Struggling Morrisons have announced that the man entrusted to change their fortunes is former Tesco director and Poundland chairman Andrew Higginson who will assume Sir Ian Gibson’s role as the chairman of Britain’s fourth biggest supermarket.
After spells at the likes of Guinness and the Burton’s Group, Higginson had a very successful 15 years at Tesco, 11 as a finance director and four as the chairman of Tesco bank. Working under the leadership of the highly esteemed Sir Terry Leahy, he was a key player in the transformation of Tesco from a mere British supermarket to a massive international corporation.
Having received great credit for his role in the Tesco triumph, Higginson was widely tipped to be Leahy’s successor for the top job. However, Tesco made the bold call to overlook Higginson in favour of Philip Clarke, who was recently replaced following great concerns over the state of the supermarket’s finances.
Higginson insisted he was not bitter about the snub, but decided it was time he stepped away from the company due to his hunger for a bigger role. And he certainly hasn’t had a shortage of those since.
He has shown extreme versatility throughout recent years. His nous in the fashion field has been proved through his position as chairman at N Brown, the plus-size clothing retailer which sells as the likes of Jacamo and SimplyBe.
As a big rugby fan, he’s served as a non-independent executive director for the RFU and remains in a similar role at BSkyB. He is also chairman of McCurrah UK, a group which aids brands hoping to sell to supermarkets.
But, luckily for Morrisons, he is still undoubtedly a supermarket heavyweight. In order to take over from Gibson, he is stepping down from his job at Poundland where he has overseen a successful stock market flotation and a big store expansion – including a venture into Ireland.
The likes of Poundland, and fellow discount stores Lidl and Aldi, have famously benefited from tough economic times and the decline of ‘the big four’. It will be interesting to see what Higginson has learnt from being the chairman of a discount outfit when he returns to a conventional supermarket.
He doesn’t take the hotseat at Morrisons until 2015 but there’s no doubt the veteran will have big ideas about how to stop the supermarket slump. His arrival could mean a shaky future for Dalton Philips who is under pressure from investors to half an alarming slump in sales. “To our minds Higginson brings a wealth of experience and talent to what it has to be said has been a troubled group in Morrisons”, said Shore capital analyst Clive Black.
It’s a telling time for the grocery industry, and with Dave Lewis expected to cut prices and sacrifice at Tesco, Higginson will have to act decisively if Morrisons is to remain relevant with the British public.