Tesco bids to win over local communities

Tesco is stepping up its regĀ­ional comms armoury as the Competition Commission probes into supermarkets' local marketing practices.

It is positioning corporate affairs teams in three local regions and has brought in former Observer business journalist Sarah Ryle to be its first media manager dedicated to co-ordinating regional strategy. Ryle will be based in the retailer’s Cheshunt press office headquarters.

The move has emerged as the Competition Commission focuses on local comp­etition in its inv­­es­­­tigation into the grocery retail sector, due to be completed in 2008. Tesco has also had to manage growing criticism of its overall market dominance.

The new regional corporate affairs offices will open in Chippenham, Manchester and Livingstone.

These offices will take responsibility for regional media relations, liaising with local sourcing offices and improving rel­­a­t­­­ionships with local communities through initiatives such as meetings with local councillors.

Tesco will also continue its policy of opening of its local sourcing offices.

Ryle, who has been freelancing as a financial PR consultant for the two years since she left The Observer, will work alongside fellow media manager Trevor Datson in the main press office and reports into media director Jonathan Church.

A Tesco spokeswoman said: ‘Tesco is becoming more and more local and we want our communications structure to ref­lect our business objectives.’

She denied the move was related to the Competition Commission report. ‘These initiatives are in response to customers’ concerns and have been building for a while.

‘We know that it is increasingly important to customers for Tesco to source products locally and to further strengthen know­ledge of their communities.’

The regional PR offices join the eight local sourcing offices that Tesco announced last September. The sourcing offices are expected to be up by the end of the year and will be in Plymouth, Peterborough, York, Stafford, Cardiff, Scotland, Northern Ireland and possibly Horsham.

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