Morrisons has posted a continued fall in underlying first quarter sales, but the rate of decline has been massively slowed under Chief Executive David Potts’' reign.
The grocer recorded a 2.9% drop in like-for-like sales excluding fuel for the 13 weeks to May 3, which compares with a 7.1% fall in the period a year ago and a 2.6% decline the previous quarter.
The Tesco veteran hasn’t wasted any time with a turnaround plan, having already swung the axe on the majority of the management team a mere week after joining the supermarket chain.
Morrisons, much like its rivals, has been losing marketshare to discounters Aldi and Lidl and premium players such as Waitrose and M&S Simply Food, but recent data from Kantar Worldpanel showed that Morrison was the best performing of the big four supermarkets in the four weeks to April 26 and was the only one to register positive sales growth. Potts’ plans are seemingly working.
Since his tenure began at the end of February, the 57 year old has spoken of his intentions to cut head office headcount by 720, at a cost of £30-40m while adding 5,000 shop floor staff to improve customer service.
Potts has also brought back staffed express checkouts and abandoned the previous management's computerised queue management system.
"Our priorities are to improve the customers’ shopping trip and make our core supermarkets strong again," said the CEO this morning. "We are listening hard to customers and colleagues and, wherever possible, we are responding quickly."
Potts intends to provide a detailed update on his strategy when Morrisons publishes first half results in September but said the focus would continue to be "to invest more for customers in order to build trading momentum."
“This is a business with many attributes, some unique. Our task is to use those advantages to improve the shopping trip for customers and create value,” he added.
Morrisons has also announced the appointment of Darren Blackhurst as Group Commercial Director. Blackhurst joins from Kingfisher's B&Q and formerly worked for Matalan, Asda and Tesco.