Tesco’s loss-making operation in Poland has been a drag on the retailer’s profitability in central Europe. Tesco Poland has managed to turn around its profitability via its three-year transformation programme, which has helped boost regional profit in 2018. Tesco has done this by reorganising its logistical and store operations to introduce cost efficiencies and offer shoppers lower prices, which help it to compete against discounters.
Tesco Poland sees biggest decline in sales in 2018 in the region…
Tesco Central Europe reported a 4.5% drop in 2018 sales at constant exchange rates, to reach GBP6.0bn (US$7.6bn). This was partly explained by a 2.3% decline in like-for-like sales, due to Tesco’s non-participation in Black Thursday promotions in the region. The performance was also affected by a 9.1% sales decline in Poland, due to the loss of 25 trading days from the Sunday ban and the closure of 62 stores.
…but grows profit significantly
Although sales growth was a pain point for the central European operations, it reported an improvement in its operating margin from 1.8% in 2017 to 2.9% in 2018. A significant part of that is from the closure of unprofitable stores in Poland. But was also due to costs efficiencies introduced in the store and logistical operations. In addition to lowering costs, these efficiencies also helped to raise sales density by reorganising ranges and store operations to lower prices and attract more shoppers.
Repurposing of space in large formats stores continues
As part of the three-year transformation programme, Tesco has repurposed space by renting it out to third-party retailers. This is in line with shopper trends in Poland where they shop little and often. To help raise a revenue stream and lower costs in its larger stores in 2018, it added 22 new tenants to 14 hypermarkets. It also partnered with an insurance provider in 2019 to open 32 Superpolisa Ubezpieczenia outlets in Tesco stores. Similarly in Tesco Hungary it has added Media Markt shop-in-shops in nine hypermarkets.
Source: Super Polisa
Managing stock level and rotation
As hypermarket space shrinks so does the number of SKUs in Tesco Poland stores. The retailer is optimising its assortment by removing unprofitable categories, such as electricals, and focusing on more sustainable ones, such as baby. It introduced cost efficiencies via inventory management, which reduced stock levels and lowered replenishment frequency. This has translated into less transportation, reduced storage space, optimal use of store warehouse space and fewer out-of-stocks.
Fewer price changes and use of back-office staff
Across Tesco Central Europe it reduced the number of price changes by 28% in 2018, as many prices were reduced on a more permanent basis. Also, some back-office staff duties were moved to the shop floor to support in customer service and shelf replenishment.
Prices on food staples permanently lowered…
The retailer removed unprofitable assortments to focus on 600 basic food products, which it marked as Starlines, and promoted under the Nasz Cena (Our Price) tagline. They have had their prices permanently lowered to improve the price-quality ratio and to help Tesco become price competitive. The products were also given more shelf space. The retailer seems to be responding to market conditions in central Europe, and especially in Poland, by adopting elements of an EDLP strategy.
Source: IGD Research, Tesco Poland
…and the visibility of private label ranges raised
In some categories it is raising the visibility and shopper awareness of its private label ranges. One key example is in the baby category, where it has reduced the number of brands and assigned more space to its 200 SKU own labels, entry price Gaga and core range Fred & Flo. It is building awareness about the new brands through sampling in selected stores, special store decoration, leaflets and POS materials.
Source: IGD Research
Sunday trading ban will continue to drag Tesco sales in 2019 and 2020…
Poland is phasing in additional Sunday trading bans to reach 40 days in 2019 and extending this further in 2020 to cover all Sundays. For Tesco Poland to turnaround its sales decline, its strategy would have to be focused on recovering sales from the reduced trading days in the next two years. So far it has shown little sign on efforts to offset the loss from these trading days, like its key competitors Biedronka and Lidl.
…and profits will be hit by possible new tax law in 2020
The Court of the European Union ruled against the European Commission’s (EC) case that the Polish government’s tax on retail is a form of state aid. It remains the case whether the new tax structure will go ahead or not in 2020, as the EC can appeal this decision. If the tax does goes ahead then this will hit retailers with a 0.8% or 1.4% tax bill on turnover above PLN17m (US$4.4m) per month, which will also hurt Tesco’s efforts to return its Polish operation to profitability.
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