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Morrisons reveals Christmas sales jump

The supermarket chain Morrisons continued to outperform its rivals today after it revealed like-for-like sales jumped 8.2 per cent over Christmas.

The group reported record levels of trade across the 382 stores in its estate, helped by its focus on fresh food and promotional offers.

The latest industry data recently showed Morrisons notched up its highest ever market share in the 12 weeks to December 28, with TNS Worldpanel reporting a figure of 11.9 per cent - adding to the pressure on market leader Tesco.

Sainsbury's posted a like-for-like sales rise of 4.5 per cent over the Christmas period, while Tesco managed an improvement of 2.5 per cent.

Today's sales figure, which excludes fuel, was slightly higher than market expectations of 8 per cent.

Morrisons recently completed the rebranding of its stores as part of a three-year turnaround plan led by chief executive Marc Bolland, following the problems caused by its takeover of Safeway in 2004.

The UK's fourth biggest supermarket chain also re-launched cheaper lines, slashed prices and launched promotions, including Sunday lunch for four for £4.

The company said its expectations for 2008/09 profits remained unchanged following the Christmas trading update.

It added: "We remain cautious on the outlook for consumer spending and we expect the market to remain challenging. In this environment we believe Morrisons value credentials will serve us and our customers well."

Morrisons shares opened slightly lower today as analysts focused their attention on trading prospects this year.

Freddie George, a retail analyst at Seymour Pierce stockbrokers, said: "We believe it will become harder for Morrisons to improve market share in a more competitive market, which is likely to see greater discounting from Tesco trying to recapture market share."