Morrisons: ex boss’s criticism ‘unhelpful and unwelcome’

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Morrisons has hit back at outspoken criticism from a former director of the business
Morrisons has hit back at outspoken criticism from a former director of the business

Related tags Morrisons Supermarket

Morrisons has dismissed outspoken criticism of its top management from a former director of the business as “unhelpful and unwelcome”.

The retailer was replying to comments from Roger Owen, a property director with the supermarket for 22 years until 2009, who claimed current chairman Sir Ian Gibson should stand down and that chief executive Dalton Philips was “out of his depth”.

A Morrisons spokesman told “Judging modern retailing through the lens of the past is never very enlightening. These are unhelpful and unwelcome comments reflecting a different era in retailing.

“He might be better served taking more of a thoughtful view of his role as a director of a board that left Morrisons, uniquely amongst the big grocers, with no online and no convenience offer.”

Owen delivered his comments in an interview with the The Yorkshire Post​ but stressed the views were his own and did not necessarily reflect those of his former boss Sir Ken Morrison. Gibson should take responsibility for Morrisons’ current problems and should step down, he said.

“He​ [Gibson] should not be putting himself forward for election,”​ added Owen. “If he does put himself forward, I hope sincerely that he is going to be voted off the board.”

‘A super tanker heading towards an iceberg’

Morrisons’ chief executive Dalton Philips – who was appointed in March 2010 – was also criticised. Owen claimed Philips was “out of his depth”. ​The former director went on to claim that the retailer was “a super tanker heading towards an iceberg​”.

Owen’s comments are the latest in a series of setbacks, as Morrisons battles tough competition from discount retailers Adli and Lidl and from the other big three supermarkets, Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury together with premium outlets such as Waitrose and Marks & Spencer.

Earlier this year, Morrisons dismayed City analysts with a report of a pre-tax loss of £176M for the year to February 2, compared with a pre-tax profit of £879M the year before. Turnover at the nation’s fourth biggest supermarket chain fell by 2% to £17.7bn, after what Gibson acknowledged was a “disappointing year for Morrisons”. ​The retailer pledged to invest in lower product prices, in a move widely interpreted as potentially initiating a supermarket price war.

A pre-tax loss of £176M

Commenting after the publication of the results, City analyst Panmure Gordon described the outlook for the retailer as “truly awful”.

Earlier this month, figures from Kantar Worldpanel confirmed Morrisons’ share of the UK grocery market fell by 0.5% in the 12 weeks to March 30 compared with the previous year.

Out of the big four supermarkets, Morrisons suffered most. But Aldi achieved a record 35.3% increase sales growth to boost its market share to 4.6% and Lidl’s sales rose by 17.2%, while Waitrose managed to claim 5% of the grocery market.

Morrisons has also announced the departures of George Dymond and Simon Harrow. Dymond was recruited to run the retailer’s online grocery service in January, but left the business just weeks after his appointment and later became operations development director at Tesco.

The retailer also confirmed this month the departure of Simon Harrow​ from its children’s products subsidiary Kiddicare.

Morrisons’ shares fell to their lowest value in eight years this week.

Meanwhile, the retailer announced plans this week to expand its meat processing factory at Winsford, Cheshire, along with the creation of 200 jobs. ​ 

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