CHANGES at supermarket giant Morrisons are heading in the right direction but there is room for further improvement, according to its former chairman.
Sir Ken Morrison told The Yorkshire Post that he wanted to see the senior management team focus on fresh food, stock control and good service.
He remained silent during the hour-long AGM at Morrisons’ head office in Bradford yesterday but spoke to the Yorkshire Post afterwards.
“Changes are appearing that are benefitting the supermarket but there is a long way to go,” he said.
“I want to see them go back to form and the things that work really well - because the public hasn’t changed that much.
“I want to see things available and fresh, and good service.”
He added: “They (management) seem to be on the right track.”
Last year, Sir Ken and his son William acquired 4.7 million shares in Sainsbury’s, giving them a £12m stake in the firm. The news came to light on the day that Morrisons was relegated from the London Stock Exchange’s elite FTSE 100 index following falling sales, profits and market share.
However, Britain’s fourth biggest supermarket has turned a corner following years of decline as shoppers return to the much-loved Northern grocery chain.
Morrisons said like-for-like sales rose 0.7 per cent in the 13 weeks to May 1, which is the second consecutive quarter of growth after four years of disappointing trading.
After a year in the job, chief executive David Potts has managed to turn the ship around after years of mismanagement.
Mr Potts is attempting to return the Yorkshire retailer to its roots as a value grocer, offering quality food at low prices. He has closed unprofitable stores, cut the fat at head office with 800 job cuts, hired 5,000 extra store staff, got rid of the expensive vegetable misting machines.
Addressing shareholders, chairman Andrew Higginson said Morrisons prices are about 2.6 per cent lower than a year ago.
“It has been another tough year in our industry,” he said. “The presence of strong competition continues...and whilst we’ve started to see some signs of recovery in the economy, that has stalled more recently. But against that background, I believe Morrisons has made good progress under David’s leadership. He’s assembled a new senior team, cut costs and simplified operations and all of that has helped us to make the changes in store that have attracted customers old and new.”
He added: “We’ve now seen two positive quarters of like for like sales after 16 quarters of decline.”
“I know these are only small steps but they are steps in the right direction and there is a lot more to do.”
Mr Higginson fielded questions from shareholders ranging from the EU referendum to the packaging on broccoli.
He said the supermarket, which has a neutral stance on the EU referendum, was ready for both possible outcomes.
Meanwhile, Mr Potts announced plans to launch Nutmeg Ladies - a women’s clothing brand - in 50 stores next January as well as extend Morrisons’ Nutmeg children’s clothing brand to all stores by the end of this year.
In addition all stores will be upgraded or refurbished by the end of 2017/18.
Mr Potts said Morrisons was building a business based on listening. “We’re optimistic that steady progress is being made,” he said. “Listening and responding quickly is at the heart of the Morrisons revival. The improvements that have been made in the last year have been informed by listening.”