Morrisons has received a qualified thumbs up from consumers for its integration of Safeway and been cleared by the OFT of running down stores it was preparing to sell.
A quarter of Safeway customers say the shopping experience at Safeway has got better since the takeover, with most citing better value for money as the reason why.
However, 8% think it has got worse, with poor availability and ranging issues topping gripes.
The findings are part of an exclusive new survey for The Grocer from market researcher HI Europe, which quizzed 1,704 shoppers to assess attitudes towards Safeway stores now that Morrisons has started to cut prices and introduce its own label ranges.
Although there was lingering loyalty towards the Safeway brand among Londoners and affluent shoppers, most were happy to see the back of the brand, with only 11% preferring the Safeway name to stay.
However, the survey also revealed stark differences in attitudes between younger and older consumers with goodwill towards the Morrisons brand far stronger among older shoppers.
Meanwhile, allegations that Morrisons has been running down Safeway divestment stores to disadvantage future owners have no foundation, the OFT has concluded. It launched a probe
into Morrisons last month following press reports that Safeway divestment stores were being neglected and suffering from poor availability, shoddy
standards and a reduced level of promotional activity.
However, an OFT spokesman said that Morrisons had not breached its undertakings to the OFT by discriminating against divestment stores.
Morrisons has blamed empty shelves in the stores on seasonal replenishment issues.
A spokesman said: “If you are going to hand over a store in 10 days’ time, you are not going to introduce a big new range of slow moving seasonal non-food.”
Deals at all similarly sized Safeway stores were the same, he insisted. “It’s certainly not the case that Safeway stores we’re keeping get great offers and Safeway stores we are not keeping don’t.
“However, offers at Safeway will be different to Morrisons until all the prices and ranges are fully aligned.”
>>p24 For better, for worse
Elaine Watson