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Morrisons hires ex-Apple marketing boss in online push

Supermarket is aiming to allow customers to order from Morrisons.com in 2012

Morrisons has hired Apple’s former online store director to help drive its long-awaited move online.

Britain’s fourth-largest supermarket chain announced on Thursday that Simon Thompson has been appointed as managing director for Morrisons.com for food. Thompson was one of Apple’s most senior European marketing bosses until he left the company in May.

Thompson has also previously worked for Lastminute.com, as chief marketing officer, and for Honda, where he is credited with devising several well-regarded ad campaigns.

Thompson will now head-up a team of executives sent by Morrisons to New York to learn about online retailing from Fresh Direct, the US internet grocer which it partly owns.

Bradford-based Wm Morrison has taken a much more cautious approach to online shopping than its rivals, who have been selling groceries online for around a decade. Chief executive Dalton Philips, who took over last year, has pledged to make Morrisons a serious multichannel retailer. It is aiming to allow customers to order from Morrisons.com in 2012 – currently the site mainly consists of adverts for in-store offers, plus recipe and wine tips.

Analysts at IGD estimate that the UK online grocery sector is worth £4.8bn, accounting for 3.2% of total grocery spend. This is expected to double to £9.8bn by 2015, with web grocery orders growing faster than the rest of the market.

Morrisons also reported a 2.2% increase in like-for-like sales for the six months to 31 July, beating analysts’ forecasts. Pre-tax profits rose to £449m, from £412m a year ago, and the company expects to hit its 2011 targets despite the wider economic turmoil.

“Against the continuing backdrop of a challenging consumer and economic environment, Morrisons is reporting another good set of results,” said chairman Sir Ian Gibson.

The supermarket refused to comment on rumours linking the firm to a takeover of rival retailer Iceland. Such a move would speed up its move into convenience stores. However, as Nick Bubb of Arden Partners put it: “It would have to pay through the nose to top the bid from founder Malcolm Walker and we think the management team are too conservative and too focused on the potential of the core Morrisons business to do anything stupid like that”.

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