As the financial mess at Morrisons gets deeper, there's one comment about the Safeway deal that sticks in the mind.It was made by Sir Ken Morrison (pictured), when he visited Safeway's HQ soon after the tie-up. 'This isn't a merger, it's a takeover,' he arrogantly told the assembled throng.
It was a classic instance of hubris, epitomising how not to win friends and influence people. Now Sir Ken is reaping the whirlwind.
The real winner from the Safeway deal is KPMG, called in by Morrisons to try and sort out its confused finances. KPMG will no doubt get a fat cheque for its efforts. Let's hope the grocer doesn't have to pay the accountants so much that another profit warning will be called for.
Clone town Britain
A decision by MPs to investigate the retail sector is an unwelcome distraction at a time when many store groups are battling to stave off sales declines.
Parliamentarians are worried by the alleged homogenisation of high streets and the uncertain future of independent shops, especially in the food market. Such worries were asserted earlier this week by the New Economics Foundation with its claims that 'clone town Britain' is a reality.
The inquiry is being spearheaded by the All-Party Small Shops Group, chaired by Labour's Jim Dowd. So far, 50 MPs have lent their support to the probe.
Retailers need to mobilise to ensure the contribution they make to UK prosperity and the benefits they bring to local communities are recognised. Let's not allow the politicians to build up a populist soap box campaign as they so scandalously did with the appalling Rip-off Britain campaign of the late 1990s.
It's difficult to underestimate the damage done to the sector by Rip-off Britain. In March, Retail Week published research by PricewaterhouseCoopers illustrating the extent of retail price deflation over 10 years. Horrifyingly, a consumer poll conducted as part of the study showed that most shoppers thought prices had gone up over the period. It was chilling evidence of the PR blow that the industry sustained as a political plaything during the Rip-off Britain years.
At the moment, nesting shoppers and ferocious competition mean many retailers are having the worst time in a decade. The BRC has gone as far as to say the industry is in recession.
Instead of laying into retailers, MPs should recognise that UK retail is one of the most competitive markets on the globe. Groups such as Tesco are world-class companies and their success should be celebrated rather than suspected.
Retailers could do without the burden of this parliamentary scrutiny. But given that comment will be sought, the industry should take the opportunity to try and nail some of the myths that still persist.
After all, if high streets are really so similar - a dubious claim in many instances - it is because consumers, the ultimate arbiters, demand the great stores and product that British retailers supply.