In Depth

Morrisons 'baffled' to be named UK's worst shop

New Which? survey seems to contradict findings of separate supermarket study in February

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Morrisons has been voted the UK's worst high street store in a survey by consumer champion Which?.

A survey of 10,000 people, asked to rate a range of stores based on overall satisfaction and the likelihood of them recommending to a friend, put the supermarket chain in 100th place - dead last - with a score of 55 per cent.

A spokesperson told The Independent the retailer was "baffled" by the results.

"Another survey from Which? very recently found that customers thought we were the most improved supermarket in the UK," they added, referring to a poll in February which asked 7,000 people about their in-store and online experiences of ten UK supermarkets.

Then, Morrisons scored the biggest gains on the back of its "back-to-basics" turnaround of the past couple of years, scoring 70 per cent for its in-store shopping experience and 74 per cent for online.

Its ranking of fifth out of nine for in-store and third out of seven for online put it ahead of all three of its "big four" rivals Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda, says the BBC. Waitrose topped the in-store poll, while Iceland came top for online shopping.

Today's survey saw Morrisons joined at the bottom of this annual table by Poundland and WHSmith, which frequently finds itself in this position despite improvements in sales.

At the other end of the scale, "DIY store Toolstation and Richer Sounds topped the list with a score of 80 per cent each", adds the Independent.

Morrisons celebrates 3.4% growth in sales

04 May

Morrisons has today posted an acceleration in sales growth that confirmed its position as the top performer of the so-called "big four".

Britain's fourth-largest supermarket group posted a 3.4 per cent increase for the 13 weeks to the end of April in like-for-like sales.

That outstrips the strong 2.9 per cent growth seen in the preceding three months and pulls the grocer away from its struggles of 2014 and 2015, when at one point it fell out of the FTSE 100.

However, Morrisons are now reaping the rewards of a "back-to-basics" revamp in which chief executive David Potts, who joined from Tesco in February 2015, has closed unprofitable stores closed and simplified the in-store offers.

It has also been cutting prices to compete with discounters Aldi and Lidl, despite rises in import prices following the Brexit vote last June, says the BBC.

Separate industry figures from Kantar Worldpanel today confirmed Morrisons is currently the top performer among the largest grocers.

Over the three months to the end of April, overall takings rose 2.2 per cent at the store, Kantar says, compared to 1.9 per cent for Tesco, 1.7 per cent for Sainsbury's and 0.8 per cent for Asda.

Aldi and Lidl are still the biggest gainers, however, with both of them registering growth in overall takings of around 18 per cent.

In fact, "Lidl is on track to overtake Waitrose to become the UK's seventh-biggest grocer as early as this summer", says The Guardian.

Industry figures include new store openings and so are not a like-for-like indicator. In addition, given the pressure on prices, sales as a whole do not necessarily translate into higher profits.

Morrisons has been seeing rising profits of late, due to the bulk of its restructuring costs dropping out of comparisons. For the year to January, pre-tax earnings leapt 50 per cent to £325m.

Morrisons records first rise in profits for six years

9 March 

"Morrisons, the UK's fourth-biggest supermarket chain, has reported rising sales and profits as its turnaround strategy continues to bring results," says the BBC

The group had been one of the biggest losers of the so-called "big four" grocers in recent years, its profits dented by poor investments and the rapid growth of rival discounters. 

In 2014 David Potts, a former Tesco executive, was appointed chief executive and set about a turnaround plan that involved selling unprofitable stores, offloading Morrisons' convenience stores business and 'rationalising' product lines. 

Potts has also sought to "improve the customer shopping trip" in store. More recently, he signed a potentially lucrative tie-up with Amazon designed to expand the store's online food delivery service. 

For several quarters, sales have been improving. Today Morrisons delivered a major milestone by increasing profits for the first time in more than half a decade. 

The company posted a near-50 per cent jump in pre-tax profits to £325m for the year to January 29, says the Daily Telegraph, on the back of a 1.7 per cent rise in like-for-like sales. 

"On an underlying basis, [stripping] out £242m of restructuring costs and other adjustments, Morrisons' pre-tax profits rose by 11.6 per cent to £337m."

Potts said: "Our full year of like-for-like sales and profit growth was powered by listening to customers, and shows what our hard-working team of food makers and shopkeepers can do." 

Bosses stress the company is still on the road to recovery, citing"uncertainties" in the year ahead. These include rising pension costs and wages, and increasing import prices that could weigh on profit margins.

Chairman Andy Higginson said: "No retailer will be wanting to pass on any cost increases, if they can."

