Unilever’s Lewis takes over at Tesco

It would seem that Tesco's board agree with the post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, asking "Has Tesco forgotten what made them famous?" Hot off the press today is news that Tesco's embattled CEO Philip Clarke (below left) is on the way out. In a bold move, his replacement, Dave Lewis, comes not from Tesco or any retailer, but Unilever (below right).

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Tesco's problems are deep. Back in 2012, when Clarke took on the role I posted here about how Tesco had waited too long to revitalise their brand. As one angry shareholder said at a recent meeting, Tesco sufferer from "arrogance when it was doing well", and "Once you have lost reputation, it is hard to get it back". Indeed, the problems proved to be harder to resolve than Clarke could have imagined, with declining like-for-like sales in 10 out of the last 13 quarters.

So, Dave Lewis will have an over-flowing in-tray when in October he arrives in Chesunt, where Tesco are based. Here are a few bits of food for thought.

1. Re-connect with the core customer needs
Buying a share of upmarket coffee shop chain Harris+Hoole and F&F VIP catwalk shows held at London Fashion Week make me wonder about how close to cash-strapped shoppers Tesco really is. Tesco became famous by making shopping easier and more affordable for everyone. Job 1 is to re-focus ruthlessly on this objective.
2. Re-focus on the core
Selling the Harris+Hoole coffee shops and Giraffe restaurants would send a strong signal to employees and investors that Tesco was re-focusing on the core brand and business. 
3. Renovate the core
Tesco's rejuvenation during the 1990's was driven by a whole range of service initiatives, 114 in total. These included the Clubcard, the Value range and the "One in front" queing promise. Tesco should re-iginte the renovation pipeline, and come up with service ideas that reinvigorate the core.
4. Be more distinctive

Tesco needs a distinctive campaign concept that it can use to tell a series of “chapters” about relevant service offerings in a consistent way. Sainsbury's hit the right nerve with their "Live Well for Less" campaign. Tesco needs something as good.
5. Balancing freshness and consistency

"Every Little Helps" is one of the most powerful and long-running brand ideas, being used by Tesco for more than 20 years. Can enough freshness by injected into the brand with this idea? After all, the basic premise of the idea is still relevant today. Or, is it time to move onto something new? 
Good luck to Dave Lewis. Who knows, perhaps hiring a non-Tesco CEO for the first time in 30 years is what is needed to lead the brand rejuvenation.  Hopefully, he can help the company remember and refresh what made it famous.