First he ordered managers back to the shop floor so they could “reconnect” with customers.
Now Dave Lewis, the new boss of beleaguered retailer Tesco, has taken his top executives on a cut-price minibreak, where they were forced to do their own shopping, cooking and washing up.
It is all part of Lewis’s plan to woo back customers at Britain’s biggest retailer, which is reeling from a series of profits warnings, slumping sales and a £263m accounting scandal. Last week it revealed that first half profits had plunged by 92%, to £112m and declined to give any guidance on the full year outcome.
Lewis, who took on the top job at Tesco less than two months ago, believes the group has lost touch with what its customers want – hence the trip to a “tiny” self-catering holiday cottage in a remote part of Norfolk.
More than a dozen senior executives went on the overnight trip, where they were sent out shopping at the nearest Tesco and rival supermarkets. After hauling the food back to the cottage, they drew up a rota for the cooking, with some preparing breakfast for the group, and others sharing the duties for lunch and dinner.
Top executives at the cottage included the acting UK chief Robin Terrell; Trevor Masters, who runs the company’s £10 bn Asian business; Tesco bank chief Benny Higgins and group corporate affairs director Rebecca Shelley.
Lewis told the Mail on Sunday: “I think if you’re in our business and you’re not spending all of your time looking at the quality and the presentation and the taste of the food and the products you serve – what are you doing?’
“I took my executive team away for a day and a night. It’s been a very frenetic time and I wanted to get to know the people and talk about where the business was and where it was heading.”
It was, Lewis said, “a hands-on experience of going shopping, buying, preparing, eating and we sat and we looked through it all.”
As for the cost of what sounds like the minibreak from hell, the Tesco chief executive said: “Let’s just say it was a damn sight cheaper than most hotels would cost you.”
Lewis is keen to keep costs down at the group as it battles against the growing might of the discount retailers Aldi and Lidl, which are rapidly increasing their share of the grocery market. Lewis himself has cut back, swapping his limo for the train in an effort to save money. Bonuses and long-term incentives at the group for senior executives, including the CEO, are also under review.
The group suffered fresh embarrassment earlier this month when it emerged that it was the proud owner of a new $50m (£31m) Gulfstream G550 corporate jet, ordered by former chief executive Philip Clarke.
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