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[2007-6-21]TESCO , Fresh but far from Easy









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                Fresh, but far from easy

Jun 21st 2007 | LONDON AND PHOENIX
From The Economist print edition
Armed with powerful retailing science, Britain'smost successful supermarket is making an audacious bid to change the way Americashops and eats

A FORLORN shop facing a dusty car park in one of the poorest parts of Phoenix, Arizona,is an inauspicious place to start a closely watched experiment in globalretailing. Yet this is where Tesco, Britain'sbiggest supermarket group, will seek to establish its beachhead in the world'srichest grocery market.

Laterthis year Tesco will open at least 21 stores in this arid city and plentymore—it will not say how many—in Las Vegas, San Diego and Los  Angeles. It plans to pepper some of America'sfastest-growing states with Fresh & Easy local groceries at a rate of threea week. Tesco has identified as many as 100 sites to begin its £250m a year ($500m) campaign. Rumour has it that a new warehousejust east of Los Angelescould alone supply some 400 stores.

ByAmerican retailing standards, Tesco is merely dipping a toe in the ocean. Evenso, the consequences could be enormous. Tesco is a formidable retailer, havingtransformed itself from Britain'sthird-ranked supermarket by sales to the third-largest in the world, after America's Wal-Mart and France'sCarrefour (see table). As it has done so, Tesco's share of the grocery marketin Britain has climbed above30% and, like Wal-Mart in America,it has begun to face criticism of its market power.

That isone reason why Tesco has to venture abroad. Another became clear this week,when the company reported how sales growth at its British stores slowed sharplyin the first quarter, because of subdued consumer spending and increasedcompetition. It shares fell by almost 5% on the news. But this was compensatedfor by international sales, which grew by 25%. Tesco is expanding in placeslike eastern Europe and China,where it tailors supermarkets to local conditions.
In Americait is trying something completely different. The operation is veiled in secrecyand furtiveness—Tesco is anxious not to tip its hand to competitors. When ittested the layout of a mock store in Santa  Monica, it did so hidden from view in a warehouse. Itstocked the shelves with food shipped in from America's East Coast and peoplewere told it was just a film set.
在美国,它正在尝试一种完全不同的方式。乐购非常希望竞争对手对自己一无所知,因此一切行动都在隐秘中进行。当它在Santa Monica的模拟商店测试超市布局时,就藏在一个从外面看起来像仓库的地方。它把从美国东海岸运来的食物上货架时,却告诉人们那只是电影胶片。

Thesecrecy and the speed with which Tesco is expected to open its new storespoints to the risks. If Tesco gambles small and wins, competitors will havetime to copy it before it reaches critical mass. Placing a big bet is moredangerous, but it may be the best way to exploit a model that can be scaled uprapidly into thousands of stores across a market that rewards innovation likeno other. “In retailing there aren't huge barriers to entry,” says Sir TerryLeahy, Tesco's chief executive. “That's one of the reasons you can't hangaround and trial this thing. You have to launch and go.”
乐购计划中的开店速度和暗渡陈仓的行动,是源于零售业的高风险。如果乐购谨慎地小赌,即使它赢了,在它达到临界规模之前,竞争对手将有充足的时间复制它的战略。大赌虽然危险,但对充分利用一个模式并将其快速应用遍及市场的上千家商店而言,却可能是最好的办法,而市场是最回报创新的。“零售业没有很高的门槛,”乐购的CEO Terry Leathy先生说,“这也是你不能四处招摇并慢慢试验的原因之一。你必须快速决定并行动。”

Somepeople have already decided to bet on Tesco's success. Last year WarrenBuffett, one of America'smost successful investors, revealed that his Berkshire Hathaway company hadbought almost 3% of Tesco to become one of its largest shareholders. Mr Buffettadmires careful planning and Tesco has done plenty of that.
有些人已经决定下注乐购成功了。去年美国最成功的投资家之一,华伦巴菲特公布他的Berkshire Hathway公司已经持有了乐购几乎3%的股份,并成为其最大的股东之一。巴菲特先生对乐购的精心策划赞不绝口,而乐购已经完成了很多类似的计划。

Into their cupboards
Thecompany has spent years gathering detailed information on every aspect ofAmerican life. Most retailers would think they had done their homework afterthe usual focus groups and surveys, but Tesco went much further. Researchers,including a small cohort of top executives, spent two weeks living with 60American families. They poked around in their kitchen cupboards, watched themcook and followed them as they shopped. “They'd been studying the city forabout a year before they came to us,” says Scott Motley, who works for the cityof Phoenix,which with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council helped Tesco find places to putstores.

