Page last updated at 07:54 GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008

New shoppers push Morrisons sales

Morrisons store
Morrisons is outperforming many of its rivals

Supermarket chain Morrisons has seen its sales rise and says more than 700,000 new shoppers are visiting its stores each week.

The store said like-for-like sales, excluding new stores and fuel, rose 8.1% in the 13 weeks to 2 November.

Chief executive Marc Bolland said more shopper were choosing Morrisons in the "challenging economic environment".

Morrisons also said it had agreed to buy 38 stores from the Co-operative Group for 223m ($328m).

In a statement Morrison said "the economic environment is difficult and will remain challenging," but said that its financial expectations for the current year remained unchanged.

Sales rise

The deal with the Co-op, which has been required by regulators to sell some of its shops after its purchase of Somerfield earlier this year, would also lead to 98m of acquisition, integration and refurbishment costs, Morrisons said.

"The acquisition is conditional upon a successful completion of the Co-operative Group's acquisition of Somerfield and certain competition approvals," it said in a statement.

The firm has been increasing its market share this year, helped by its image as a lower-priced alternative to many of its rivals as shoppers cut back on spending in the economic downturn.

Morrison's latest rise in sales has outperformed those of its rivals. On Tuesday, Tesco reported a 2% rise in quarterly sales, Asda's quarterly sales rose 6.9% while Sainsbury's sales were up 4.3%.

According to figures from research firm TNS, in the 12 weeks to 2 November Morrisons had a 11.4% share of the UK supermarket sector.

Morrison also announced 403m of investments and said, as a result, it would suspend its 1bn share buyback programme, pending a further update in March 2009.

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