Case ANALYSIS of Morrisons Grocery Retailer Course: MBA Full-Time Module: MBA 4059 Strategic Management and Marketing Tutor: Tom Patilo Student No. : 0810354 The University of Bolton, RAK Submission Date: 31. 05. 2009. The Outline I. Introduction II. Morrisons Analysis A. Morrissons Structure, Culture, Leadership and Performance B. SWOT, Core Competencies and Competitive Advantage C. Marketing Mix III. Conclusion
IV. Bibliography I. Introduction “The greater the risk, the bigger the win! ” is a well known rule practiced by exceptional leaders in the world of business. Morrisons chairman, Sir Ken Morrison, did just that when strategically deciding to acquire Safeway. After a period of trials and tribulations, as expected with any acquisition, Morrisons rose to become successful as the UK’s fourth largest grocery retailer.
Benefitting from UK grocery-retail trends including space expansion and increasing sales and market size, the “Big Four”, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, held a significant 75% share of the total grocery retail market in the UK. What Morrisons had not taken advantage of was format development and sales growth of non-food sectors; instead, they remained a single format superstore offering food lines only. Apparent change of consumer trends from value to quality was noted. However, price continued to be a consumption priority as the UK sank into a recession.
Through a series of management and marketing theories and frameworks, this essay will analyze: Morrisons structure, culture and leadership as these factors affected their business performance pre and post acquisition; their strengths and weaknesses applied to the external environment with existing and potential opportunities and threats, core competencies and competitive advantage; as well as their marketing mix. II. Morrisons Analysis A. Morrisons Structure, Culture, Leadership and Performance Structure, culture and leadership significantly impact and ultimately dictate a company’s performance.
The following paragraphs will distinguish the extent to which each factor positively or negatively affected Morrisons in years prior and post acquisition. Morrisons structure can be described as corporate governance, managed by a board of executive and non executive directors (Tricker, 1994; De Wit and Meyer, 2004) including the company’s Chairman, Sir Ken Morrison and later Sir Ian Gibson, CEO-Marc Bolland, Group Retail Director, Trading Director, Finance Director and four other non-executive directors (1).
Another way of explaining Morrisons corporate structure is through a concept developed by Mason (2003), the “leader-driven” structure that entails the explicit selection of a proactive directional strategy by the company’s leader, in this case Sir Ken Morrison’s strategy of growth by acquisition. Following their acquisition of Safeway, Morrisons went through re-structuring in their Finance Department. In the wake of the unexpected profit warnings, their Finance Director, Ackroyed, plus two others had resigned or were forced to resign, as implied by information given in the case.
The company struggled with Safeway’s accounting system, failing to retain the majority of Safeway’s head office employees and the effect on their performance was considerable. The second contributing factor to their lower than expected performance (in relation to structure) was the poor performance of the acquired Safeway Compact Stores. Being a single format superstore, Morrisons simply had no experience and know-how of managing this type of store. Culture, as the foundation of an organization, is the key to successful performance.
Similarly, pre-acquisition, Morrisons’ hospitality, great value for money and tradition resulted in a positive perception by their customers as a trustworthy and honest grocer. Change by acquisition caused inconsistence, as not enough attention was paid to Safeway’s existing customers. By failing to recognize their specific needs, they failed to acknowledge that “the best customer is usually an existing customer,” resulting in loss of their loyalty (Clutterbuck and Goldsmith, 1998).
Morrisons inadequate understanding of Safeway culture and the decision to immediately re-label all Safeway products to their own had a negative effect, leading to lower than expected performance (De Chernatony and Cottam, 2008). Essential culture components of a successful grocery retailer in the UK include: Corporate Social Responsibility, cross-cultural practice, customer focus and service excellence as well as focus on employees and team building. The following paragraphs will examine each factor of Morrisons culture in relation to their performance and in comparison to that of their direct competitors.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the UK has a significant impact on consumers’ perception of the brand, consequently influencing their buying behaviors (Anselmsson and Johansson, 2007). According to the findings of the Market and Opinion Research Institute Survey, one third of all respondents displayed concerns about retailer’s CSR, and half of them bought from companies high on the CSR ladder (Anselmsson and Johansson, 2007). Morrisons CSR is an integral part of their organizational culture and is displayed in programs and charity they support.
