Chris Evans

7th August 2020

Business News

How the UK's Top 10 Employers are Bouncing Back - Part 1

Coca-Cola are leading the way in showing how major multinationals are having to rethink their bounce back strategy. Killing 200 “Zombie Brands” is a bold but necessary step for the US drinks giant.

Every company must start developing their own “Bounce Back Strategy” now. Size or fame are no bar to getting your business ready. Planning for the next stage of the COVID-19 crisis and the (hopefully soon) recovery from it will take some hard and, at times, backward decisions to move a business forward.

Plimsoll, the UK-based business analysts, have taken a forensic look at the UK’s top ten businesses. In this two-part series, we will examine the unique challenges, as well as some common hurdles, these businesses face as they develop their bounce back strategies for 2021 and beyond.


Of course, the panic buying during the first months of the virus panic will have fed the perception that Tesco and the other major supermarkets are awash with money. That doesn’t reflect the reality with very thin profit margins.

Tesco is already looking to divest itself from overseas territories including its Thai-based Tesco Lotus chain, which it sold to a local businessman for over US$10 billion.

As it concentrates efforts into its domestic business, tens of thousands of jobs are already set to be axed and contracts for outsourced support services such as cleaning scrapped.

Plimsoll’s latest assessment of Tesco Plc shows the problems retailers large and small are grappling with. 321,000 employees generate the lowest sales per employee of the top 10 UK businesses. As they struggle with the march of the low-cost supermarkets and squeezed household budgets, they must address this issue urgently.


As with Tesco, Sainsbury’s have enjoyed a boon from panic buying of food and staples amid the pandemic. Elsewhere they have also enjoyed high growth from the move to be a more “digital” business and revenue from Argos surged 10.7% as people increasing bought home office equipment and entertainment for the pandemic.

The acquisition of Argos was part of a diversification strategy away from other traditional competitors. That is bearing fruit amid the pandemic, but the CEO has already warned that profit margins will not rise this year. Sales at Argos could fall as the recession hits discretionary spending.

Plimsoll’s latest analysis of Sainsbury’s marks it out as a low margin company with pre-tax profits of barely 1%. In these conditions, the company needs a bounce back strategy that delivers improved margins and restructures loss making parts of the business, particularly financial services and clothes. 


With the recent float of the company’s tower business on the German Stock Exchange rather than in London, there are feelings that Vodafone is gravitating more towards the European markets in preparation for Brexit. Over 30% of revenue currently comes from Germany.

The coronavirus will have a knock-on effect of reducing income from roaming charges as people travel less. The recent UK government decision on Huawei will impact short-term profit as they absorb inevitable increased costs. The move to neutralise some of the costs of Brexit now are shrewd. Joint ventures into cybersecurity with its tie-up with Accenture show a company diversifying to stay ahead of change.

Plimsoll’s latest assessment of Vodafone shows a company that has swung from major losses to a healthy £795 million profit in the latest year. Unlike other major UK firms there doesn’t seem to be a major push towards shedding jobs or dividends in the face of the pandemic. Diversification seems to be their main bounce back strategy.


Contrary to the perceived wisdom that drug companies have been major beneficiaries of COVID-19, GSK has seen a major hit to its established vaccine business. Nobody has been getting vaccinated for the first part of the year and revenue has fallen 29%. Lockdowns around the company’s key market, particularly the US, has reduced the number of people getting inoculated for diseases like meningitis and hepatitis.

Obviously, the joint venture with French giant Sanofi to produce a vaccine is already starting to generate potential revenue with the UK government signing a deal to take 60 million units. The global demand for COVID-19 vaccines is set to be enormous.

Plimsoll’s latest assessment of GSK shows a high profit company with the capacity to wait out the downturn until demand recovers. Their bounce back strategy rests on innovation and their ability to develop a cure the virus both as a new revenue stream and to get demand for its existing drugs and vaccines back on track.


The utilities giant has been caught out by COVID-19 perhaps more than any other of the top 10. However, its bounce back strategy appears to be much more advance and in-depth than any other company.

The owner of British Gas has had to be ruthless in its cost reduction to shore up its balance sheet. Unions have decried the changes to employment terms as a “fire and rehire” but cost savings were imperative. Elsewhere, its decision to sell off US supplier Direct Energy for US$3.6 billion spells the end of its overseas expansion.

Plimsoll’s latest analysis of Centrica shows a business surviving on almost non-existent profit margins despite having the second-best sales per employee among the top 10 UK companies at £125,000. Clearly, the new management are keen to simplify the business and focus on profitable elements to help it bounce back.


Plimsoll specialises in helping any company, in any industry, to develop their own bounce back strategy. It doesn’t matter if you work from a small unit or if you are the CEO of a major multinational, the next 12 months are set to bring economic change never seen in our lifetimes - and you must identify how to make the best of it.

Visit to find out more about how Plimsoll can help you benchmark your own performance in a key market, spot companies heading for danger, pick M&A opportunities and monitor the latest trends.