Morrisons recovery will take years says boss as 900 jobs face axe

David Potts, Morrisons new CEO

David Potts, Morrisons new CEO

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MORRISONS warned that its recovery will take “years not months” as it announced the closure of 11 ​supermarkets, including an unnamed store in Yorkshire, putting 900 jobs at risk.

The news came as the Bradford-based chain announced a 47 per cent slump in half year profits to £126m - its lowest level in nine years - after disgruntled shoppers switched to discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Dalton Philips was ousted as Morrisons Chief Executive last March

Dalton Philips was ousted as Morrisons Chief Executive last March

The group has brought in former Tesco boss David Potts to revive its fortunes, but he warned that there would be no quick fixes.

“We have a long, challenging and important journey ahead. It’s going to take years not months,” he said.

“Our aim this year is to stabilise our trading position.”

Morrisons’ shares, which have nearly halved in value over the past two years, fell as much as six per cent in early trading, but closed the day down three per cent at 165.5p.

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​Analyst Bruno Monteyne at Bernstein said Morrisons is yet to present a clear plan on how it can win back customers.

“It is still unclear how they will compete on price against Aldi, Lidl and Asda and on service against Sainsbury’s or Tesco,” he said.

However Mr Potts hit back with a six point plan to revive the firm’s fortunes.

The first goal is to become more competitive by cutting the price of everyday items.

​After investing​ ​£​181​m in its first half, mostly​ on price cuts, ​Mr ​Potts said the full-year investment w​ill​ top ​£​300​m.

​“Price is a vital part of this brand,” he told reporters at a press conference in London.

The second is to improve customer service following complaints that store staff seem disengaged, which is seen as a reflection of previous management decisions.

Mr Potts said that customer satisfaction has improved in recent months.

The third is the introduction of different merchandise to suit different areas. Mr Potts said that wealthy areas such as Brough will have different produce to stores in Leeds that serve the student population.

The fourth is the introduction of more popular services such as cafes, dry cleaners and pharmacies, which drive footfall.

The fifth is a return to Sir Ken Morrison’s vision of a simple business that sells quality fresh food at low prices. Mr Potts has slashed head office numbers from 3,500 to 2,000 and brought in 5,000 more in-store staff in a bid to return to basics.

The final aim is to return the core supermarket estate to growth and the group will upgrade its entire store estate by the end of 2018.

Under former management some stores were given expensive upgrades including the controversial vegetable misting machines, which many saw as a misguided attempt to move upmarket, but 200 stores have not been touched over the past five years.

On Wednesday Morrisons announced the sale of its convenience stores, having decided they were in the wrong place to build a successful small store business.

​It is selling its M local store network to retail entrepreneur Mike Greene, who plans to keep all 2,300 staff.

​The latest announcement of a further 11 store closures are in addition to 10 supermarkets shut earlier this year. Mr Potts said the latest closures are all loss-making and are mainly smaller-sized supermarkets.