morrisons trolleys

It’s been a year of remarkable comebacks. And if the most notable of these - given the scandal that surrounded them - has been those at the Co-op and Tesco, the most intriguing and certainly the most original is the turnaround at Morrisons.

Take its marketing. While the establishment (and what a busted flush it is) has obsessed over Christmas ads, Morrisons has been busy advertising Serrano ham legs for £28 in the nationals in designs that wouldn’t look out of place for Aldi and Lidl. On TV its ads for The Best are pure M+S. There’s been a PR-led campaign featuring a strong man (in a kilt) to carry home all your goods from its so-called Black Five Days. And with inflation rearing its ugly head it’s offering petrol at £1 litre if you spend over £50. It’s all a bit trial and error, perhaps, but it also suggests Morrisons has rediscovered its common touch.

So what to make of the return of the Safeway brand? At first site it sounds like CEO David Potts has gone, well, potty - a forgotten brand, of dubious value, supplying goods to the wholesale and independent trade. On the other hand, it’s better-known and surely more meaningful - to consumers, that is - than the ‘Independent’ brand Palmer & Harvey and its Buyco trading partner Costcutter has been flogging. And crucially, it addresses a major weakness not only in the proposition of the Buyco, but one that other symbols like Nisa have been unable to provide, namely a quality chilled and fresh proposition.

Potts had a reputation at Tesco as the sergeant major to Terry Leahy’s major general: a stores man and a details man, who rolled his sleeves up and sorted problems out, rather than Leahy’s deep and strategic thinker. But as he’s proved - with his canny Ocado renegotiation, the Amazon supply deal, and the Morrisons Daily franchise (first with Motor Fuel Group and now Rontec) - Potts has shown a really thoughtful and entrepreneurial streak to his character. Instead of a grand, overarching and expensive ‘vision’, Morrisons right now is a hot bed of cheap, pragmatic, ‘capital-light’, ideas. Not all of them are going to work. But the energy is infectious and the change in mood palpable.