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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 February 2006, 20:05 GMT
Tesco boss defends firm's growth
Tesco metro store
Tesco has been expanding rapidly
Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy has defended the retailer against claims it has become too powerful, saying most people are happy with its service.

Sir Terry, who has overseen Tesco's huge growth in recent years, said customers would ultimately decide how large the retailer became.

"There are relatively few people who have a big problem with Tesco," he told BBC Five Live's Weekend Business show.

Consumers still had "plenty of choice" where they shopped, Sir Terry added.

Diverse market

Tesco has become a dominant force in the UK grocery market, with a 30% share of supermarket sales.

We will only stay big if we give customers what they want
Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco chief executive

MPs recently warned that the independent stores were under threat from the power of the big supermarkets and that High Street choice was gradually being eroded.

"I don't agree with that," Sir Terry told the BBC.

"I think there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. Shopping in Britain is very diverse and is changing a lot."

"More than 90% of people have a choice of three supermarkets."

'Striking a balance'

Sir Terry said Tesco had to "strike a balance" between helping families to shop on a tight budget and providing a return to shareholders by maximising sales and profits.

He said it was "natural" for people to question Tesco's success but stressed it was customers who had put the company where it is today.

"The reason we are big is that over the years customers have chosen Tesco. We will only stay big if we give customers what they want."

Tesco is expanding rapidly abroad and recently announced plans to open stores in the US for the first time.

Tesco was "doing well" overseas, Sir Terry said, but stressed it was still a relatively small player on a global scale.

"It will be many years before we know ultimately how big Tesco will become," he added.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear an interview with Sir Terry Leahy



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