Can Morrisons return to roots?

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IN MANY respects, Oscar Wilde’s timeless maxim – “there is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about” – applies to Yorkshire supermarket giant Morrisons.

This is reflected by the level of correspondence that has been generated in The Yorkshire Post about the level of customer service offered by the Bradford-based chain, which remains one of this county’s greatest business success stories – and the region’s biggest plc – thanks to Sir Ken Morrison’s founding vision.

That so many readers have taken the trouble to express their views shows the extent to which people still care passionately about Morrisons and the challenges presently facing the company.

This is also the context behind today’s extraordinary intervention by the now retired Roger Owen, who was a director and close adviser of Sir Ken for more than three decades. Like those who have lamented shortcomings such as the failure of stores to stock basic items like semi-skimmed milk, Mr Owen is no longer prepared to tolerate mediocrity as the chain’s position in the FTSE 100 comes under pressure.

He is not alone in expressing concern over the store’s foray into online deliveries and the roll-out of convenience stores as part of a strategy which has seen current chief executive Dalton Philips and chairman Sir Ian Gibson face sustained criticism.

The question now is whether these men should remain at the helm. Having likened Morrisons to “a supertanker heading towards an iceberg”, Mr Owen clearly has his doubts, and his call for Sir Ian to depart is the sternest rebuke yet of the current management.

He is also critical of the current chief executive, insisting that he has “spent a load of money taking the business backwards when he should invested that money doing the hardcore proven stuff”.

Regardless of whether the two men in question remain in their posts, it is up to each member of staff to remember that Morrisons was at its strongest and most successful when there was an unshakeable bond between its stores and its customers.

Whatever the future direction holds, this is a relationship that needs to be rekindled if Morrisons is still to be talked about – but for the right reasons.

Mortgage move: Era of financial responsibility

by asking mortgage applicants for greater clarification about their financial circumstances and outgoings on items like mobile phones, gym memberships and Sky television that are now regarded as everyday items rather than luxuries, the authorities are restoring a check which had been allowed to become diminished.

After all, the human misery triggered by the financial crash was compounded by those irresponsible lenders who allowed their customers to become mortgaged to the hilt without giving sufficient thought to factors like salaries failing to keep pace with rises in the cost of living.

There will, of course, be some individuals who begrudge the extra inconvenience. However, most lenders already conform to the Mortgage Market Review reforms because they know

their credibility is on the line.

And, like it or not, it would be irresponsible of them not to ask prospective customers about contingency plans if there was a rise in interest rates or other outgoings like the cost of childcare.

A mortgage is still a significant undertaking and should never be taken lightly by homeowners.

Best in the world: Crucible trumps snooker venues

judd trump, snooker’s miscuing poster boy, might be slightly more amenable to his sport’s world championships continuing to be staged at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre if he had actually joined the greats and won this unique 17-day test of tactics and tenacity.

Thankfully Trump’s view is a minority one and the ever enthusiastic Barry Hearn, the mastermind behind snooker’s revival, could not have been more upbeat yesterday when he spoke about the unprecedented demand

for tickets for this year’s event.

Taking snooker’s most prestigious event away from the close confines of the Crucible, which enjoys an atmosphere of its own, would be akin to Wimbledon being moved from the hallowed All England Lawn Tennis Club to a less atmospheric venue.

To most of snooker’s elite players the Crucible trumps every other venue because of its history and prestige, which is why they want to win here more than anywhere else in the world.