Morrisons has posted a jump in sales during the crucial Christmas trading period as investments in sharpening prices and improving availability bore fruit.

The supermarket chain said like-for-likes excluding fuel climbed a consensus-busting 2.8% during the 10 weeks to January 7, including a 0.7% contribution from its burgeoning wholesale business.

Morrisons hailed efforts to “become more competitive” on price during the period and said the cost of “a basket of key Christmas items” was flat compared to Christmas 2016, despite input cost pressures.

Its price investment helped drive “especially strong” sales towards the back end of the year, as like-for-likes spiked 3.7% in the shorter six-week period to January 7.

Morrisons added that its automated ordering system was in operation in “all stores across most categories” during the period, which helped reduce gaps on shelves and improve the shopping trip for customers.

The grocer’s ‘Best’ premium range grew sales 25% as its “broader” premium ranges gained further traction among consumers.

Online, Morrisons grew sales more than 10% as its move to introduce in-store picking across more regions in the UK, particularly in the Northeast of England, allowed the grocer to reach more households. 

Morrisons boss David Potts said: “More and more customers found more things they wanted to buy at competitive prices at Morrisons this Christmas.

“Our plans to become a broader and stronger business are progressing well, with another period of positive like-for-like sales and the start of the rolling programme to supply McColl’s.”

Separately, Morrisons said it would start supplying 1,650 McColl’s stores with both Safeway products and national brands later this month, following the deal it penned with the convenience specialist last year.