WM Morrison unveils best Christmas sales in sector

By Margarita Snegireva. WM Morrison Supermarkets unveiled the best Christmas performance in the sector on Tuesday, beating forecasts with a 9.5 percent rise in like-for-like sales excluding fuel in the six weeks to Jan. 6.

A new advertising campaign launched in September boosted sales at Britain's fourth-largest supermarket group, which has trailed larger rivals Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury since its merger with Safeway in 2004.

Morrisons currently has 372 superstores in the United Kingdom (including new store openings by the end of 2007), including those it retained following its purchase of Safeway plc. Until 2004, Morrisons superstores were largely concentrated in the English Midlands and the North of England, but had expanded southwards, beginning with a store at Erith, Greater London, which opened in 1998. Most Morrisons stores operate from large superstore with a core focus on groceries and homewares, with fewer electronics, clothing and furnishings than the company's main supermarket rivals.

In May 2006, Sir Ken Morrison announced he is to step down as executive chairman in January 2008 after 56 years with the company. The following month, it was announced that Marc Bolland, the Dutch chief operating officer of Heineken International had been appointed as the new chief executive of Morrisons.

On 12 July 2007 Sir Ken Morrison announced the appointment of a non-executive Deputy Chairman "Sir Ian Gibson" (Chairman of Trinity Mirror PLC, Director of Greggs PLC, GKN PLC and Northern Rock PLC and President of Nissan Europe) who will take over as non-executive chairman when Sir Ken steps down no later than 13 March 2008.

Morrisons is now one of just four supermarket chains that dominate the full-size superstore market in the United Kingdom. In descending order of size the other three are Tesco, ASDA (owned by Wal-Mart), and Sainsbury's. Morrisons strategy is based on doing the basics efficiently, selling predominantly food at lower prices, and doing so only from large stores. This is a different approach from the other three big chains: Tesco and Sainsbury's in particular have moved into "retail services" such as banking; the same two companies are expanding into the convenience store sector; and Tesco and ASDA place great emphasis on their non-food ranges and are experimenting with stand alone non-food stores.

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