Exploring Corporate Strategy Tesco Case Study


Tesco is a fast growing multinational company in the recent years, despite stiff competitions within the retailing industry around the world. The great success of Tesco provides many valuable lessons to scholars and practitioners. One area deserve serious attentions is about the successful strategic development of Tesco in the recent years, that enable the company to grow fast – achieving a track records of continuously growth in revenue and earnings despite financial crises period from year 2008 to 2009 around the world. Indeed, any investor that had invested in Tesco will be rewarded significantly. The company has an unrivaled achievement of delivering consistent and unbreakable growth in dividend payment to investors for a total of 26th consecutive years (Annual Report, 2010). The remarkable financial achievement of Tesco is shown in Figure 1 below.

In order to study the strategic development process in Tesco that gave rise to the superior financial performance of the company over the past few years, this report is presented as follow. Firstly, in Part I of this report, the recent past of Tesco will be investigated. Specifically, the strategies deployed by Tesco management to expand successfully will be articulated. Then, in Part II, the current strategic issues affecting profitability, competitive position and future strategic directions of Tesco will also be investigated. For this purpose, PESTLE, Porter Five Forces and SWOT framework will be applied. Lastly, in Part III, possible strategic options for Tesco will also be presented.

Part I: Tesco’s Recent Strategic Development History

1.1 Company Background – Tesco

Started from its humble beginning, Tesco had expanded aggressively and profitably to become a well-known multinational corporation within the retailing industry across three regions: Europe, United States and Asia. As shown in Figure 2, Tesco had already successfully penetrated many of the important countries around the world.


Today, most of the revenue of Tesco comes from the retailing businesses around the world. However, Tesco has also been expanding by diversifying into different businesses for strategic purposes. The four new strategic business units under Tesco include Tesco Bank, online internet web portal called tesco.com, Tesco Telecoms and dunnhumby (Annual Report, 2010).

Overall, a review of the enviable growth story of Tesco discovered that the company had been accurately characterized under Ansoff Growth Matrix. Ansoff Growth Matrix is presented in Figure 3 below. In the following Paragraphs, the various strategies of Tesco will be classified under the four different types of strategies as proposed by Ansoff.



1.2 Market Penetration Strategy

One of the key successes of Tesco is its ability to keep the price low to capture greater market share. Indeed, as discussed by Plimmer, G. (2010), price or cost leadership is the competitive advantage in UK. In the international context, with the exception of other large retailing multinational corporations such as Wal-Mart and Carrefour, the price offered by Tesco is simply hardly beatable. Tesco able to enhance it cost leadership position as it grow fast – achieving economies of scale through large and yet efficient distribution network and supply chain (Rogers et. al., 2005).

Then, the success of Tesco is also attributed to the strategically located Tesco stores around the world. Furthermore, some of the leading Tesco stores are open for 24 hours a day. Then, the physical layouts of Tesco are also designed to delivering pleasant shopping experiences to consumers. Besides, Tesco is also committed to Corporate Social Responsibilities. In recent years, Tesco started to operate environment friendly supermarket – which is designed to be able to cut down carbon footprint significantly. As discussed by Rogers et. al. (2005), the adoption of CSR will further enhance the company reputation and to build rapport with the increasingly environmentally conscious consumers around the world. Overall, these successfully provide convenience to the customers, and further enhancing customer satisfaction (Strategic Direction, 2007).

Next, one of the key success factors of Tesco is through introduction of Tesco’s ‘Clubcard’ to customers. The loyalty card program is designed to help the customers to save more (through awarding points when consumers spent in Tesco stores), and giving certain discount or promotional vouchers to the card holders (Rosie Baker, 2010). As discussed in Tesco’s Annual Report (2009), the loyalty scheme has been able to retain many loyal customers – through rewarding the loyal customers. Besides, Tesco has also able to build close relationship with the customers. Consumer behaviors and tastes can be observed. As discussed by Ma et. al. (2010), the loyalty scheme enabled Tesco to gain powerful insights on consumers, through offering the right products at the right pricing at the right time. With the data obtained, the company will be able to deliver more personalized services to customers, not to mention that able to create more targeted and effective marketing campaigns from time to time.

