Fresh eyes at Tesco, who needs quotas, Barbie “leans in”

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One of the speakers at the E-Commerce Summit in Barcelona a few weeks ago, was from Tesco.  Nick Lansley, the Head of Open Innovation at Tesco Labs was bubbling with ideas, excited and enthusiastic about the possibilities that technology brings to Tesco.  He spoke about the supermarket giant’s strategy of giving customers the ultimate shopping experience, where everything we do is somehow touched by Tesco.

It might start with loading up our grocery trollies or ordering online, but there is mobile, banking, coffee shops we didn’t even know were owned by Tesco and taking lunch in the Giraffe restaurant chain and more. Yup, Tesco bought a bit of that too. He talked about interconnectivity and innovation and being able to do anything, anywhere, anytime and Tesco somehow having something to do with it all. I found it rather terrifying. My question about whether Tesco was trying to take over not just the High Street, but the world, was met with nervous laughter.

Yet it does seem Tesco is out of touch. This week, the firm warned that sales and trading profits for the first half of the year “were below expectations” despite a raft of store makeovers and price cuts.

In the last three years Tesco spent more than £1bn revamping its UK stores and product ranges. None of that succeeded  in halting a slide in sales and profits or stop the swathe of shopper defections to rivals. Now boss Philip Clarke has been brutally ousted and replaced by a little-known executive from Unilever who has no retail experience (although he has been responsible for some of the biggest brands on Tesco’s shelves, like Dove, Lynx and Sure). 

New boy Dave Lewis has the advantage of coming in as an outsider with a fresh pair of eyes, but he will be under huge pressure to show quick results. He needs to show that Tesco is serious about becoming a real competitor in the market again. That means finding out what their customer really wants. Is that really Tesco everything, everywhere? I doubt it.  The innovation lab has its work cut out.

FTSE 100 gender balance

At last there are finally no all-male boards in the FTSE 100.  Glencore Xstrata has appointed Patrice Merrin as its first female director.

The Anglo-Swiss mining and trading giant had come under heavy criticism from the government, its shareholders and the 30% Club  – which aims to get FTSE 100 boards to be made up of 30 per cent women by the end of 2015 – for lagging behind other FTSE-100 firms.

What is great is that it has been a voluntary approach. There have been no quotas imposed here. Instead, a powerful combination of public policy and private sector actions in the UK has made having an all-male board a thing of the past. Other countries are talking about this business-led approach too, from Hong Kong to the US, Canada and Ireland.

The overall number of women on UK boards is continuing to rise as well. The proportion of female FTSE 100 board directors has risen from 12.5% in 2011 to 21.6% currently, and the ‘gap’ to reach Lord Davies’s target of 25% seats to be held by women by 2015 is now a mere 62 female appointments.

Business can help itself, and rapid the progress can be made once industry leaders are committed.

Barbie means business


Leggy blond doll Barbie has found a new calling as an entrepreneur. Toymaker Mattel has teamed up with eight female entrepreneurs to launch the tech-savvy doll, who comes equipped with a tablet, a smartphone and a laptop case.

Barbie has always been billed as more than just a pretty face in a princess dress. Since making her 1959 debut, she has showcased her versatility, with stints across sectors from medicine to aerospace. She has also been a business executive, U.S. Presidential candidate and a news anchor, like me. 

“She’s ready to take on anything that comes her way,” Mattel spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni said earlier this year.

So far, what fun. Then I see that Entrepreneur Barbie is meant to be an inspirational doll –  part of Mattel’s ‘I can be’ line of career-oriented Barbies, which launched in 2010 to showcase modern-day careers for women. All with killer bodies, great wardrobes and big glossy hair. Let’s hope the take-home message isn’t hey, you can be anything you want to girls, just so long as you look good first.