Morrisons reported a 2% drop in like-for-likes sales for its financial year (excluding VAT and fuel), although positive Q4 figures showed signs of recovery.
Total turnover was down 4.1% to £16.1bn, according to a preliminary report for the year ending 31 January 2016, and underlying operating profit, excluding exceptional costs, such as store closures and restructuring, was also down 22% to £399m.
However, the grocery retailer’s performance improved towards the end of the year, with Q4 sales (excluding fuel) holding steady at 0.1% growth.
David Potts, chief executive at Morrisons, said: “By improving the shopping trip for customers, we have started the journey to turn around the business and make our supermarkets strong.
“Our strong balance sheet and cash flow provide the platform for turnaround and growth, but what makes us truly unique as a food-maker and shopkeeper is the personality and dedication of our thousands of colleagues. I am confident these strengths will help us fix, rebuild and grow Morrisons.”
The year was marked by a large-scale reduction in Morrisons’ sales space, with the company declaring it had closed 21 underperforming supermarkets, while only opening one new site. In addition, the retailer disposed of its 140-strong M Local convenience store venture.
The company proposes to close a further seven stores, but added that its network review was now complete, and it had no further plans for closures beyond this. Meanwhile, only one new opening is planned for the year.
Morrisons’ net debt dropped £594m during the year to £1.8bn. It said it would utilise its strong cash flow to continue a strategy of debt reduction going forwards.
Morrisons recently announced a wholesale deal to supply groceries to online retail giant, Amazon.