Muddled Morrisons are still too mediocre

Investing in your brand is money down the drain if your staff aren’t interested

Morrisons are by far my least favourite of the big four supermarkets. I find their stores an incoherent jumble of colours, messages and styles. I know they have a reputation for decent produce but I always felt I’d wandered into a slightly tidier, slightly cleaner Kwiksave circa 1994. Two things in particular used to irritate me. First, the ludicrously titled, and inspirer of anger in pedants everywhere, ‘Market Street’ fruit ‘n’ veg section. Market Street is neither a market nor a street. For years, supermarkets have worked hard to make the greengrocery section seem more like a, well, a traditional greengrocer’s. That’s fine, but spell it out too overtly and you may as well display a certificate at the front of your store that celebrates your role in the demise of the traditional high street. All Morrisons’ competitors have managed to pull off this mood-setting without actually reminding the customer what they are not in. The second irritant was the sub-brand used for their most expensive own label produce. Whereas Tesco try to seduce you with their finest range and Sainsbury’s invite you to taste the difference, Morrisons told you their stuff was THE BEST and that was that. I don’t know whether this was a bow to their northern roots and a spade’s a spade and whatnot, but I do know that their more recent attempt, the ‘signature’ range is rather more inspired. Wm Morrison’s personal scribble now appears on the packaging. This is something that, among their competitors, only Sainsbury’s (and M&S) could copy (Mr Asda, Mr Co-op and Mr Tesco don’t exist and Messrs Waite and Rose aren’t spelled the same way any more) is a nice and stylish nod to their history.

I know this because I was in Morrisons yesterday. I’d read somewhere that they have been working on their brand and, of course, found the signature range. And this:

Market Street

So it is, we assume, a work in progress.

At the cheese counter, I tried to buy cheese. Normally you point at a cheese and say, ‘I’ll have 200g of that please’, and then move onto the next cheese. And the person behind the counter kindly wields their knife and their clingfilm and off you go. That’s not how it works at Morrisons. One piece of cheese had a label: ‘This piece is £1.35’. I asked to buy it but then realised it had been left open and was beginning to go hard. I asked for a fresh piece to be cut of around the right size, from the large piece of cheese under the counter. ‘Oh no, sir,’ I was told. ‘Those are in aisle 1.’

‘You can’t cut me off a bit?’

‘All on aisle 1 sir, all sizes, ready wrapped you see.’

I tried buying another cheese, but that was also to be found on aisle 1.

I never did find aisle 1 (it wasn’t next to aisle 2), and the cheese selection, though wide, didn’t include the choices I’d tried to make.

I can think of other supermarkets where the staff would have come with me to find the cheese. But then I can’t think of other supermarkets where the cheese counter itself is, while staffed, entirely redundant.

A bonkers way to run a supermarket.

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