James Moore: Morrisons could do without help from Tesco's old hands


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The Independent Online

Outlook Bruno Monteyne, a retail analyst at Bernstein and a former Tesco director, reckons that Morrisons could be wiped from Britain’s high streets if it doesn’t change, and quickly. It is tempting to suggest he is statin’ the bleedin’ obvious there. The trouble is that the supermarket chain appears to need it stating. It stuck with the hapless Dalton Philips as chief executive for far too long and now find itself at the bottom of a deep dark hole. By comparison, the problems faced by Tesco, the supermarket sector’s other listing supertanker, seem mild by comparison.

Monteyne makes the point that Morrisons’ traditional place has been usurped by the discounters Lidl and Aldi, and that it is struggling to find its niche in the market. The worry is that that niche may not be there. Lidl rather elegantly got to the heart of the matter when Morrisons took it upon itself to try to price-match its European rival, only to attach a list of so many conditions that Lidl struggled to get them all on a tabloid page with its advert lampooning them.

What really ought to concern Morrisons’ battered shareholders (not to mention staff with jobs at stake) is the number of Tesco people that have turned up at its doors, starting with chairman Andy Higginson. It is true he was fairly well regarded, and so are some former Tesco-ites that the bookies think are on his short-list to take over as chief executive. But you do start to wonder if the answer to Morrisons’ problems is really to import a previous generation of Tesco managers, none of whom can entirely escape the taint of that business’s recent woes. Perhaps they will have learned from the mess their old employer found itself in, because what ought to concern them is that shoppers do not seem to care what they do right now. Morrisons’ staff and shareholders had better hope they have.