Morrisons cuts window cleaning to save cash

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If you can't afford to throw soap and water at your shop windows, you're in trouble. Supermarket Morrisons says it won't scrape much of the winter grime away until February to save corporate pennies.

Though full-year profits are on target, Morrisons sales have been wiped lower thanks to highly aggressive Aldi and Lidl competition. Where's the sparkle factor for Morrisons now?

A few sales smears

There's a certain lack of gleam. Like Asda and Tesco, Morrisons occupies the dangerous sales middle ground. Dangerous because its territory is being eaten into from both ends: Aldi and Lidl are gnawing their way up one side, while up-market Waitrose hogs the top shelf for itself.

Leaving mainstream operators like Morrisons with an increasingly pared-back market share. Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Asda and Tesco all lost market share in the last three months thanks to this combination of cheap and not-so-cheap competition.

Sainsbury's is managing to do rather better - the only Big Four grocer to increase market during the whole 12 months. Morrisons is further disadvantaged by its lack of an internet sales operation. This is changing, with an online service to be part-launched in January. But it's late.

Loyalty pays

Expect the usual teething issues. The roll-out won't actually connect with a 50% of UK households till the end of 2014. Morrisons is also let down by a lack of a loyalty discount scheme, adroitly deployed by Tesco and Sainsbury's.

Tesco's own membership scheme has 16m members while Sainsbury's Nectar model has close to 19m. As to image, Morrisons is still seen as a bit downmarket. Not in the north of England where its roots are, but in the south where its brand lacks the smooth gloss of Sainsbury's, for example (though it's relative).

Investor soaking

In the meantime, Morrisons says customers shouldn't mind window grime at the darkest part of the year. Water runs off windows it says and "can be a slippage hazard in the winter; and so we can spend money on maintenance activity that our customers do care about at this time of year."

Morrisons is also upping prices where it can. Or reducing sizes. An eagle-eyed foray into Morrisons yesterday saw its mainstay Savers All Purpose Cleaner product held at the same price (25p) but the size whittled down from 750ml to 500ml. Keep an eye out for other cost-cutting measures.

Currently Morrisons shares are selling at 261p, down from 302p in mid September, a 13.5% fall. Much hope, then, rides on the 'Go on its Christmas' ad campaign, starring Ant and Dec.

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