Morrisons sales in spotlight amid prospect of rising food prices

Analysts will this week scrutinise Morrisons’ first-quarter trading update for any signs of food inflationary pressures amid talk of a possible hike in interest rates in the months ahead.

The supermarket chain is due to update investors on its recent performance on Tuesday, with analysts looking for like-for-like sales growth of about 1.6 per cent, compared with a year earlier.

The trading update will cover the three months to the end of April – a period where much of the economy was still under lockdown.

City analysts said the base for comparison was tougher than in the prior three quarters and would get tougher still from here.

Morrisons is due to update investors on its recent trading performance this week. Picture: Mikael Buck/Morrisons

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said: “For the first quarter, analysts are looking for 1.6 per cent like-for-like sales growth but for the full year they expect a 0.8 per cent drop, as the base for comparison becomes harder and consumers are (hopefully) getting out and about a lot more.”

He added: “Investors will also look for any commentary on trading patterns right at the end of the quarter as lockdowns began to ease and whether this has affected trade in any way. Any comments on food price and input cost inflation will also be of interest.”

Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the supermarket major had the potential to ramp up its digital offering.

“We’ve long said Morrisons is an underdog when it comes to online shopping,” she noted. “Its footprint is much smaller than rivals, which isn’t ideal in the current conditions but does create potential for rapid growth.

“Morrisons online sales tripled at the full year, and we’ll find out if the group’s been able to keep hold of momentum. With life edging towards normal, there’s a chance we could see progress slow.

“We’ll of course be looking out for progress in the core store business too. Like-for-like sales were moving in the right direction last year, especially in the final quarter.

“That’s no mean feat in today’s competitive environment and something similar may be necessary this quarter to meet the full year target of over £431 million in underlying pre-tax profit.”

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