Tesco is risking the wrath of US retail giant Kroger when it opens its first North American stores next year.
Tesco owns a stake of more than 50% in data specialist Dunnhumby, which underpins its Clubcard operations. Until now, Dunnhumby was able to work with rival retailers in the US because Tesco did not have a presence there.
But when Tesco unveils a chain of convenience stores in California, Dunnhumby’s relationship with Kroger could then be compromised. Kroger also operates convenience stores under several different brand names.
A source close to the situation says: “Dunnhumby went to the US three years ago, ostensibly to work for Kroger in Cincinnati.
“Its data analysis has boosted products and store openings. Tesco wasn’t out there so perhaps it thought there wasn’t any harm in helping Kroger, which is Wal-Mart’s biggest competitor.”
The source adds: “It would be logical for Tesco to expand from a business platform it already has.”
Dunnhumby “categorically denies” suggestions it has contributed to Tesco’s US roll-out through its knowledge of the convenience market in the past three years.
Tesco says it is “too early” to say whether it will extend its relationship with Dunnhumby into the US, potentially allowing customers to collect and use Clubcard points. Kroger was unavailable for comment.
Tim Mason, Tesco’s UK marketing chief, has been promoted to US chief executive.