‘Our brand must regain its warmth and quirkiness,’ says Morrisons chairman

Morrisons’ chairman Andrew Higginson, speaking to reporters this morning, said that incoming chief executive David Potts must ensure the struggling supermarket brand ‘avoids becoming generic’ like its rivals and must start to regain its ‘famous warmth and quirkiness.’

The Bradford-based retailer announced a 52% drop in pre-tax profits to £345m today and said it would rethink its convenience offer by closing 23 M Local stores. But Higginson, speaking to Marketing Week, insisted that a rethink of advertising is already one of Potts’ priorities.

“Redefining our advertising and making it clearer will be central to David’s duties,” said Higginson.

“I think we need to go back to what made the Morrisons brand great as we are at risk of becoming generic and just like every other supermarket. In tough trading conditions, people play it safe but we can’t and we will move to make sure the brand’s warmth and quirkiness stands out like it used to.”

Higginson said that Morrisons’ convenience strategy will be significantly scaled back and that the retailer will instead focus on revamping its larger supermarkets for the time being.

He also said that every aspect of the business is currently under review and wouldn’t rule out scrapping Match & More, the points card scheme that matches Aldi and Lidl on prices.

Morrisons must be strong at both ends of the market, according to Higginson, with the retailer planning to both promote the uniqueness of its own-label offer, from in-store butchers to fishmongers, while continuing to cut prices.

“When Morrisons was at its best it was trusted because of its fair prices but also due to its unique in-store expertise and crafts – a winning combination of premium and low prices,” he added.

“Look, Tesco is admired rather than loved like Morrisons. We still have our cafes, while rivals have run to Starbucks, and I think that sort of heritage makes us a very charming, ordinary business. Those values are what needs to be better communicated.”

Higginson joked that he would now be ‘hitting the beach,’ with Potts due to start as chief executive on 16 March, insisting he had no intentions to continue running the day-to-day operations at Morrisons.

“Our destiny is now in our hand hands and it will take a while for our strategy to truly show positive results. Getting the customer happy again is key as more customers means volume growth, better like-for-likes and it also means our stores are busier, our colleagues happier and we’ll get better deals from our suppliers,” Higginson concluded.