According to the boss of Tesco, people returned to shopping like they did ten years ago by making a big weekly trip to the supermarket.
CEO Dave Lewis said that Covid-19’s social distancing measures mean consumers are buying less frequently.
He said the number of transactions in April had almost halved, but that the size of the average basket had doubled.
Lewis added that Tesco has crossed one million online delivery slots per week for the first time.
The supermarket is expected to add 200,000 additional locations over the next ten days, particularly from vulnerable customers.
Tesco achieved a 103% increase in online capacity in a matter of weeks, growth that is expected to take years. The other supermarkets have also increased their delivery slots. Before the crisis, only around 7% of all groceries were bought online.
“We are trying to help as many people as possible. And the most important thing has been the change in online shopping, “he said.
“The problem we have is that when the government talks about vulnerable customers, it has very specific directives and they had about 400,000 that they wanted the retail industry to help. They gave us 350,000 of these names and we have grown to 260,000. ”
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“We will want to do more, but there is always more demand than we can supply,” said Lewis.
“Shortage of flour”
In his first interview since the coronavirus outbreak, Lewis explained how the UK’s largest retailer had adapted and how purchasing habits had changed during the foreclosure.
“People shop once a week, much like they did 10 or 15 years ago, rather than two, three or four times a week before the crisis. “He added that during the wave of panic purchases – when customers stripped supermarket shelves of products like liquid soap, toilet paper and pasta – Tesco” had seen seven weeks of sales take place in one or two days “.
“The food supply chain is now back in good shape,” he said. Flour, however, is still lacking.
Lewis described the past six weeks as “incredible,” adding that “almost everything in the business has changed.” For example, Tesco has hired 45,000 temporary workers to help cover the 51,000 employees missing due to Covid-19 and to cope with increased online deliveries.
Lewis said the company, the UK’s largest private sector employer with over 300,000 workers, was re-accommodating absent workers during the departure of these temporary hires. “We probably still have 35,000 to 40,000 double covers at this time,” he said.
“I think what was really humiliating was the willingness of people to come to work in a supermarket and help us feed the nation. We had some very interesting new colleagues – BA pilots, from the West End theater to racing pilots … and we trained them all very quickly. “
The priority is to protect its staff and its buyers. “I’m really amazed at how 99% of our customers have adapted to the changes in the stores,” he said. “But we have to recognize that until the government’s view changes, then we have to maintain social distance. So we will have to keep these measures in place for the foreseeable future. ”
The challenge will be to maintain discipline in small stores, especially in downtown areas, when people return to work.
Lewis was asked about the impact of coronavirus on retail and wider streets. He said a lot depended on customer behavior after the crisis ended, but he hoped it would encourage the country to think about its future food strategy.
“I think the food chain has done very well. Two weeks after such a large peak in demand, everything has recovered, so there is resilience.
“I think what this crisis has shown is the importance of the food retail business. I think in the past, perhaps, we may have taken this a bit for granted. So I hope that as a nation, we will think carefully about food, food strategy and distribution. “