Tesco strike: sales down almost 80% in picketed stores

Stores with no pickets saw sales drop during 11-day dispute, figures suggest

Tesco workers picket the store in Drumcondra, where sales dropped from €31,000 on the Monday prior to the strike to €9,000 on the following Monday. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Tesco workers picket the store in Drumcondra, where sales dropped from €31,000 on the Monday prior to the strike to €9,000 on the following Monday. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

Tesco Ireland saw sales across its store network fall significantly after picket lines were placed outside a small number of its shops.

The dispute centred around proposed contract changes to about 250 long-serving staff.

The Mandate trade union which represents staff employed by the retail giant called off its strike action on Friday night as Tesco agreed to put contract changes on hold to allow a new round of Labour Court talks take place.

However, figures seen by The Irish Times reveal the high price Tesco has already paid for the 11-day dispute, with sales in some shops where pickets were placed falling by almost 80 per cent and by more than 30 per cent in stores where no pickets were placed.

Mandate claims management is attempting to enforce contract changes which would see wages of staff recruited before 1996 fall by more than 15 per cent, a claim strongly denied by Tesco.

The first pickets were placed on eight shops on February 14th, with a further eight being picketed almost a week later.

Public support

Tesco had played down the support the strike had among the general public and its impact on sales, and claimed last week stores were trading well through the dispute.

However, the internal figures conflict with this account. They indicate Tesco’s small branch in Drumcondra, Dublin recorded sales of over €31,000 on the Monday prior to the strike, while the following Monday when there was a picket outside the store, sales fell to €9,000.

In the nearby Phibsborough and Stoneybatter branches, sales of about €58,000 and €51,000 respectively on the Monday before the strike fell to just over €17,000 and under €19,000 a week later.

The figures suggest the single biggest fall in sales in a store where strike action was taking place was recorded in the large Clearwater branch in Finglas. On the Monday before the strike, sales were €165,901, while a week later they were under €35,000, a drop of €130,916 or nearly 80 per cent.

Sales in other stores on strike – including Monaghan, Navan and Blanchardstown – reported declines of a similar scale.

Other branches

Even shops without pickets saw sales slump in the wake of the strike. Daily sales of €197,823 were recorded in the Tesco Extra in Clarehall on the Monday before the strike, while the following Monday with pickets on other stores, sales were €138,290, a decline of more than 30 per cent.

The fall between the two Mondays across 29 stores of all sizes totalled €827,896.

If a similar fall in sales was recorded across Tesco’s entire network of 145 stores, the daily drop before and after the strike started would be in excess of €4 million. As Mondays are traditionally a quiet day for supermarkets, the decline at the weekends could have been even sharper.

A daily loss of that scale would suggest the cumulative impact of the 11-day strike came close to €50 million, and while the retailer has a long-established policy of not revealing its profit margins in the Republic, such a decline in sales could have seen at least €2 million wiped off its bottom line.

When asked to comment on the scale of the drop-off in sales and how it squared with its earlier claims that stores had traded strongly during the dispute, a Tesco spokeswoman said it had “always maintained that inevitably there has been some impact on trade as a result of the industrial action which is to be expected”.

The spokeswoman declined to address specific queries about the scale of the decline in sales.