Analyst hits out at ‘delusional’ Morrisons deal

A LEADING retail analyst said Morrisons is “delusional” if it believes that a multi-million pound partnership deal with Ant and Dec can help revive its flagging fortunes.

The supermarket group will sponsor the pair’s Saturday night hit shows for ITV, Britain’s Got Talent and Saturday Night Takeaway.

Ant and Dec will also feature in a TV advertising campaign to showcase Morrisons’ traditional skills – the butchers, bakers and fishmongers – that set it says set it apart from rivals.

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The Bradford-based company has been dropping sales and losing ground to its competitors and on Monday is expected to reveal poor trading over the all-important Christmas period, piling more pressure on chief executive Dalton Philips and his plans to modernise the business.

Clive Black, of Shore Capital, told the Yorkshire Post: “Morrisons has recently spoken that it needs to improve its communication to the markets and clearly thinks Ant and Dec can help in that process. We’ll see.

“However, to think that its underperformance of the market is down solely to communication is unreal to our minds.

“More fundamental inadequacies are in play, the outcome of which will be revealed in a trading statement that will probably be very disappointing indeed on Monday with sales from stores more than a year old down by more than two per cent and total sales for the group also lower year-on-year.

“To think this performance is only down to external messages would be delusional to our minds. Morrison needs to get back to what its renowned for; good honest value.”

A spokesman for the group declined to respond directly to the comments.

He said: “It’s his opinion. Lots of analysts will have their own opinions about the figures on Monday.

“We are keen to get back to shouting about what makes us unique.

“It’s important for any brand to do that.

“At the same time it’s important these days for supermarkets to keep on talking about the value that they are offering customers.”

Sir Ken Morrison, who transformed his parents’ small supermarket business into a retail giant, has led criticism of the management’s efforts to diversify the business, accusing directors of “neglecting the core business”.

Under Mr Philips, Morrisons has moved deeper into the South and experimented with convenience stores and online shopping.

Rebecca Singleton, marketing director, said Sir Ken “would be very proud” of the new campaign because the retailer is “going back to what makes Morrisons famous” by promoting Market Street and in-store butchers, bakers and fishmongers.

Ms Singleton, who joined from Sainsbury’s in March, said Morrisons has not shouted enough about its points of difference in the last few years.

She described Ant and Dec as “the most loved and the UK’s favourite personalities” and said: “They wanted to work with us. They have obviously got northern roots and they see Morrisons as a really great fit with their personalities and what they are about. Hopefully it’s a marriage made in heaven.”

Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly found fame on the BBC children’s drama Byker Grove, set in Newcastle. They live near one another in Chiswick, an upmarket suburb in west London.

Ms Singleton said the pair are “encouraged” to do their shopping at Morrisons. The group’s nearest store is in neighbouring Acton, a less salubrious area. Chiswick, meanwhile, is home to Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer supermarkets.

Alongside the sponsorship of the TV shows, Ant and Dec will feature in TV advertising, playing a supporting role to supermarket staff. “Think about it as Morrisons got talent,” said Ms Singleton.

The pioneering partnership deal is the first to combine sponsorship of ITV programmes with a major celebrity endorsement and advertising programme.

Dalton Philips said: “This deal puts us in the homes of millions of potential new Morrisons customers every Saturday night and gives us the opportunity to showcase the talent that shoppers won’t see in any other supermarket.”

Ant and Dec said: “We love making shows the whole family can enjoy and Morrisons is a great family brand, so this partnership is the perfect fit. We’re really excited to be launching this collaboration with the return of Saturday Night Takeaway, a show we’re hugely passionate about.”

Morrisons decided to rest its use of celebrities in 2010, after ads featuring the likes of Richard Hammond, Alan Hansen and Denise Van Outen, but went back to showbusiness a year later with the hiring of cricketer Andrew Flintoff to promote its supermarkets.