After listening to Philips’ presentation at last week’s annual general meeting (agm), the 82-year old former chairman told him: “When I left work and started working as a hobby, I chose to raise cattle.
“I have something like 1,000 bullocks and, having listened to your presentation, Dalton, you’ve got a lot more bullshit than me.”
The outspoken comments drew applause from the hundreds of shareholders who attended the agm at the retailer’s Bradford headquarters on June 5.
But a spokesman for the supermarket told FoodManufacture.co.uk on Friday (June 6) that management was adopting the right strategy to reverse the shortfalls in sales and profitability.
‘Clearly a difference of opinion’
“Clearly there’s a difference of opinion [between management and Morrison] about the company strategy,” said the spokesman. “We are absolutely content that the right thing to do for Morrisons is to launch into the online space and to develop convenience as well as rapidly improve our systems, so that we have a 21st century business.”
Philips has previously stressed the challenge he faced in upgrading Morrisons’ out-of-date IT systems when he joined the retailer in January 2010. An industry insider told FoodManufacture.co.uk that Morrisons squandered the IT benefits it could have enjoyed from its acquisition of Safeway in March 2004.
Safeways’ IT systems were far in advance of Morrisons’ but were switched off after the acquisition in order to expedite the merger of the two retail businesses, this website was told.
Before the acquisition Morrisons operated about 100 stores nationwide. The Safeway acquisition contributed to the current total of about 500 stores.
Morrisons is under severe pressure from discount stores, such as Aldi and Lidl, and recently pledged to invest £1bn in price cuts to match the lower prices they offer. The lower prices would not affect suppliers but would be funded mainly through internal cost cutting, said the retailer.
‘Very consistent at about 11.5M a week’
While the supermarket’s total number of customers was static, shoppers were now visiting different stores, said the spokesman. “The number of customers visiting our stores is very consistent at about 11.5M a week,” he said. “What is happening is that they are sharing their shopping basket with other retailers.”
Last week Morrisons refused to confirm or deny media reports that it planned to axe up to 2,000 jobs as part of a management restructure.
In May the supermarket announced plans to cut 100 jobs at its Wakefield regional distribution centre. The changes will improve responsiveness and help to improve the distribution centre’s service to stores, said a Morrisons’ spokeswoman.
Meanwhile, despite Morrison’s criticism of management’s strategy, 94% of shareholders voted in favour of the current plan.
Also, 84.6% voted for the re-election of Philips as ceo of Morrisons and 84.6% for the re-election of Sir Ian Gibson as its chairman.
But Gibson announced his decision at the agm to step down after eight years in the role.
At the end of April, Roger Owen, a former property director at Morrisons, called for Gibson’s resignation.
Morrisons reported a pre-tax loss of £176M for the year to February 2, compared with a pre-tax profit of £879M the year before.