Cheap veggies, bargain breakfast cereals and economy ready meals – Tesco has built its reputation on offering budget-conscious food for savvy shoppers. But the latest move by the über-supermarket is a step too far in the penny-saving direction.
The high street giant has just announced plans to open 70 new beauty salons across the UK. Treatments include manicures, threading, and waxing, with haircuts and colouring being offered later this year. Customers will also be able to buy prestige beauty brands such as Clarins or Clinique.
The new Your Beauty Salons will sit inside existing Tesco Extra stores, giving customers the chance of a trim while pushing their trolley round the aisles. While some may find it convenient to top up their nail tips during a supermarket trip, I'm not convinced.
Tesco represents cheap, unethical food and the death of the traditional High Street. I'm not keen to support their march into yet another area they have no business doing business in. The staggering wealth of information they hold about their shoppers is also unsettling. I have urged my friends against getting a Clubcard as I don't like the fact they track your shopping habits, including your monthly cycle, indicated by how often you buy tampons or towels.
What happens if you start collecting Clubcard points on a bikini wax? Will you suddenly find your inbox flooded with vouchers for condoms or cranberry tablets? "Ooh, she's had another Brazilian. She must be seeing someone new. What can we flog her this week?"
I'm also struggling with the very image of Tesco as a beauty salon. Their bright lights and garish colours don't marry too well with the soothing music and suede seats of my usual beauty parlour. Why would I swap half an hour of indulgence for a swift spit 'n' polish style pedicure?
Tesco seems to have totally missed this vital point. For many women, a trip to the salon is about escaping the routine of our daily lives, and that includes trudging round the supermarket. Why on earth would I want to sit inside a hairdressers, inside a superstore? I want to be pampered, not pressed between the discount kettles and reduced ready-meals.
I'm not the only one having doubts. Upmarket beauty brands such as Clinique have so far refused to say whether they will allow their products to be sold in Tesco's salons. Critics say it's unlikely, as these brands have a carefully crafted premium image. Tesco's "pile em high and sell em cheap" ethos is worlds away from this luxurious branding.
Tesco seems intent on sticking its fingers into every area of our lives; from food, finance and phones to broadband, buying a home and now beauty salons. Where will they stop? With the NHS virtually up for grabs, will Tesco be running my local A&E by Christmas? Will I get extra Clubcard points for using Tesco-branded plaster on a broken leg?
There are plenty of wonderful, local beauty salons that really need our business right now. I would rather pay a little extra for individual service, than save a few pounds on a mass-market manicure. Surely personal pampering beats Tesco Value vajazzling every time?
By: Rosalind Ryan