Andy Higginson, chairman-designate of Morrisons, has accused the big four grocers of focusing too much on each other rather than their customers.
Speaking at the IGD Convention this afternoon Higginson, who will take over as Morrisons chairman next year, nevertheless argued that “supermarkets aren’t dead and the UK is not overspaced”.
Higginson, a former Tesco finance director and Poundland chairman, maintained: “Supermarkets have been very focused on each other. The marketing dialogue has astonished me. It’s the big four talking to each other, not their customers.
“The dialogue with customers has not been honest. Customers have lost trust in supermarket pricing.”
He also said that Tesco’s recent troubles are not good for the wider sector: “Tesco has been a weak player in the last few years and that has made the industry weaker. Having the market leader off form isn’t great for the whole industry.”
Higginson said that although grocery retail is going through “extraordinary times” he was confident that “we can recover”.
“It reminds me of the ’90s, when Asda was on its knees and Tesco was told its brand was damaged. That was a trigger for tremendous change.”
He said the key to navigating the challenging times would be keeping things simple. “In the digital age it’s a formula that’s as old as the hills,” he said. “Partner with suppliers and look after staff and stores. And boardrooms need to be more honest and focus on business. If [retailers] can serve their customers shareholders will be rewarded.”
He also maintained that rather than the grocers being overspaced, UK property costs were so high that it was challenging to deliver a good return on investment.