, the customers are starting to notice.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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