Blackfriar: Teamwork a vital part of the new Morrisons’ revolution

As Morrisons prepares to announce another slide in half year profits later this month, analysts are more interested in the revolution being introduced by respected new CEO David Potts.

He has quietly assembled an impressive bunch of heavy hitters to drive change at the Bradford-based grocery chain and take the store back to basics – namely selling quality produce at cheap prices.

His new appointments have been greeted with a thumbs up by the city and illustrate how Potts is a team player rather than the one-man band that Dalton Philips operated.

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His three latest appointments all have top quality retail credentials having spent decades working at leading retailers.

​​Earlier this week Morrisons ​appointed Clare Grainger as its ​group HR ​d​irector​ and she will take up her new role​ early next month.

Grainger has 25 years of experience in human resources and management, mostly in the retail sector with Morrisons and before that at Leeds-based Asda.

Prior to the appointment, she was Morrisons’ interim group retail director, supervising the introduction of a number of measures to improve the customer shopping trip, most notably the recruitment of 5,000 new staff.

​Potts said: “Clare is a hard-working and talented director who passionately represents our people at every level.

​“​She has done a great job of leading our stores and now her focus will move to ensuring we grow, develop and attract the best talent to support our turnaround.”

Grainger’s promotion follows last month’s well-received appointment of Darren Blackhurst as commercial director from B&Q to head up the company’s trading and manufacturing functions.

Last week ​Gary Mills joined the chain as group retail director, having previously worked for Tesco and Stewarts Supermarkets.

Analyst Clive Black at house broker Shore Capital said: “With the team in place, the pace of change can perhaps accelerate in store.

“The task of stabilising Morrisons is a tough one given the intensely competitive market and the magnitude of the business’ recent decline, measured most simply in a sustained period of same-store sales reductions and the margin erosion.

“First base in this stabilisation process, to our minds, was the appointments of the new chair and CEO.

“Whilst so, two people can only do so much and so to effectively implement change in an organisation the size of Morrison’s, with around 120,000 employees, needs appropriate senior management. Following the previously covered extensive ‘clear out’ of the incumbent senior team, the recent appointments are important pre-conditions to any improvement at Morrisons.”

Black has hit upon an important point. One of Grainger’s most difficult tasks will be to win round a disgruntled, apathetic workforce.

Blackfriar regularly undertakes trips to all the supermarket chains to check things out and the contrast between Sainsbury’s and Asda’s happy, helpful workforce and Tesco’s and Morrisons’ unhappy, bored and unhelpful store staff could not be greater.

When asked if she’d seen any improvements since the changes at the top took place earlier this year, one Morrisons check out operative said: “It’s all the same – just a different load of managers at the top.”

After a trip to her local Morrisons, one retail commentator said: “There were a huge amount of staff standing around in aisles, staring into iPods, or chatting among themselves, but apparently doing very little about re-stocking, or helping customers.”

Reversing this apathy will be one of Grainger’s biggest tasks.

As Sir Ken Morrison famously said, why hire non-exec directors when the money would be better spent on new checkout girls? Changes at the top of Morrisons must be matched with a change in culture on the shop floor.