Morrisons sales fall in tough market
LONDON (Reuters) - The country's No. 4 grocer Wm Morrison Supermarkets (MRW.L) posted a fall in underlying sales in its first quarter, reflecting tough comparatives with a bumper period of trading last year and customers switching to rivals who are promoting more heavily.
Morrisons, which trails market leader Tesco (TSCO.L), Wal-Mart's (WMT.N) Asda and J Sainsbury (SBRY.L) in UK market share, said on Thursday sales at stores open over a year fell 1.0 percent excluding fuel in the 13 weeks to April 29.
That was in line with analysts' average forecast, according to a company poll, and compared to a fourth quarter rise of 0.7 percent.
Morrisons was up against tough comparative numbers as in the same period a year ago like-for-like sales rose 2.5 percent with spending boosted by an exceptionally warm Easter and the Royal Wedding.
But analysts reckon the firm may have lost share to Tesco, after the market leader stepped-up vouchering in the wake of its January profit warning, as well as Asda and discounters Aldi, Lidl and Netto.
"The uncertain economic background is expected to remain challenging for the consumer and accordingly the board remains cautious," Morrisons said, adding its financial outlook for the year remains unchanged.
(Reporting by James Davey)
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