There’s an upbeat picture from retailers unveiling their Christmas trading figures today, although BRC analysis also out today suggests a more downbeat view of seasonal trading.
Supermarket Morrisons, a Top100 retailer in IRUK Top500 research, said its work to improve the shopping trip was reflected in rising customer numbers and sales growth over Christmas.
Total sales grew by 2.6%, excluding fuel, in the 10 weeks to January 7, while like-for-like sales growth of 2.8% included 2.1% retail growth. Its retail business includes its Morrisons.com online grocery service, where sales grew by more than 10%. Morrisons [IRDX RMOR] said that more customers could now use its online service as orders are picked from stores in more areas, including the north east of England. That will expand as it moves into new areas. The introduction of store picking has meant Morrisons.com can expand beyond the areas reachable from the fulfilment centres operated by its technology and logistics supplier Ocado [IRDX ROCA].
Stock levels were also improved, said Morrisons, by automated ordering that helped to improve availability and stock levels. Customer satisfaction also improved at a time when, said Morrisons, “the price of a basket of key Christmas items was the same as last year”. Like-for-like transactions were up by 2.3%, year-on-year, with fast growth in sales of its Best premium range (+25%) and its food to order online and in-store service (+50%).
In the six weeks to January 7, like-for like sales, which strip out the effect of store openings and closures, grew by 3.7% (retail +2.8%) and wholesale (+0.9%).
Its wholesale business includes supplying the Amazon Fresh service and McColls stores, the latter with Safeway products and national brands.
Chief executive David Potts said: “More and more customers found more things they wanted to buy at competitive prices at Morrisons this Christmas. The hard work and friendliness of our colleagues continues to be key in delivering our strengthening performance, and I would like to thank them for everything they do for our customers.
“Our plans to become a broader and stronger business are progressing well, with another period of positive like-for-like sales and the start of the rolling programme to supply McColl’s.”
Top100 retailer Majestic Wine said that it was on track to achieve its sales of £500m by 2019 after a Christmas in which group sales grew by 3.2% in the 10 weeks to January 1, or 4.1% on an underlying basis. That included Majestic retail sales growth of 1.2% and Naked Wines growth of 13%. Both Majestic commercial sales and sales in its Lay & Wheeler fine wines divisions were down, by 4.6% and 4.7% respectively.
Some 30% of its total annual sales take place during the Christmas period.
Chief executive Rowan Gormley said: “The fact that we have been able to grow sales and maintain margins shows that our winning formula of fabulous customer service from delightful people and delicious wines at fair prices works even when times are tough.”
The Top150 lifestyle brand said that total sales grew by 19.2% over the Christmas period, the seven weeks to January 7, driven by both store and ecommerce sales. It said it had maintained a “disciplined and selective approach to promotional activity”.
Chief executive Colin Porter said: “The group’s retail performance through the Christmas trading period is testament to the strength of the Joules brand, unique product proposition and customer engagement. Both stores and ecommerce channels delivered good growth with the increasing awareness and popularity of the brand.”