Sir Ken: Morrisons board risks repeating Safeway mistakes

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Sir Ken Morrison has urged the supermarket he founded to refocus on its core business and accused its management of a “total bout of plagiarism”.

The retail legend said Morrisons’ management risked instigating “the creation of a new Safeway – with all the inherent problems” by shifting its priorities away from the core grocery business in recent years.

Speaking at the retailer’s annual shareholders’ meeting yesterday (14 June), Sir Ken was repeating criticism he first levelled at the supermarket’s previous management team in 2009.

Reading extracts from a letter he wrote to the board that year, he claimed moves into Fairtrade and organic had confused Morrisons’ customers and were adding unnecessary costs to the business.

“I believe the company is preoccupied with many other activities and I fear neglecting the core business is dangerous,” he said. “Be individual and forget about what competitors are doing. Get a grip on costs. They are a key measure of success.”

Responding to events yesterday, Morrisons chairman Sir Ian Gibson said: “To some extent we are trying to do two things at once and that is stretching us.

“We are trying to invent and invest in tomorrow’s business and it needs to be tomorrow’s business because the business that exists now will not be different enough in some years to continue to occupy its position.”

Chief executive Dalton Philips agreed that Morrisons was working to “reinforce differences” with rivals.

Readers' comments (11)

  • Well said Sir Ken, I am an ex employee, And it is plain to see when visiting the stores where they are getting there priorities all wrong, I was also with Presto when they bought Safeway, and the same went wrong then and is all happening again, just hope it's not to late, the city criticised sir ken when he bought S/Way but he proved them wrong, and here they are undoing all the hard work once again, Morrison's is still a family business and the staff all work with that in common, and that is what makes a business so successful, keep it plain and simple and on the shop floor working with your staff and customers giving them what they want service and value for money.

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  • and you don't cut costs by ignoring consumers and taking risks on safety by increasing your use of GM animal feed.
    Morrisons will never beat Walmart in a cost cutting war, and that is where it is on GM feed now...right at the bottom with Asda.
    bad decisions like this are losing customers, just look at the Morrisons facebook page in March and April when people heard about the GM feed decision..
    meanwhile look at what the US Business press is reporting on the GM reality;

    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-06-15/monsanto-corn-injured-by-early-rootworm-feeding-in-illinois

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  • Morrisons are slashing staff numbers like never before. Some depts are running hundreds of hours a week less than that of three years ago. Have you tried finding a member of staff in there stores recently? Shocking and its still getting worse.

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  • I work the night shift at morrisons never before as morale been so low, we are stretched to the limit so is every department in our store. Nightcrew alone has had 5 people leave and they have never been replaced. My store was originally Safeways and I've seen some changes since Morrisons took over some good some bad, but unfortunately a lately the business has lost sight of the important things it's customers needs and those of caring for it's staff.

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  • Im a meat manager at morrisons, my staff have more than halved since ive been at the store,sometimes have to work 7 in the morning till 9 at nite, morale in our store is awful, plus we have an asda opening just down the road , not good

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  • I am sub-contracted to morrisons and have been for many years and have never seen morale so low and so many customers complaining...its in such a sad shape.

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  • The store I work in I have noticed over the past year lost 30-50 staff with none replaced and with moves happening around the store, everything being cut fine most departments are below skeleton crew. This has effected staff morale big time as most looking for other jobs, customer service has dropped as well as other things. For example I had a customer complain other day about waiting at tills for 20min because no staff. Morrisons states it cares about its staff and customers when all we see here is all they care about is cost saving. Morrisons have expanded too big too fast and its starting to hurt them now hopefully they will be able to start to listen to people like Sir Ken and turn it around.

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  • I have been with the company for over 15 years going from store to store on deliveries and have noticed how the staff levels have dropped considerably and so creating morale to decline, it has got to a stage that the customer is seeing the effect it is having, Not only is the effect on the shop floor but in the warehouse as well short staffed with nights being cut dramatically. The distribution also with no drivers being taken on for over 2 years use of agency coming into play. All in all through out the company it is being dragged down to a level soon of no return, and when we are requested to do more it is no wonder a refusal is produced. Sir ken you are so missed from all of us. I always remember Sir Ken picking in the warehouse and visiting all staff at all levels some how I can't see Mr Dalton Philips doing the same. HELP!!!!

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  • Sittingbourne depot is the same as above. Although its only 2 years old they employ large numbers of temp eastern euro staff, paythhem peanuts ,treat them like dirt then wonder way the jobs not done right. Shame as I live local but now work for a rival 10 miles away.

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  • Having worked for the business for just over two years, i have to agree with the above views. I work nights, and we started with six staff, now we average only two or three on a night- to get the store ready for trade the next day, to a high standard is nigh on impossible. All the promises i was given when i joined the business, i.e promotions, development etc have never materailised, morale across the store is rock bottom, and the standards, especially customer service, is nothing but embarrasing. Many members of staff who have been in the business many years, have stated they have never seen anything like it. Many of those who remain are seeking alternate employment. All a bit sad....

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