Morrisons has unveiled positive like-for-like sales in the first quarter for the fourth consecutive year, driven by the strength of its wholesale business.

The grocer’s like-for-like sales excluding fuel rose by 2.3% for the 13 weeks to May 5, 2019, while total sales saw a 2.4% uptick.

The retailer put this down to the “good progress” being made by its wholesale arm, which was responsible for 2.1% growth in the first quarter, compared with the 0.2% growth of its retail arm.

Morrisons said that the first conversions of former McColl’s stores to Morrisons Daily fascias and MPK petrol forecourts to either Morrisons or Safeway Daily have “started well” and were driving “strong sales increases”.

The grocer also posted “strong” sales during Easter, up 1.7% like-for-like compared to the previous year and 3.4% on a two-year basis.

Morrisons boss David Potts said: “We are improving the shopping trip and becoming more competitive for customers and are pleased with another quarter of positive like-for-like sales.

“We will continue this important work, including on those favourite items we know our customers want to buy at Morrisons.”

The retailer said it was “confident” in its outlook that it “has many sales and profit growth opportunities ahead, and continue to expect that growth to be both meaningful and sustainable”.

Morrisons relinquishes space at Ocado depot

Morrisons has agreed to let Ocado have sole use of its newest customer fulfilment centre until January 2021, as the etailer looks to get its delivery capacity back up to speed following the Andover fire.

Until 2021, Morrisons will “not incur either the start-up or running costs of the new Erith CFC”, and the grocer said that for the remainder of 2019 and through 2020, would “be able to grow for customers, both by accelerating new store pick capacity” and through Ocado’s Dordon CFC.

It was also announced that Ocado will no longer be Morrisons’ exclusive digital partner, which it said potentially enabled “other significant opportunities, more strategic flexibility, and more profitable growth for Morrisons”.

Potts said: “We are pleased to be helping our partner in times of need after the recent fire. We will keep growing for our customers and save some cost, returning to the Erith CFC when it is more mature.

“Our new agreement allows us to have more than one digital partner, and opens the way for significant potential opportunities and partnerships in this important growth area for Morrisons.”

Morrisons wholesale arm drives like-for-like rise in first quarter