Besides, another powerful strategy to ensure customer satisfaction is through ensuring employee satisfaction – which is essentially the concept of internal marketing (Plimmer, 2010). In Tesco, employees are perceived as integral part of the business strategy. People are entrusted to formulate, drive and implement the various strategies – and they are governed under proper performance measurement and reward system. The management believes that when the employees are treated well, they will instead treat customers well. When the workforce in Tesco are trusted, empowered, motivated and committed, they will in turn fulfill their responsibilities and to proactively perform in the best interests of the company. Indeed, as articulated in-depth by Tesco’s Annual Report (2009), to focus, develop and continuously empowering human talents in the company is the key direction for the company to grow in the future.

Overall, it can be witness that Tesco has various viable strategies to penetrate the already competitive market. Among these strategies discussed above include: low pricing, convenience location, committed to CSR efforts, pleasant shopping experience, loyalty scheme, and a strong focus on workforce development and satisfaction.

1.3 Product Development Strategy

In the early stage of Tesco growth story, it is asserted that the key strategies adopted by Tesco are to surpass the key competitor, namely Sainsbury, by offering goods not sold in the conventional supermarket. This is a successful strategy because not only Tesco can derive greater revenue from cross selling of products, but also to establish itself as one-stop solution that provide convenience to customers. As consumers have more choices when shopping in Tesco, they sonly become more loyal and end up visiting Tesco more often habitually (Palmer, 2005). Indeed, even Tesco had come to dominate the UK market, to continuously enlarge product portfolio has been one of the key strategies employed by the company. Today, Tesco stores worldwide offer a lot of different products categories, including food, non-food, electrical, electronics, office equipment, gardening equipments, apparel, and etc. to the end users. Consistent with such strategy, Tesco is also developing product marketed under its own brand name. With this, Tesco able to derive higher profit margin; while also to offer products of cheaper pricing to the end users. This is essentially a win-win strategy, which enables Tesco to further enhance profitability in the competitive retailing industry landscape, while building stronger relationships with consumers (Plimmer, G. 2010; Orsingher, C. et. al. 2011). Then, consistent with the increasingly health conscious consumers, Tesco has also been trying to deliver healthy products to the consumers. For example, Tesco’s new dairy product that is claimed designed to reduce cholesterol level among the consumers has been adding significant value to the reputation and profitability of the company (Lowe, 2009).

1.4 Market Development Strategy

Consistent with the maturing market in UK, it makes sense for Tesco to venture into the international context. As explicitly discussed in Tesco’s Annual Report (2008), in order to maintain the growth rate of Tesco, the company must venture abroad. Furthermore, the market size in the global arena is huge, and economic growth in the many emerging countries looks promising. As discussed by researchers such as Lowe et. al. (2010) and Palmer (2005), the fast expansion of Tesco and the seemingly sustainable growth rate of the firm is largely contributed by successful internationalization strategy under the ambitious management team. For this, Tesco has been able to export its already successful business models to the global landscape, with adaptation and adjustment to local context. The recruitment and relying on local talents to expand the business in the respective countries are yielding great success (Lowe et. al., 2010). Besides, it is also undeniable that expansion of Tesco profitability in many of the emerging countries are caused by rising standards of living in many of the fast growing emerging countries, such as South Korea, Thailand, China, Malaysia, and India in Asia. Apart from that, not only Tesco has been expanding to new market place, the firm has also been concentrating efforts to venture into market space. For example, the management has also been emphasizing on the prospects and profitability of selling the products or services online in the recent years (Annual Report 2009). A relatively new innovation in the retailing landscape, frequently called as the ‘Click-and-Collect’ approach is introduced. As discussed by Plimmer, G.  (2010), after the customer click on the products they desire, they can collect these products conveniently through drive-through counters. Essentially, such value adds services speed up the purchasing process, and is designed to cater for urgent lifestyle of consumers today. Overall, it can be observed that when the existing market place offer limited opportunities, the management is fast to expand to new market to duplicate its already success model.

