Morrisons savours 'improving performance' after festive season sales boost

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Supermarket Morrisons enjoyed its best performance for seven years over the crucial festive period as it posted a 2.9% surge in like-for-like sales.

The chain upped its full-year profit outlook after the better-than-expected sales hike for the nine weeks to January 1, pencilling in underlying pre-tax profits of between £330 million to £340 million.

David Potts, chief executive of Morrisons, said: "Eighteen months ago I said that this would be a colleague-led turnaround, and our improving performance is entirely due to the continuing hard work of the Morrisons team of food makers and shopkeepers."

Its expected underlying profits for the year to the end of January would mark a significant rise on the £242 million posted a year earlier.

Morrisons, which has been seeing a steady recovery in sales thanks to an overhaul being led by Mr Potts, said its online arm contributed 0.6% to the like-for-like sales hike over the nine-week period.

Mr Potts said customers "splashed out" over Christmas, with strong demand for its new premium Best range as they traded up for their festive food.

The group saw ongoing falls in food prices during the season as the sector continues to wage a fierce price war, although the pace of declines slowed to 0.2% year-on-year and was flat on the previous three months.

Morrisons said any price pressure was also offset by a 5.2% leap in the number of sales through its tills.

Mr Potts said, while the group remained "firmly in fix mode", he was "delighted to have found our form".

"Our customers are responding as we turn this great British business around," he added.