Morrisons boss Dalton Philips to step down following weak Christmas trading

The Bradford-based grocer performed worse than any of Britain's other listed supermarkets

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The Independent Online

Morrisons has said its chief executive Dalton Philips will step down later this year, following another set of disappointing sales figures for the supermarket over the Christmas period.

Philips, who has led Britain's fourth largest supermarket for five years, will stay in the role until the end of year results in March to ensure a smooth transition, Morrisons said in a statement.

The Bradford-based grocer performed worse than any of Britain's other listed supermarkets, including Tesco and Sainsbury's, during the festive season.

Sales at stores open over a year, excluding fuel, fell 3.1 per cent in the six weeks to 4 January.

That compares to analysts' average forecast of a fall of 3.8 per cent and marks an improvement on a third quarter decline of 6.3 per cent.

However, comparatives with the previous year were very favourable as Morrisons' same store sales had fallen 5.6 per cent in the Christmas 2013 trading period. The outcome was also much worse than Tesco's and Sainsbury's Christmas performance.

Philips had long been under pressure from investors let down by the firm's the prolonged poor sales results.

Last year the the supermarket’s founding family approached private equity groups to discuss turning the business private again and an activist investor called on the firm to sell some assets and return cash to shareholders.

At the tail end of the Christmas reporting period, speculation is rife that more heads could roll in the retail sector.

Standard Life, an investor in fellow retailer Marks and Spencer, yesterday said the company's directors should be asking themselves whether chief executive Marc Bolland's "scorecard is acceptable".

Additional reporting by Reuters

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