Philip Clarke says outlets of coffee shop chain in which company owns 49% stake may appear in Tesco stores in future
Tesco’s chief executive, Philip Clarke, has offered a detailed explanation of the supermarket’s investment in the coffee shop business Harris + Hoole, which has the appearance of an independent company rather than one 49% owned by the retail group.
Clarke said in a blogpost on Tesco’s website that the business had flourished since its launch in the summer and that some outlets might be installed in Tesco stores in the future.
“We like backing great brands, helping them to grow and to realise their potential. We’ve done it with suppliers for years. Great ideas can find it hard to get backing these days, so we’re pleased to be in a position to help entrepreneurs achieve their vision,” Clarke said.
This month the Guardian reported critical remarks of customers of Harris + Hoole. The chain, named after characters in the Diary of Samuel Pepys, is run by the Australian siblings Nick, Andrew and Laura Tolley.
Clarke said: “We invested in Harris + Hoole after meeting entrepreneur Nick Tolley and his siblings Andrew and Laura, who are passionate about great coffee. They were looking for a company which could back their vision to bring quality coffee to a wider audience and we were impressed with their energy and enthusiasm. We thought customers would love the coffee and the warm, friendly atmosphere of their shops, so we decided to invest.”
Addressing the branding of a chain co-owned by one of the world’s biggest retail names, he added: “Some people have asked why it’s not branded Tesco. The H+H brand is part of its value – its distinctiveness and appeal. It’s the Tolleys’ business, their brand. Our investment helps them to take it further.”
Clarke said H+H outlets would appear in Tesco stores “when the Tolleys are ready”.
He said Tesco would back businesses “in which we see an opportunity for their brands to grow with ours”, using the garden centre business Dobbies – founded by James Dobbie in 1865 and in which Tesco invested in 2008 – as an example. “Dobbies, another Tesco business, does this brilliantly with coffee shops which customers travel to just for the scones,” Clarke said.
He cited the Euphorium bakery as another example of Tesco’s interest in backing businesses. Euphorium, founded in 1999 in Islington, north London, has an outlet in a Tesco store in Kensington.