Morrisons goes after foodies with non-food revamp

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The Independent Online

The grocer Morrisons is to overhaul its non-food home offer next spring, in a bid to attract more foodies into its stores. Sources said the Bradford-based supermarket was planning to ditch as many as 10 of its home product categories, such as cushions, bed linen and TV set-top boxes, but would replace them with more kitchenware and cooking utensils.

The shift demonstrates how Marc Bolland, the chief executive of Morrisons, is beefing up the grocer’s food credentials, under the “food specialist for everyone” slogan. It also shows that Mr Bolland - the former Heineken executive who took the helm at Morrisons in September 2006 - is resisting calls from certain quarters to aggressively expand into non-food, in contrast to Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s. Morrisons declined to comment.

Earlier this month at its half-year results presentation, Mr Bolland said he was confident that “foodies” would keep coming back to its stores after the recession ends and would not abandon it for premium grocers, such as Marks & Spencer. "People will be much more conscious of price in the future," he said.

While Morrisons has enjoyed booming sales of its value lines during the recession, its fresh food sales have also delivered strong growth. The grocer claims its Market Street concept of individual fresh food outlets in stores, including butchers, fishmongers and bakers, differentiates it from rivals.

For the half-year to 2 August, the grocer's 403 stores delivered a 45 per cent surge in pre-tax profits at £449m, up from £309m the year before. For the half-year, the supermarket's like-for-like sales – excluding fuel and VAT – rose by 7.8 per cent.

Morrisons said a key driver of its sales growth had been the addition of an extra 1.1 million customers a week from its major competitors over the past two years, which had fuelled its like-for-like sales growth along with product development. Its current strategy is focused on aggressively expanding its store estate, particularly in the south of England where it is still under-represented. It has identified more than 100 sites across the UK, which will help it move from a "national to a nationwide" supermarket.