Can new Morrisons chairman Andrew Higginson inject some Poundland sparkle?

Higginson has left his post as chairman of Poundland to take up the reins at struggling supermarket Morrisons.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2014

Andy Higginson is a man with a lot of boardroom notches on his belt: having held roles (executive and non-executive) at Tesco, Burton, Guinness (as in beer) and Laura Ashley, he's currently the chairman of clothing retailer N Brown and retail group McCurrach UK, and an NED at BSkyB.

But this might be his biggest challenge yet: this morning beleaguered supermarket Morrisons announced Higginson will become its chairman, giving up his chairmanship at Poundland in the process.

It's a pretty clear indication of Morrisons' intentions: in the Great Discounter Struggle, the supermarket has opted to attempt directly competition with the likes of Aldi and Lidl, slashing prices on about 1,500 items in the process. Although, as recently-ousted Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke once put it, 'discounters will never allow you to be cheaper than them'. So all this price-cutting could prove futile, lowering margins without actually pushing up sales.

It's been a diabolical couple of months for the supermarket's chief executive, Dalton Philips: not only did he have to sack 2,600 managers back in June, but he also had to endure public humiliation by Sir Ken Morrison, the man who built the business from a small family retailer into one of the UK's largest supermarkets.

'When I left work and started working as a hobby, I chose to raise cattle,' said Sir Ken. 'I have something like 1,000 bullocks and, having listened to your presentation, Dalton, you've got a lot more bullshit than me.' Ouch. Presumably Philips is hoping Higginson will have the know-how to prevent similar outbursts in the future.

Replacing Higginson at Poundland will be none other than Darren Shapland, former chief financial officer at Sainsbury's, who resigned his previous role as chief executive of Carpetright in October when the company issued a profit warning. Supermarket bosses come, supermarket bosses go. Whether any of them can cope with the onslaught of the discounters remains to be seen...

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime