Sir Ken had visited about 10 Morrisons’ stores so far at Potts’s invitation. “It’s simply just going round some stores ... comparing notes and hopefully helping a little to bed him [Potts] into the business,” Morrison told Reuters.
“If I can help at all, I’m more than delighted to,” he said.
Son of the supermarket’s founder, the 83-year old Sir Ken ran the Bradford-based retailer for decades before stepping down in 2008. The Morrisons family still owns about 10% of the business equity.
Step up customer service
Potts succeeded sacked former ceo Dalton Philips on March 16. Since Potts’s appointment, about 70% of Morrison’s management board has left the business, as the new boss embarked on a series of initiatives to cut costs and to step up customer service in the supermarket chain.
Sir Ken praised Potts’s decision to add 5,000 shop floor staff to improve the service to shoppers. “He’s done very well in getting the density of staff in stores increased,” Morrison told Reuters. “That’s a good move which has worked very well for morale in the stores.
“A lot of jobs need doing and he’s tackled them head on I think. Some of them will take a little more time to resolve ... There are policies to be established and routines to be sorted.”
A vocal critic of Potts’s predecessor, Sir Ken publicly lambasted Philips’ strategy for the revival of the business as “bullshit” at Morrisons’ annual general meeting at its Bradford headquarters last June.
Three key ingredients
Sir Ken’s winning recipe
- Good staff
- Good suppliers
- Loyal customers
Speaking last summer, Sir Ken recommended three key ingredients in the recipe for Morrisons’ success. “You need good staff, you need good suppliers and you need loyal customers,” Sir Ken told BBC News.
“If you can fulfill those three categories with long-term people, you’ve got a winner.”
Sir Ken urged Philips to tour Morrisons stores as an ordinary shopper and not to make “presidential visits”. Once Philips won the confidence of staff and customers, he would learn a lot, he said. “You are never quite as good as you think you are.”
Key to the debate about how to revive the retailer’s fortunes was the future of its vertically integrated model with strong links to food production. Potts has pledged to exploit the store’s “unique attributes”.
Earlier this year Morrisons announced its lowest profit in eight years as the retailer battled keen completion from discount stores Aldi and Lidl and the other big three supermarkets – Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury.
Sir Ken was reported to have lost about £167M as the value of his shares in the business plunged last year.