Morrisons announces plans to stock more British goods

Morrisons is calling on food entrepreneurs to get in touch as it looks to increase the level of British goods in store following Brexit.

Morrisons said it was very pleased with the way staff helped customers enjoy their Christmas
Morrisons said it was very pleased with the way staff helped customers enjoy their Christmas

The news came as the Bradford-based grocer announced strong festive trading with shoppers keen to buy traditional Christmas favourites such as mince pies, whole salmon and champagne.

Morrisons’ chief executive, David Potts, said: “Two thirds of what we sell is British and I intend it to be more. We are the UK’s biggest producer of food.

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“We are going to look for British entrepreneurs who have started their company in Britain despite recessionary times. They should call me and say: ‘I’ve got this great product. Do you want to sell it?’ If it’s legal, decent, honest and there’s consumer demand, the answer will be yes.”

Thomas Brereton, senior retail analyst at GlobalData, said: “As the saga of Covid-19 rolls on, alongside dealing with the impact of a rushed Brexit deal, Morrisons must play to its strengths in 2021, particularly emphasising to customers the extent of its local produce sourcing compared to competitors.”

Morrisons has long championed local farmers and it tailors each store to local tastes and demographics.

The move to promote British food came as Morrisons reported strong festive trading and said it looks forward to sustaining this strong momentum into the new year.

The firm said like-for-like sales jumped 9.3 per cent over Christmas and the new year.

The group said it has focussed on playing its part in feeding the nation amidst the “ongoing extremely difficult period for all”.

“This has been an extremely difficult period for everyone,” said Mr Potts.

“It’s clearly going to remain difficult for some time, but we remain focussed on playing our full part in feeding the nation.

“Sales have been strong and our amazing colleagues have risen to the unprecedented challenges and the business has real momentum.”

He said that shopping patterns and consumer behaviour were different this year as the Covid-19 restrictions made large gatherings of family and friends more difficult.

“Despite the difficult year we’ve all had, our customers did manage to celebrate in some way over recent weeks,” he said.

“We are especially proud of our doorstep delivery telephone service, which is a great example of us listening and responding and moving fast.”

At the start of the pandemic, Morrisons noted there was a large group of primarily elderly and vulnerable people who needed food but couldn’t shop online.

“In two weeks we set up a system, hired 500 vans in a weekend, took phone orders the old fashioned way and started delivering food to people who needed it and it proved to be very popular. By next week, we’ll have delivered 600,000 orders,” said Mr Potts.

“It’s old school for sure, but it works and in some communities, it literally saved Christmas.”

In the lead-up to Christmas, Morrisons saw more customers shopping earlier than in previous years and a renewed focus on traditional Christmas fare.

Champagne sales were up 64 per cent compared with last year, whole salmon sales rose 40 per cent and Free From mince pies were up 14 per cent.

“Customers were determined to have a good Christmas, even if it was quieter and smaller than usual,” said Mr Potts.

“We saw strong demand for the traditional Christmas favourites such as mince pies and Christmas pudding.”

Morrisons’ new doorstep delivery service completed over 35,000 orders in the two weeks before Christmas, delivering to the vulnerable, the elderly, the isolating and the isolated to make sure no-one was left behind.

The firm said the feedback from these customers, their families and communities for this service has been “amazing”.

Mr Potts said: “The pandemic has had a severe effect on people and communities around Britain for nine months now but it has been especially hard at Christmas time.

“I’m very pleased with the way the Morrisons team has helped our customers across the nation enjoy their Christmas in the best way they could - with safe shopping, great service and outstanding stores even in the most difficult circumstances. But I’m even more proud of the broader contribution that the Morrisons team has made to the communities we serve - through food bank donations, doorstep deliveries to the vulnerable, discounts for key workers, the work of our 500 community champions and the countless small acts of kindness that have made a particular difference this year.”