Sainsburys commercial director Mike Coupe said margins between success and failure in industry were narrow

Sainsbury's commercial director Mike Coupe said margins between success and failure in industry were narrow

Sainsbury's commercial director Mike Coupe has insisted he was not surprised at Richard Brasher's decision to quit as CEO of rival Tesco's UK operations.

Tesco's announcement that Brasher will leave the company after group CEO Philip Clarke decided to become more involved in the retailer's domestic unit raised eyebrows within the industry yesterday (15 March).

However, speaking at an industry conference in London, Coupe described Tesco as a "fabulously successful organisation" but suggested it had become an "unhappy ship".

"It's been well trailed for a number of months that it feels like it's a pretty unhappy ship. In the end, it's not a surprise to anybody that's in our side of the industry," Coupe said. "It's their problem to solve. We'll carry on doing what we're doing and continuing to drive on the things that we think will make our business successful."

He added: "It's a fabulously successful organisation and in the market we operate in, there's very little room for error. The difference between success and failure in the grocery industry is maybe plus or minus 1% growth. You're talking very much on the margins when it comes to winning or losing in the market."

Speaking at the Retail Week conference, Coupe outlined ways that Sainsbury's looked to "differentiate" itself from its competitors. He pointed to the retailer's investment in fresh food, a sector he described as a "key battleground" for the industry.

Earlier in the week, rival retailer Morrisons outlined plans to become the UK's largest fresh food manufacturer. Morrisons CEO Dalton Philips said the retailer's plans would "set us apart from other retailers".

Tesco also plans to renew its focus on fresh food as it looks to revitalise its business in the UK.

Coupe pointed to Sainsbury's Brand Match price comparison scheme, which it launched last October and had "reinforced the fact" that the retailer "can be competitive on price".

He also pointed to Sainsbury's Nectar loyalty scheme, through which the retailer can use customer data to drive sales. The Sainsbury's executive also underlined an announcement the retailer made last weekend that it had become the second-largest online food retailer in the UK.