As expected Morrisons reported a rather gloomy Christmas with like for like sales down 2.5% for the six weeks to 30 December.
Not what you would call a surprise, except maybe to those analysts who were suggesting the fall may have been more like 2.8%. Morrisons chief executive Dalton Philips admitted that, in a difficult market, sales were lower than expected.
This was always going to be a tough set of numbers for the retailer, and Philips as good as admitted as much last November, when commercial director Richard Hodgson took the fall for the retailer’s poor showing.
Then, Philips tasked Morrisons veteran Martyn Jones with better communicating the retailer’s points of difference, but that having identified the communication breakdown he said it was never going to be fixed in time for Christmas. The shame for Morrisons is that there are some great things happening instore and its Christmas offer was a case in point.
There were nice touches such as the turtle bread, two dough candy cane loaves and freshly baked Stollen, excellent innovative in the form of the party food range that all cooked at the same oven temperature, whether chilled or frozen, and the value for money key festive lines such as the crackling turkey joint stuffed with pork fillet and three fish roast.
The retailer had also moved to make it easier for shoppers to order their big Christmas items and learnt from previous years, but what it clearly hadn’t learnt from was how to tell anyone about it.
Rather than running a series of ads telling people of the great range it had in store and the value for money to be had in the run up to Christmas - the retailer chose to run an albeit well-made and humorous film about how difficult Christmas can be for mums, which had little or nothing to do with what Morrisons was actually doing in-store to make it easier and, most importantly, keep the cost down.
Hands up - I am not in marketing but I have seen the Christmas range in great detail and think that this should have been the focus.
Someone who is a marketer however is Nick Collard, who was today promoted to Morrisons group marketing and customer director. Collard has been with the retailer for two years and is seen as a rising retail star.
It is his job to start communicating what Morrisons is actually doing out there and getting everyone’s favourite Geordie duo Ant and Dec to front its new campaign focussing on Morrisons points of difference and instore craft-skills certainly looks like a great start.
Opinions are divided as to what is going wrong at Morrisons, with some saying its abandoned its core shoppers in favour of exotic mist drenched veg, while others point to its lagging behind rivals on online and convenience - all these could well be factors and in terms of multichannel, it is something the retailer is looking to address.
As to whether its current strategy is right or wrong, that is another question. And it is one that is likely to be answered this year. If Morrisons finally gets its message out there and shoppers respond positively, then all well and good, but if it’s not well received then that is likely to be bad news that will leave more than one senior executive in Bradford shouting “I’m a retailer - get me out of here!”