Tesco’s move to snap up the child-friendly restaurant chain shows it is worried about the future of its giant Extra stores
“We’ve got more space than we need; more and more of our customers are voting with their feet and ordering online; we’ve got to try something – anything – different: that is not how Tesco explained the thinking behind its near-£50m purchase of Giraffe, the restaurant chain.
But the acquisition is clearly born of the corporate realisation that, in the age of click-and-collect and online delivery, those giant Tesco Extra hypermarkets risk becoming white elephants.
Whether Giraffe is really an answer to the space problem is anybody’s guess. Tesco itself, probably wisely, is treading lightly by installing the restaurants initially in only 10 out of 250 Extra stores. If the idea is popular with shoppers, it can do more; if not, it will have to think of something else.
The big picture, though, seems clear enough: online could be 30% of the retail market one day. And, says Panmure Gordon’s Philip Dorgan, the implications of that are “cataclysmic” for traditional retailers wedded to added space and trying to make a “virtue out of a vice” through click and collect.
Buying Giraffe, then, seems only a small and uncertain step in addressing the shift in the retail market. If, like Dorgan, you are positive on Tesco, you’ll see a management adapting to digital disruption.
Sceptics, however, may feel Tesco is engaging in wishful thinking on a heroic scale if it thinks its Extras can ever become “retail destinations” in which to “relax, socialise, recharge”, as the corporate line has it: even with a Giraffe or two, they’ll still be big sheds with car parks.
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