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Morrisons & Safeway

Brief History

Morrisons' origins go back to an egg and butter merchant in Bradford established by the current chairman's father in 1899. From supplying market stalls, it expanded into its first supermarket as recently as 1961, and it was for many years seen as being a relatively small chain of Yorkshire stores. However as the sector consolidated in the 1990s , the company spread South under the chairmanship of Sir Ken Morrison and developed large superstores along the lines of its competitors, with keen pricing. At first it sold Shell in its petrol stations, although they all prominently displayed the slogan "Miles Better Value", and then switched to Texaco before taking their own brand around 2002.

From its regional base in the North-East, Morrisons gradually spread South, but it was only the fifth largest chain when it made an audacious takeover of the fourth largest chain, Safeway, in 2004. Integration of the two chains proved difficult, with Morrisons selling most of Safeway's smaller stores (including many in Scotland), and being required to sell packages of stores in areas of overlap to competitors including Waitrose and Sainsbury's.

Maps: Morrisons

2004 AA/Morrisons Road Atlas of Britain
At 2/3 relative scale

At first sight, this 2004 large format atlas from the AA (in their corporate colours) looks like many other editions of this map, which each year comes out in several cover variations, many priced at £5.99. But the yellow and black colours also belong to Morrison, and the rear cover is unique to the version sold in their stores and petrol stations, marking their 111 filling stations. The atlas is a large format softback edition at 1:250,000 with 63 pages of maps and a gazetteer.

2004 AA/Morrisons Road Atlas of Britain (rear)

Morrisons' 2005 map had a front cover more like the normal AA map in colours, although still priced at £1.99. The rear cover advertised Morrisons' Supermarkets with "Over 150 Buy One Get One Free offers in store now" as the main panel; its locations (which would still include some branded as Safeway) were no longer shown.

2007 Morrisons Road Atlas of Britain
At 2/3 relative scale

Morrisons' 2007 edition (which is copyrighted June 2006) took the branding one step further, with a clear Morrisons logo on the front cover, and a large advert for their petrol stations on the rear (right). Although it was again based on the AA Big Road Atlas, it was described as being a first edition, and added features included the marking all Morrisons stores in Britain on the map itself - the Northern Irish Safeways had been sold. The 270 Morrisons stores with petrol stations (or selling LPG Autogas) were listed inside.

2007 Morrisons Road Atlas of Britain - rear

The 2008 edition (not shown) was the first to feature Morrisons' new lighter logo with a thinner dark green "M" on a yellow oval; the cover was similar to the 2007 but now predominantly blue and yellow, with greater London used for the map inset and the opportunity to win £5,000 of Morrisons vouchers rather than a car. The rear cover was also similar to the previous year, but included the logo of Harvest Energy (Morrisons' principal supplier) above text asking "Did you know: Morrisons was the country's first petrol retailer to open (sic) a BioEthanol E85 refuelling pump? This reinforces our position as the UK's largest forecourt retailer of alternative fuels." The same service station photo was used, even though it was still in the old black and yellow livery.

By 2011, the AA were publishing the 5th Morrisons edition of the atlas (2007 was officially the first, as it was the first to use customised map pages, not just a bespoke cover). My local Morrisons had this on sale although appear not to have received copies of the 4th edition (2010), possibly owing to overstock of the previous year. Unlike the 2008/9 editions, there was no reference to E85, although petrol stations selling LPG were still identified in the address list.

Top of PageSafeway

Safeway Stores started life as a Californian supermarket chain that entered the UK around 1968. After a leveraged buy-out of the parent the UK stores were sold to the Argyll group, which operated smaller stores under the Lipton and Presto names (both abandoned in favour of Safeway). As such it was the successor to many regional chains such as Vye & Son (the Kentish Grocer) and Walter Willson. Safeway always carried its own brand of petrol, but was later to develop service stations than its peers; it had a separate joint venture operating C-stores at BP stations, that was sold by Morrisons after the takeover, with half the stations reverting to BP and the rest passing to Tesco.

1996 Safeway map of Britain

Safeway's first map was published in 1996 and used cartography by the Automobile Association (AA). Although the next edition from 1998 (right) kept the same cartography it was reduced in scale to allow Northern Ireland to be added, where all the big supermarket chains were just beginning to open stores. The larger cover size was definitely misleading!

1998 Safeway map of Britain

Text and layout © Ian Byrne, 2000-11

All original copyrights in logos and map extracts and images are acknowledged and images are included on this site for identification purposes only.