Morrisons beats Xmas trading expectations

Morrisons has reported better than expected sales over the Christmas shopping period compared with a year earlier. The supermarket chain said like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, rose 0.2% in the nine weeks to 3 January.

Analysts had expected a fall in sales at Morrisons, which has been under pressure from rival discounters for more than a year. Morrisons’ latest figures are its first positive numbers in more than a year.

They prompted a 10% surge in the company’s share price. Paul Thomas, an analyst at Retail Remedy, said Morrisons’ sales were expected to be lower by between 2% and 3%.

He said the supermarket was clearly focusing on “its core market and core product” and that the sales figures were evidence that the new strategy was “paying off” for them.

David Potts, who took over as chief executive at Morrisons in March last year, sold off its 140 M Convenience stores at a loss of £30m in September. He has also embarked on a cost cutting and store closure programme.

Last year, Morrisons reported a 52% drop in annual profits to £345m, its worst results in eight years. The retailer also dropped out of the FTSE 100 list of the UK’s most valuable companies in December.