Tesco Brooklands – a microcosm of Tesco’s failings as a business

Needed to do a medium size grocery shop yesterday. I could have gone to the Sainsburys up the road, but I settled on Tesco at Brooklands (a 15 minute drive away).

A number of things didn’t go to plan during my visit to Tesco Brooklands (between 16:50 and 18:11), here’s a summary:

  • Car park – the road surface needs some work, it’s washed away in parts and has potholes… making it rather difficult to use a trolley (I see on the way out they’ve started resurfacing but working from the furtherest point towards the store).
  • Travelator out of service – the travelator going up to the first floor was broken, requiring the use of the lift as an alternative.
  • Stock issues…
    • Warburtons English Breakfast Muffins – none in stock, had to settle for Kingsmill instead
    • Milk – the list called for 1 x pint “Red” Skimmed Milk and 1x pint “Blue” Fresh (Whole) Milk – neither were anywhere to be seen on the shelves. I loitered around a few minutes to see if I could catch the eye of a staff member – none appeared. The only alternative was the more expensive Organic milk. I later on spotted what looked like a team meeting of managers in the non-food area of the store. I interrupted their meeting and asked for help getting some milk, one manager left the meeting and got me some from behind the scenes. Maybe Tesco were hoping they’d make more (higher margin) sales by hiding their core brand milk behind the scenes and hoping customers would give in to buying the organic stuff.
    • Quiche Lorraine – the quiches had been pretty well wiped out and there were a handful of “Broccoli and Tomato” ones remaining – I grudgingly selected one
    • Crushed Garlic – shelf label said sold out… not one to be seen on the shelves
    • Vegetables…
      • Loose carrots – not a single loose carrot available on the shop floor
      • Cauliflower – not a single head available on the shop floor
      • Sweet Potatoes – the remnants of the last bag were available – bag had been ripped open and was not complete. No loose ones either
  • Staff availability – there seemed to be a shortage of staff on hand for assistance. There were a few Tesco polo shirt wearing folk in the aisles – but they seemed to be doing their own shopping and I didn’t want to disturb them. Lucky I found that group of managers having their meeting. I eventually asked the young lady at the Self Scan checkout for assistance, and she directed me to the Customer Service desk. Customer Service checked their system and (not so) helpfully informed me that there were 147 carrots available! She disappeared off into the store looking for carrots, cauliflower and quiches and returned several minutes later confirming that there was no stock of these items on the shop floor. None of the staff (the manager, customer services) seemed particularly apologetic and left me with the impression that I should expect not to find everyday items like milk and carrots when I visit a Tesco store.
  • But wait there’s more – the cherry on the top was when the same young lady at the self scan checkout, after I had been selected for a “random inspection”, replied that she prefers Morrisons when I suggested that my experience explains why so many are flocking to Aldi & Lidl. If anyone needs a random inspection – it’s Tesco Brooklands by senior management!

Some practical suggestions to help Tesco:

  • Review staff availability/accessibility on the shop floor – for example, ensuring that no matter where a customer is within the store that a staff member should be visible or within earshot – alternatively install help points in every aisle so shoppers can call for assistance to a central authority
  • Review stock management… I suspect all the items I needed were probably in the building somewhere, but not where they needed to be… this is especially relevant for staple items like core brand 1 pint milk

These items may go some way to addressing Tesco marketshare and profitability rather than the distractions of coffee shops, bakeries, family restaurants etc.

In the end, I had to drive back to Walton and visit Sainsburys anyways – to buy all the items Tesco didn’t have in stock.

Notes so that Tesco can track down the transaction (from the bottom of my till slip):

24/05/14 18:11 2160 056 9056 8630 

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