这家公司已经花费了数年时间,从美国人日常生活的每个方面收集细节信息。很多零售商在进行了常规的目标顾客群和市场调查后,就认为万事大吉了,但乐购所做的要多得多。调研人员,包括一个由顶级管理层组成的统计小组,花了2周的时间和60个美国家庭生活在一起。他们深入美国人的厨房和碗柜,看他们做饭并跟着他们购物。“在进军我们这里之前,他们花了一年的时间来研究这座城市。”Scott Motley说,他就职于凤凰城,并曾和高级凤凰城经济理事会一起帮助乐购寻找开店地址。

Even thestores seem part of a grander plan to keep gathering data. Take the patchworkof districts where Tesco plans to build some of the first. In central Phoenix it has chosensome of the poorest parts of town. Families living within a mile of one storehave a median annual income of just $37,500 (against about $44,000 for America as awhole). In nearby Chandler,a middle-class area, it will be building its stores within reach of the city'srichest inhabitants. There, median incomes run to about $93,000. This torrentof comparative data is central to the plan: Tesco is setting out to change theway Americans shop and eat.

As inmost retail markets, American stores are splitting into those that sell luxurygoods and those that sell cheap ones. Both Whole Foods Market (luxury) andWal-Mart (cheap) are among America'sfastest-growing stores (although they have slowed down a bit recently).Retailers catering to the mid-market such as Kroger, Safeway and Albertson,three of America'sbiggest grocers, have been squeezed. They come under pressure to cut prices andmargins when Wal-Mart moves into the area. And they are simultaneously pressedto invest in swanky wood-effect polished floors and sumptuous fresh-producedisplays to stop their richer customers decamping for posher places.


Social shoppers


Tesco'soffering in Americawill swim against this tide. It is aiming Fresh & Easy squarely at themiddle market. The firm is hoping to repeat its success in attracting shoppersfrom all the main social groups in Britain, where social class untilrecently played at least as big a role in determining where people shopped asprice and convenience did. Tesco will also be a pioneer in two other importantways: the size of its stores and their range of goods.


MostFresh & Easy outlets will be relatively small, at about 10,000 square feet.Although about the same sales-floor size as the average Walgreen's, a chain ofdrugstores, most food retailers in America are either much bigger (six Fresh& Easy's would fit into a typical supermarket and ten into the averageWal-Mart), or much smaller (each is about three times the size of a 7-Elevenconvenience store).


Does sizematter? In America'slightly regulated supermarket industry, most shoppers in all but the deepestbackwoods live just a few minutes' drive from a large supermarket. The chancesare the store has acres of parking, is open all night and has a good selectionof whatever you might need: prescription medicines, dog food and piping-hotmeals that have been cooked in the store.


Convenience,however, has many dimensions. Tesco is betting that there is demand for smallerstores closer to home with fewer products, making it easier to find things.People in too much of a rush to stop at a supermarket use tiny outlets such as7-Eleven, of which there are close to 1,200 in Californiaalone. But their range is limited. Retail Forward, an American consultancy,reckons nearly 40% of convenience sales come from cigarettes and tobacco,followed closely by beer and wine. As for nutrition, most offer little morethan snacks and frozen pizza. “The typical American convenience-store consumerwould be Homer Simpson,” says Ira Kalish, a retailing expert at Deloitte, anaccounting firm. “No one has done convenience and quality food together.”

当然,便利是包含不同层次的。乐购把赌注押在市场需要更小的面积、更近的距离、货品虽少但更容易寻找的商店。人们太繁忙时,就不会去大超市而是去7-11这样的小商店。7-11仅在加利福尼亚就开了1200家分店。美国一家顾问公司,零售业前进表示,近40%的便利店销量来源于香烟和烟草,啤酒和葡萄酒则紧随其后。在营养物上,恐怕除了点心和冰冻皮萨之外,它们就没有更多的选择了。“最典型的美国便利店顾客可能就是Homer Simpson1了”,德勤会计事务所的零售业专家,IraKalish称,“便利和高质量,没有人可以二者兼得。”

As forproducts, Tesco's second innovation will be a range of preservative-free “readymeals” that are familiar to British consumers yet barely exist in large partsof America.“There's a big hole in the American market,” says Rajiv Lal, of Harvard Business School.“American supermarkets have not been innovative with prepared foods. You can'teat them more than three days in the week without eating the same stuff. But Isuspect there are people in Britainwho live off prepared meals from Marks & Spencer for three weeks on end.”

