Tesco's a lumbering beast, but it's moving in the right direction

Today's results show some progress.

Tesco results were out today. It's group sales increased by 2.6 per cent in the 26 weeks to 24 August 2013, it's UK sales were up by 1.1 per cent and its UK LFLs were down by 0.5 per cent.

Tesco is a huge retailer, which means that the pace of change will always be slow. Today's results suggest it is moving, albeit slowly, in the right direction though.

Neil Saunders says:

"The most encouraging sign of progress within the UK comes from the fact that within the period, the second quarter numbers showed an uptick in trading performance comparative to the first quarter: LFLs in Q1 were down 0.9 per cent whereas LFLs in Q2 were flat. Admittedly, this represents a stabilisation rather than a turnaround, but it is progress of a sort and does reflect the various initiatives that have gone into redeveloping the customer proposition."

The most critical initiatives, he says, have been the improvement of the store environment and "experience", lots of changing around in the food range, and some forrays into non-food, namely clothing.

"The international picture", he says, "looks increasingly worrying. European results were weak, with LFLs down by 5.0 per cent. Some of this continues to be driven by negative economic headwinds affecting Central and Eastern Europe, but part of it is also linked to a structural shift as consumers in some markets switch away from larger store formats leaving Tesco, and other players, exposed. The picture in Asia is little better with trading in Korea impacted by regulatory restrictions and the Thai economy dipping into recession."

Little surprise then that Tesco has moved away from expansion and into stabilisation - it knows where the issues are and is addressing them.

"It will have to work increasingly hard to get the whole group back firing on all cylinders but the management capability, resources and focus are all in place to meet that challenge", says Neil Saunders.

Tesco. Photograph: Getty Images
Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.