Store of the Week: Morrisons
Location: Royal Leamington Spa
After the planned Store of the Week last week was rudely interrupted by the latest in a series of profit warnings from Tesco and the news that Dave Lewis was cutting short his summer break, we can return to scheduled events with a visit to scenic Warwickshire and the relatively new Morrisons store near Royal Leamington Spa.
I’m all too familiar with Leam, having spent two years living there as a student. Aside from an unfortunate incident with a local and the wrong end of a pool cue (in the sadly deceased venue known as Kelly’s near the station), my stay there was generally a positive one. The town has got fairly upmarket since I left some 20 years ago (no coincidence there) and the coverage of food retailers in the area has gone through the roof. My drive around the town suggested that the place has been totally carpet bombed by the major supermarkets and their smaller chums. There are a handful of Tesco stores in the area, a few Asda units, four or five Sainsbury’s, a couple of Morrisons, a smattering of Lidls and a bunch of Aldi outlets. In summary, it is a perfectly typical UK town: there is no shortage of choice for the local citizens when it comes to buying groceries.
I’ve been there a few times in the last five years (our sister company Millward Brown has offices there), but it must have been a while, as I was surprised to see a shiny new Morrisons looming over a roundabout as I navigated my way around the route from Warwick to Leam. Actually opened in early 2013, the store was new to me, so I popped in to take a look, intrigued to see how the business was faring on the back of its much vaunted price offensive.
The entrance to the store was textbook Morrisons: decent food-to-go; bored looking security guard; some fairly hefty promotional messaging; lovely flower shop. Produce was also standard Morrisons. And by standard Morrisons, I mean the best in the business. Aside from the well-documented #mistyveg, the fruit & veg department was a veritable wonderland of variety, freshness and vitality. The addition of a crate to deposit defective produce was a nice touch, and the surrounding fresh counters – especially fish – were an absolute joy. Special props, as I believe youngsters say, go to the cake department: wonderful.
Wine was the usual M fare: lovely fixtures with the bamboozling (for me) price banding. I totally understand why it works for some shoppers, but it messes with my usual decision tree for buying wine: colour; country; variety; what’s on special. A small gripe. Morrisons has always outperformed on health & beauty in my eyes, and so it came to pass in this store too. Brilliant availability, fixtures and lighting and the judicious use of FSDUs added to the well-communicated value proposition.
Ambient grocery was solid. The power aisle screamed value, as did the deployment of dump bins in certain aisles. Signage was useful. Overhead signs meant that the store was a joy to navigate, EDLP wobblers assured that I was receiving decent value for money and the graphics around the store, while nearly veering into cheesy, were generally helpful and charming. The only complaint was that the ‘home baking’ sign would have been more useful if it just said ‘eggs are over here’.
All in all, a faultless store. But why was it so desperately, eerily quiet? Yep, there’s a lot of competition around. Yep, I was there on a Tuesday afternoon, hardly a peak trading period. Inevitably, I think the answer is to be found in marketing, or the lack thereof. The ‘I’m cheaper’ campaign was well executed, but appears to have withered on the vine. I honestly can’t recall the last time I saw a Morrisons ad on TV. Granted, I don’t watch a great deal of TV aside from GBBO and Don’t Tell the Bride, neither of which have ads, but my general impression is that Asda and Sainsbury’s (and, indeed, our German friends) are more visible and consistent in terms of marketing and communications.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. There’s no point having industry-leading capabilities in fresh and service if you don’t tell anyone about it. Until, that happens, if you fancy shopping a wonderful store in near solitude, then Mozzers in Leam is for you.
Store design: 7
Customer service: 10 (can’t remember her name, but the lady on checkout was stupendously excellent)
Private label: 7
Total score: 38