在产品方面,乐购的第二个创新是一系列的不含防腐剂的“现成饭”,英国顾客很熟悉它,但美国的大部分地区却缺乏此类产品。“美国市场有很大的空缺,”哈佛商业学校的Rajiv Lal说:“美国超市的现成饭缺乏创新。你即使一周内不吃任何类似的东西,也不可能吃它们超过三天。但我怀疑,在英国没有人可以坚持三周不碰麦莎的现成饭。”

So whyhave British supermarkets led America'sin easy meals? Generals like to say that amateurs study tactics andprofessionals study logistics. The same is true for retailing. In trying tocompete with discount retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco in a large countrywith good roads and cheap land that lends itself to big-box retailing, America's supermarketshave concentrated mainly on trying to take costs out of their supply chains.Labour is also cheaper in America.This has encouraged supermarkets to make two sorts of food: that which lastslong because it has been dried, canned, frozen or otherwise preserved, and thatwhich is prepared from raw ingredients on site.


Sandwiches to ready meals

Britishsupermarkets, in contrast, operate on a small, crowded island with restrictiveplanning laws. Whereas American stores are good at moving goods hundreds ofmiles and keeping them cheap, British retailers specialise in regular, frequentdeliveries to heaving city-centre stores. Their supply chains are moresophisticated because they have to be. Stores can be so small that they have toswitch from selling sandwiches at lunchtime to selling ready-made suppers inthe afternoon.


Expensivelabour and a shortage of space have encouraged British retailers to seekeconomies of scale from centralised food preparation. Rather than cooking onsite, they make a wide range of meals that can last for a couple of days. Theseare not just staples such as macaroni cheese or lasagne. A typical London supermarket nowstocks more than 50 different meals, including treats such as organic beef inwine, Keralan prawn curry and Asian noodles with vegetables.


Althoughsome British supermarkets have done a better job at seizing the top of themarket and others the bottom, none has surpassed Tesco at concocting a wideenough range of meals to suit every taste. Once, Tesco was stuck downmarketselling cheap fodder to working-class mums. Now its market share is almost aslarge as the combined share of its two closest rivals: Asda, which is owned byWal-Mart, and J. Sainsbury.


Tesco'srise is at least partly thanks to its knack of quickly responding to trends. Itwas the first of Britain'sbig supermarkets to embrace convenience stores. And it has been a cleverinnovator with its supply chain. Take, for example, its introduction of truckswith internal partitions for frozen, chilled and ordinary goods. As simple asthe idea sounds, Tesco could thus replace three deliveries with one, which madeit possible to sell groceries profitably in small stores at supermarket prices.


ButTesco's biggest innovation has been in the way it collects and uses customerdata from its Clubcard, a loyalty programme. Many retailers use clubs toprovide nothing more sophisticated than a discount to customers as they pay fortheir goods. Because rivals can easily match this, it reduces profit marginsfor all, says Deloitte's Mr Kalish.


The Tescoscheme mails discount vouchers to customers to encourage them to return. Moreimportantly, it tracks every purchase to build one of the world's largestdatabases. This finds correlations between purchases, allowing Tesco to finelytune the product range in each store. Sales of pickled vegetables, forinstance, may suggest Polish immigrants have moved in, prompting it to stock barszcz,meatballs and sauerkraut.


As aresult, its stores in Asian areas of Britain offer Bollywood movies,curry spices and large sacks of rice and flour. Its stores in London's wealthiest parts, meanwhile, arestocked with ripe organic avocados, dainty packs of mange tout and steaks infancy sauces.


Tesco'sdatabase also provides insights into how customers see the company. When itrevealed that families were not buying nappies or other baby supplies in theirweekly shop, further research showed they were instead paying some 20% more tobuy these items at nearby Boots pharmacies because they trusted the Boots brandwhen it came to looking after their babies. So Tesco began a baby club,offering advice on pregnancy and mothering. Within two years almost four ofevery ten expectant parents in Britainwere members and the firm had seized almost a quarter of the mother and babymarket, according to “Scoring Points”, a book on the Clubcard scheme.


Somequirky correlations also pop out of the data. Take the fact that familiesbuying baby wipes also buy more beer, mainly because fathers of young childrenhave less time to go to the pub. Tesco's response: mailing families withinfants discount coupons for toys and beer.


Tesco'sentry into Americawill be “a wake-up call to the rest of the supermarket industry, including us,”says David Lannon, president of the North Atlantic Region for Whole FoodsMarket. “Tesco is better than the major supermarkets in the US. They'recleverer and more efficiently run.”

