Morrisons is undoubtedly in a better place with David Potts leading the old guard grocer than it has been in years. But like an old dog, teaching it some new tricks will be a long slow process.
Potts took Morrisons to task and in the first few weeks in his post he has made a significant impact even if on the face of it the stores are still old, slow and costly. Sales will take time to recover but it will take longer still before profits catch up so we shouldn’t be surprised by a profit line lagging behind the sales line.
Potts isn’t an evangelical character however, more a studious retailer who just understands customers and shops. That alone isn’t going to help him take any shortcuts in breathing new life into some of the tired formats that litter the estate like museums to a retailing past. But getting the principles right will go a long way in wooing customers back even if the store looks dated.
Customer service is at the forefront of all the Big 4’s decisions at the moment and Morrisons is no exception, adding hours and manpower to customer facing roles and thinning out the top heavy management structure. While this was uncomfortable for the business it was completely necessary and Potts has gained respect as a result.
Growth will come not surprisingly, from online and convenience formats but to gain ground on it’s main competitors will take a heavy foot on the accelerator, and cash. Cash will be in short supply while top line growth is heavily dependent on price cuts, so a steady expansion plan will be the best we can hope for.
Where steady progress won’t be acceptable is in the marketing strategy and how that translate into the core estate. Big bold marketing messages are what’s needed to convert the public and get them to take notice again, and for those messages to be consistently delivered in store.
Simple to say, harder to do. Morrison’s Q1 trading update comes as no surprise, sales decline, and lots of deep cutting plans to come over the coming months and years. It’s a long game with no shortcuts, so we’d better get comfortable.