Morrisons reports another fall in sales

  • 5 November 2015
  • From the section Business
A Morrisons's sign Image copyright PA

Supermarket chain Morrisons has reported another fall in sales, partly due to cutting back on promotional vouchers.

In the 13 weeks to 1 November, like-for-like sales excluding fuel fell by 2.6%.

The supermarket said it had reduced the number of vouchers, which had affected third-quarter sales by 2.4%.

However, chief executive David Potts said the retailer was "making good progress in many areas".

He said the company's priorities remained "to stabilise trading, reduce costs and further improve the capability of the leadership team".

Morrisons' like-for-like sales from its online operation rose 1% in the third quarter.

The Bradford-based group was late to enter the online shopping market, but in 2013 signed a tie-up agreement to sell food through Ocado's online delivery service.

Morrisons reiterated that it expected underlying pre-tax profit before tax to be higher in the second half of 2015-16 than the first.

Image copyright Getty Images

Shares in Morrisons fell by 3.89% in afternoon trading in London.

"Morrisons has not yet found a trading and retail proposition that will differentiate it in the marketplace," said Bruno Monteyne, retail analyst at Bernstein.

But analysts at Jefferies said a "stronger Morrisons is emerging", with recovery efforts paying off by improving the customer experience.

Christmas campaign

In March, the company reported a 52% drop in annual profits to £345m, its worst results in eight years.

In September, Morrisons announced it was selling 140 loss-making "M" local convenience stores in a £25m deal and closing 11 stores, as it sought to concentrate on larger sites.

Its slow response towards the trend for smaller, city centre convenience shops meant it missed out on prime locations that had already been snapped up by its rivals.

Morrisons is the fourth-largest supermarket chain, trailing Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda in annual sales.

Its struggles reflect wider problems within the sector, which has seen price wars among the big four supermarket chains following the growth of discount chains such as Aldi and Lidl.

Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said Morrisons was paying down debt, while "aggressively" addressing costs and pricing, but the rate of progress could test the patience of some shareholders.

"The fact remains that the supermarket sector is a notoriously competitive industry and others will not wait whilst Morrisons continues on its slow recovery," he said.

"In particular, the current perceived wisdom of supermarkets moving towards convenience stores and online are not areas in which Morrisons has any notable strength, whilst the next trading period will bring the usual Christmas bunfight."

On Friday, Morrisons will launch its Christmas marketing campaign using its own staff to promote its stores rather than celebrities Ant and Dec who previously fronted its seasonal adverts.

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