Morrisons chief executive Dalton Philips has vowed to return the grocer to like-for-like growth next quarter despite a slump in third quarter sales.

Philips said Morrisons will deliver its first quarterly sales growth for two years in the crucial fourth quarter aided by a “strong trading plan” for Christmas and momentum built up by healthy sales in October. 

He said: “Our growth coming out of the quarter has been a lot stronger, October was a good month for us. 

“We are confident of our trading plan we have in place and our quality and provenance will put us into positive growth for the quarter. 

“We know it’s going to be a competitive market, it always is at this time of year but we are feeling more comfortable with our direction of travel.”

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said a number of factors had driven Morrisons’ to make the forecast. “Such expectation, we believe, is underpinned by improved trading momentum through October, a further weakening of comparatives and plans to open stores on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day,” he said. 

However, Philips said the decision to open on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day for the first time was unlikely to boost sales, merely spread them across the festive period. 

Morrisons today reported a 2.4% fall in third quarter like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to November 3. Total sales rose 1% in the period.