Retailer Morrisons has seen like-for-like sales (excluding fuel and VAT) rise by 1.4% for the half year to 31 July 2016.

Total turnover for the supermarket group was down 0.4% to £8.03bn, while underlying earnings per share (EPS) rose 35% to 5.04p up from 3.73p in the comparable prior period. The retailer also reduced its net debt by £477m to £1,269m and it plans to exceed cost savings of £1bn by the end of 2016/17.

Profit before tax grew by 13.5% to £143m, up from £126m in the prior period.

Chairman Andrew Higginson said; “The new team has made a real difference and delivered further good progress across the board in the first half. Prices are lower, customers are being served better and quality is improving, as demonstrated by Morrisons winning a number of recent prestigious awards, such as the 2016 Meat and Fish Retailer of the Year [at the SuperMeat & Fish Awards].”

Last week the retailer also scooped the In-Store Bakery of the Year title at this year’s Baking Industry Awards.

The retailer pointed to recent partnerships with Amazon and Timpson and the plan for to grow profitably across Britain with Ocado.

It also noted that its strategic plan to Fix, Rebuild and Grow a broader, stronger business would be colleague-led and that it had invested in its ways of working programme, including a craft skills apprenticeship, which is enrolling more than 300 bakers, butchers and fishmongers.

David Potts, chief executive, said “We are pleased with positive like-for-like sales and 11% underlying profit growth in the first half. We have made improvements to the shopping trip for customers and we plan to do more. I would like to thank the entire Morrisons team of food makers and shopkeepers who are working very hard to Fix, Rebuild and Grow Morrisons. This turnaround opportunity is in our own hands and I am confident we will succeed.”

In August, the retailer appointed the UK’s first ‘bake officer’.