Blog: Dean BestUS critics just gossiping, says Tesco boss

Dean Best | 15 April 2008

There’s nothing like a news vacuum to get the rumours swirling around a business.

Tesco’s fledgling US venture, Fresh & Easy, has been at the eye of some speculation pretty much ever since the doors on the first store were opened in November.

Analysts in the US have questioned if the 61 Fresh & Easy stores were meeting sales targets and the doom-mongers were given a shot in the arm a couple of weeks ago when Tesco announced it would put the brakes on expansion across the Atlantic.

Today (15 April), however, was the first opportunity Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy had to lay down the company’s version of events.

Sir Terry dismissed the claims from critical analysts as “gossip” and said he was “very encouraged” by the early performance of Fresh & Easy.

“If I’m armed with the actual facts, why should I worry about gossip?” he shrugged. “You’ve got to take into account that there are a lot of vested interests behind some of the commentary. It’s a time when there is a lot of gossiping around companies and mixed among that is genuine, if misplaced, criticism.”

Today was a day when Tesco – and Sir Terry – put its international business centre stage. The Liverpudlian kicked off his presentation with a focus on Tesco’s overseas operations and words like “breadth” and “broad-based” littered his summary of how the company is performing abroad.

“Our new businesses are really coming of age; they are about the same size as Tesco was a decade ago when it started out internationally,” he said. “We’ve built a whole new Tesco in the last few years and the group’s growth perspectives are better now than ever before.”

Sure, there may be teething troubles in the US, or challenges in operating in Japan’s stagnant retail sector but Tesco’s chief executive remains calmly upbeat about the international outlook for the UK retail giant.


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