Morrisons reports slowdown in Christmas sales

Image caption Morrisons is the first of the "big four" UK supermarkets to reveal Christmas trading figures

Supermarket chain Morrisons has reported a slowdown in sales over the Christmas period and warned of a tough 2012 for retailers.

The Bradford-based firm said sales at stores open more than a year rose 0.7%, excluding fuel and VAT sales tax, in the six weeks to 1 January.

This compares with 2.4% growth in its financial third quarter.

It said tweaks to its marketing saw an extra 800,000 customers visit its stores each week over the period.

Investors had hoped Morrisons, the number four supermarket chain behind Sainsbury's, Asda and Tesco, would produce better figures as it does not rely on sales of non-food goods, unlike its rivals.

Philip Dorgan, an analyst at Panmure Gordon, said: "Like-for-like sales growth is slightly disappointing by Morrisons' high standards."

Morrisons' chief executive Dalton Philips said: "In 2012 the UK consumer environment will remain cautious despite an anticipated reduction in inflationary pressures."

Tesco, the UK's biggest retailer, unveils Christmas sales figures on Thursday, while Sainsbury's reports on Wednesday.

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