I’ve gone all misty eyed. I liked the misting tables at Morrisons. I’ll miss them when they’re gone. I suspect I won’t be the only one.
But I’m a middle-class foodie. And there will be many more who won’t miss them at all. In, say, the M62 corridor, such ‘theatre’ was too high falutin’ and the selection too fancy. Misty veg alienated the core Morrisons customer. (In one notorious case, a shopper even reported a fire.) At a time when the shopper was looking for greater value, amid high inflation and stagnating wages, it signalled a move from Market (Street) to Upmarket (Avenue). Put it another way: you won’t find any misting tables at Aldi or Lidl. (And I know what the German discounters think when they talk about mist.)
The misting tables also introduced a lot of complexity and cost into the Morrisons shopping experience. With its high service levels, the Morrisons model was already the most expensive of the big four and the additional range, featuring exciting but obscure fruit, veg, herbs and spices, increased wastage considerably. I shall forever remember the store manager, struggling to implement the new Store of the Future format at his store, telling me how he had to explain to head office that he really didn’t need three types of dudhi!
So, in the week the departure of Morrisons CEO Dalton Philips was finalised, it was somehow fitting that Morrisons announced the misty veg had been given the chop. It came to symbolise what went wrong at Morrisons under Philips.
Misty veg works in Whole Foods Market. It works in Loblaws. It could work in Waitrose, or Marks & Spencer, or Booths. And it does work in the few Morrisons stores in upmarket areas. But it doesn’t work in Morrisons, Cheadle Heath in Manchester. It was a case of dogma over demographics.
Now, with new chairman, the straight-talking Lancastrian Andy Higginson, a chip off the old Sir Ken block, it’s back to basics for Morrisons. Back to the Future. And intriguingly there’s a new Frontier. Using Match & More data, it’s promising to tailor 100 Frontier stores based on demographics. Let’s hope it doesn’t replace a complicated format with a whole bunch.