1.5 Diversification Strategy

Apart from both product and market development strategies, Tesco has also slowly switch to related diversification strategies to sustain the fast growth rate of the firm. As discussed before, four new strategic business units under Tesco are established in the recent years, namely, Tesco Bank, online internet web portal called tesco.com, Tesco Telecoms and dunnhumby (Annual Report, 2010). For example, to establish Tesco bank is a reasonable expansion move, as Tesco will be able to capitalize on its existing retailing arm to kick-start retail bank services to further service the customers. This is likely to further enhance customer satisfaction, while at the similar time, to generate more revenue for the group.

Part II: Evaluating Tesco’s Current Strategic Situation

In this section, the current strategic situation of Tesco will be analyzed. Top-down approach will be adopted. Firstly, PESTLE framework will be used to analyze the macroenvironment facing Tesco. Then, Porter Five Forces will be used to investigate competitive forces and structure in the retailing industry. Later, in Part II, SWOT analysis will be applied to investigate both external and internal issues and forces relevant to formulation of strategic directions for Tesco in the future.

2.1 PESTLE Analysis

2.1.1 Political Factors

In the recent years, the rise of China has been changing the balance of power in terms of political and military context. The world had entered into a multi-polar world, consistent with the rise of new emerging and influential nations around the world. Nonetheless, it can be seen that the political landscape, where Tesco is conducting business, is generally stable. Comparing to turbulent political scenario in the Middle East, the countries in which Tesco had ventured into are having pro-business governmental policies and stable political structure. Indeed, for countries such as China, the local government has been encouraging foreign direct investment for decades. In the early years, several incentives had been offered to foreign investors. From another perspective, political system in North America and in Europe is generally stable as well.

2.1.2 Economic Factors

The world economy is on a slow and fragile recovery from serious financial crisis in 2009. However, the situation in US and Europe is gloomy. Unemployment rate has been staying high. Besides, the issues of sovereign debt are threatening both the PIIGS and US seriously. There are arguments that quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve has not been successful to ensure strong economy recovery (Schmidt-Hebbel, 2010). The side effects of quantitative easing, leading to inflationary pressure on commodity, foods and arguably, assets bubble in emerging countries are threatening the stability of the economy (Evans et. al., 2010). Then, there are talks of implementation of budget austerity program in countries in Europe. Such a situation will definitely put downwards pressure towards consumer spending and profitability of corporations around the world. However, in the long run, it is reasonable to believe that economy will surely recover, as innovation and new technologies able to drive the world to a better place.

2.1.3 Socio-cultural Factors

People in the three regions whereby Tesco conduct business have different cultures and social norms. They tend to exhibit different behaviors and beliefs. This demands Tesco to think global and yet to act local for effective management of the organization (Brouthers et. al., 1998). However, there are common trends affecting people around the world. Overall, consumers are becoming more educated, knowledgeable and demanding – they simply demand the best pricing, whereby quality is yet not something to be ignored (Calof et. al., 2005). Then, the standard of living of people around the world has been increasing fast in the recent decades. The fast growth of the economy of emerging countries has effectively giving rise to a large number of population with much higher disposable income (Doole, 2004). Consistent with that, people around the world has more purchasing power today. Then, another obvious trend as mentioned by Siddiqui et. al., (2003) is about the increasingly aging population in the developed countries. The rise of such group of consumers is not something to be ignored.

2.1.4 Environmental Factors

Today, global warming and irresponsible and unethical business practices has been paid serious attention by the public and government. The public simply demand more sustainable development and adoption of Corporate Social responsibilities by corporations. Consumers are getting more environmentally conscious, and is found to incorporate CSR issues in their purchasing decision making process (Albino et. al., 2009). Corporations that are found to harm the environment for selfish or short-term profits are likely to damage their corporate reputation (Bergmiller et. al., 2009). As suggested by Doyle et. al. (2006), adoption of CSR activities and sustainable, responsible and socially acceptable business practices will affect the brand name of any company positively.

