The largest supermarket chain in Britain, offering various kinds of supermarkets, an ISP service, home delivery, a clothing line and just about everything else, Tesco has become synonymous with the Great British food shop. They operate 907 supermarkets and employ 204000 people.
Tesco was founded in 1924 by T.E. Stockwell and Albert Cohen, an amalgamation of whose names created the chain's name. It grew rapidly, and growth accelerated after the 1960s, when the concept of the supermarket and self-service shopping became more dominant than the old model of the corner shop, butcher's, bakery and many others.
Tesco made its first attempt at branching out in 1974, when the first petrol station attached to one of the chain's supermarkets was seen. This venture proved successful, and the company now accounts for 12.5% of all petrol sold in the UK. It was also the first supermarket to introduce a loyalty card, the Reward Card, released in 1995, and now the scourge of handbags everywhere. Not content with this one bit of plastic in people's pockets, they launched Tesco Personal Finance in 1997 in conjunction with the Royal Bank of Scotland, meaning that if you run out of cash while paying for your cauliflower, you can take a loan out at the till.
In the 1990s, Tesco coupled its service expansion with geographical expansion, opening supermarkets in Ireland, France, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea. In 2001, there were 107 Tesco supermarkets in Central Europe. It also took over from Sainsbury's as the top supermarket chain in the middle of this decade.
Tesco enjoys today a fairly large market lead, and is using it to good effect. The company is able to undercut other chains because of its huge buying power and profits, cutting prices well below what others can cut to. They launched their Tesco.com home delivery service nationwide in 1999, and have enjoyed huge success with that venture. For a delivery fee of £5, an employee of the chain buys groceries according to your list and they are delivered to your door at a time that is convenient to you. It is a testament to their astronomical profits that they can do this, although they are likely making a loss.
Tesco's tesco.net ISP service is one of the largest in the UK. It offers cheap access appealing to the home market, and has probably been successful mostly because of successful marketing at outlets.
All this is to forget to mention Tesco's supermarkets themselves. Tesco runs a number of different variants on the supermarket model, including Tesco extra, Tesco wine outlets at French port cities, and Tesco's equivalent of a corner shop. A typical store has the Tesco emblem (Large blue capital letters with serifs underlined by stylised red dashes) emblazoned at the front of the actual supermarket, which will probably be offset from the road by a petrol station forecourt and car park. Inside, floors are in magnolia, with colourful signs on a base of white hanging from the ceiling pointing the shopper in the way of recommended bargains.
Most Tesco stores have a fishmonger's area, a bakery, a magazine stand, a pharmacy, a delicatessen, and many have a restaurant. About half will also include a section including items which are not foodstuffs: Tesco own-brand or discount designer clothes, games, toys, and books. Within the food areas, there is a large selection of brands for mundane food, but little selection of food less likely to cater to all tastes. Tesco own brand products abound, with three varieties for some products: Finest, Standard, and Value.
Tesco states its core purpose as: 'To create value for our customers, to earn their lifetime loyalty'. Their two stated core values are: 'No one tries harder than we do for our customers' and 'We treat people the way we like to be treated.' They run a number of community initiatives, including Tesco Schoolnet, but have been criticised for their harsh treatment of farmers and suppliers.