Milk farmers say an industry crisis has driven them to extreme measures - from emptying supermarket shelves of milk, to leading cattle through the grocery aisles. But has there been a breakthrough in the relationship between retailers - and the farmers who claim they're being treated unfairly? Today, talks led to Yorkshire-based supermarket Morrisons promising to take action - as Helen Steel reports.
Supermarket Morrisons is to launch a new brand, "Morrisons Milk for Farmers" which will sell at 10p a litre more than usual, with the extra money being passed on to the crisis-hit dairy industry.
The Bradford-based chain has been one of the main targets for protesters from the farming industry who have stripped milk from the shelves before dumping the produce or giving it away for free.
Industry leaders met Morrisons bosses to try to tackle falling milk prices which, the National Farmers Union (NFU) says, will lead to dairy farmers being forced to leave the industry in the next few weeks as they struggle to pay bills and face rising debts.
"We will be launching a milk brand that allows customers to pay a little more if they want to support British farmers. Called Morrisons Milk for Farmers, this product will sell at a 10p per litre premium to the standard Morrisons milk price.
"All of that premium will go directly back to the farmers that supply our processor Arla. It will go into stores in the autumn and is aimed at shoppers who want to directly support dairy farmers ." "Consumers can choose whether they want to pay more to support British dairy.
Andrew Skelton, a former employee of Morrisons supermarket has today (17 July) been found guilty of fraud, securing unauthorised access to computer material and disclosing personal data, and sentenced to eight years at Bradford Crown Court, in relation to stealing personal data belonging to nearly 100,000 Morrisons employees.
"Andrew Skelton was in a position of considerable trust with access to confidential personal information as Senior Internal Auditor at Morrisons.
He abused this position by uploading this information – which included employee’s names, addresses and bank account details onto various internet websites.
He then attempted to cover his tracks and implicate a fellow employee by using this colleague’s details to set up a fake email account.
Andrew Skelton’s motive appears to have been a personal grievance over a previous incident where he was accused of dealing in legal highs at work.
The potential loss to his victims and the sheer quantity of potentially compromised data was very significant and could have resulted in employees identities being stolen. Currently Morrisons has incurred costs of almost £2 million as a result of this fraud, costs have included professional fees, legal fees and fees incurred through attempts to safeguard their employees.
The sentence imposed today sends out a very clear message that we will robustly prosecute serious fraudsters such as Skelton who believe they are above the law.”
The new boss of Bradford-based supermarket Morrisons said the business was listening hard to customers after the chain reported another drop in sales today.
The 2.9% decline in like-for-like revenues for the 13 weeks to May 3 comes on top of a 7.1% fall posted by the supermarket business a year earlier.
David Potts, who has more than 40 years retailing experience at Tesco, took over as Morrisons chief executive in March after a year in which the chain slumped to a loss of £792 million.
He said: "My initial impressions from my first seven weeks are of a business eager to listen to customers and improve.
"I have been very pleased by the desire and support of colleagues, and by the genuine warmth and affection for Morrisons shared by both colleagues and customers. "This is a business with many attributes, some unique. Our task is to use those advantages to improve the shopping trip for customers and create value."
Mr Potts is carrying out a review of the business which will report back at the time of the group's interim results in September.
He has already announced plans to axe up to 720 jobs from the Bradford head office as part of a drive to beef up staff on shop floors.
The new boss of supermarket chain Morrisons is sending head-office staff onto the shop floor in a bid to improve communication with shoppers.
David Potts, who started work on Monday, told 2,000 office workers that he will be working in a store over Easter week and that he wanted them to do the same for at least one week each year.
He has urged workers at the Bradford-based chain to "listen hard" to customers and colleagues while they are on the shop floor as the company looks to reverse a period of falling sales and heavy annual losses.
I want to listen hard and respond to the views of as many customers and staff as I can.
I strongly believe that we are all retailers and we can learn how to serve our customers better when we are working in our stores or when we do our own shopping.
Mr Potts, who has more than 40 years retailing experience at Tesco, recently replaced Dalton Philips, who was ousted after leading the retailer since 2010.