Examples are: Morrisons “Lets Grow Program” – aimed to inspire children to lead a healthier lifestyle; Morrisons Charity of the Year – aimed at helping the aging and children vulnerable to abuse; Action Earth and Carbon Reduction Initiative, as Morrisons environmental initiatives (1). Although positive, Morrisons CSR initiatives do not differentiate them from the competition as they are similar in nature to those of other large grocery retailers and therefore are not a source of competitive advantage.
In contrast to the competitors, Morrisons adopted patriotism as part of their organizational culture, evident in their 100% commitment towards British meat, flour and lamb, which results in a positive perception, support and preference among the nation’s consumers (1). Cross-cultural verging was essential during Morrisons nationwide expansion. Operations in different parts of the UK exposed them to other cultures and verging was necessary for them to be accepted (Kanungo, 2006).
For example, once they crossed borders into Wales, an effort was put in to successfully integrate with Welch culture, evident in their “Welch Language Policy” (1). The policy entails bilingual external and internal signage, website and self-service machines, advertising, audio announcements and most importantly face-to-face communication between their employees and customers in both Welch and English, with Welch being strongly encouraged by the company (1). Their performance in Wales is clearly linked with commitment to evolve and fit in with the community’s culture (Clutterbuck and Goldsmith, 1998).
Morrisons successful cross-verging with Welch culture assured excellent regional performance. Their practice in Wales can be analyzed through Mc Kinsey’s 7s Factors Diagram indicating interrelation between their shared values, strategy, structure, systems, style, staff and skills in a self-explanatory Figure 1. Structure Corporate Governance Systems Vertical Integration Strategy Quality & Cost Control Shared Values Cross-cultural Welch & English Style Traditional Skills Managerial, Sales & Multilingual
Staff Management & Employees Figure 1: Morrisons through McKinsey’s 7s Factors Diagram Second example of Morrisons successful cross-verging of cultures is their line of curries and spicy food (1), satisfying the needs of an increasing population of ethnic Indians and Pakistanis in the UK. The strength of ethnic identity causes increased consumption in food and service of cultural appeal (Bem, 1967; Chatterman and Lenon, 2008). In conclusion, Morrisons verging Asians also had a positive effect on their performance.
Customer focus and service excellence is another fundamental factor of Morrisons culture. Although Morrisons customer service has been awarded over the years, along with their store and building renovations and facilities, we find Tesco and Asda displaying higher levels of the concept. Asda ensures “service with personality” through their “Warm Welcome Policy” (3) and efforts in “delighting customers” (Macdonald, 1995) by introducing events such as the “singles evenings” where shoppers can meet.
Asda has managed to add excitement and enhance shopping experience (Clutterbuck and Goldsmith, 1993). In Morrisons defense, a drawback to this approach is that it is extremely difficult to achieve balance between the desired level of service and optimum level of profit. On the other hand, contribution to Tesco’s success and high level of customer retention can be assigned to their customer focus, achieved through “Customer Question Time” meetings between their staff and customers, in an effort to bridge gaps and adapt to their changing needs and expectations (2).
This type of customer involvement in product and service innovation leads to a solid betterment in performance. Morrisons failed to accomplish the same for the acquired Safeway customers. They were wrong to assume that they will eventually evolve to their standard product offerings and business practice (Driving Corporate Culture for Business Success, 2009); they failed to acknowledge these peoples’ culture and needs. Inability to retain them resulted in Morrisons lower than expected performance.
Employee focus and team building was not a prominent factor of Morrisons culture, whereas, Asda highly emphasizes on that by demonstrating employee personal and professional support as well as team building through concepts of daily “huddle over a cup of coffee” and the “Executive Early Brunch” organized to acknowledge individuals’ performance and discuss current issues and business objectives (3), surely, positively influencing performance on an individual and team level. Morrisons initially was under leadership of Chairman, Sir Ken Morrison.
His management style as a change leader was critical to Morrisons success and survival, and crucial to their expansion nationwide. From his vision, commitment and ability to take risks, both on the personal and business level (by acquiring a grocery much bigger than his own while jeopardizing his 37 years of continuous success) and his proactive change perspective, (as he planned, managed and seized the opportunity of acquiring Safeway), we can safely conclude that he had the essential attributes of a great leader, enabling him to become the 4th largest grocery retailer in UK.
