Morrison's: From Bradford Market Stall to Retail Giant!

Morrison's: From Bradford Market Stall to Retail Giant!

This is the captivating story of how Morrison's supermarket, from humble beginnings as a market stall in Bradford, grew to become the UK's fourth-largest supermarket chain. Join us on a journey through time as we explore the key milestones and acquisitions that shaped Morrison's into the retail powerhouse it is today.


1899: The Birth of a Visionary

In 1899, an ambitious egg and butter merchant named William Morrison opened a small stall at Bradford Market. Little did he know that this humble beginning would lay the foundation for one of the most successful supermarket chains in the UK.

1952: The Torch is Passed

In 1952, William Morrison's son, Ken Morrison, took over the family business at the young age of 21. With a keen eye for innovation and a drive for success, Ken Morrison would go on to transform the company and shape its future.

1958: A New Era of Shopping

In 1958, Morrison's opened its first town-center shop in Bradford, setting a new standard for convenience and customer service. This store was the first in Bradford to offer self-service and display prices on its products, revolutionizing the shopping experience for customers.

1961: The Rise of Supermarkets

In 1961, Ken Morrison opened the company's first supermarket, named 'Victoria', in Bradford. This supermarket offered a wide range of fresh produce, including meat, fruit, and vegetables, as well as other provisions. It was a game-changer for the company and marked the beginning of its expansion into the supermarket sector.

1967: Going Public

Driven by ongoing expansion and plans for further growth, Morrison's made the strategic decision to go public in 1967. The share offer was a resounding success, with more than 80,000 investors vying to purchase shares, resulting in an oversubscription of 174 times.

1971: A New Home

In 1971, Morrison's opened its new head office, the Hilmore House complex, in Bradford. This state-of-the-art office, warehouse, and factory complex provided the company with the infrastructure it needed to support its growing operations.

1976: Expanding Operations

Morrisons opened its first vegetable packing site at Cutler Heights in Bradford in 1976. This facility allowed the company to ensure the freshness and quality of its produce, a commitment that remains central to its ethos to this day.

1978: A New Chapter

In 1978, Morrison's embarked on a new chapter with the takeover of Whelan Discount Stores. This move allowed the company to expand its operations into Lancashire, marking its first foray outside of Bradford.

1980: The Dawn of Fresh Food Production

In 1980, Morrison's opened Farmers Boy, a purpose-built fresh food factory that operated as a wholly-owned subsidiary. This facility enabled the company to produce and supply a wide range of fresh food products, ensuring quality and freshness for its customers.

1988: Strengthening the Supply Chain

Recognizing the importance of an efficient supply chain, Morrison's opened its first purpose-built distribution center, Wakefield 41, in 1988. Located near the M1 motorway, this facility played a crucial role in ensuring the smooth and timely delivery of products to its stores.

1997: Vertical Integration

In 1997, Morrison's embraced vertical integration by partnering with Woodheads, a renowned name in the British meat industry. This strategic move allowed the company to have greater control over its supply chain, ensuring the quality and traceability of its meat products.

1999: A Century of Success

In 1999, Morrison's celebrated a significant milestone by opening its 100th store in Nelson. This achievement was a testament to the company's commitment to growth and expansion, solidifying its position as a major player in the retail industry.

2001: Joining the Elite

After establishing a 35-year record of sales and profit growth, Morrison's joined the prestigious FTSE 100 in April 2001. This recognition served as a testament to the company's success and solidified its position as one of the leading supermarket chains in the UK.

2004: Safeway Joins the Family

In 2004, Morrison's made a transformative move by acquiring Safeway, one of the largest supermarket chains in the UK. This acquisition propelled Morrison's to new heights, making it the fourth-largest supermarket group in the country.

2005: Expanding Manufacturing Capabilities

With a commitment to providing high-quality products to its customers, Morrison's expanded its manufacturing capabilities in 2005. This included the acquisition of Rathbones Bakery, Rushden Produce, and an abattoir in Turriff, further solidifying its control over the production and supply of its products.

2008: A Legacy Retires

In 2008, Sir Ken Morrison, who had dedicated 55 years of service to the company, stepped down as chairman. His retirement was marked by an award for his outstanding contribution to the retail industry, highlighting his immense impact and legacy.

2011: Flower Power

In 2011, Morrison's acquired Flower World, a leading flower trading business based in Derby. This move allowed the company to expand its offerings and become the supermarket of choice for fresh flowers.

2012: Strengthening Manufacturing Capabilities

Continuing its commitment to manufacturing excellence, Morrison's acquired a meat processing site in Winsford, Cheshire, in 2012. The company also established a seafood processing site in Grimsby, further enhancing its ability to provide high-quality fresh seafood to its customers.

2014: Embracing the Digital Age

In 2014, Morrison's launched its online food delivery service, in partnership with Ocado. This move allowed the company to cater to the changing needs and preferences of its customers, providing them with a convenient and efficient way to shop for groceries.

2016: Partnering with Amazon

Recognizing the importance of e-commerce, Morrison's entered into a partnership with Amazon in 2016. This agreement allowed Amazon customers to access a wide range of Morrison's products, further expanding the reach and accessibility of the supermarket chain.

2021: Building for the Future

In 2021, Morrison's continued its journey of growth and expansion. The company acquired Falfish, a leading wholesaler of sustainably sourced seafood based in Cornwall, further enhancing its seafood offerings. Additionally, Morrison's extended its wholesale agreement with McColl's, ensuring its products would be available in convenience shops and newsagents across the UK.

Conclusion: A Legacy of Success

From its humble beginnings as a market stall in Bradford, Morrison's has grown into a retail giant, with a strong presence across the UK. Through strategic acquisitions, innovative initiatives, and a commitment to quality, the company has become a trusted name in the supermarket industry. As it continues to evolve and adapt to changing consumer preferences, Morrison's remains dedicated to providing its customers with high-quality products and a seamless shopping experience.

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