Curb growth of Tesco, demands Waitrose boss
Mark Price, Waitrose's chief executive, said he is calling on the Competition Commission to prevent the UK from becoming "Tescoland". The Waitrose boss predicted that unless action was taken the country's high street grocery industry could, in just 25 years from now, consist of just Tesco and Asda. Mr Price said he feared the retail environment would be very different in years to come, unless the Competition Commission moved to curb the growth of Tesco. The commission is expected to report the results of its groceries inquiry later this month.
Tesco is reported to have said that it is confident the commission will determine that there is sufficient choice in the grocery market.
The attack from the Waitrose chief comes only a week after market research analysts CACI revealed that Tesco was the most dominant supermarket in 81 of the UK's 121 postcode areas. It was followed by Asda which had the largest market share in 19 postcodes.
Last week Tesco unveiled group sales up 9.2 per cent to £24.7 billion, with pre-tax profits up 18 per cent to £1.29 billion for the half-year to August 15. Mr Price told trade magazine The Grocer that Tesco was against competition and used its vast cash reserves to keep other retailers out of the market. "They are so aggressive and will buy everything to keep out the competition" he said. "Waitrose, and all the other retailers, often go head to head with them over property, but they have such deep pockets. It is a challenge because there is so little property out there. Tesco has more in its land-bank than Waitrose has trading space."
Mr Price said he feared the market could be whittled down to just two major players if something was not done to prevent the march of Tesco. "In 20 to 25 years' time, I wouldn't be surprised if it was just Tesco and Asda in the market. I think the Competition Commission needs to do something to stop this turning into Tescoland. The commission needs to realise what is happening. The Government should also be concerned about how vulnerable the country would be if all our food was controlled by one retailer. They say customers want choice and are choosing Tesco, but people will go to the store that's most convenient, so if there is a Tesco on every corner, that's where they will go."
Mr Price said Tesco also made lives hard for smaller rivals by using its might to sell products below cost.
A spokesman for Tesco said: "Waitrose should know full well it is a very competitive market out there. More than 94 per cent of the population has access to three or more supermarkets. There is plenty of choice out there."