The area manager, Jason Lucas, had invited us to this meeting in response to a number of concerns we have recently expressed regarding the continued availability of products during and after the store makeover and he, and the Store Manager, Jeff Gardner, made us welcome in the cafe.
Firstly let me say that it says something for a retailer when they make a real effort to listen to their customers with face-to-face meetings like this.
I am not going to turn this post into a detailed meeting report, but if anyone has a specific question, leave a comment, and I will - if I can - answer it. Though bear in mind, I am just another customer, not an employee of Morrisons!
We started by saying that Morrisons "had it made" in Bath because of the generally poor supermarket offering in the city, and that in any case, we liked Morrisons, could get almost everything we needed there (before the makeover project) and felt that the store was exceptionally well-managed by Jeff and his team. Also we have found that many of Morrisons own-brand products were superior in quality to those of Waitrose.
Our recent problems in being able to buy our routine items at Morrisons, however, had by necessity driven us away. They are very well aware of this as a problem and the possibility that non-availability can cause people to change the supermarket they choose for their main weekly shopping, sometimes for good. For this reason, they do think carefully about the impact of withdrawing low-volume items, but obviously the impact of these decisions is not easy to forecast. In response to a question from me, they are thinking about perhaps making local suppliers part of their local offering in the store, but this has to be very carefully managed.
There have been serious problems at the store recently with the customer-operated checkouts. This, they explained, was not their fault. The supplier of the equipment had changed the specification of the hardware without even telling them. They are just as upset and frustrated about this as their customers. I made the point that one reason I never choose to use these checkouts was an ethical one, to do with the possible reduction and laying-off of checkout staff. The area manager assured me that this was not their policy at all. We shall see. Things can change, after all!
We talked about quite a few other things, such as pricing. But I'm not going into those here. I want to keep this short.
One last point: the appearance of the store is certainly bright, and the food looks very appetising. We understand that the works will be completed next Thursday. Time will tell if Morrisons get the right balance of their lines, both volume and minority, but they appear to be very keen to get it right and to listen. They stressed how important feedback was and showed today that they valued it.
One last last point! Throughout the Morrisons makeover works, the store remained clean and tidy. In fact Jeff pointed out that they monitored hygiene very closely and took a pre-emptive and cautionary decision to individually wrap certain open-food items while the works were ongoing. This is is stark contrast to what is happening in Waitrose Bath, where the dust is very evident, collecting visibly on things like dark bottles. Yet Waitrose appear happy to continue to sell open foods for immediate consumption, such as salads for the lunchtime and tourist trade.
In conclusion, well done Morrisons for listening. It's all too rare these days.