乐购进军美国被看作是“惊醒了世界其他的超市业,包括我们,”食品统一超市北大西洋区的总裁David Lannon说:“乐购比美国的大型超市都要好。他们行动起来更聪明也更有效率。”

That doesnot mean that the British model will be easy to transfer. At least one reasonbehind the success of Tesco's convenience stores is public transport. Many arenear, or sometimes even inside, underground and railway stations, making iteasy for commuters to pop into a store to grab a meal on their way home.


Publictransport also seems to shape consumer behaviour in two other ways. The firstis that it encourages many small shopping trips, because purchases have to becarried. This in turn prompts consumers to favour perishable produce overfrozen. The second is that it discourages the purchase of hot meals, either ofthe sort sold in many American supermarkets or fast-food outlets. Some,however, worry that this accident of British geography may have colouredTesco's view of the ready meals it is proposing to sell through its Fresh &Easy stores in America.


Feeding the kids

Will America'ssoccer moms be as willing to stop their cars to grab a ready meal on the wayhome as British mums are when they jump off the Tube? Tesco thinks they will.For a start, worries about obesity have spawned more interest in healthy eatingin America.Demand for organic products is soaring—even Wal-Mart has introduced them. WholeFoods Market has revolutionised the way fresh produce is sold in America,partly by stealing some merchandising tactics from the clothing industry, suchas the use of stage lighting and arranging fresh fruit and vegetables intocomplementary blocks of colour.


Tesco isalso reacting to environmentalism by presenting itself as both healthy andgreen. Its distribution centre will have the largest solar-panel roof in California, its storeswill use low-energy LED lighting and its refrigerated trucks are designed to useless fuel.

Tesco isoptimistic that shopping habits in America point its way. “When youlook at Americans, they shop more frequently than British people and they haveto shop around many more retailers, because no one retailer gives them whatthey want,” says Sir Terry. “The opportunity [for us] is that they will shopless often if they get more of what they want in one place.”


Yet forall Tesco's confidence, few retailers have successfully broken into a maturegrocery market in a developed country. Sainsbury's, Marks & Spencer andCarrefour are among the many European retailers that have tried their luck in America andwalked away in frustration. This is in part because food retailing, with a fewexceptions, is still a local industry. Laxman Narasimhan and Tim McGuire, ofMcKinsey, a consulting firm, reckon that economies of scale in groceryretailing, such as distribution and advertising, are mostly local. “A 40%market share in one market is far more profitable than 10% shares in fourmarkets,” says Mr McGuire.

然而尽管乐购有如此的信心,但真正打入发达国家的成熟百货市场,并获得成功的零售商寥寥无几。许多欧洲零售商都试图在美国碰碰运气但最终失望地离开,其中包括Sainsbury、麦莎集团和家乐福。主要原因是,尽管有少许例外,但食品零售业基本还是一个当地的产业。Mckinsey顾问公司的Laxman Narasimhan 和Tim McGuire相信,百货零售业的规模经济效应,比如分销和广告,大部分来源于本地。“在一个市场上占据40%的份额,要比在4个市场上各占10%的份额利润大得多。”McGuire先生说。

Andunlike the world of clothing, where a global consumer culture has createdglobal brands such as Zara, Gap and H&M each with thousands of storesacross the world, the internationalisation of grocery retailing is constrainedby the way that food tastes and shopping habits differ vastly from country tocountry.


Untilrecently few retailers had been good at changing their offering to take accountof so many foreign quirks while still enjoying the benefits and efficiencies ofbeing big. This is especially true of American retailers, which have grown fastat home by finding a format that works and then rapidly cloning it. But theytoo have often stumbled abroad: for instance, Wal-Mart had to give up in Germany.“Europeans are better at this because they benefit from their history ofcolonisation,” reckons Harvard's Mr Lal. “They have learned the lesson that youhave to let the local people run the local business; that you can collect thetaxes but you don't run the local administration.”

Even ifTesco has read the American market correctly, it will still face stiffcompetition from two sources. The first is from American supermarkets whichwill try to copy Tesco's ideas, despite having supply chains that are poorlyconfigured for doing so. Some are already trying to get ahead: Ralphs, a chainowned by Kroger, recently opened a new store in Irvine, California,as part of a concept it calls Fresh Fare. The other source of competition isthe thousands of fast-food outlets dotted across the areas it is trying to enter.As convenient as the new Fresh & Easy outlets will be, it is still hard tobeat a drive-through window if you want a quick meal.


“Clearlyit's high risk,” agrees Sir Terry. “But we've carefully balanced the risk. Ifit fails it's embarrassing. It might show up in my career [and] it'll cost anamount of money that's easily affordable by Tesco—call it £1 billion if youlike. If it succeeds then its transformational.”

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