David Parkin on moribund Morrisons, the wisdom of entrepreneurs and rats in parliament

YOU’D think Morrisons announcing annual losses of £800m would be a complete disaster.
But I heard enough from chairman Andrew Higginson in his press interviews yesterday to believe that at least he understands where the moribund supermarket has been going wrong.
Whether he, and new chief executive David Potts – who starts on Monday – can put it right is the big question.
But what Higginson has accepted is the mistakes at Morrisons, something former CEO Dalton Phillips either refused to accept or couldn’t see.
Canning the roll out of the M Local convenience stores is a good start. It has stalled the expansion of the chain and will shut 23 of the 153 shops that are under performing.
If you’ve ever been in an M Local you’ll understand why they are failing to deliver. Down at heel with an odd range of products, they make Spar seem like Fortnum & Mason.
After attending a few drinks events one evening recently, I wandered into the M Local on Infirmary Street in Leeds and despite having an alcohol-induced hunger, wandered around with an empty basket for ages before settling for a stuffed crust pizza that I later had to check was actually stuffed with cheese and not cement.
The new chairman, who only arrived earlier this year, has already identified Morrisons’ core values of great quality fresh food at low prices and its unique offer of butchers, bakers and fishmongers in its stores.
What Higginson and Potts have to do is to combine the tried, tested and trusted philosophy of former chairman Sir Ken Morrison with some of the demands of modern consumers who don’t all go to the supermarket for their weekly groceries on a Saturday.
Get that right and they’ll be quids in.
The signs are that at least they have made the right start and there appears no denial about the real issues the business faces.
IT was good to hear the warts and all story of Jonathan Turner, chief executive of Yorkshire success story, The Bayford Group, at a Connect Gazelles Masterclass yesterday.
JT told the audience of ambitious entrepreneurs about the “good, the bad and the ugly” facts of buying his own family fuel, petrol station and fuel card business.
It was a great story, full of searingly honest admissions about some of the challenges he has faced – and plenty of the successes.
And in a world where virtually every business person names Richard Branson as their inspiration, it was good to hear Jonathan throw a few blast from the past business names out there whose stories inspired him – Jimmy Goldsmith, Jim Slater, Nigel Broackes of Trafalgar House and Yorkshire business legend James Hanson.
His passion for business and enthusiasm for history and pedigree is clear when you look at what Jonathan has created at Bowcliffe Hall, just off the A1 near Wetherby.
The amazing treehouse inspired by the legacy of former Bowcliffe resident Robert Blackburn, the aviation pioneer, that he has created in the grounds of the hall has to be seen to be believed.
The surroundings and the subject matter for the event certainly combined to create an inspirational event for Connect Gazelles.
If you haven’t come across the organisation, it is the brainchild of Nick Butler, a former DLA lawyer who has spent the last few years working with growing businesses across Yorkshire.
Connect Gazelles is a not-for-profit business support group for ambitious entrepreneurs that gives them access to the region’s leading business figures who have all volunteered to give their time and advice for free.
For more information have a look at www.connectgazelles.co.uk
In the meantime I’m still pleased with Jonathan’s admission that he doesn’t involve himself in the financial details of his business and he has never looked at a bank statement in his life.
I can share that approach.
It is just the talent and drive I need to add to my locker now.
ONE of our greatest architectural treasures, the Houses of Parliament, is apparently in a crumbling state of disrepair and needs urgent renovation otherwise it may have to be abandoned.
Politicians have even come face to face with mice in the House of Commons library and Yorkshire MP Anne McIntosh now wants parliament to adopt a cat from a nearby animal shelter to drive them away.
“There are also reported to be rats – it’s so close to the river and they say you’re never more than six yards away from a rat in London,” she told reporters.
I’m told by a couple of female friends that’s exactly how they feel when they go for a drink in Hotel du Vin in Harrogate.
But these ones tend to wear cashmere jackets and may well have beards and very white teeth.
Have a great weekend.

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