Morrisons' festive sales disappoint

MorrisonsSupermarket chain Morrisons has admitted its Christmas sales were below par after feeling the heat from rivals in a "highly promotional" market.

The UK's fourth-biggest grocer, which employs around 130,000 staff at 455 stores in the UK, reported a 2.5% decline in like-for-like sales for the six weeks to December 30, a performance it labelled as disappointing.
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Despite the latest drop in sales, which follows a 2.1% decline in the previous quarter, Morrisons said it remained on track to meet profit expectations.

Analysts believe Morrisons has struggled to compete because of its lack of grocery delivery service and small number of convenience stores.

Competition in the sector over the Christmas period has been as fierce as ever, with the big players focused on promotional deals and money-off coupons.

Tesco sharpened its performance after a disastrous 2011 and is likely to show a modest return to like-for-like sales growth later this week, while Sainsbury's will also be up by about 1% in sales figures on Wednesday. Morrisons has also been squeezed by further strong growth from discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Morrisons said: "The environment over the Christmas period has continued to be challenging with hard-pressed consumers increasingly shopping to a budget and vouchering a prominent feature of a highly promotional market."

However, the Bradford-based company admitted it has not done enough to advertise its promotions and communicate its points of difference.

Chief executive Dalton Philips recently announced an advertising deal with TV presenters Ant and Dec and sponsorship of hit shows Britain's Got Talent and Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway in a bid to promote the chain's fresh food credentials.

A move into online shopping is expected later this year, while the company hopes to have 70 convenience stores by the end of 2013.

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Morrisons' festive sales disappoint

Administrators sounded the death knell for Woolworths in December 2008, leading to store closures that left 27,000 people out of work. Since its collapse former Woolworths stores have become a blight in many town centres and more than 100 of the large stores still lay vacant in January 2012.

Loyal customers didn't have go without the family favourite store for long however as it reappeared online as Woolworths.co.uk in 2009, after Shop Direct Home Shopping bought out the Woolworths name.

The greetings cards specialist became the latest highstreet casualty in May with 8,000 jobs on the line when it was forced it into administration. Its biggest supplier, American Greetings, then bought Clintons out of administration and put the retailer through a rebrand including a new logo and complete in-store revamps.

Its contemporary format includes new fixtures and fittings and easier to navigate stores, and will be rolled out to all 400 UK stores at the cost of £16million. Bosses aim to bring the brand back to profit within two years.

Poor sales in the run up to Christmas was the final nail in the coffin for several struggling chains, including lingerie retailer La Senza, which went bust in January 2012 with 146 shops and 2,600 staff. Kuwaiti retailer Alshaya bought part of the business, which saved 60 shops and 1,000 staff.

La Senza has been struggling in a similar way to other specialist shops such as Game and Mothercare, which have been hit by cut-price competition at supermarkets and have no alternative products to help shoulder losses.

Stricken retailer Blacks Leisure, which employed 3,600 staff across 98 Blacks stores and 208 Millets stores, went into administration in Janurary 2012 after failing to find an outright buyer.

Soon after its stores were bought by sportswear firm JD Sports in pre-pack deal - an insolvency procedure which sees a company being sold immediately after it has entered administration – which saw most of Blacks' £36 million of debt wiped out.

Fashion chain Bonmarche, which was part of the Peacock Group, was sold in January when the group collapsed due to unsustainable debts, resulting in 1,400 job losses and 160 store closures. Private equity firm Sun European Partners bought 230 stores, which continue to trade with 2,400 staff.

Peacocks collapsed under a £740 million net debt mountain in January 2012 in the biggest retail failure since Woolworths. Despite being sold out of administration to Edinburgh Woollen Mill in a deal that saved 380 stores and 6,000 jobs, administrators from KPMG were forced to close 224 stores with immediate effect. This lead to 3,350 redundancies from stores and Peacocks head office in Cardiff.

The high street name continues trading as bosses work to stabilise the situation, yet a further blow was dealt this month with news that the firm's pension fund is in £15.8 million shortfall as a result of the collapse.

Game buckled under its £85m debt pile in March 2012 and was placed into administration after being unable to pay a £21m rent bill. Administrator PwC immediately closed 277 shops, with the loss of 2,000 jobs. Soon after, investment firm, OpCapita bought 333 Game stores, saving more than 3,000 jobs.

Game's demise followed a string of profit warnings and the failure of nervous suppliers, including leading names Electronic Arts and Nintendo, to go on providing the latest games, further damaging poor sales.

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