Morrisons has reported a surge in fuel sales and a rebound in food-to-go in recent weeks, as life in the UK slowly returns to normal.
Fuel sales at the supermarket group jumped 17.5% in the 14 weeks to 9 May, its first quarter, contributing to a 5.3% rise in total sales. Like-for-like sales were up 2.7% excluding fuel, and 4.7% higher including fuel.
“The pandemic is not yet over, but it is in retreat across Britain and there is much to be positive about as something approaching normal life begins to take shape,” said David Potts, the Morrisons chief executive.
“Our forecourts are getting busier, we are seeing encouraging recent signs of a strong rebound of food-to-go, takeaway counters and salad bars, and our popular cafes will soon fully reopen. The nation has a summer of socialising and sport to look forward to and we’ll all be able to rediscover the joys of meeting up and eating well together.”
Indoor venues in England, such as cafes, bars and restaurants, along with cinemas and theatres, are allowed to reopen from next Monday under the government’s roadmap for easing lockdown.
Morrisons said Mother’s Day and Easter were big selling events and take-out food, such as its £3 meals, had improved strongly in recent weeks. Online sales more than doubled in the quarter.
Morrisons said profit before tax and one-off items would be higher this year than the £431m it would have achieved last year, had it not waived its right to claim the £230m business rates relief. Analysts are forecasting profits of £435m this year. The Bradford-based firm is expecting “another year of meaningful profit growth” in 2022-23.
Last year, profit halved to £201m on sales of £17.5bn, as Morrisons incurred £290m of extra costs because of the pandemic, including covering for worker absence and paying store staff a bonus. Covid costs have since fallen to £27m in the first quarter, to pay for extra worker absence and more marshals during the lockdown at the start of the year.
Under its partnership with the convenience store chain McColl’s, Morrisons started to supply an extra 230 McColl’s stores in recent weeks and converted 25 McColl’s stores to Morrisons Daily convenience stores, taking the total to 56.