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‘Disappointing’ Christmas sales highlight importance of online to Morrisons

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Supermarket Morrisons said today that “disappointing” Christmas sales highlight the importance to its business of developing new channels such as online commerce.

The retailer today reported a 0.9% fall in total sales, excluding fuel, in the six weeks to December 30, while like-for-likes were down by 2.5%.

It said the performance was disappointing, regardless of difficult market conditions that it expects to continue throughout the year.

“This reflects both the need,” it said in its Christmas trading statement, “to improve our promotional innovation and the communication of our points of difference and the accelerating importance of other channels, such as online and convenience, which Morrisons has only recently entered.”

Consumers, said the supermarket, were shopping to a budget and using vouchers in a “highly promotional market”. “Against this backdrop and the increasing growth of other channels we have sought to deliver a balance of top-line performance and returns,” it said.

The company said that it had, however, been buoyed by good availability and service standards through the Christmas period.

Chief executive Dalton Philips said: “Our 130,000 colleagues have done an outstanding job serving our customers great-value food this Christmas and I would like to thank them for their dedication and hard work.

“In a difficult market our sales performance was lower than anticipated, but we have a strong business and significant opportunities to advance our strategy, as we accelerate our multichannel offer.”

In the full year the company predicted its performance would be “broadly in line with [board] expectations.”

Morrisons, which also owns nursery pureplay Kiddicare, is the last major retailer to enter the online grocery market. It recently launched Morrisons Cellar, putting its wine sales online but has yet to launch a grocery service. That service, however, is expected to launch later this year.

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