Tesco promotes marketing director Mason to head new US operation

LONDON - Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket chain, is to launch in the US in 2007 and has promoted marketing director Tim Mason to run the business.

Tesco is investing £250m in starting its US operations. It said that the stores would be a new convenience format, developed for the American market after extensive research. However, it will be based on the Tesco Express concept, which now operates in five countries.

Mason has been with Tesco since 1982 and took over as marketing operations director in 1993. In addition to his marketing and property director role, he is chairman of Tesco.com, and holds non-executive directorships at Tesco Personal Finance and GCap Media.

Marketing magazine named him as the most powerful marketer in the UK in its annual Power 100 list last year, and most recently he was behind the supermarket's decision to move its £45m advertising account out of Lowe London and into Sir Frank Lowe's start-up agency The Red Brick Road.

The US grocery market is worth over $600bn and forecast to grow by 40% in the next five years. Tesco said its first US store is due to open on the West Coast next year, and that it expects to break even by its second full year of operation.

Sir Terry Leahy, chief executive of Tesco, said: "This is a tremendously exciting move for Tesco, which will add a new leg to our international expansion.

"The US is the largest economy in the world with strong forecast growth and a sophisticated retail market. It is a market we have researched extensively for many years and over the last year we have committed serious resources to developing a format that we believe will be really popular with American consumers."

Tesco presently has 2,467 stores in 13 countries, mainly based in Europe and Asia. It claims a market-leading position in six of its 13 markets.

In 2004, J Sainsbury exited the US market when it sold its chain of Shaw's and Star Market stores for $2.5bn. It had been involved in the US market since 1983.

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