Tesco bolstered by Christmas sales boost as it plots fresh take on marketing for 2017

Tesco

Tesco’s resurgence plan was given another boost today (12 January) as the once embattled retailer reported a rise in sales over the crucial Christmas period, a welcome sign of the brand’s health for its incoming marketing boss.

Chief executive Dave Lewis was buoyed by the 1.5% rise in UK sales for the third quarter and 0.7% for Christmas.

“We are very encouraged by the sustained strong progress that we are making across the Group. In the UK, we saw our eighth consecutive quarter of volume growth and delivered a third successful Christmas,” he said.

The positive results will put doubters of its pared back festive marketing to rest. Tesco opted for a variety of low-key TV spots that aimed to be reflective of the nation’s mood at a given point, rather than the all-singing-and-dancing production that shoppers have come to expect at that time of year.

“While [Tesco’s Christmas advertising] may not have attracted the column inches received by some of its rivals, the strategy was grounded in solid insight and ultimately did the job it was supposed to do,” noted analyst and founder of shopper marketing agency Savvy, Catherine Shuttleworth.

Likewise, Lewis said he was pleased with how it performed over Christmas and that it now has a strong focus on the food campaign that launched earlier this month.

But, more change could yet be on the horizon with the imminent injection of a new marketing boss from Unilever.

Announced yesterday (11 January), Alessandra Bellini filled the chief customer officer role left vacant by Robin Terrell following his resignation last year.

Like Lewis, Bellini is a 20-year veteran of Unilever, most recently in leading the company’s food division in the US.

On a press call, Lewis said she would bring a “fresh pair of eyes” to its marketing output but beyond that will take Tesco on the next step to differentiating the brand.

This will be all the more crucial as post-Brexit negotiations with suppliers continue, and the spotlight will be on Tesco after emerging as the customer’s champion on price in wake of “marmite-gate”.

“Tesco need to balance price with margin targets over the coming months, a difficult line to walk at the best of times,” said Phil Dorrell, partner at Retail Remedy.

"Lewis continues to lead Tesco well, calm and steady and with clear strategic customer-centric direction, supported by the new appointment of Bellini.”

Jennifer Faull

Jen Faull is Brands Editor at The Drum. Based in London, she has interviewed major business figures including top marketers from Mondelez, Unilever, Tesco, and Lidl.

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