In addition, he was honored an award for “Outstanding Contribution to Retail” for his 55 years of service (1). His strategy approach was influenced by the Entrepreneurial School of Thought; vision, charisma, intuition, judgment, wisdom and experience were evident in sailing through the tough acquisition aftermath. Although there were strategically wrong decisions out of no prior experience in acquisitions, in interviews, he displayed nothing but confidence while facing hardship and profit warnings.
While failure was embarrassing, it was also a way of learning and innovation process leading to positive outcome. In conclusion, “more dangerous than changing the organization is never changing it at all” (Pfeffer and Sutton, 2006, p. 42), evident in the turnaround of Morrisons and their once lower than expected performance. Looking back, Morrisons pre acquisition performance was flourishing as evident in their financial statements between 1998 and 2004, indicating steady growth in profits and sales due to their strong retail skills, uality and value offers that strategically fit the environment. In conclusion, the post acquisition period produced lower than the expected performance due to four crucial and strategic factors undertaken by Morrisons and identified in the company’s, structure, culture and leadership. One, Morrisons had no prior experience in acquisitions and that alone can bring to a number of challenges. Two, they failed to adjust to the acquired Safeway’s customers as examined in the concept of culture. Three, they were unable to manage Safeway’s Compact Stores.
Four, they failed to retain the majority of Safeway’s head office employees, especially in the accounting department which resulted in problematic post merger finances. These problems are in line with the suggestions of Papastathopoulou et al. , (2006) that performance success of a product and service introduced into a different market largely depends on thrall understanding of the customers, as well as seniority and expertise of the management in different functional departments. An immediate result was a profit decline and their eventual loss of ? 13 million, the following year. We can conclude that their change process left Safeway employees behind and did not strategically fit the environment at first; Figure 2. Environment (customer’s economical & cultural state) Safeway Employees Morrisons Organization & Change Program Figure 2: No Strategic Fit of Morrisons post acquisition Change Program Morrisons recovered as evident by a profit leap of 217. 9% to a positive ? 369 million in one year. By repositioning as a “Food Specialist for Everyone,” they gained new customers and improved their sales performance.
Secondly, by getting rid of Safeway’s Compact Stores, they cut their losses. Lastly, downsizing the workforce by 11. 4% considerably cut costs. One can also imagine that in time, they gained “economies of scale” across the departments from their centralized purchasing, marketing and management. Recession directed the consumer trends to value for money and that is something Morrisons took complete advantage of when strengthening loyalty of the old and gaining commitment of the new customers to their stores. B.
SWOT, Core Competencies and Competitive Advantage The largest food retailers in the UK can be labeled as “strategic group. ” They follow more or less the same strategy, identical structure in terms of management, size, product offerings and distribution, leading to similar prices and level of service, while targeting the general UK population (Porter, 1980; Panagiotou, 2007). Consequently, they face the same opportunities and threats and react similarly to shared environmental and economic climate (Panagiotou, 2007).
The competition among the group is tight; they deploy benchmarking against one another, resulting in imitation. Price can become the main element of differentiation, causing a negative effect on profits (Panagiotou, 2007), applicable to the current recession. Morrisons points of differentiation are examined through Mintzberg’s Generic Competitive Strategies theory in Figure 3. By Price Cost Leadership By Marketing Image “Food Specialist for Everyone” Morrisons’ Points of Differentiation By Product Design Award Winning Own Label
By Product Quality Numerous Quality Awards By Product Support (butcher, fish monger, food preparation) Figure 3: Mintzberg’s Generic Competitive Strategies Morrisons main points of differentiation are price cost leadership and product quality, enabled by an efficient supply chain where they own and managing most of it, resulting in more cost efficiency and tighter quality control. This brings us to evaluate Morrisons strengths and weaknesses as well as current and potential opportunities and threats.
Morrisons overall strength is in quality of the fresh food supplies at competitive prices, plus great store facilities accompanied by traditional and hospitable award winning service. Another strength of Morrisons is in their understanding and successful adaption to UK market demographics. Adams (2008) reports that there has been an enormous shift in the UK’s age distribution from young adults to a rapidly increasing population of seniors, who today significantly impact the market. Morrisons adaption to this is not only creative but also humanitarian.
