Morrisons bets on Ant & Dec to revive fortunes

Duo signed for 2013 ad campaign, while analysts forecast grocer as worst-performing major supermarket over Christmas

Morrisons has drafted in Geordie entertainers Ant & Dec to front a high profile advertising campaign as it battles falling sales.

Analysts think the Bradford-based grocer has lost its way and fear its Christmas sales were the weakest of the major food retailers. In November Morrisons axed its marketing supremo Richard Hodgson, with chief executive Dalton Philips complaining the chain’s major point of difference – fresh food counters manned by over 5,000 trained butchers, bakers and fishmongers – was being lost on shoppers.

At Christmas Morrisons dropped celebrities, who included ex-England cricketer Andrew Flintoff, from its ads and instead opted to portray a “real” family Christmas. But famous faces will return this year with Ant & Dec set to front an ad campaign showcasing its traditional grocery skills. The deal also includes sponsorship of ITV’s flagship Saturday night shows Britain’s Got Talent and Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.

Recent industry market data has shown Morrisons losing market share to big rivals Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s, as well as discounters Aldi and Lidl, The grocer will be the first of the “big four” to update investors on Monday with analysts predicting a 2.5% drop in like-for-like sales over the six weeks to 30 December.

The grocers are struggling to match previous year’s sales as higher food prices see Britons cut back on the amount of groceries they buy. Morrisons, it is argued, is also being squeezed by the growing popularity of internet home delivery which it does not offer.

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