Morrisons chief says Christmas campaign did the job as festive sales nudge up

Sales at the big four supermarkets were close to flat in the last 12 weeks of 2018.

Morrisons’ Christmas campaign resonated with consumers, chief executive David Potts suggested, after the supermarket reported a slight increase in sales over the Christmas period.

In a trading statement, released this morning, Morrisons announced like-for-like supermarket sales up 0.6% in the nine weeks ending 6 January. Meanwhile, across the company, including its wholesale operations, sales grew by a much more impressive 3.6%.

Speaking on a call to journalists, Potts said: "I’m happy with the sales over Christmas and, in the research we’ve done so far, customers said the ads worked well and they thought they were very Morrisons. Like all advertising, you’re never quite sure, but so far, so good."

The brand's main Christmas spot, "Christmas, Morrisons makes it", created by Publicis London, features a boy and his mum discussing their Christmas wishes and profiles a number of products.

Morrisons was one of several brands, along with Tesco, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, to avoid an elaborate TV ad in favour of product-focused advertising.

The supermarket also re-ran another spot highlighting its free-from product range – one of a number of areas Potts said had seen significant growth in 2018. Morrisons' sales of nut roasts tripled, he said, and the supermarket sold 55,000 packs of "veggies in blankets", a vegan sausage alternative. Sales of "wonky veg", vegetables that would otherwise be rejected, doubled.

Kantar Worldpanel also releases its latest supermarket share data this morning that covers the past 12 weeks of 2018, showing a tough Christmas the big four supermarkets, which ranged from 0.7% year-on-year growth at Asda to a 0.4% decline at Sainsbury’s. Tesco and Morrisons make up the remainder of the big four. 

The market’s worst performer, though, was Waitrose & Partners, where sales were down 1.7% – suggesting that any positive impact from its rebrand in September 2018 has yet to appear. Meanwhile, Aldi and Lidl grew sales by 10.4% and 9.4% respectively and continued to eat into the market share of the big four.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said: "The discounters have continued to make their mark over Christmas; two-thirds of all households shopped at either Aldi or Lidl over the 12-week period, culminating in a highest-ever combined Christmas market share of 12.8%.

"The return of Kevin the carrot contributed to an 18% increase in carrot sales and nearly one in five households bought the vegetable at the discounter."

Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose and M&S are all due to announce results over the next two days.

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