Robert Peston on Retailing and Shopping; the new Tesco

Monday nights won’t be the same without Robert Peston – now there’s a phrase that does not come along every day. But the last three weeks have seen Peston’s excellent BBC series on Retailing and Shopping in the UK since the second world war. Distinguished by a fabulous set of archive visuals, films, adverts and stills, and by a stellar cast of talking retailers, this series has been must-see TV if you are interested in shopping and retailing.

If you have not seen the three parts, then beg, borrow or steal a copy, or get it on IPlayer for now.

I have some quibbles, but then I was not the probable target audience. I thought the first programme rather skated over the role of the Co-operative Movement in the 1940s-1960s and the 1970s disappeared almost entirely. The second programme made up in part for the missing 1970s, with the beginnings of the rise of Tesco, but I thought it underplayed the transformation wrought after Operation Checkout, when Tesco realised it was in the supply and not the shop business alone. The final programme was strong on changing internet patterns and it was nice to see the Gateshead SIS experiment from the 1980s again.

All in all, a great series, with many interesting talking points, memories and thought provoking points, not least from some excellent retail contributors.

Tesco also featured heavily in my own week, last week. I finally managed to get to the new Watford revamp, and also got to see the Tesco Metro at Tooley Street in London. Both are very interesting and impressive.

Watford is a very open and pleasant store with some real test beds of ideas. The grouping of Giraffe, Euphorium, The Bakery Project, Harris & Hoole and F&F down one side of the main entry aisle gives an immediate different feel. The finish and feel are very open and high quality with an emphasis on nonfood on one half of the main cross aisle. Some interesting experiments with technology are interspersed in grocery and non-food, with the specialist units in non-food along the back wall. The deli type serve-over area produces a wow factor. I had not seen Scan & Shop since the old days of Safeway, but it’s back again along with other self-scanning.

A couple of things seemed out of place – the Clearance area jarred for me with the overall ambience of the store and there were some less than quality fixtures in grocery. Overall though it does make one think about what such stores and large spaces might look like. It will be interesting to see what makes it out of the trials.

Tooley Street had its refit a few months before and is a different type of operation, being an underground Metro store. It too has Harris & Hoole and Euphorium and seems to have borrowed much of the Fresh & Easy colour palette. A really busy bustling store, the checkouts have been redesigned to try to cope with the volume. Self-scanning dominates, but even then it may be struggling with the throughput.

Clearly Tesco are trying to make good on their promises to refresh the UK stores and are upping their standards and efforts considerably. Even our local Stirling store has not been immune and it too is now clad in wood, with self-scanning, much enhanced grocery finishes and a better more open feel. How well customers react will now be crucial, as will the speed of the roll-out of the updates.

Finally, and away from retailing, the BBC have pulled off another TV cracker with another three part series  – this time on BBC4 on Thursdays with a series on Sound and Cinema. Like Peston on shopping, this is high quality and informative. Really enjoying it.

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues.
This entry was posted in Food Retailing, Music, Online Retailing, Self-Scanning, Television, Tesco and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Robert Peston on Retailing and Shopping; the new Tesco

  1. Crumbs… I thought the Preston series was awful. IMO it amounted to an advertorial for retail (supermarkets really). During the first episode I actually switched off after yet another (rather pointless) vox pop of that wee old lady on a big old seat. Any more considered consumers’ view or perspective was virtually absent from where I was watching. Also too uninquisitive and not robust enough on the tax avoidance, employment practices and health impacts issues around the sector.

    If it had been more coherently headlined as ‘Preston tells us how the supermarkets did so well and won’ that would have been helpful?

    For the last episode I gave up and turned over to ‘The Fried Chicken Shop’ Wow, what a life enhancing set of insights on people, retail and life in the High Street….” I want… chicken… in…my…face – chicken in my face” – now a global online cult 🙂

  2. Leigh Sparks says:

    On this one we will have to disagree, with the exception of the consumer point … those were not very helpful throughout.

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