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Tesco boss Leahy says recession is time of opportunity

Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy has urged retailers to make the most of business opportunities in the recession.

Speaking at the British Retail Consortium conference in London this morning, Leahy said that retailers could help lift the country out of the recession.

“Retailers should be thinking about recovery now. It’s important that they are not looking in the wrong direction for 2010 and 2011.”

Sir Terry Leahy, chief executive, Tesco

Leahy said: “It might feel awful, but it’s the most optimistic time for business. Nothing can be sacred within business. Hold your nerve, follow your customers, spot trends, observe them. Consumers will guide us to recovery and retailers can help power us out of the recession.”

He added that a number of initiatives had helped Tesco steer its way through the recession, including loyalty schemes and Tesco’s raft of sub-brands.

“At Tesco what’s helped is that we’ve introducing more tiers of goods - developing sub-brands within food and non-food, launching a new club card loyalty drive, and offering price deals. For example we have a men’s suit cut to £25.”

Leahy said that Tesco was also creating jobs. He said: “Tesco is a very large business, but we are trying to behave like a small one. We are creating 11,000 jobs in the UK this year.”  

Leahy also urged the government to do its part to help businesses out of the downturn. “Because we have to be helped by the government, politicians should do less not more with regulations,” he said.

Leahy also said that the internet was key: “It’s [internet shopping] growing steadily and is becoming more prominent in the recession because it’s a useful way to find value for customers and the appeal is broad.”

He added: “Retailers should be thinking about recovery now. It’s important that they are not looking in the wrong direction for 2010 and 2011.”

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