Tamworth’s ex-Netto Morrisons is small but (almost) perfectly formed

Promotion for Tamworth's new Morrisons (17 Jun 2011). Photograph by Graham Soult

Promotion for Tamworth's new Morrisons (17 Jun 2011)

With a visit to an ex-Netto UGO in the bag, and one to an ex-Netto Asda in the offing, it seemed only fair to check out an ex-Netto Morrisons while I was in Tamworth a couple of weeks ago.

As I explained when the news was announced back in January, Tamworth’s Netto is one of 16 initially divested by Asda to Morrisons, with another two – in Salford and Dunstable – added since. The Haldane Retail Group has acquired 20 sites, which it has now converted to its UGO fascia, while Iceland and the Co-op have each bought three. This means that of the 47 Netto sites that overlapped with existing Asda stores, only three remain to be sold in order for Asda to meet its obligations to the OFT.

New Morrisons, Tamworth (17 Jun 2011). Photograph by Graham Soult

New Morrisons, Tamworth (17 Jun 2011)

Former Netto, Tamworth, before conversion to Morrisons (4 Apr 2011). Photograph by Graham Soult

Former Netto, Tamworth, before conversion to Morrisons (4 Apr 2011)

Tamworth’s new Morrisons was built as a Kwik Save in the 1990s, briefly became a Somerfield, reverted back to a Kwik Save fascia, stood empty for a year, and then reopened as Netto less than three years ago. From the outside, the store is little changed from its previous incarnations, though the ‘Tasty Bread’ caption and imagery next to the entrance gives a flavour of what has changed inside. Meanwhile, prominent signs, banners and billboards ensure that the store is highly visible to passing motorists.

As you enter the shop, an instore bakery occupies the space immediately on the right. The location was presumably dictated by the building’s layout and compact size, but it did mean that there was some congestion as shoppers entering the store with trollies tried to get past customers browsing the bread and cakes. At the bottom of the store, there are also small but attractively presented meat and fish counters. So, not the full ‘Market Street’ offer, clearly, but a significant step up from what Netto used to offer in the same space.

There's no missing Tamworth's new Morrisons (17 Jun 2011). Photograph by Graham Soult

There's no missing Tamworth's new Morrisons (17 Jun 2011)

Indeed, the major impression of this Morrisons store is just how much bigger it feels than when it was trading as Netto. It’s perhaps only half or two-thirds of the size of a typical converted Safeway, yet it’s clear that this is a shop where people can do – and are doing – a full weekly shop. The store was doing a decent business when I visited on a Friday lunchtime, with plenty of cars in the car park as well as shoppers arriving and departing on foot.

It’s the first time for a couple of decades – when Sainsbury’s left Ankerside to move out of town – that the Tamworth Co-op supermarket in Church Street has had any significant town centre competition, and it will be interesting to see where Morrisons steals its trade from: the in-town Co-op, Farmfoods or Iceland; the out-of-town Asda or Sainsbury’s; or the much larger, purpose-built Morrisons a couple of miles away in Wilnecote.

Paying for my goods at the till, I was pleased to see that the staff were all smiling, happy and talkative – always an encouraging sign. Indeed, I ended up having some banter with the guy at my till when he started to question whether I was old enough to buy the bottle of wine that was in my basket. This 37-year-old was quite content for the checkout guy to guess that I was 23 – young enough for me to feel flattered, but old enough to actually be allowed to buy the wine.

Overall then, my impressions of this compact Morrisons store were good. It was clean and well stocked, and shows that Morrisons can work effectively in a smaller than usual format. On the other hand, by not having all the instore features – most notably a full ‘Market Street’ – that normally make a Morrisons so distinctive, I couldn’t help feeling that the store lacked just a little of the usual Morrisons ‘personality’. As Morrisons rolls out more smaller stores – as well as its new M Local convenience format – perhaps it can do a bit more to make sure that these Morrisons really feel like a Morrisons.

8 Responses to “Tamworth’s ex-Netto Morrisons is small but (almost) perfectly formed”

  1. Steve Dresser said:

    Jul 01, 11 at 17:46

    I think the M Local format is going to have far more of a continental influence from Dalton Philips than anything we’ve seen before, more Kirkstall than any of these smaller stores and indeed the heartland stores.

  2. Retrogadget said:

    Jul 01, 11 at 17:50

    I paid my first visit to the above store last Saturday (25/6)and I, too was impressed by the new store layout – a much greater range of stock than Netto, yet the store didn’t appear ‘over-crowded’. At a glance prices seemed comparable to those charged in full-sized Morrison stores – favourable and a tactic Asda are stressing with prices in their smaller stores. Certainly a branch of Morrisons I will be shopping at again.

  3. Graham Soult said:

    Jul 02, 11 at 16:22

    Have you been to the Nuneaton UGO yet, Martin?

  4. Retrogadget said:

    Jul 02, 11 at 16:54

    No, not managed a trip to Nuneaton UGO yet – nearly went today as was going to the Ikea sale but ended up going to Nottingham Ikea rather than the Coventry one instead. This gave me a chance to go into Nottingham city centre and pay a visit to Habitat – draped out in the ‘bog-standard’ closing down signs as last seen in Woolworths!

  5. Graham Soult said:

    Jul 02, 11 at 16:59

    Yes, I hate those garish bogstandard signs! Will look forward to your feedback on UGO in due course – I know the UGO management team read the blog too, so they’ll no doubt be watching as well ;)

  6. Danny Bent said:

    Jul 13, 11 at 09:36

    I have been to the Nuneaton Ugo store twice now.
    The prices were OK and the choice quite good.
    I first went on the second day of opening and to be
    honest the store was not really busy at all.
    Internally and externally little changed, a lot
    of staff doing not much but just one till open.
    On my second visit (on market day) the store was
    practically empty, the store was quite messy inside
    and the staff not particularly helpful or friendly.
    I doubt this store will last as long as Netto here.

  7. Soult's Retail View » From Netto to Asda – checking out the Gateshead store’s transformation said:

    Aug 17, 11 at 23:19

    [...] on from my ‘undercover’ visits to ex-Netto UGO stores on Teesside and an ex-Netto Morrisons in Tamworth – all among the 47 stores that Asda had to divest for competition reasons – Asda [...]

  8. Soult's Retail View » A new UGO tour: positive signs as I go supermarket spotting in Barnsley and Hull said:

    Nov 01, 11 at 16:49

    [...] the stores, the bright and modern feel continues. Where the ex-Netto stores taken over by Asda and Morrisons have enjoyed a comprehensive internal refit, UGO’s ‘Netto-plus’ model relies on [...]

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