2.1.5 Technological Factors

The world today is can be characterized with new invention and innovation. One powerful trend, giving rise to the information era, is the emergence and increasingly popularity of e-commerce and internet around the world. As discussed by Siddiqui et. al. (2003), to compete in market space is critical for any corporations to stay relevant in the new era. Adoption of new concepts, among them, include Customer Relationship Management system, internet or digital marketing, social media marketing and related innovations due to the advancement of information technology will affect how any firm can compete effectively in the new economy. In such a situation, business should become more flexible and yet responsive to the changes in market.

2.2 Porter Five Forces

To understand the competitive forces in the retailing industry, Porter Five Forces framework will be applied.

2.2.1 Rivalry among existing competitors

Generally speaking, the global retailing industry can be described as oligopoly in nature. Besides, Tesco, other few powerful retailers include: Wal-Mart, Metro, Carrefour, AEON and etc. The rivalry among exiting rivals has been intense – not only the powerful retailers compete in prices, but they also need to ensure greatest customer satisfaction for long term profitability. Different techniques and strategies had been employed to lure customers away from each other. If the competition continue to intensify, it will be harder for Tesco to maintain its competitive position in the marketplace in the future.

2.2.2 Bargaining power of buyer

Due to the intense competition among retailers, buyers tend to have high bargaining power. Buyers have many choices, and there are essentially no switching costs to visit other retailers for their necessities. Besides, whenever the economy outlook is gloomy, buyers may become highly price conscious, which is put downward pressures on the retailer margins and profitability. In fact, due to the proliferation of internet, buyers can just compare prices between retailers with a few clicks (Siddiqui et. al., 2003). This will further intensify the pricing competition between the retailers.

2.2.3 Bargaining power of suppliers

The larger retailers tend to have high bargaining power against suppliers, as the many products manufacturers are struggling to secure stable distribution network to reach the end users. Indeed, powerful retailers such as Tesco, Carrefour or Wal-Mart often able to collect extra fees from the suppliers for just promoting their products in their stores. The payment terms for suppliers tend to be long as well. All these will be beneficial to the profitability of powerful retailers.

2.2.4 Threats of substitute products

As the product portfolios of retailers have been comprehensive, the threats of substitute products are less of a concern for the retailers with large economies of scale.

2.2.5 Threats of new entrants

As the retailing industry is already highly competitive, the threats of new entrants will likely be moderate. However, new entrants may enter the competitive industry through other means. For example, the emergence of specialty shops will likely affect the attractiveness of the retailers if the retailers are not able to meet the demands and needs of the consumers. Besides, new comers may also utilize internet as the new distribution channel to reach the consumers. The rise of internet or online retailers is truly a huge threat for the retailers.

Part III: Formulation of Strategic Options and Directions for Tesco

3.1 SWOT Analysis

In this section, SWOT analysis will be performed. Under such framework, both internal and external analysis will be conducted. The information discussed above will be summarized into two sections, namely threats and opportunities in the environment. Then, in-depth analysis on the strengths and weaknesses of Tesco will also be articulated. Viable strategic options can then be generated when it is possible to capitalize on internal competencies of Tesco to tap on the available opportunities in the external environment.

3.1.1 Strengths of the company

Tesco is a powerful and respectable company around the world. The firm enjoys several competitive advantages in the competitive industry. Firstly, Tesco has huge distribution network – giving essential economies of scale for the company. The economies of scale enable Tesco to lower the cost structure and offer low prices to the consumers. Unless competing fiercely with other equally powerful retailers, the ability to lower costs and price is simply hardly beatable by the small or medium size retailers. Then, one of the core competencies of Tesco is adoption of brilliant internal marketing strategies – ensuring employees satisfaction for better customer satisfaction. Besides, as Tesco is having a successful loyalty card scheme, the firm is able to implement successful CRM to further strengthen customer loyalty (Rowley, 2005). As Tesco is capable of satisfying, motivating and developing the workforce to contribute to the firm performance, the firm will be able to retain and leverage on the human capital to become more responsive to market or consumers’ demands (Strategic Direction, 2009). Then, Tesco is enjoying a dominant position in UK. By having an established stronghold in UK, the company’s profitability can be strengthened. Last but not least, Tesco is also enjoying a good reputable around the world. This will surely enable the company to penetrate the market, affect consumer decision making process, cross selling and to diversify into related businesses easily in the future.

