Morrisons to create 700 jobs in sector expansion

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AROUND 700 jobs will be created by Bradford-based supermarket chain Morrisons with help from the “Ikea of the baby world”.

Morrisons is aiming to increase its share of the mother and baby products market, after snapping up the leases of 10 former Best Buy stores from Carphone Warehouse. Morrisons said it would invest £15m converting the stores to the Kiddicare.com brand it acquired last year.

One of the superstores will be based in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. A Kiddicare spokesman said between 60 and 70 staff will be employed in Rotherham, although a date has still to be fixed for the opening.

The other stores are in Merry Hill, Aintree, Derby, Nottingham, Thurrock, Hedge End, Croydon, Hayes, Bristol and Enfield.

The first store is expected to open before autumn this year.

A Kiddicare spokesman said: “We would like to open an additional two stores in the coming year.”

The spokesman couldn’t reveal where these new stores would be based, although they would probably have to be on large sites.

The spokesman added: “Kiddicare is a destination store. It’s the Ikea of the baby world, that’s why size is crucial. We need to be able to stock such a vast range.”

Last year Best Buy, which has a joint venture with Carphone Warehouse, closed the stores after abandoning plans to set up a European chain of electricals megastores.

Scott Weavers-Wright, the chief executive of Kiddicare, said yesterday: “These 10 flagship stores will put Kiddicare within easy driving distance of nearly a third of the UK population.

“As well as being fantastic destination superstores for families across the country, they are the ideal platform for Kiddicare.com to lead the baby market by giving a true multi-channel experience.”

A Kiddicare spokesman said the move would extend its multi-channel services, which include a 60,000 sq ft store in Peterborough, which is believed to be one of the largest shops of its kind in Europe. The three-floor showroom has a 100-seat restaurant.

The spokesman added: “The first location to open will be put to a customer preference vote via a social media mechanism.

“Once open, all of the stores will be rated on the customer service experience delivered, with the results displayed to customers, setting Kiddicare apart from its competitors.”

Morrisons took its first step into internet retailing when it bought Kiddicare for £70m in February last year.

At the time, Morrisons said its decision to buy the family-owned Kiddicare business gave it a launching pad for its efforts to sell products over the internet.

Kiddicare, which sells goods ranging from prams to cots, was founded in 1974 by Neville and Marilyn Wright.

It made earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of about £3m in the previous financial year on turnover of £37.5m.

It has continued to trade as kiddicare.com under Scott and Elaine Weavers-Wright, the son-in-law and daughter of the founders.

Kiddicare grew by 75 per cent between 2008 and 2011, with internet sales making up around 80 per cent of its revenues.

It serves more than 53,000 customers a month and employs around 210 people.

Morrisons is playing catch-up with its rivals on internet retailing,  

Morrisons’ chief executive Dalton Philips made rectifying this a key priority on his appointment early in 2010.

Earlier this month, Morrisons said consumer confidence was very low and people held off from buying festive treats until the week before Christmas.

In a trading update, Morrisons said shoppers were keen to celebrate a traditional Christmas with strong demand for classic foods such as turkey, sprouts and stuffing.

Mr Philips said promotions accounted for more than 40 per cent of sales over Christmas as people scrambled to find bargains.

In early January, Morrisons was placed in the ‘Premier League’ of UK retailers by Company Watch, an organisation which rates companies’ financial health.

Morrisons, which has 79 points out of 100 on the Company Watch table, came second in the five-strong Premier League. Morrisons’ score last year was 82.

The grocer, which has 450 stores in the UK, has fared better than its main supermarket rivals in recent months because it sells relatively small amounts of non-food items; an area which has been hard-hit as consumers tighten their belts.

greg.wright@ypn.co.uk