Morrisons is changing its core purpose to try and provide reassurance to customers during the coronavirus pandemic and reflect the extent of the role it sees itself playing in “feeding the nation”.
“Familiar brands provide reassurance to consumers and in the end they are looking for their stock to be on the shelves,” the supermarket’s chief executive, David Potts, said on a press call this morning (18 March).
“The company has paid a lot of attention to its core purpose. It isn’t what they do or how they do it, it’s why a company exists and we currently believe the biggest contribution we can make in the country is playing our full part in feeding the nation.”
Following the move to implement immediate payments for its smaller suppliers to help with cashflow, Morrisons has set out a number of measures to support colleagues and customers during the Coronavirus outbreak.
This includes the launch of a new range of simple-to-order food parcels, including options for vegetarians, that will be available for delivery from 23 March.
More delivery slots will be made available to customers both through Morrisons.com and the Morrisons Store on Amazon Prime Now, with Morrisons using 100 extra stores to pick customers’ shopping over the coming weeks.
The supermarket is also setting up a dedicated customer call centre for orders to be taken over the phone so that people who do not shop online can still order food.
Morrisons will be recruiting around 2,500 pickers and drivers to support the roll-out of these expanded home delivery methods, and a further 1,000 people to work in the company’s distribution centres.
A colleague hardship fund has been set up to support colleagues who are in financial difficulty, while those who are sick with the virus will receive sick pay whether or not they would normally be eligible.
Colleagues who are affected either because of self isolation, or by playing their part in looking after close family members or the vulnerable in their local community, will also be eligible for sick pay, alternative shifts or holiday.
Morrisons is the first UK supermarket to release results in the midst of the outbreak, reporting a 3% increase in pre-tax profit for the year. Over the past six weeks, like-for-like sales have increased 5%, much stronger growth than in recent months when Morrisons had struggled amid competition from the other big four supermarkets.
“Consumer data shows that this is less about what Morrisons is doing wrong and more about what its competitors are doing right; Morrisons has found it difficult to vie with the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s, both of which used aggressive promotional tactics in a bid to lure price-orientated shoppers back from the discounters,” says GlobalData retail analyst, Thomas Brereton.
Despite this, Brereton says Morrisons is better placed than most retailers to withstand the next few months. This is due to its position as a highly cash-generative business, which has allowed it to be compassionate in its response to Covid-19.
In line with what a number of other retailers are doing, Morrisons is giving vulnerable customers a dedicated slot between 9am and 10am. They will also be given a free “hot cuppa” on their way out.