The New Year always brings pain for some retailers – they have to pay the next quarter’s rent in advance and bad Christmas trading means they often can’t – but this year it’s looking a bit more personal.
Morrisons, currently the big loser among the top four supermarkets, has dispensed with the services of CEO Dalton Philips (left) following disappointing Christmas sales. But Philips, who succeeded Marc Bolland as CEO in 2010 after making his mark at Loblaw in Canada, has been a dead man walking for months. He has changed strategy constantly – buying online business Kiddicare for £70m and selling it for £2m and, latterly, seeking to match Aldi and Lidl’s with a confusing price-based loyalty scheme – and fallen out with the still-powerful Ken Morrison. Morrison described a recent presentation by Philips as containing more ‘bullshit’ than his herd of cattle.
In the short term the business will be run by chairman Andrew Higginson, a former senior Tesco exec. Whoever comes in will need to determine quickly what Morrisons stands for because it’s not clear from the stores. Its much-vaunted (by former boss Bolland anyway) ‘Market Street’ of fruit and vegetables is just a re-arranging of the deck chairs. As a northern based supermarket, Morrisons is more vulnerable to the incursions of discounters Aldo and Lidl than its major competitors.
Philips’ departure will also prompt some worries at agency DLKW Lowe. The agency hung on to the account in a repitch a couple of years ago against, among others adam&eve. Adam&eveDDB, as it now is, won some Morrisons digital business. John Lewis, a&e’s signature account, doesn’t appear to see Morrisons as a competitor to its Waitrose supermarkets.