Morrisons has reported a “disappointing” performance over Christmas amid a “highly promotional market”.
The grocer recorded a 2.5% fall in like-for-like sales over the six weeks to December 30, while total sales excluding fuel were down 0.9%.
The grocer said “hard-pressed consumers increasingly shopping to a budget”, as well as vouchers issued by rival supermarkets, were to blame. It also cited its minimal exposure to the online and convenience sales channels as a reason for the fall in sales.
The performance suggests rival Tesco, which updates the City on Thursday, as well as Asda, may have gained shoppers from Morrisons, while Waitrose managing director Mark Price said last week it gained shoppers switching from Sainsbury’s over Christmas.
However, Morrisons did not issue a profit warning as some analysts had speculated and the grocer stated that full-year performance would be “broadly in line with expectations”.
Morrisons said: “Notwithstanding these difficult market conditions, which we expect to continue through 2013, our sales performance in the period was disappointing.
“This reflects both the need to improve our promotional innovation and the communication of our points of difference, as we highlighted in November, and the accelerating importance of other channels, such as online and convenience, which Morrisons has only recently entered.
“However we continued to maintain good availability and high standards of service throughout the seasonal peak.”
Morrisons chief executive Dalton Philips said: “In a difficult market our sales performance was lower than anticipated, but we have a strong business and significant opportunities to advance our strategy as we accelerate our multichannel offer.”
The retailer said its financial position remains “strong” and it expects full-year net debt to be between £2.1bn and £2.2bn.
Morrisons has promoted its marketing and operations director Nick Collard to the position of group marketing and customer director.
Collard will be appointed to the management board in June with responsibility for marketing, own brand ranges, insight, loyalty, customer relationship management and format. Casper Meijer will lead the other commercial functions from June as group trading director.
Belinda Youngs is also promoted to corporate brand marketing director reporting to Collard.
Philips said: “Nick’s doing a great job in taking our marketing forward and now has the opportunity to lead one team integrating our own brand and customer engagement. The recent announcement of our partnership with Ant and Dec is a great sign of how Nick’s team can showcase the talent of Morrisons colleagues and the value they offer our customers.”
Collard joined Morrisons in January 2011 from Boots, where he was brands director.