When a football club sacks its manager, it will more often than not look for a replacement with very different qualities. For example, having dispensed with an old school British up-and-at-em-type, clubs will inevitably be wooed by a dashing, suave continental-type who speaks eight different languages and has a quirky new take on how to wear a scarf. Of course, when the board decide to call time on this experiment, it’s usually back to the classic man-motivator who knows how to get a performance out of his players.
The same is often the case in retail – with Morrisons an interesting case in point. When Sir Ken Morrison’s mostly incredibly successful time at the helm came to an end – the board were looking for something different. The no-nonsense Yorkshireman was replaced with the charming, smooth Dutchman Marc Bolland.
Coming from Heineken, Bolland had no retail experience but was deemed to have to necessary marketing know-how to manage Morrisons evolution from an almost exclusively northern supermarket chain to a nationwide retailer following the Safeway acquisition and the problems associated with that.
After Bolland left for the bright lights of London and M&S, the retailer surprised everyone by appointing Dalton Philips as CEO. Philips was something of an unknown in the UK but a little like Arsene Wenger before he joined Arsenal, was regarding as a bright young thing, the next generation of a more sophisticated retailer.
With Philips departure in January, it was clear to pretty much everyone that Morrisons would be looking to change course again and look for the classic safe pair of hands, tried and tested experienced boss – and today it was confirmed that former Tesco veteran David Potts was to be the next man in the hot seat.
While Philips can claim that his hands were tied to certain degree, and that he actually achieved a lot during his time in charge, the accepted wisdom is that Potts is the right man for right now.
One word that kept coming up today while speaking to people who worked with him at Tesco was execution. Potts is a retailer through and through, and his task is, on paper, a simple one - getting the core store sales back into growth. Philips’ price cutting strategy is likely to remain; Potts will be all about execution.
For that to happen he needs to take Morrisons people with him, from the boardroom in Bradford to the staff rooms in every store. This kind of leadership has unfortunately been lacking at Morrisons for the last few years and is seen to be the key strength for Potts – he’ll be hoping that he still has the magic touch that made Tesco such a force to be reckoned with in its heyday.