680 jobs under threat at Morrisons

Picture by Simon Hulme.

Picture by Simon Hulme.

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Around 680 jobs are under threat from the latest store closures announced by Morrisons, which has delivered an upbeat Christmas trading update today.

The supermarket chain said it was shutting the seven branches “with regret”, but stressed they were not profit- making and were among its smaller outlets, at under 15,000 square feet.

It will have around 490 stores after the closures. It has not yet announced which stores are to close.

Shares in Morrisons surged by more than 10 per cent after the better-than-expected trading update, while the cheery start to festive trading from the Big Four players sparked gains across its listed rivals, with Tesco and Sainsbury’s up 6 per cent and 4 per cent respectively.

Morrisons reported a 0.2 per cent rise in like-for-like sales excluding fuel in the nine weeks to January 3 in a marked turnaround after recent hefty sales declines. Analysts were expecting sales to fall by 2 per cent at Morrisons, coming against a tough backdrop in the supermarket sector as the major players have been waging a fierce price war in the face of competition from discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Upmarket rival Waitrose last week posted a 1.4 per cent drop in sales over its six-week festive season, although Marks & Spencer’s food halls fared better with a 0.4 per cent rise over the quarter to December 26.

Morrisons said its overall sales rise came mainly after an improvement from its core stores, although online sales contributed 0.9 per cent to the nine-week growth.

Strong sales of beer and wine helped Morrisons notch up its festive sales increase, while it added that its Nutmeg clothing range fared well, as did its M Signature premium food range.