I'm in the middle of a UK Tour of stores, but amongst the stores I visited today were Tesco in Hertford and Barking - both recipients of the new refresh treatment - so I think that warrants jotting down my first impressions.
The common theme across the store is wood - and lots of it. The totems outside now have a wood surround, the trolley bays are wood framed and I'm certain that Costa were only the nod as the cafe supplier as they have wooden floors.
This is of course not an original idea, and the counters run is uncannily similar to the latest Sainsbury's stores.
However, Tesco made their name by fretting over details and the big "Hello" sign that greets you at Barking (see pic) is testament to that. New benches, ornamental trees and another big "hello" around the entrance are all wonderful little features that put you on a good frame of mind as you enter the store.
Given that Hertford was set up for the press, I was expecting more and must admit to being largely disappointed. The store was "ok", but then so was the unrefreshed store I had visited in Hemsworth earlier in the day. Part of the problem with Hertford is that it has no power aisle due to the shape of the building. This results is long gondola runs - thankfully without top-stock shelves - which in ambient grocery look quite dull and get no true benefit from the new paint on the walls. A large number of stores built in the 1990s have this configuration and a solution will need to be found to resolve this problem.
Barking was a different proposition altogether - the space of the power aisle gives the shopper the full benefit of the new colour pallet. I know this store well from my days at Tesco and there seemed a real buzz with the store staff that I'd not seen for a while. Giving their store teams something to be proud of again is really valuable and I hope it can be replicated.
As a side note, there's also a real buzz around the new Everyday Brand with store teams I have spoken to. With products like the cake in the photo, I'm not surprised. The speed at which blue stripes are disappearing is phenomenal and they have already overtaken Asda's rollout of the new Smart Price brand.
Again, this is giving store teams things to be proud of. Store Managers who are proud of their store and their products are set up for success. From what I've seen today, rumours of Tesco's death are grossly exaggerated