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Morrisons Tesco Marks & Spencer

How Morrisons' attempts to bury bad news backfired


By Andy Barr, Head Yeti

January 9, 2014 | 4 min read

Oh to be a fly on the wall of the press offices of Tesco, Marks and Spencer and Morrisons this week, all of which have had the proverbial hit the fan in what I am labeling “Tits Up Thursday”.

Customers found less reasons to shop at Morrisons at Christmas

Lets get the facts out of the way first. Tesco’s like for like sales over Christmas are down on last year by 2.4 per cent, Marks & Spencer's down by 2.1 per cent and Morrisons' by 5.6 per cent.

That’s the facts, now lets look at the elephant in the room: Morrisons' attempts at a PR trick have massively backfired. How so? Well, Morrisons' sales announcements were unscheduled and according to media outlets like Sky News “rushed out” this morning.

It is clear that Morrisons had done its analysis and thought that it could get away with sneaking its own poor trading results out by doing it on the same day that Marks & Spencer and Tesco also announcing that they had a poor Christmas.

Well that backfired.

It probably hoped that its own results would not be as bad as M&S and Tesco and this would mean it would fall down the news agenda and maybe just get a mention among the bile being poured on the other two.

What it did not anticipate is that it would have had the worst results of all three, in terms of percentage decline, and this has meant that it has actually led the news agenda today.

If anything, this has helped Tesco and Marks & Spencer, although both their chief executives appear to be ready to receive the Spanish Archer (el-bow).

I suspect this was a comms driven strategy by Morrisons, although the financial team will have heavily directed timings and strategic direction. Someone somewhere though has got it a bit wrong for the Northern food-floggers and no doubt a sacrificial lamb will be found and thrown to the media wolves.

Morrisons has once again pointed the finger of blame towards its lack of online shopping, although that changes tomorrow when its first deliveries courtesy of its tie up with Ocado go live.

The tie-up with Ocado is likely to be make or break for Morrisons and will surely mean that its chief exec gets a bit more time to try and turn the retailer around. That being said, the rumours that Ocado is getting to cherry pick and take-over some of the Morrisons physical stores could now stall given the perceived lack of consumer confidence.

It will be interesting to see if Ocado’s own share price loses momentum in 2014 as a result of this tie-up, and against a backdrop of huge growth in 2013.

With Waitrose reporting an increase in like-for-like Christmas sales, and the budget supermarkets also reporting a bumper Christmas, it looks like it is the mid-market brands that are really struggling.

It will be interesting to see if Mr Bolland and Mr Clarke of Marks & Spencer and Tesco fame can cling onto their roles and more importantly, turn it around.

For those of you wanting to throttle me in person, or maybe even grab a beer, I am talking brands, social and PR at Sascon on 17 January. Come say hi y’all.

Morrisons Tesco Marks & Spencer

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