Back to the Retail sector again and yesterday brought news that Morrisons’ Chief Exec Dalton Phillips will be leaving his post in March, with the media variously reporting that he jumped or was pushed.
Yesterday’s news was full of so-called Retail Experts giving their opinions on why he went, but not one of the pundits I heard, read or saw mentioned the working environment and culture at Mozzas’ HQ in Bradford. According to friends and friends-of-friends who have worked there, its toxic, with the Old Guard who worked under founder Ken Morrison constantly sparring with the New Guard (which would include Mr Phillips) who were imported from other grocers. Thanks to the Old Guard’s attempts to pretend it’s still the 1990s glory days of loyal shoppers all doing weekly shops, the New Guard have been playing catch-up with the sector for at least the last decade.
The Old Guard’s favourite trick lately seems to be to get one of the retired board members to provide an interview to The Yorkshire Post slagging off the New Guard. In yesterday’s paper, Morrisons’ retired property director Roger Owen said that the current Morrisons board were “not capable of running a school tuck shop” and accused Dalton Phillips of neglecting the core supermarket business due to getting involved with unprofitable online sales and convenience stores. Yes, he really said that. Like I said, harking back to long-gone glory days.
I can’t tell you what Morrisons need to do to stop being bottom of the Big Four grocers. If I did (and was also a masochist intending to end my career asap), I’d be filling in the Chief Executive application form. But I do know that a 3% drop in sales compared with Tesco’s 2% growth isn’t actually that terrible if you realise you aren’t comparing like with like.
Tesco’s sales growth for the Christmas period can be attributed pretty much to growth in their online sales, an area Morrisons only entered this year, a mere 14 years after the transactional Tesco.com was launched. Morrisons are still affected by being very, very late to the party in Online, Loyalty (Match and More was way overdue and not very good) and Convenience and also woefully behind the game in terms of back of house logistics. All issues that you could blame on the Old Guard who are being so vocal with their criticism of the current incumbents…