As stated earlier, they support the charity for protection of aged. Second, they cater to the UK’s fastest growing minority, Indians and Pakistanis, by offering a selection of curries and spicy Indian cuisine. Furthermore, Morrisons efficient supply chain allows for cost and quality control. It also gives them greater understanding of the food and closeness to the source as they own and manage most of their fresh food supplies, meat processing, warehousing and transport. In addition, they own packing plants and Farmer’s Boy fresh food factory.
Their strength lies in backward and forward vertical integration, as they own and operate the majority of their supplies and processes (Grant, 2005), as displayed through Porters Value Chain in Figure 4. Services Marketing & Sales Logistics Outbound Logistics Operations Inbound Logistics Morrisons Primary Activities Morrisons Value Chain Morrisons’ Support Activities Infrastructure, HRM, Technology Development (EPOS), Procurement Figure 4: Porters Value Chain of Morrisons Hereby comes the positioning, “Food Specialist for Everyone,” extensive in-store food preparation facilities and an award winning own label as Morrisons ultimate strengths.
Apart from the identified strengths, Morrisons has a set of weaknesses that include: no online grocery, no non-food sector, single format, and acquisition related inexperience, weak financial department and no adequate understanding of Safeway and their acquired customer base, as we have earlier discussed. Morrisons has not tapped into a market of online shoppers, whereas Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s have that option available from their websites. Tesco alone accounts for 1 million online customers, which is one of their fastest growing segments (2).
Internet presence is beneficial and presumably unaffected by recession; the online grocery retail market is growing 10 times faster than the UK’s total grocery retail, reaching over ? 14. 7 billion and expected to reach ? 44. 9 billion by 2012 (“e-Retail continues to defy consumer downturn,” 2008). In conclusion, online shopping is an escalating trend and Morrisons failure to take advantage of it can be categorized as a weakness. A company’s weakness can become strength and reverse depending on time, place and market conditions.
Morrisons was losing out by not offering the non-food items that an increasing number of people shopped for at superstores. Non-food grocery sector was ? 19. 7 billion strong and growing. More than 62% of all UK shoppers used supermarket vendors for purchases other than food as published by Verdict (“Supermarket Nation – Supermarkets more popular than ever with British consumers,” 2008). Nowadays, due to economic crises the biggest drop is experienced in the same sector leading to considerable losses as reported by Reuters (“Europe retailers cut costs, prices to fight recession,” 2009).
Once a weakness, Morrisons choice of offering foodstuff only has paid off and now can be listed as strength. In addition, by executing a single store format, Morrisons is losing out on potential sales. Tesco’s multi-format stores tailored for customer convenience contribute to their wider distribution and greater sales revenue (2). A number of opportunities for Morrisons and other prominent grocery retailers arise from the economic crisis, one of which is that the lower household budgets brought a new trend and opportunity for grocery own labels.
Wal-Mart is capitalizing on their “Great Value” private brand featuring 80 new products (“Foodmakers use innovation to battle imitation,” 2009). This is a great opportunity for Morrisons and their award winning own label. Secondly, an increasing trend of “eating at home” is also an opportunity. Sainsbury’s, the UK’s third largest grocery retailer, has experienced 5. 5% increase in food product sales due to this trend alone (“Grocer Sainsbury could buck the gloom as more people eat at home,” 2009).
Adding to Morrisons existing opportunity for growth, as they still have considerable number of UK households to reach as 8 million households in UK are not located within15 minutes drive parameter (1), is that the property prices have gone down (“Europe retailers cut costs, prices to fight recession,” 2009). Furthermore, an opportunity for UK grocery retailers and Morrisons is expansion overseas, due to improved infrastructure and growing economies especially in Asia. Capitalizing on this opportunity is Tesco with their recent expansion into China (”Wal-Mart, Tesco and Carrefour do battle in the east,” 2008).
