Morrisons reports Christmas sales boost

Morrisons has reported a small sales bump over the Christmas period after attracting an extra 800,000 customers per week to its stores compared to the same period last year.

Morrisons: Christmas 2011 campaign
Morrisons: Christmas 2011 campaign

Morrisons claims the influx of customers was a result of it playing to its strengths by emphasising its fresh food.

Like-for-like sales increased 0.7% year on year in the six weeks to 1 January, slightly underperforming against analysts’ expectations.

Morrisons' Christmas ads focused on its marketplace offering, featuring Sir Bruce Forsyth and former cricketer Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff.

The brand topped Marketing's 2011  Adwatch of the Year barometer, which measures advertising recall.

Morrisons claims it store standards, service levels and product availability remained excellent despite the pressures exerted by increased footfall.

The supermarket is looking to focus on customer experience with its marketing activity this year and has poached Sainsbury's head of non-food marketing Rebecca Singleton to drive the activity.

Singleton will assume the role of marketing director in March, replacing incumbent James Condon, who is leaving for "family reasons".

Morrisons' sales increase comes against a challenging backdrop as speculation mounts about rival Tesco delivering its worst Christmas trading performance for decades.

Tesco's house broker Deutsche Bank is forecasting the supermarket will post a 2% decline in sales in its UK stores for the six weeks to 7 January.

Customers held back their grocery shopping until the last minute before rushing to the shops in the final week before Christmas, according to figures from Nielsen.

Mike Watkins, Nielsen senior manager for retailer services, said: "The initial delay in spending in early December, followed by a £4 billion surge in sales in the final week before Christmas, made this one of the biggest pre-Christmas weeks for UK food retailers."

Morrisons is predicting consumers will remain cautious in 2012 despite an anticipated reduction in inflationary pressures.

As a result, the supermarket claims it is positioned well for the economic conditions because its "fresh, quality and value credentials continue to appeal to a growing customer base".

Follow Matthew Chapman at @mattchapmanUK