Morrison Boosts Forecast After Best Christmas in Seven Years

Supermarket giant Morrisons expects underlying pre-tax profit to beat expectations after reporting its strongest Christmas performance for seven years driven by a number of factors including the success of its new "Best" line.

Data from Nielsen for the four week period to 31 December has found that United Kingdom grocery retail sales surged in the week leading up to Christmas Eve, up 22% on the same period a year ago.

Morrisons shares leapt more than 4% higher, with the festive sales cheer also sending listed rivals sharply higher.

After 28 months of deflation in the market, like-for-like grocery prices have increased by 0.2 percentage points to bring a return to inflation.

"Shoppers spent £480 million more at the tills than in 2015, leading to record sales for the Christmas period", he said.

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Morrisons sales were in growth for the first time since June 2015 at 1.2 per cent.

Mr Potts said Christmas saw customers "splash out and trade up".

Alongside this, Morrisons has added new products to its premium range - sold under the "Best" label - which it said had proved "very popular".

"The remarkable buoyancy in shoppers spending freely in the final two weeks of the year to enjoy the festivities was good news for retailers considering the consumer head winds expected in 2017 with the return of cost price inflation - after three years of deflation - plus the ongoing uncertainty about the impact of Brexit on United Kingdom grocery sales", Mike Watkins, Nielsen's United Kingdom head of retailer and business insight, said.

Dave Potts, chief executive of Morrisons, said that it was clear that the company's turnaround was under way as he forecast that its profit for the year would be in the range of £330 million to £340 million.

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It is the first of Britain's so called Big Four supermarkets to report results for the Christmas season. This gave Aldi a market share of 6.2%, and Lidl 4.6%.

Aldi reported its own Christmas trading news yesterday, saying sales at its United Kingdom business rose over 15% in December compared to the same month in 2015.

Earlier on Tuesday, a survey by the British Retail Consortium said food sales had spearheaded a "bumper Christmas" for retailers.

United Kingdom supermarkets had their best Christmas for four years, according to new figures released today by Nielson retail.

Morrisons (LON:MRW) shares are now up 3.45 percent at 245.60 (0917GMT).

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Aldi grew sales by 11.8 per cent, while Lidl saw sales growth of 7.5 per cent.


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