3.1.2 Weaknesses of the company

For Tesco, it weakest point perhaps is it over reliant on debt or leverage to grow the company. As discovered from the financial analysis on Tesco, it is not hard to ferret out that the proportion of long term debt in the capital structure of the firm has been increasing significantly in the recent years. As discussed by the management letters in Annual Report (2009), gearing is necessary to expand the company. Although the management is comfortable with the gearing ratio in the firm, the high utilization of debt will nonetheless put the company into greater risks. The risks are particularly high during recessionary era. Besides, it is also discovered that Tesco’s profit margin has been deteriorating in the past few years. This is an indication that the company is not having an efficient supply chain as was in the past. Such a trend definitely deserves Tesco management attention in the future.

3.1.3 Opportunities in external environment

As discussed extensively above, there are many opportunities awaiting Tesco in the external environment. Firstly, as the people living in emerging countries, such as in China and India, is getting wealthier, and thus higher purchasing power, Tesco will be able to participate in the growth of consumers and economy in these nations. Besides, it is also found that people are becoming more used to purchasing online, and that will surely offer more opportunities to Tesco, to further penetrate the market through internet or digital marketing in the new era. In the western countries, the aging population will also offer different opportunities to discern management. The change of lifestyle and needs of these aging consumers will demand different products offerings from Tesco. Then, as people are becoming more health conscious, Tesco will also be able to capitalize on such trend, to offer healthy foods to the public. As global warming is continuously threatening the society and world, proactive adoption and conduct of CSR initiatives will likely to enhance the brand name or reputation of Tesco around the world (Albino et. al., 2008).

3.1.4 Threats in the external environment

In the short term, the biggest threats will be the turbulent and fragile economy, particularly in the western nations. Besides, highly intense competition among retailers will likely to affect Tesco adversely. It will be truly challenging to Tesco to innovate and evolve successfully to avoid competing heads on with the other equally powerful and ambitious retailers.

3.2 Tesco’s Future Strategy

Considering the facts gathered from both internal and external analysis, several strategies should be implemented by Tesco, for sustainable growth and profitability in the future. Firstly, Tesco should focus on enhancing its core competencies, which is low costs and customer satisfaction simultaneously. Successful strategies should be duplicated and refined in the other nations around the globe. Then, the opportunities in the external environment should be captured. Tesco should focus on reaching consumers in the market space, through social media network and internet marketing, as internet is becoming more popular, even in the emerging countries. Then, the focus of expansion should be centered on fast growing countries in Asia, such as China and India, as the economic outlook in the west is gloomy. Indeed, as the market sizes in these countries are huge, Tesco has not really fully tap into the Asia region to serve these increasingly powerful and demanding consumers. To develop local talents to reach and serve the respective local consumers are also necessary. Expansion program can be delegated to the well-trained and developed local talents, as they are more likely to know the cultural know how. Tesco should also proactively adopt ethical business practices and conduct socially responsible business practices to enhance its reputation, while creating trusts among consumers around the world. Besides, Tesco should also develop new product portfolio to cater for the aging population in the west. By being the first mover in sincerely catering for the needs of the elders, Tesco would likely to enhance customer loyalty. Then, as people are becoming more health conscious, Tesco should include more healthy foods in the stores to show sincerity in attending to the consumers needs in the new society.

It is also important to Tesco to keep an eye on its weaknesses. Firstly, the usage of leverage of debt for growth should be treated with care. This is because Tesco will likely to suffer from financial distress in recessionary era, when business turn bad and consumers cut down spending. Considering the turbulent economic outlook in the west, while emerging countries are suffering from assets bubbles and possibilities of hard landings, it is always wise to stay conservative in financial management of the firm. Then, the root causes for the deterioration of profit margin in Tesco should also be investigated and solved. The most challenging task is to innovate and be creative in the value offering and strategic positioning of Tesco in the marketplace. To further enhance loyalty card scheme is crucial to retain loyal customers. At the similar time, to continuously improve efficiencies of the supply chain will enable the firm to stay low cost while improve its profit margin in the future, despite operating in a competitive industry landscape.


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