Suppliers have told The Grocer they were “underwhelmed” by a “subdued” Morrisons conference at which it revealed its plans for the year ahead.
Morrisons CEO Dalton Philips and acting commercial director Martyn Jones outlined the strategy for the year ahead to 1,000 of its leading suppliers at a conference in Manchester this week. But suppliers who spoke to The Grocer afterwards expressed frustration at the lack of information about its online plans.
Morrisons told suppliers it would update shareholders next month. However, after a disappointing Christmas - in which Morrisons recorded a 2.5% like-for-like fall in sales for the six weeks to 30 December - suppliers called on Morrisons to take the plunge. And fast.
“All the other retailers tell us the fastest growing part of their business is online, running at over 20% up,” said one ambient grocery supplier. “Although it may be difficult to make money, it has to be a huge own goal to ignore this and just fight in the declining bricks and mortar area.”
Another leading grocery supplier added that suppliers wanted a strong Morrisons operating online. “I think the general feeling from the event was that we can’t believe it isn’t making a strong commitment to launching online.”
Instead, themes identified for the year ahead included a greater emphasis on strong base pricing, more differentiated promotions - deals with a “point of difference not pointlessly different” and a bigger push on more personalised deals for shoppers using its Catalina coupon technology.
Martyn Jones also said there would be an average range rationalisation of 10% as Morrisons looks to drive efficiency in its supply chain, improve availability and make its stores clearer and easier to shop.
He also said buyers were spending too much of their time negotiating promotions - about 80% - and not enough focusing on the core range. The aim was to be make this a 60/40% split.
The first of Morrisons’ new TV adverts with Ant and Dec aired this week, focusing on the skills of its fishmongers.
Further ads will showcase other craft skills, which it sees as a key point of difference. Jones called it: “Friendly people making great food affordable for all,” - a new internal mantra.
Addressing the retailer’s recent poor sales performance, Philips said he was confident in the strategy it has in place until 2016, but that “some miles are harder than others”.
“We’re in the pack,” he said. “But it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”