Morrisons upbeat as the nation prepares to socialise and watch sporting events after months of lockdown

Morrisons is looking forward to strong trading this summer as shoppers emerge from lockdown and plan social events and get togethers to watch the Euros and the Tokyo Olympics.

Morrisons said that key seasonal events such as Mother’s Day and Easter were particularly successful
Morrisons said that key seasonal events such as Mother’s Day and Easter were particularly successful

The Bradford-based grocer said it is on track for strong future profit growth after like-for-like sales rose 2.7 per cent in the 14 weeks to May 9. Total sales, including fuel. rose 5.3 per cent.

David Potts, Morrisons chief executive, said: "The pandemic is not yet over, but it is in retreat across Britain and there is much to be positive about as something approaching normal life begins to take shape.

"Our forecourts are getting busier, we are seeing encouraging recent signs of a strong rebound of food-to-go, take-away counters and salad bars, and our popular cafes will soon fully reopen.

"The nation has a summer of socialising and sport to look forward to and we’ll all be able to rediscover the joys of meeting up and eating well together. Whichever way consumers choose to enjoy their renewed freedom, we will be there for them."

Mr Potts told The Yorkshire Post that the delayed Euros, the UEFA European Football Championship taking place in June and July, are likely to be more important to Morrisons' customers than the delayed Tokyo Olympics.

"The Euros will do a bit better than the Olympics. If the home nations progress well then all the better for it," he said.

"Families will be getting together in bigger groups for barbecues as well as traditional booze and pizza. We're really looking forward to it. All my instincts say there is rising optimism at the moment on the back of lower cases of Covid, the success of the vaccine programme and the economy looking up.

"I think that sense of optimism is percolating through the country and it will lead to people wanting to celebrate events. We'll be doing everything we can to be part of that."

This rising sense of optimism will provide a major boost for Morrisons, which put customers ahead of profits during the past year of lockdowns.

"The country appears to be booming and customers certainly are in spend, spend, spend mode," said Mr Potts.

"The Euros are a very important moment for the country and we can provide barbecue, pizza, soft drinks, alcohol and everything that people want.

"We'll be there with some strong deals and some strong offers and I know that customers rely on those."

He said the firm has had an encouraging start to the year, with positive like-for-like sales and some good momentum across Morrisons, both on a one and two-year view.

“We’re looking to the future with confidence as we see the growing warmth and affection for Morrisons from our customers flow into every area of the business," Mr Potts added.

"Our increasingly special butchers, bakers, fishmongers and other food makers are helping to brighten shopping trips, and the growing reach of our online businesses is attracting new customers and broadening the appeal of new Morrisons."

Morrisons said that as the 14 week period progressed, there were encouraging signs of significantly lower direct Covid-19 costs and a recovery of profit lost due to the pandemic in areas such as fuel and food-to-go.

"We are also looking forward to the lost profit gradually returning at our cafes from when they reopen next week," the group said.

Online sales soared during lockdown and rose 113 per cent over the 14 week period.

Morrisons said that key seasonal events such as Mother’s Day and Easter were particularly successful, and there has been a strong recent improvement in food-to-go sales.

It said there has been a renaissance of the supermarket in Britain during the pandemic and customers are enjoying cooking at home more.

The group incurred a further £27m of direct Covid-19 costs, which was in line with its expectations. These costs were mainly incurred due to extra colleague absence and more marshals during the first few weeks when the second Covid-19 wave was still prevalent and Britain remained under strict lockdown.

The consensus for Morrions' 2021/22 profit before tax and exceptionals is currently £435m, up from £431m at the time of the 2020/21 prelims in March.