THE scale of the task that faced Dave Lewis when he took the top job at Tesco in September 2014 cannot be underestimated. The UK’s biggest grocer was faced with the fall-out of a damaging accounting scandal, and performing poorly in light of the intense competition brought by discounters Lidl and Aldi. It really did look like the once mighty giant of the grocery world had lost its way.

But, since succeeding Philip Clarke, Mr Lewis has wasted no time in getting Tesco back on track. He has shifted the focus back to the company’s core grocery business, putting more attention on customer service and harnessing the strength of its buying power to take the discounters on at their own game. Non-core businesses such as its optical division, Dobbie’s Garden Centres, and Giraffe restaurant group have been disposed to allow Tesco to focus on what it arguably does best.

But big challenges remain. While analysts praised Mr Lewis for the recovery made under his watch, they sounded a note of caution over surging inflation and pressure on earnings. And there was a further twist when news broke of Amazon’s $13.7 billion bid for US giant Whole Foods, which spooked investors and sent Tesco shares tumbling nearly five per cent last night.

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Mr Lewis demonstrated his willingness to play hard ball with suppliers in Tesco’s public spat with Unilever, and pledged yesterday to keep prices down. This will be welcomed by consumers in such uncertain times. But smaller suppliers might be worried this has a sting in the tail for them.

It is tricky balancing act for Mr Lewis to perform.