The clock is ticking for Philip Clarke

HAVING initially rejected predecessor Sir Terry Leahy’s dual role of running the UK on top of being group chief executive, just one year later Clarke has conceded “there is just not room for two captains in the same team”.

There would have been plenty of space had things been going well. But this is a year after the £500m investment in its “Big Price Drop” campaign, Richard Brasher’s baby, became a big flop, leading to the company’s first profit warning in two decades. February’s data indicating Tesco’s share of the UK grocery market had fallen to 29.7 per cent – a seven-year low – was the final nail in the coffin. Clarke had no choice but to seize back control.

The supermarket group may be making big inroads overseas, most notably in Asia which now accounts for 17 per cent of sales, but the UK is still by far its biggest market – generating 70 per cent of sales.

The clock is now ticking – analysts expect Clarke to juggle this dual role for just a year. In this year, Clarke must at the very least stabilise Tesco’s market share – if not increase it. Admitting an over-reliance on cost-cutting, Clarke has pledged to invest hundreds of millions in revamping UK stores. The first chance to prove his mettle to investors will be at its full-year results on 18 April. But woe-betide Clarke if he cannot deliver. Now he’s the only man at the helm, he is the only person to blame if UK market share continues to fall.