Why I Would Still Steer Clear Of Tesco plc But Buy Crawshaw Group plc

The start to the 2016 trading year saw investors faced with a sea of red on their screens. As was the case in 2015, the market has plenty to worry about, whether that be a slowdown in China, a sliding oil price or political instability. But as investors, we simply need to cut through the noise and get on with it.

Amid the gloom, there were a couple of bright spots for me.

Shares in embattled supermarket Tesco (LSE: TSCO) finished the week on a high following a positive note from stockbrokers at fellow FTSE 100 company Barclays. And much, much further down the market cap, shares in meat and food-to-go retailer Crawshaw (LSE: CRAW) headed higher as investors welcomed a positive Christmas trading statement.

All still to do

Despite the upgrade and the associated rise in the share price, I feel that management at Tesco still has it all to do. Firstly, there’s the issue of sluggish sales in the most important part of the business – the UK. Here competition has never been so fierce on all fronts with Aldi and Lidl, the so-called discounters, at one end and Asda, J Sainsbury and WM Morrison at the other.

Secondly, management has to address a challenging consumer environment elsewhere in the group, and while sales in Europe and Asia actually rose in the first half, I don’t believe that it will all be plain sailing with economic growth patchy to say the least across the world.

All in, I believe that CEO Dave Lewis is righting the ship, but like a supertanker, this will take time.

Building a head of steam

Meanwhile, further down the market, Crawshaw has been quietly going about its business, by doing exactly what it says on the tin – selling a wide variety of quality fresh meats and food-to-go at value prices.

And on average, Crawshaw is around 33% cheaper than the big four supermarkets across a wide variety of meats, chicken and sausages. So it’s no wonder that business has been booming in its 39 outlets across the North and Northwest of the UK.

Investors seemed pleased with the in-line update from management last week, this despite the northern half of the country battling against levels of flooding not seen for some years.

Which one should you buy?

Well, for me the answer is fairly simple. Do you want to own a company that’s facing intense competition, has a fair chunk of debt, and is currently reducing its footprint. Or would you prefer something quite the opposite?

While I rate both management teams here, I believe that Crawshaw can continue to grow in its niche for some time to come. As we’ve seen from Aldi and Lidl, if you offer quality at the right price, the customers will come.

And, as evidenced by the chart below, investors seem to believe in Crashaw currently. Though the shares don’t look like a bargain at present, I believe that in years to come this company could at least double, possibly triple, in size making the shares seem more reasonably priced.

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Dave Sullivan has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.