Morrisons is to sell a further 50 Safeway stores by November as it battles to get the integration process under control.
Speaking on the day of its agm (May 26), chief executive Bob Stott said he hoped “in an ideal world” the original three-year integration plan would be complete by November, with the estate reaching 360 stores compared with the original 125, 18 months after it bought Safeway for £3.3bn.
Stott said118 unconverted Safeway stores would be thrown under the Morrisons fascia in this timeframe, while 50 of the remaining 73 Safeway stores would be sold off.
Of the remaining 23, Stott said he was undecided how many would be kept or sold. The stores up for sale have average weekly sales of £214,000 compared with Morrisons’ top achievers of £746,000.
Stott plans to open 10 new stores annually once integration is complete. Seven will be opened in the remaining part of this year and eight in the next financial year.
Stott said that, by next year, Morrisons would be operating under one distribution system, using Morrisons depots rather than the current dual operation.
The agm was a platform for Sir Ken Morrison to relinquish more of the day-to-day running of the business to Stott.
He steps down from the operating board and hands over the chairmanship to Stott.
Deputy chairman David Jones said he would appoint four non-executives in “a matter of weeks”.
Richard Pennycook has joined as the group financial director, moving from the RAC.
For the 15 weeks to May 15, Morrisons reported like-for-like sales, excluding petrol, up 2.3%. However, its core Morrisons estate was down 2.3%, in part due to increased competition from supermarkets taking over its divested stores.