WM MORRISON said squeezed shoppers counted their pennies this Christmas, trading down on items like champagne for sparkling wine, as the supermarket chain reported a slowdown in like-for-like growth.
Britain’s fourth-biggest supermarket said sales at stores open for at least a year rose 0.7 per cent, excluding fuel and VAT in the six weeks to 1 January – down from 2.4 per cent growth in the third quarter.
Chief executive Dalton Philips said said an extra 800,000 customers visited its stores each week, but customers cut back on spending, putting an average of one item less in their basket.
Turkey sales rose by nine per cent but households also compromised on finer cuts of meat with pork instead. Champagne sales by volume dropped seven per cent while sparkling wine jumped by 156 per cent.
Analysts were disappointed with results and had widely expected the retailer to outperform the market with a sales growth of around two per cent. However, Philips said the group was pleased with their performance given the tough environment.
“While traditionally historic like-for-like sales at Morrison’s are around three per cent, with consumer confidence at a generation low, you are going to see a sector that has very low like-for-like sales,” he said.