If there was a supermarket Bafta for most original turn, it certainly wouldn’t be going to Morrisons this week, after it became the last of the traditional big players to launch a discounter price match scheme.

Morrisons, having struggled to regain price competitiveness since the pandemic, has been even more out on a limb since the start of the year, when Asda kicked off 2024 with its price match scheme. It became the first to match Aldi and Lidl, four years after Tesco’s Aldi Price Match made headlines.

Morrisons looks somewhat like it is copying its rivals in a bid to close the gap in perceptions on price… because that is exactly what it is doing.

However, things could have been different, sources suggest.

The Grocer understands Morrisons had originally planned to launch a price promise offering to match Aldi and Lidl as long ago as September, pending the arrival of former Carrefour boss Rami Baitiéh.

If that’s true, clearly the ploy has won his seal of approval. But for Morrisons’ sake, and for the rest of the supermarkets putting price match at the forefront of their strategies, there has to be much more coming along the pipeline if they are to move the dial.

The supermarket price war hots up again

The success of Tesco’s pricing strategy has come not just from matching Aldi, but from the relentless development of Clubcard Prices as part of a move to an everyday low price strategy that started under Dave Lewis and has been continued successfully under Ken Murphy.

Just as Asda, which used to pay customers the difference if it wasn’t the cheapest supermarket, now has to do a lot more than advertise it’s as cheap as Asda and Lidl, so Morrisons must not begin to think it has all the bases covered, or anything like it, now it’s finally joined the party.

Morrisons did, however, have a big problem of perception to tackle, despite a whole barrage of price reductions having been launched over the past year.

In fact, it claims only to have had to reduce the price on less than a quarter of the 200 or so products involved in the price match. The rest, including products such as tinned tomatoes, carrots and mushrooms, were already as cheap as its discounter rivals, it claims. 

Perception works in different ways, of course. Aldi and now Lidl will, in some ways at least, be basking even more in the glow of the millions spent by their rivals to advertise how cheap they are.

But it’s hard to argue that Morrisons didn’t need to have this scheme in place, or that it shouldn’t have made the move earlier.

Can Morrisons get Market Street working? 

For now, we can expect Morrisons to ram home the launch with heavy point of sale marketing and advertising in the weeks to come.

But it’s to be hoped this is not going to be the last we hear of Baitiéh’s turnaround. The game-changing moves will be when Morrisons is able to shift the perception on those areas in which it has traditionally enjoyed an advantage over its rivals.

As inflation falls, can it exploit its close supply chains links with British farmers, get Market Street firing on all cylinders again? As the new boss keeps on saying, it wants to put customers truly at the centre of the shopping experience.

Those customers, for the most part, will warmly welcome this week’s arrival of the new price match – and it may convince some of them to stop jumping ship to Morrisons’ rivals, or at least doing so quite so often.

What it does in the months to come will decide if they climb back on board for good.