The recent announcement that Tesco is launching an Internet phone service for customers would have made Jack Cohen, the firm’s founder, and Daisy Hyams, his chief buyer, speechless in utter disbelief.
For, according to legend, Jack who started the firm in 1919 from a barrow with £30 demob money and Daisy, the first woman he employed and who, as chief buyer, became one of the most powerful figures in British retailing, would not allow anyone else to make a telephone call without first justifying the cost.
Together they built his “Pile it High, Sell it Cheap” chain store empire which today has more than 250,000 employees and nearly 2,000 stores in the UK selling everything from fresh meat and vegetables to clothes, electrical goods, books, insurance, and videos.
Tesco is the most successful online supermarket company and having essentially conquered Britain’s High Street, the firm is now firmly set on international expansion.
The drive overseas started in the mid 1990’s and today has more 100,000 employees in 12 overseas markets in Europe and Asia, with China its No 1 priority.
There are those who argue – particularly competitors – that Tesco has simply become too powerful and uses its muscle to unfairly screw manufacturers and producers on prices.
Clearly they never met with the redoubtable Daisy Hyams who, in her heyday, was known to literally reduce suppliers to tears when it came to haggling over prices.