Morrisons to go online by 2014 as profits fall

MORRISONS boss Dalton Philips yesterday vowed the retailer would launch an internet grocery business by the end of 2013, years after his rivals first started to sell on the web.

Philips, who has often appeared sceptical of the merits of online food shopping and said he would not launch until it is profitable, claimed that now is the time to go online.

Morrisons yesterday confirmed it is in talks with online retailer Ocado over using its technology to power the supermarket’s new web offering. Ocado’s shares leaped 20 per cent although Philips denied that talks would lead to Morrisons buying all or part of the firm.

“Today we are saying we are confident that Morrisons will launch an online offering by the end of the year. Our decision to enter the market is not dependent on the outcome of talks,” Philips said.

His pledge came as Morrisons posted a first fall in annual profits for six years. The grocer, which has lost customers to rivals as more people shop online and in convenience stores in town and city centres, said pre-tax profits fell 7.2 per cent to £879m as like-for-like sales fell 2.1 per cent.

Philips was upbeat on the future, however, pointing to a rollout of “M” convenience stories. It plans to open around 100, mainly in London and the south east, by the end of the year.