Morrison to create 2,400 jobs in superstore openings

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The Independent Online
WILLIAM Morrison, the Bradford-based supermarket group, yesterday announced plans to create 2,400 jobs next year as part of a programme to open seven new superstores. The jobs are in addition to the 2,000 that will be added in five new stores this year.

The news came as Ken Morrison, the group's chairman, pledged that the company would remain independent in spite of the move towards consolidation in the supermarket sector.

Mr Morrison, whose family controls 40 per cent of the pounds 2bn company, said he had no plans to sell up: "We feel very strong and if we go for growth in the normal organic way we can carry on as we have done for the last 20 or 30 years. We have had no serious approaches. We believe in independence."

He conceded that the market was becoming more competitive and that the merger of Somerfield and Kwik Save would make it even more so.

But he said Morrison could succeed with quality stores and value for money with its Price Mission campaign, which guarantees 1,000 products on special offer every week.

Mr Morrison was speaking as the group announced an 11.5 per cent increase in full year profits to pounds 151.5m. Like-for-like sales in the six weeks since February were 3.1 per cent ahead of the same period last year.

Mr Morrison credited the success to a philosophy of keeping it simple. "We maintain low prices and reward customers that way. We don't have a loyalty card and we don't plan one," he said.

The new stores next year will include branches in Norwich, Letchworth and Killingworth.

This year's openings will include Halfway in Sheffield, and its first store in the south of England in Erith, Kent in October. The group currently has 85 supermarkets.

Group sales rose 5.6 per cent to pounds 2.3bn. The dividend was raised 23.5 per cent to 2.1p. Morrison shares rose 16.5p to 256.5p.

Investment column, page 26