Morrisons has 'found its mojo' after Christmas sales surge

10 January

"No doubt about it, Morrisons was one of the big winners this Christmas," says the BBC's Emma Simpson.

Britain's fourth-largest supermarket group today revealed its best festive season trading in seven years, posting a 2.9 per cent increase in like-for-like sales for the nine weeks to 1 January.

That's ahead of the 1.6 per cent growth reported in the previous quarter, says The Guardian.

Even total sales, including a comparison with the same period in 2015, before a number of under-performing supermarkets were closed, showed an increase of two per cent.

Morrisons said sales were bolstered in particular by "fresh food, beers, wines and spirits, and its Nutmeg clothing range", reports the BBC.

Takings were further boosted by the store having fewer price reductions, with overall price deflation of 0.2 per cent compared to one per cent in the third quarter.

Chief executive David Potts said stores had been better prepared to meet demand than in previous years, with better stocked shelves and improved service, including more open checkouts, the Guardian adds.

"We are delighted to have found our mojo," he said. "Every year does bring its challenges but so far we haven't seen any change in consumer sentiment. Customers splashed out over Christmas and wanted to trade up."

The festive season was good for retailers across the grocery sector, the BBC says, in part because of the timing of the holidays.

"Because Christmas fell on a Sunday, there was a whole week to shop. And it was huge," says Simpson.

Aldi has already reported record Christmas takings, while Tesco, Sainsbury's, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer are all expected to report strong figures this week.

Morrisons says its annual sales for the current financial year should now come in at £330m-£340m, above previous forecasts of £326m. Its shares were up 2.8 per cent this afternoon, to 244p.

Morrisons cuts petrol price to 99p a litre

22 November

Morrisons has cut the price of unleaded petrol to below £1 a litre "in a move expected to trigger a price war between supermarket rivals", says The Independent.

Shoppers who spend £50 or more in stores will be able to fill their cars for just 99.9p a litre from Monday, down from 109.9p. The cost of diesel will also be cut by 10p to a little more than £1 a litre. The offer runs until 3 December. 

"With Christmas around the corner, our customers tell us they very much welcome our help in reducing the cost of their fuel," services director Roger Fogg said.

Morrisons' move is the latest attempt to use petrol prices to attract shoppers as competition across the sector continues. 

Earlier this month, Asda cut the price of petrol and diesel by 3p a litre, triggering identical moves by "big four" rivals Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons, says the Daily Telegraph.

Fuel prices have risen since June's vote to leave the EU, which has led to a sharp fall in the value of the pound. The UK is currently the 16th most expensive country in which to buy petrol.

Before the price cuts, average petrol and diesel prices across the country had hit 117p and 199p per litre, the highest since July last year.

Morrisons extends Amazon tie-up with one-hour delivery 

17 November

Morrisons has extended its partnership with the commerce giant Amazon by offering one-hour delivery to its Prime Now subscribers.

Britain's fourth-largest supermarket group and the world's largest online retailer already have a tie-up: since June Morrisons has been a wholesaler of fresh and frozen produce for the Amazon Fresh grocery service that currently only operates in London.

Under the latest terms of the deal, Morrisons will offer 10,000 items for delivery to subscribers of Amazon Prime Now, either within 60 minutes for a charge of £6.99 or for free within a two-hour time slot.

The new service, which will be called Morrisons at Amazon, will be available only in selected postcodes in London and Hertfordshire. Supermarket staff will "pick" stock from local stores, to be collected and delivered by Amazon drivers, says The Guardian.

When the first agreement was announced shares in Ocado, which until then had been the supermarket's only online partner, dropped sharply.

Morrisons was able to renegotiate its Ocado arrangement, releasing it from future annual payments and extending delivery options, in return for investment to fund a new delivery hub in Erith, south-east London that will open in 2018. 

Yesterday Ocado's shares fell substantially again, by 8.5 per cent to around 257p. They're down about 28 per cent compared to November last year and have more than halved since hitting a peak in February 2014.

Ocado said: "We have been assured by Morrisons that they acknowledge and respect the exclusivity provisions in our agreement, which oblige Morrisons to operate their online grocery business only through the Ocado arrangements."

The supermarket's own shares dropped 1.5 per cent yesterday, despite ETX Capital analyst Neil Wilson telling the BBC the deal gives Morrisons "a massive edge over Tesco and Sainsbury's in the home delivery market".

Perhaps one reason for investor reticence is the fact that Amazon will control pricing in the new venture, which Bruno Monteyne, an analyst at Bernstein Research, says means the firm could in theory "undercut" the supermarket group's in-store prices.

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