A Shift in UK Retail?

So, this morning I read about the merger of two giants in UK food retailing, Tesco and Booker, and I couldn’t let this pass without comment…

It’s hard to tell at this stage what this will mean but we all love a good speculate…

Will this signify the death of independent retailing in the UK?

I very much doubt it. This deal sees the marriage of five Convenience fasciae: Londis, Budgens, One Stop, Premier and Family Shopper. This means that between the two merged companies you are more than likely be within spitting distance of one of their stores.

We’ve all witnessed the rise of the Tesco Expresses migrating into old banks, ex-pubs and any bit of available retail space so do we really think this move indicates a step towards squashing convenience? I think not.

What will this mean for food manufacturers?

Well, again it’s impossible to say with certainty but I imagine there are a few sweating that they may be left exposed on pricing or agreements.

Ultimately it should be seen positively by food manufacturers. It should be seen as a step to reduce complexities in their supply chains, to rationalise SKU counts and make their factories more efficient by putting more volume through fewer SKUs.

Why has this deal been brokered?

Again, I’m speculating but…

I had the pleasure of seeing Charles Wilson speak at a Convenience Conference in London a few years ago (if you ever get the chance I must recommend that you take it, he is inspirational) and I was immediately reminded of this when I saw the news. Mr Wilson asserted that he wasn’t in the wholesale business, instead he was in the property game. He referenced the McDonald’s business strategy of buying prime real estate and making a few burgers on the side and said that this was his ambition.

In particular, he intimated that his new project was Booker India which, at that time, was a market that Tesco were unable to enter due to government initiatives promoting local suppliers. Mr Wilson’s strategy was to buy prime real estate that would, in theory, appeal, to the UK’s biggest supermarket. Clearly a shrewd cookie!

Since that conference Tesco agreed a JV deal in 2012 with the owners of the country’s Star Bazaar chain which made them the first foreign supermarket to enter India. Is now the time for Tesco to focus on the key BRIC economy and drive real value outside of the UK? Is this merger with Charles Wilson’s Booker just a property deal?

Again, I’m speculating but…

Northern Munkee.