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UK's Morrisons sees slower sales growth over Christmas

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Morrisons, Britain's fourth largest supermarket group, missed Christmas sales forecasts as weak consumer demand hit its retail and wholesale businesses.

[LONDON] Morrisons, Britain's fourth largest supermarket group, missed Christmas sales forecasts as weak consumer demand hit its retail and wholesale businesses.

The group, which has been in turnaround mode after the rise of the German discounters Aldi and Lidl hit sales in 2013, said it had seen a change in consumer behaviour over Christmas as Britons reined in their spending.

The supermarket operator, based in Bradford in northern England, said like-for-like sales excluding fuel rose 3.6 per cent in the nine weeks to Jan. 6.

That compared with analysts' average forecast for growth of 4.1 per cent and growth in the previous quarter of 5.6 per cent.

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Retail sales from its high street stores rose 0.6 per cent, compared with 1.3 per cent in the previous quarter of the year, while wholesale sales of goods sold via partners rose 3 per cent, compared with 4.3 per cent in the previous quarter.

Morrisons did, however, stick to its expectations for its full 2018-19 financial year which ends Feb. 3.

"This is Morrisons fourth consecutive Christmas of like for like sales growth during the turnaround," Chief Executive David Potts said. "Morrisons is well set to keep improving the shopping trip and become more and more relevant for more customers".

Prior to Tuesday's update analysts were on average forecasting a 2018-19 pretax profit of 409 million pounds (S$708.6 million) up from 374 million pounds in 2017-18.

REUTERS