On Monday (12 August), Tesco will open its revamped Watford store, the latest in its push to get the nation to spend more time – and therefore more money – in its shops. People can go to a yoga class, shop in the F&F boutique, get their nails done for a fiver and then take their kids for lunch at the in-store Giraffe café.
It will also see coffee shop Harris + Hoole – the chain in which the supermarket has a 49 per cent stake – under a Tesco roof for the first time.
It’s the latest in trying to make the weekly supermarket shop seem like less of a chore and more like a fun ‘leisure’ experience and for Tesco to generate more cash per square foot.
Chris Bush, its UK managing director, says that Watford is the place where many of its new ideas are being tried out, saying it is in response to “a fundamental change in the way that people are doing their shopping” and that it wants to create “places where customers come to spend time and meet their friends and family”. Sort of a Tesco Way of Life, then.
If the supermarket brand seems a bit cold and clinical, then the introduction of new areas in the shop are designed to counter that. The restaurant chain Giraffe is pretty far away from a traditional Tesco, using warm colours and, according to its website, “freshly cooked food served to the sound of good music”, aiming to ‘make you feel good’.
In March, Tesco spent nearly £49m on its stake in the mid- to upmarket chain, which has 47 restaurants in the UK and where a main meal costs upwards of £8.95. Having one of these in store is something Bush says will “offer families a compelling experience outside their weekly shopping trip” and use some of the space in bigger stores. It is also moving away from selling electronic goods in its shops, because it is less able to compete with the likes of Amazon online.
This is a clever move to to encourage people to go into shops for an experience they can’t get online, as well as leaving with a lighter wallet. Supermarket shopping (for all retailers) on the internet grew in value by 19 per cent in the 12 months to April 2013, according to Kantar Worldpanel data, whereas the amount spent in physical stores only went up by 2 per cent.
If you happen to live near Coventry, you will soon be able to get a slice of Tesco’s own-brand hot food by eating at its family carvery restaurant, Decks, a ‘home grown’ brand, rather than one it has bought into.
While Tesco’s market share has dipped, Decks, if it works – the Coventry store is a trial – could be one way to encourage growth. In spite of the recession, between 2008 and 2011 the amount spent on eating out went up 6.5 per cent, according to the Government’s most recent family food statistics.
But Bush hints that the plan isn’t to roll out all of the things Watford has to other Tesco Extra shops, saying that “the age of the cookie-cutter supermarket is over”.
Still, it feels to me that if you can get everything you need each week at one of its shops, the Tesco Way of Life may soon take over.