Morrisons boss Dalton Philips ousted after declining Xmas sales

Morrisons, the UK’s fourth largest supermarket chain, posted a 3.1% decline in like-for-like sales (excl. fuel) in the six weeks to January 4th, prompting its board to decide it needed a new leader. Chief Executive Dalton Philips is to be replaced, the company announced on Tuesday.

Chairman-elect, Andrew Higginson, said:

“We need to return the business to growth. The board believes this is best done under new leadership.”

Mr. Philips will stay on until the end of the financial year, i.e. March 2015.

Mr. Philips said:

“Morrisons is a great company with exceptionally talented people and I have been very proud to have worked with them. Over the last five years, we have made many improvements to the business and given Morrisons strong foundations for the future. I wish every success to the company and all of my colleagues, who have, and continue to work so hard.”

Morissons financials

Source: Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc.

The Bradford-based chain said it would be shutting down 10 unprofitable stores this year.

In September 2014, Chairman Sir Ian Gibson explained that business conditions were challenging and that the whole sector was experiencing “unprecedented change”. In June 2014, Sir Ian said he was planning to retire as Chairman. Andrew Higginson was appointed as Deputy Chairman and Chairman Elect in July, to take over as Chairman in 2015.

In a statement, Morrisons said today:

“Following a successful handover period, Morrisons today announces that Sir Ian will retire following the board meeting on the 22nd January and Andrew will succeed him as Chairman at that time. The Board wishes to express its gratitude to Sir Ian for his very considerable contribution to the company over the last eight years.”

Mr. Philips was under pressure from investors for taking too long to move into the convenience store sector and set up an online service.

Over the past year, there has been a fierce battle for market share among UK supermarkets, with German discounter Aldi and Lidl gradually gaining the upper hand.

In a conference call with journalists Mr. Philips, a former Tesco finance director, said he did not have another job to go to. “My wife has given me a long list of chores to do,” he added.