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A first look at Tesco’s discount retail store Jack’s

After months of speculation following reports back in March that Tesco was planning to enter the limited assortment discount market, its Jack’s concept was finally unveiled this week, seeing hordes of analysts and journalists descend on the Cambridgeshire town of Chatteris to check it out.

The concept has much in common with its German-owned competitors, utilising shelf-ready packaging, pallet displays, dumpbins full of borderline random general merchandise items and a heavy reliance on private label.

Buy British

The store is awash with references to British and local sourcing, Tesco having worked with 350 existing suppliers to formulate 1,800 new Jack’s-branded items that sit alongside well-known brands and tertiary names across fresh, chilled, ambient, frozen and GM.

It claims eight out of ten items are grown, reared or made in the UK and Tesco feels that gives it a bit of a distinctive stance against its continental cousins Lidl and Aldi. This strong emphasis on provenance as well as price should play well with customers, but Aldi and Lidl are also very strong on British goods, so this is by no means a USP to Jack’s, but its ability to lean on Tesco’s status as a British institution might resonate more in shoppers’ minds.

As for the store itself, it’s light, airy and spacious. The store design seems to place equal importance on both shopper and employee experience, which I imagine will make it a genuinely pleasant place to shop. There are some nice touches in terms of efficiency, such as bespoke rolling kit in produce, the store’s freezer unit being put at the front of the store next to the bakery to make life easier for bakery staff, 90% of the range being housed in shelf-ready packaging and the low-level freezers being both cheaper to buy and cheaper to run.

Checkout

From a checkout perspective, there is a decent combination of five self-checkouts, four manned tills and the Shop Smart self-scanning app.

The latter could prove to be a genuine differentiator against Aldi and Lidl. Both of these chains have become a lot more dextrous in terms of checkout configurations and the deployment of self-checkouts, but have yet to implement any sort of scan-as-you-shop technology.

The Shop Smart app appears to be a fairly simple and user-friendly means of self-scanning. Shoppers firstly need to confirm their location on the app and then start shopping, either scanning the barcodes on most items, or scanning the price label on loose items. One nice touch (particularly relevant in a discount store environment) is that the app keeps a running total of total spend as the shopping trip progresses, meaning that value-conscious shoppers can more easily stick to their budgets.

The checkout experience itself looks equally user-friendly: customers scan the barcode on the self-checkout and the shopping basket will be downloaded to the checkout, leaving the shopper to pay and leave. For a store that it aiming to save shoppers time and effort as much as money, this seems like a fantastic solution.

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