The British retail giant has undergone a tough resilience test during the pandemic. It is worth knowing how you overcame this challenge and your perspective on the future
Over the past year, it was Global retail He underwent one of the most difficult tests in history. In all markets, large and small retailers have suffered the consequences of the new Coronavirus and have had to reinvent their business. Closure, operating restrictions, digitalisation, distrust of consumers, the arrival of vaccines. The volatility has taken a heavy toll in terms of store closings, unemployment, debt, and government aid policies.
It can be assured that no retail chain, whatever its size, has been affected before pandemic. In this sense, it is worth knowing and learning from the vision and practices of companies that have shown flexibility and rationality to face this moment and are now preparing for the post-pandemic future. John Alan, CEO of TescoThe UK’s largest retailer and one of the largest in the world, spoke with Sally Elliott of Spencer Stewart about trying Tesco in recent months during Offline retail.
John Allan showed great enthusiasm when he talked about how well Tesco was withstanding the impacts of the crisis and was able to keep “feeding the nation”, along with many other retailers. In his view, worldwide retail played a critical role in ensuring the safety and supply of the population. “The flexibility and agility to keep up with the changes were highlights of the Tesco trial during that period, while the high death rates were the most unfortunate,” he says.
For the CEO, the pandemic has clearly demonstrated that most companies must do much more than just dedicate themselves to making more and more money. They should dedicate themselves to better serving the social strata to pave the way for long-term success. The pandemic has accelerated this trend and spurred consumers to develop a new awareness of the role of companies. “Tesco’s response during the early days of the crisis was to keep stores open at all costs, ensuring that the value chain could ensure food for the population, while providing security and social distancing and limiting the number of customers in stores, while expanding the potential for online delivery.”
The company has doubled its delivery capacity, aggressively training its employees so they can meet demand, in a movement that has spread across UK food retailers.
The relationship between retail and government
John notes that the government’s stance on financing the operation of companies over the past year (interest-free) has been important to maintaining a balance of supply and stores that are able to continue operating even during the most severe months of the pandemic. Despite this, Tesco, in particular, has shown, in John Alan, the strength to remain relatively profitable and profitable through 2020. Now, the company is able to return these resources to the public sector. The government’s response to the economic impacts of the pandemic has helped preserve thousands upon thousands of jobs at a critical time.
The relationship between government and the private sector tends to be more productive than this experience with the pandemic. The Tesco CEO says it is imperative that companies and government come together to create jobs, to offset the harmful effects of months of lockdown and suffering. “It is time for us to work together, government and companies, in order to restore economic growth, not only to reclaim those who lost their jobs during the pandemic, but also to bring an entire young workforce into the market looking for opportunities,” he confirms. Simple words that would perfectly serve the present Brazilian moment.
John Alan points out that the leadership of the company needs to assume 3 main responsibilities at this sensitive time:
- Setting a clear objective, clearly understood by the stakeholders and which serves as a pillar of the business culture;
- A strategy to get to where the company plans to go – a strategy that must be constantly monitored and defended by the board of directors;
- Dedicate a full effort to moving the company forward, providing all possible business leadership support.
To fulfill these responsibilities the leadership must be dedicated to creating a following. A leader needs to be a great communicator, to engage employees in an integrated and solid way. “There are no leaders without followers, and the leader’s role is to inspire people to do so,” says the CEO.
At the same time, leadership needs to strike a balance between the needs and expectations of diverse stakeholders, employees, shareholders, consumers, local authorities, and, in Tesco’s case, representatives from more than 2,800 communities. A complex web of influencers and stressors that require great communication skills.
Issues related to sustainability, diversification, emission reduction, and the use of specific inputs are becoming more sensitive and more complex. Many retailers are looking to make joint arrangements to avoid buying products from deforested areas or from predatory crops, and this trend will hold and may have an impact on many economies (Tesco has stopped buying meat from Brazil, for example). John Allan notes that there is a lot of capital available for sustainable business and looking for companies with good environmental credentials.
Reasons for optimism
The Tesco CEO argues that there are grounds for optimism and good prospects are on the horizon. Gradual vaccination will allow people to regain a certain degree of socialization, with positive impacts on the economy, not only in the UK, but in all countries able to accelerate their immunization programs.
Creating opportunity, by stimulating diversity, brings ample potential for innovation and creation of opportunities for business, and few sectors are as accepting of this adoption as retail, says the CEO. Retail trade is a very promising industry, it is a big industry, it is important to the economy and always creates opportunities for talent, especially in this period of intense transformation.
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