So, after a three-year gestation period, no small measure of speculation and an impressive shroud of secrecy, Tesco finally revealed its discount proposition today in the sleepy Cambridgeshire town of Chatteris. With an eye on next year’s centenary, the concept is called Jack’s in homage to founder Jack Cohen and to celebrate “100 years of great value.”
The store is awash with references to British and local sourcing, Tesco having worked with 350 existing suppliers to formulate 1,800 new Jack’s-branded items that sit alongside well-known brands and tertiary names across fresh, chilled, ambient, frozen and GM.
Eight out of ten items are grown, reared or made in the UK and Tesco feels that gives it a bit of a distinctive stance against its continental cousins Lidl and Aldi. This strong emphasis on provenance as well as price should play well with customers, but Aldi and Lidl are also very strong on British goods, so this is by no means a USP to Jack’s, but its ability to lean on Tesco’s status as a British institution might resonate more in shoppers’ minds.
The private label range – and I’ve seen a few in my time – is really rather good, spanning all sorts of products including some esoteric gourmet items and benefiting from some strong packaging and design work without looking too pricey. To be honest, the 1,800 Jack’s-branded range has a level of breadth and depth that I was not expecting and it’s has been implemented very smoothly.
As for the store itself, it’s light, airy and spacious. The store design seems to place equal importance on both shopper and employee experience, which I imagine will make it a genuinely pleasant place to shop. Although I’ve not been there on a Saturday afternoon yet…
Highlights for me included the beer range (very good indeed), a smart-looking produce area, the bakery and the special buys area, which will see ‘when it’s gone it’s gone’ promotions changing over every four weeks.
There are some nice touches in terms of efficiency, such as bespoke rolling kit in produce, the store’s freezer unit being put at the front of the store next to the bakery to make life easier for bakery staff, 90% of the range being housed in shelf-ready packaging and the low-level freezers being both cheaper to buy and cheaper to run.
From a checkout perspective, the combination of self-checkouts, manned tills and the Shop Smart self-scanning ap should optimise the process, but, again, this will be interesting to see when the store is running full pelt at the weekend.
The expansion plan of 10-15 stores by 2019 is much more modest than I expected, but there does remain a danger of cannibalising Tesco sales: several of the proposed locations are adjacent to existing Tesco Extra sites. Dave Lewis seems sanguine, however, making the fair point that “[we’d] rather cannibalise [ourselves] than have someone else do it.” Scale will be needed to make this work, though, so it will be fascinating to watch how Tesco uses Jack’s to augment its existing portfolio of real estate.
Overall, Jack’s is pretty impressive. Its range, look and feel, and focus on being the ‘cheapest in town’ all point to a potentially rosy future strong future if Tesco gives it the right level of investment.
Bryan Roberts, Global Insights Director