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The history of Morrisons - more reasons to...

Hello, my history-loving friends. Today, we travel from Nottingham to Bradford in Yorkshire, to find out what makes Morrisons.

Morrisons is the 3rd oldest retailer in the UK and has been trading for 117 years. So, sit back, relax, and grab a cup of Yorkshire tea as we again wander down memory lane.


1899 - 1979

Wm Morrison Limited

William Morrison founded Wm Morrison Limited in 1899 as an egg and butter merchant. William opened a stall in Bradford market.

In 1952, William's son, Ken, took over the running of the company.


Morrisons in 1958, expanding into its first store

Morrisons lead the way in 1961, by opening Bradford's first self-service store. They also also were one of the first to open a supermarket, calling it 'Morrisons Victoria'. Morrisons placed the price on each item on sale. The new store offered 5000 sq ft of retail space and three checkouts. The new store also offered a customer car park.

Morrisons had ambitious plans for the future. This lead the company to list on the stock exchange in 1967. The office was 174 times over subscribed, as 80,000 investors tried to purchase shares.


1980 - 2003

More Reasons to Shop at Morrisons

morrisons-4 morrisons-5

During the 1980s, the company opened more than 50 stores. However, by the early 1990s, the economy was slowing down and this added pressure on to the company. While other supermarkets pushed a series of promotions, loyalty cards and longer opening hours, Morrisons stuck to the formula that had worked for the last 100 years - its discount formula and the fact its prices were the same in every store helped keep customers loyal.

In 1980, the Farmers Boy purpose-built fresh food factory opened.

In 1993, Morrisons moved to open its stores on Sundays. This move was popular with customers and helped boost profits for the year.

Over the next few years, Morrisons continued to open new stores and in 1998, the first store opened in the South.

Morrisons 100th anniversary was marked by its 100th store opening.

2004 - 2010

Fewer Reasons to Shop at Safeway


In 2004, Morrisons shocked the market by announcing its purchase of Safeway. Morrisons only had 119 stores at the time and was much smaller than the 479-store Safeway.

The deal was worth over £3billion.

As part of the deal, 52 of the original Safeway stores had to be sold off. They were sold to a mixture of Asda, Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury's.

Morrisons also sold off the Safeway Connect convenience stores.

Over the next few years, many parts of the old Safeway business were either closed or sold off, as Morrisons integrated the Safeway business into its own.

By November 2005, all Safeway stores had been re-branded and converted to the Morrisons format. This included the training of 50,000 Safeway colleagues.

Morrisons continued to invest in its food manufacturing factories and purchased a further three factories from Rathbone.

In April 2006, 1,500 employees moved to its new 331,000 sq ft head office in Thornbury, Bradford.


The Trolley Cross Country

2007 was the start of a new beginning for Morrisons. Now that the Safeway takeover had completed, the company set its sights on making the chain fit for the future.

The company unveiled its new logo as part of a £450 million makeover.


The new logo was followed by ambitious TV advert featuring stars Lulu and Richard Hammond and featuring music from Take That.


New advert with Richard Hammond


2007 Christmas advert featuring Lulu


2008 Christmas advert with Richard Hammond

In 2008, Sir Ken Morrison who took over the company from his father in 1952, retired from the company.

In September 2010, Morrisons announced that it would be opening a number of small format stores called M Local.

Around the same time, the company completed its purchase of children's retailer Kiddicare.

2011 - 2016

Morrisons Makes It


Until 2014, Morrisons didn't offer an online delivery service, but this changed after the 2013 deal with online supermarket Ocado. Ocado provided technology and know-how to Morrisons.

In January 2014, started providing delivery of its food to homes in the Midlands. This soon expand to the North and South.

In September 2015 the company announced the sale of its M Local stores to Mike Greene and Greybull Capital.

In March 2016, Morrisons announced a new brand and slogan, replacing the logo that it launched in 2007.


This was followed by the refurbishment of many of its stores, including a new 'party' section in many stores.

This refurb also moved the historic Market Street format into the present day.


Morrisons facts and figures:

  • 569 Stores
  • 117 years trading
  • Revenue of £16.122 billion in 2015
  • 125,000 employees


Previous blog: The history of Sainsbury's - Trying something new for 147 years

Next blog: The history of Tesco - 98 years of every little helps

Tags: Customer experience

Team S4RB

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