morrisons trolley

Just over a year ago Morrisons was, to put it bluntly, a total basket case. Under former CEO Dalton Philips it had seemingly lost its way in the fog of its own misty veg machines.

Things were looking bleak and there was even speculation that the big four could become the big three, with Morrisons, the weakest link at the time, the most vulnerable. So it seems almost incredible that, in such a short space of time, not only are sales heading in the right direction for the first time in four years, but it has also agreed a landmark deal with Amazon.

Over the next few months, Amazon will begin to sell hundreds of Morrisons products through its Prime Now and Pantry services. This will effectively see Morrisons acting as a wholesaler to Amazon, supplying it with a range of ambient, fresh and frozen products.

Morrisons has also announced a renegotiation of its relationship with Ocado. Morrisons will take up space in Ocado’s new customer fulfilment centre in Erith but only on the proviso that Ocado delivers a store pick solution for Morrisons that will allow the supermarket operator to achieve profitable growth online.

Both deals reflect a renewed confidence at Morrisons that has been created by Potts in a subtle, understated but significant way.

Where the previous regime appeared to rush into capital-heavy plans to transform stores, create a convenience store footprint and finally move into online grocery, under Potts Morrisons has been more cautious – it sold off its c-stores but almost immediately announced a franchise agreement with Motor Fuel Group to open convenience store using a much lower cost and scalable model.

In its core supermarkets, Morrisons has ditched the misty veg and looked to simplify the offer. Not only has the retailer given staff a hefty pay rise and invested in staff facilities, but it has listened to their feedback in terms of improving stores, and given store managers greater freedom in terms of ranging.

The whole story at Morrisons is looking a lot more compelling than it has for a long time and today’s announcement, which is both exciting and potentially game-changing for the UK grocery industry, is also simply another element of a cautious but ultimately very focused turnaround strategy inspired by Potts and almost certainly chairman Andy Higginson as well.