The “Tesco” – now a unit of measurement…

Came across this interesting piece on the BBC website by columnist Michael Blastland: In the age of mega numbers it seems their may be valid call to relate a brand to a quantity?

As shops go, Tesco is the daddy. It’s often said that £1 in every £7 spent in the shops is spent at Tesco. The company’s global sales this year were about £60bn, UK sales about £40bn.

That’s handy. No, not just because it keeps thousands in jobs, pays profits to our pension funds and taxes to the government etc (though let’s not forget it has critics). Tesco puts the world in proportion…

In fact, Go Figure can reveal that government ministers increasingly struggle to get their heads round the national finances. For most of the numbers in public argument have gone enormous too. Billions, trillions? Too many zeros. What better way to understand them than with a new unit of measurement? From now on the Treasury will measure the economy and public spending in: The Tesco.

So how does that work?

This translates to:

Which means that…

However, Tesco isn’t just a British operation, so if we use the global sales of Tesco as our standard unit, at about £60bn, then…

The UK economy = about 24 Tescos

US economy = about 156 Tescos.

Total UK government spending = about 11 Tescos.

Total UK government debt = about 13 Tescos.

Confidential Cabinet papers reveal that Ed Balls is calling for two Tescos for the Department of Children Schools and Families but may be willing to forgo the men’s clothing, while Overseas Aid has put in a bid for an extra frozen veg. Transport has accepted a cut of in-store bakery and toiletries.

Meanwhile, Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco chief executive, only – only? – has to increase his global business relative to the US by about 156 times and Tesco would be the world’s biggest economy. Do you think he knows?

Any ideas for other new units of measurement that could simplify the world? Send your suggestions and we’ll post the best.

Sources: Public Finances Databank, Public Expenditure Statistical Analysis, Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, US Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Note: Why doesn’t UK GDP (35 Tescos) equal the private sector (28 Tescos) plus public spending (15 Tescos)? Mainly because a large part of public spending is transfer payments (pensions and benefits and the like), that is, cash simply taken from one person and given to another. This is not part of GDP. So some of the private sector output is counted again in public spending when the money taken in tax is paid out in pensions etc.

Assumptions: GDP approx £1.4tn. Public spending approx 44% of GDP. Market sector output approx 80% of GDP. UK debt to GDP ratio approx 63%. Readers have a sense of humour – the Treasury won’t really being doing its sums in The Tesco.


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