The supermarket group at that time was in thrall to an impregnable sense of drift, toying with initiatives only for them to run into the sand, and late to the game in both online and convenience stores.
The depredations of discounters Lidl and Aldi upped the ante for a business that, although one of the four big beasts of the sector, did not have the financial muscle of Tesco, Asda or Sainsbury’s to respond effectively.
By contrast, Morrisons over the past few years has been synonymous with like-for-like sales growth again. That can be defined as doing better with what you’ve got than opening acres of new floorspace.
The group’s latest trading update shows like-for-like growth of 2.8 per cent in the ten weeks to 7 January, even better at 3.7 per cent in the shorter run-up to Christmas and the New Year.
What has Potts done? He has simplified Morrisons’ store layouts, and while not abandoning its value-proposition, the group no longer looks a slave to garish promotions. There are more staff on the shopfloor to help customers; availability and stock levels have improved.
More tills open and shorter queues should also not be underestimated for many of the group’s cash-stretched, time-poor customers. In short, Potts has shown you can be economical for customers and also make the shopping experience more pleasurable.
Every food retailer subscribes to this philosophy in theory. It takes imagination, drive and attention to detail to pull it off.
French hedge fund boss Philippe Jordan says automated investment is hitting all the right buttons. “People have gone from being sceptical to being AI groupies”, he says.
The trend is your friend? Artificial intelligence, from cars to insurance, acquiring esoteric stardust? Perhaps, but remember that very astute financier James Goldsmith’s maxim: “When you see a bandwagon, it’s too late.” As in other herd instincts, the investment world is highly derivative. But it lets the daylight in to admit it.