Iceland : Tales of the dark ages

Privately-owned UK frozen food retailer presents the current management team’s unvarnished view of a contentious period in its history.

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The feature

The ‘Our Story’ section of Iceland’s corporate website has a subsection called ‘The Dark Ages’, which recounts the period between 2001 and 2005, when the management of the company changed hands.

‘The Dark Ages’ details this turbulent time, but is written very much from the point of view of the current leadership, with no shortage of criticism of previous management. There is even a swipe at management consultants via a series of cartoon drawings. The ‘Our Performance’ chart, showing operating profit, clearly labels and marks out this period as, again, dark ages.

The rest of the company information area of Iceland’s website is dominated by chairman and co-owner Sir Malcolm Walker. This is most apparent in sections titled ‘Our Leader’ – which is a positive text-based profile – and ‘Walker Blog’, a platform for the chairman and his son, managing director Richard Walker.

The takeaway

We were alerted to the Iceland site by a Twitter discussion about the ‘Our story’ area, and whether its unrestrained honesty was welcome or not.

In itself, this shows how strong opinions on a company’s website can attract attention; and that some audiences might be looking for more personality on corporate sites.

Of course, the naked hostility to previous management is unlikely to be something that a publicly listed company can, or should, consider. And even in the case of a privately-owned company like Iceland, the chairman might be better advised to air his views via the blog area, than present them as part of the company history, where users may expect a more factual account.


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First published 23 March, 2021
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