Morrisons boss David Potts has insisted the grocer will “work very hard” to reduce prices despite the slump in the value of the pound.
The grocer hiked the price of Marmite by 12.5% at the end of October, just weeks after its big four rival Tesco rejected demands by supplier Unilever to increase the price of the product by 10%.
But Morrisons said prices fell 1% overall during its third quarter and Potts vowed the supermarket giant would not be a “bystander” to the debate over price rises.
Speaking after unveiling a 1.6% increase in like-for-likes – Morrisons’ fourth consecutive quarter of growth – Potts said: “With manufacturers and suppliers, our job is to understand in good time any proposed cost increases, the reasons for them, how they can be justified and look at how we present our offers to customers.
“But I don’t think we are going to be bystanders to this debate. Our job and my life is dedicated to providing greater value for money to Morrisons customers regardless of the macro circumstance.”
He added: “Any price increase is with regret. We work very hard both to maintain prices and reduce prices.
“This year we have reduced hundreds of prices since February and they remained reduced in November, which is a triumph and an achievement.”
Pressed further on how Morrisons is preparing for a potential economic slowdown once Article 50 is triggered, kick-starting Britain’s exit from the EU, Potts said: “We have to have our wits about us, we have to do our best to manage value for money.
“Clearly, commodity price changes and depreciating sterling puts pressure on prices, but we are turning around this company.
“Whatever happens on prices and whatever pressures we find in a macro sense, we have to find out how we deliver value for money within the context of the sector and the budget of our own customers.”
Potts revealed that an uplift in shopper numbers was the main factor behind the grocer’s latest like-for-likes rise.
“We’ve seen people coming once or twice a week and new customers returning to Morrisons,” Potts said.
“Getting busier supermarkets, more footfall, is really important to the company. I feel when I go round the stores that we are busier.
“But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves – there is plenty to do.”