Apart from the opportunities, recession has brought new threats to Morrisons. Hard discounters Aldi and Lidl have an increasing stake in the market, as reported by Verdict (“Competition intensifies in the battle for grocery market share,” 2008; Felsted, 2009). The research further indicates that the numbers of regular customers at these supermarkets are very much on the rise (Felsted, 2009). As a result of a full blown recession in the UK (“UK economy ‘already in recession’,” 2008), consumers trend towards hard discounters is speeding up (“European grocery retailers: a though 2009 ahead,” 2008).
Aldi, Lidl and Netto’s combined market share in 2008 amounted to 5. 34% in comparison to Morrisons’ 11. 9%, which is almost half. In conclusion, hard discounters are an increasing threat that can easily end in hazard to Morrisons sales revenue and market share. In addition, Tesco’s “Fresh & Easy” chain could pose a threat to Morrisons “Market Street” selection in the future, especially if they start to aggressively lower their rates (“Tesco shows resilience with profit topping ? 3b,” 2009) as previously discussed in problems that arise with the strategic groups.
A company’s core competency and competitive advantage are also subject to a changing economic environment and consumer trends. Morrisons main core competency that once resulted in a competitive advantage was quality, as evident in their numerous food and service awards (1). That was the case up until 2008 where the foremost economic driver was quality and consumers’ expectations were at the peak (DeFeo and Janssen, 2001). They were able to sustain competitive advantage due to their unique capabilities of sourcing, processing and in-store food preparation in comparison to their competition.
Adding value to their produce was their patriotic tendency and commitment towards British supplies, creating perception: quality equals British equals Morrisons. Secondary to quality was their core competitive pricing. As the economic environment and consumer trends changed by progression of crisis, where value and price does make all the difference (Saleem, 2009), Morrisons core competencies reversed to fit today’s economic climate. Their primary core, driving the competitive advantage became cost efficiency and competitive pricing.
They have been able to draw customers to their stores by offering value promotions, facilitated through existing cost-cutting opportunities throughout their efficiency and value chain. We can safely conclude that Morrisons strategic fit was apparent throughout the changing economic climate as they successfully adapted their cores and competitive advantage, while targeting growth by expansion; Figure 5. Economic and Cultural Environment in UK Grocery Retail Industry Morrisons Figure 5: Strategic Fit of Morrisons C. Marketing Mix
Products offered at Morrisons are private and branded food and beverage lines that can be categorized as: “Market Street” composed of fresh fruit, vegetable, meat and fish; bakery goods and ready meals, including the spicy Indian Cuisine; “Eat Smart” product line; “The Best” product line of exceptional food made from the finest ingredients; “Free from range”, products for special dietary requirements; whole foods, healthy and highly nutritious; organic, naturally grown and free from pesticides; “Value Meals in Minutes”, ready meals that are fast and easy to cook; and “Value Household Goods” such as kitchen roll, batteries and other (1).
Prices at Morrisons are highly competitive due to their sound supply chain operations, vertical integration and cost-cutting capabilities and they are known to provide value offers through different promotions that are attractive and easily understood by their customers. Examples of these would include: half price, buy 1 get 1 free, only ? 1, save ? 1, ? 2 for ? 1, better than half price, great low price (1), “? 20 cash back” (“Morrisons tipped to win market share from rivals,” 2009), and their latest customer luring “Sunday Lunch for Four at ? 4” restaurant promotion (“Europe Retailers cut costs, prices to fight recession,” 2009).
In addition, their marketing campaign “Food Specialist For Everyone” (1) inclusive of their television advertisements is helping generate sales and greater performance as evident in their highest to date, 11. 9% market share (“Morrisons tipped to win market share from rivals,” 2009). In terms of place, Morrisons store numbers and dispersion across UK is expanding. As mentioned earlier, they still have a substantial market to cover. Their future plans for expansion include acquisitions of Co-op and Somerfield as well as organic growth by introduction of smaller convenience hops (1). In conclusion, Morrisons’ Marketing Mix is in line with the UK’s grocery retail market as a whole and it successfully fits in terms of the economic climate and the recession driven, new consumer trends. III. Conclusion With the acquisition of Safeway, Morrisons became UKs 4th largest supermarket chain offering branded and own label food. Their acquisition strategy led to a greater market share and overall revenue but also to a number of eye-opening challenges causing lower than the expected initial business performance, as examined throughout the essay.
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