The shop-floor initiative mirrors one put in place by new Tesco boss Dave Lewis before Christmas when he asked more than 4,000 employees including senior executives to stack shelves and operate tills.
Morrisons recently reported a loss of £792 million due to the lower value of its property estate while it posted a drop in like-for-like sales of 5.9%.
However, the sales trend improved in its most recent quarter with a decline of 2.6%.
The former head of tax at supermarket giants Morrison has been jailed for insider trading on his employer’s online grocery deal with Ocado.Read the full story ›
Morrisons has announced that chief executive Dalton Philips is to step down after five years at the helm of the struggling supermarket business.
The move was announced as the Bradford-based chain reported that like-for-like sales fell 3.1% in the six weeks to January 4.
Andrew Higginson, who is due to become chairman later this month, said the company's board believed the push to return the business to growth was "best done under new leadership.
Mr Higginson said it was "time for a fresh pair of eyes" over the business, although he pointed out that the company's Christmas performance was not a factor in the decision to change leadership.
Mr Philips said: "I'm very sad to be leaving but when a board wants to make a change you accept that and move on."
Morrisons also announced it is planning to close 10 loss-making smaller stores, putting more than 400 jobs at risk.
With the retailer's festive trading sales figures meeting City expectations, shares in Morrisons jumped 6% following the leadership change.
As part of a wider plan announced in March to invest £1 billion in price cuts over three years, initiatives from Mr Philips have included a new loyalty card
scheme promising to match prices at discounters Aldi and Lidl.
There have been signs that the strategy is starting to pay off after closely watched data from Kantar Worldpanel pointed to an improved sales trend.
Morrisons added today that a key performance indicator measuring items per basket was down by 0.2% on a year earlier compared with 2.4% earlier in the financial year. The decline in the number of transactions was also reduced.
A Morrisons employee has denied abusing his position to fraudulently disclose personal data at the Bradford-based supermarket firm.
Andrew Skelton, a senior internal auditor, denied charges under the Computer Misuse Act, the Data Protection Act and the Fraud Act. Skelton, 43, from Liverpool, was charged with the offences after an investigation at the Morrisons head office in Bradford.
The supermarket employee appeared at Bradford Magistrates' Court and spoke only to confirm his name, address and date of birth and to enter not guilty pleas.
The court clerk read the charges to Skelton, who stood in the witness box wearing a dark suit, pale blue tie and glasses.
He is accused of using a computer to gain unauthorised access to a programme or data with the intent to commit fraud; knowingly or recklessly disclosing personal data without the consent of the data controller; and conspiring to commit fraud by abusing his position with the intention of causing loss to Morrisons supermarkets.
All the offences are alleged to have taken place between November last year and March 20 this year.
Skelton was released on bail and will appear at Bradford Crown Court on December 16.
Profits at Morrisons have dived by more than half after the supermarket chain's sales were savaged in the industry's ongoing price war.
Like-for-like sales slumped by 7.4% in the half-year to August 3, while underlying profits dropped 51% to #181 million as the Bradford-based company committed more money to lowering its prices.
It is six months into a three-year turnaround plan involving an "enormous amount of change and modernisation" but said it was too early to see the impact of this work on sales.
Conditions are tough, and the industry is going through unprecedented change.
Tesco and Morrisons have been the major casualties in the recent shake-up of the sector, with Tesco recently cutting its half-year dividend payment by 75% in order to preserve funds for new chief executive Dave Lewis. Morrisons said today that its financial position remained strong and that it would increase its interim dividend payment by 5%.
Although it is too early to see the benefits of the three-year plan in the sales line, Morrisons is getting back on the front foot, and implementing change and innovation at real pace throughout the business
Britain's fourth largest supermarket Morrisons has announced a 51 per cent slump in its first-half profits as it posted its lowest figures for eight years.
The Bradford-based group said it made an underlying pre-tax profit of £181 million in the six months to Aug. 3.
Turnover fell 4.9 per cent to £8.5 billion, while sales at stores - excluding fuel and VAT sales tax - fell 7.4 per cent.