* Tesco market share falls to 10-year low of 28.7 pct
* CEO doesn't expect to be in top job as long as predecessor
* Clarke declines comment on future of CFO
* Tesco cuts prices, revamps stores
* Shares down 0.4 percent, not far from 16-month low
By Emma Thomasson
LONDON, March 12 Tesco Plc Chief
Executive Philip Clarke does not feel investors are running out
of patience with his leadership even after the market share of
Britain's biggest retailer fell to a decade low, he said on
Tesco, the world's third-largest retailer, is 22 months into
a turnaround programme under Clarke, but sales are still falling
at its 3,150 British stores despite spending on refits, more
staff and new product ranges.
The retailer, whose slogan is "Every Little Helps", is being
squeezed in its home market between hard discounters Aldi
and Lidl on the one hand and more
upmarket brands Waitrose (part of John Lewis ) and
Marks & Spencer Plc on the other.
Its market share fell to 28.7 percent - the lowest since
2004 - in the 12 weeks to March 2, from 29.6 percent in the same
period a year before, data from market researcher Kantar
Worldpanel showed on Tuesday.
Speaking at the annual Retail Week Live conference, Clarke,
who took over as CEO in 2011 after a long career at Tesco, said
he did not expect to be in the job as long as his predecessor
Terry Leahy, who led the company for 13 years.
"You only have a job like this for a few years," he said.
"I am not a young man, I'm 54 years of age and I've given it
Asked if that meant investors were saying his time was
running out, Clarke said: "I don't feel it at all. What I feel
is a much greater obligation to the company and the
stakeholders... customers, colleagues and shareholders.
"It's not a question about discounters or something else,
it's about doing the right thing for our customers."
Tesco shares were down 0.4 percent at 314.3 pence by 1134
GMT, not far from a 16-month low of 313.2p set last month. The
stock trades on a multiple of 11 times year-ahead forecast
earnings, a 23 percent discount to UK peers, according to
Clarke, whose father was a Tesco store manager, joined the
company as a shelf-stacker in 1974 and was then hired as a
management trainee after graduating with a degree in economic
history. He joined the board as supply chain director in 1998.
He declined to comment on a Sky News report that Chief
Finance Officer Laurie McIlwee, who has been with Tesco since
2009, was likely to leave in the next few months amid tensions
with the CEO.
"Big companies take a long time to change, we have more than
3,000 stores ... That takes time," Clarke said. "I know our
business is getting better. There is a lag between it getting
better and people talking about it."
Clarke said last month Tesco, which ranks third globally by
sales after Walmart Stores Inc and Carrefour SA
, would cut prices as he effectively abandoned a target
for a UK operating margin of 5.2 percent, the highest in the
industry, adding he would also speed up store revamps and
investment in online and convenience channels.
At Tuesday's conference, Clarke stressed the importance of a
shift to smaller stores as consumers around the world move from
a big weekly shop to more frequent, smaller purchases. "People
living their lives on the go want to grab and go," he said.
"Bigger is no longer seen as better by today's customer."
Wal-Mart said last month it was doubling the number of
smaller new stores it planned to open this year to combat
sluggish sales, broaden its customer base and fend off rivals.
Clarke said convenience stores were among Tesco's
highest-returning investments and performance was improving
further as the company adjusted its supply chain to the format.
Separately on Wednesday Tesco launched a UK fuel saving
promotion that will involve investment of a magnitude similar to
the 200 million pounds ($332.55 million)of price cuts it
announced last month.
It said Clubcard Fuel Save awards holders of its loyalty
card a 2p fuel discount for every 50 pounds spent in a month,
though customers don't have to spend 50 pounds all at once.