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Sunday Soundbite

Tesco and the high street don’t need any more fake news

Chris Field
Chris Field

The trouble with bloggers, and I don’t exclude myself, is they rely too much on expressing their opinions through their prejudices, and worse, provide little or no evidence to support their point of view.

This is how we got fake news, and while I think I can tell the difference between real and fake in most cases, now I’m not sure. The fact that we can all have a say, may be good for our egos, but it is not always good for retail.

Two stories this week brought me to this conclusion. Firstly, the Knaresborough Retail Inquiry, launched this week into the state of retail in this market town in Yorkshire in the north of England. The new inquiry looks like it will ignore research that had already been undertaken by the town council last year, and the politicians connected with the new inquiry are simply sound-biting their way to personal glory in the run-up to local elections in May. The hostage in this politicking sadly is local retailing.

Secondly, The Telegraph wants to suggest that job cuts at grocers, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, are ‘the tip of the iceberg’. I can’t argue with the supporting facts on the actual number of job cuts, but I can question the paper’s motivation. National newspapers are committed to the human interest angle, even in business stories, so people losing their jobs will always dominate the agenda. But if you analyse the Tesco story, this is simply a correction being made by a business that is moving with the times. It is making perfectly sensible decisions as the operation of both its stores and warehouses changes, in the light of the introduction of new processes and technology.

For those that choose to raise a boo for the big, bad retailer, consider that this company has moved from being one of the latest payers to suppliers, to the best, now around 14 days, and is even being hailed as the model for future retailer/supplier relationships.

Before my praise for Tesco starts to cause queasiness among my regular readers, the point I want to make is that fake, biased or incomplete news does the retail industry no good. Let’s not be naïve; retail is changing and this will lead to a number of corrections to behaviour that no longer serves an industry that is now trading through multiple channels, facing new types of competition and serving a customer whose demands now run some way ahead of the industry’s ability to respond.

Let’s embrace the facts that show that, certainly in the US, fewer stores are closing than opening, but of course stores opening doesn’t really make headlines. So, for all their limitations, perhaps we must turn to the analysts and bloggers to tell us what is really going on. In retail today, read the news by all means, but follow your instincts.

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