Philip Clarke fast-tracks revamp of Tesco

THE boss of Tesco yesterday said it could take 18 months for the supermarket giant to move ahead of its rivals as he moves to reset the business after years of tough trade.

Philip Clarke said he plans to cram a three-year overhaul into the next 12 months, including a raft of initiatives dealing with online, price and home delivery.

The chief executive, who replaced Sir Terry Leahy last year, said: “We had a three-year plan for the UK, but now we’re going to do it all in 2012. This is the beginning of a big change.”

His comments comes after Tesco said it would create 20,000 jobs in the UK over the next two years in customer service, refreshing existing stores and opening new ones.

Clarke also said that the group’s US arm, Fresh & Easy, could break even later this year after racking up about £700 million in losses since its launch in 2007. The Liverpudlian earlier this year admitted Christmas had been disappointing after its Big Price Drop campaign flopped, prompting a near £5 billion slump in its market value.

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The grocer has lost market share as it triggered a price war with rivals, including Sainsbury’s Brand Match scheme and Asda’s guarantee to be 10 per cent cheaper than rivals.

Clarke said: “Last summer was tough because we were diagnosing what had gone wrong in the UK, testing ideas. Christmas wasn’t great, but it hasn’t been great for two or three years.”

Tesco will next week start a huge internet push with the relaunch of Tesco’s entire non-food business online. Clarke also revealed ambitions to open up the website as a “marketplace” through which other shops will be able to sell goods, like the Amazon model.

Clarke said Fresh & Easy would break even “in 2012 or 2013”, but warned that simply stemming losses would not be enough to guarantee its future.