Tesco boss demands agreement on Protocol to avoid supply chain issues
THE boss of supermarket giant Tesco has called on the UK Government to come to an agreement with the EU on the Protocol to avoid potential issues facing supply chains between Northern Ireland and Britain.
Chief executive Ken Murphy, speaking as the chain was announcing quarterly sales figures, said the ongoing negotiations between the UK and EU over checks on goods was presenting a problem.
He said: "We've found a solution for the vast majority of our product range in terms of local sourcing. For me it's just about addressing the ease of movement, the paperwork and the bureaucracy involved.
"I think it's important to settle down everybody in terms of making sure that the United Kingdom can operate as a functioning country moving product across the borders with ease.
"We're very keen to preserve the kind of harmony and the movement of products as freely as possible across those borders.
"If there's no solution the truth is we will be able to service our business in Northern Ireland. We'll be able to supply the vast majority of what we supply today at competitive prices."
Tesco revealed that sales managed to stay in positive territory in the 13 weeks to May 29 compared with a year ago, despite the same period in 2020 being during the height of the first lockdown, when supermarket shelves were stripped bare.
Mr Murphy said the pandemic boom in online shopping is continuing and demand for home cooking remains strong, with cooking and baking products up 20 per cent.
He said: "The key changes that we're seeing since the restrictions have been eased is a return to more normalised shopping patterns.
"We're seeing higher frequency shopping and we're seeing smaller basket sizes.
"We're also seeing a shift again towards the weekend days being our peak shopping days in terms of traffic.
"There's definitely been a shift back to eating out, but there continues to be a strong demand for eating at home.
"As a consequence, things like beer, wine and spirits have stayed remarkably strong."
Tesco said sales in its UK supermarkets grew 0.5 per cent to £10 billion over the period - up 9.3 per cent on the same period two years ago before the pandemic.
But in the Republic of Ireland, sales slumped 6.1 per cent to £641 million and central Europe dropped 1.6 per cent to £940 million. Total sales were up 1 per cent to £13.4 billion in the period.
Tesco also confirmed that it is set to launch its first checkout-free store following a successful trial for staff at its head office in Welwyn Garden City over the past year.
Mr Murphy said plans are in the early stages, but he is hopeful it can match the appeal of similar scan-and-go stores being rolled out by Amazon in the UK.