Innovation will be crucial if retailers are to thrive in tough times, Morrisons’ FD Richard Pennycook told delegates at the Retail Week Conference.

“Don’t be afraid to be brave,” Pennycook said. “A couple of years ago there wasn’t much innovation around. It was about hunkering down in the bunker.” The ability to think creatively about new ways of doing business, retailers will be able to “position themselves to take a disproportionate amount of share in a low-growth market”.

He pointed both to Morrison’s purchase of Kiddicare in February, as well as to the innovative thinking at FreshDirect, which Morrisons announced it had bought earlier this month. Several years ago FreshDirect made the bold decision to spend around $5m on one of the biggest billboards in the world by JFK airport – a decision which has reaped it financial rewards. “Think leftfield. What can you do to capture the imagination of your customers?”, said Pennycook.

He added that UK retail is among the best in the world at innovation, but he added it is vital to first ensure that a business is on a “sound footing and not having to fight everyday”.