LONDON, Jan 5 (Reuters) – Morrisons, Britain’s fourth largest supermarket group, reported a rise in underlying sales in its latest trading period encompassing Christmas, benefiting from out of home eating and drinking being restricted by strict COVID-19 regulations.
The group said on Tuesday that group like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, rose 8.1% in the 22 weeks to Jan. 3 – a period that spans Morrisons third quarter to Nov. 1 and the nine week Christmas trading period.
The outcome compared to analysts’ average forecast of a rise of 8.3% and a second quarter increase of 12.3%.
All of Britain’s supermarket groups benefited in the run-up to Christmas from unprecedented demand due to the pandemic. Restrictions mean a large chunk of the population is still working from home and the hospitality sector is closed.
Supermarkets also had more mouths to feed, with many of the five million or so Britons who normally travel abroad for Christmas staying in the UK.
Morrisons said it still expected 2020/21 profit before tax and exceptionals to be in line with its expectations, in the range of 420 million pounds to 440 million pounds ($571.5 million to $598.8 million), prior to a business rates payment of 230 million pounds.
Shares in Morrisons, down 7% over the last year, closed at 181 pence on Monday, valuing the business at 4.4 billion pounds ($6 billion).
On Monday, discounter Aldi reported a 10.6% year-on-year rise in UK sales for the four weeks to Dec. 24. (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Kate Holton, Kirsten Donovan)