On Monday, the new CEO of Tesco, Dave Lewis, sent a message to all employees asking them to email him directly if they had any complaints or suggestions about how to improve the chain.
Tesco has about 500,000 staffers, so we bet Lewis’ inbox is full to bursting right now. We know this because several Tesco workers emailed Business Insider, too. We’ve excerpted some of their emails below.
And it’s as bad as you think, judging by their cries of anguish.
The backstory: Tesco was once the anchor store for hundreds of British high streets as the midmarket grocer, sitting above discounters like Aldi and Lidl but below more upscale brands like Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. But in the last few years — thr recession — Tesco lost the plot. As impoverished shoppers sought cheaper prices Tesco lost a pricing war against Sainsbury’s, and lost market share as a result. Sales fell 4% through Aug. 17, 2014, and Tesco has revised downward its profit projection for the year. Tesco also cut its dividend, and the stock has fallen 32% in the last year.
Enter “Drastic” Dave Lewis, who got his nickname at Unilever where he cut costs 40% and slashed 300 jobs from the payroll. He started the new job a month early after it became clear to Tesco’s board that waiting any longer wasn’t tolerable.
“I want to hear your thoughts and ideas. I want to hear what you think we could do differently or better,” he told his staff yesterday, his first day on the job, after admitting to the Evening Standard he was “wonderfully naïve” about running a retail chain.
Some of those employees emailed BI, too.
And it is heartbreaking to read their words.
Obviously, employees who email a global business news website are an unrepresentative, self-selecting sample of staffers. But still …
This 8-year veteran told us that the stress of working at Tesco’s dysfunctional stores is making staff sick:
In my store alone, we have two managers on long term sick leave due to stress, two managers have stepped down, four managers have given requests to leave the store and I have left the company. The company I used to love working for. I am now giving the skills and experience that Tesco gave me to another major retailer.
Another manager complained that there was in fact too much management at Tesco:
We seem to have too many chiefs and not enough Indians, i.e. do we need so many managers and team leaders where back in the day where we would run a team or factory of 200 people with a couple of managers and three supervisors very successfully? We feel that the whole structure needs addressing in most stores.
A 25-year Tesco veteran begged Lewis not to implement Unilever style cuts at Tesco because “we cannot cope”:
Please do not reduce staff anymore. We cannot cope with tasks and have to do extra hours to complete these, most of the time unpaid, especially the team leaders, but staff do this as well. We have to support more than one area – especially checkouts – so this affects our own department and especially the service of customers which we know is important.
This same person made the identical complaint about their being too many managers in each store and not enough workers to do the basic tasks of running the supermarket:
Managers generally are very expensive general assistants, stacking shelves/produce/fresh/and working as cashiers and also not supporting their own areas, this needs looking at but the area tesco are looking to remove is the team leaders. I am one this is a Big Mistake as they are the ones organising their departments while their managers are doing the above.
Morale in the Stores is rock bottom we need to be listened to, and I am really pleased you have asked for ideas.
One staffer suggested that Tesco take a hit to profits and drive its rivals out of business in a newly aggressive price war:
Sell the land bank (Tesco’s vast unused real estate hoard) it will generate vast amounts of money to reduce all prices. Undercut Lidl and Aldi, bankrupt them over time, build prices back up. Reduce 5% profit to 3%.
Go back to basics: price most important thing, real and genuine competitive prices. Customers only go to Aldi/Lidl for cheap food/items not for service or the look of the stores, in my opinion you cannot get a full shop there so, PRICES.
Interestingly, almost everyone who emailed us had strong opinions about the customer experience:
As customers we would like to come into store and pick up our basic food shop without having to choose from more than fifteen types of baked beans, twenty-plus types of cereal, god knows how many types of ketchup, mayo, the list is endless, we feel as employees and customers maybe we should look to going back to basics as a grocer when you could walk into a store and be in and out with exactly what you are looking for.
Another pointed out that wasted bread at Tesco was hurting profits:
Waste, we can’t believe how much waste we put through daily, especially bread and out-of-date food. Surely by now they should know how much bread we need on a daily basis i.e. we only ever buy bread for 10p coz it’s always reduced and there’s always lots of it.
There is lots more. That’s the tip of the iceberg. No doubt Lewis has hundreds of similar emails to read right now.
If you have an amazing story about what it’s like working at Tesco right now, send it to [email protected]
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