Morrisons to close 11 stores

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Morrisons has announced the closure of 11 supermarkets putting 900 jobs at risk as it reported its latest slump in profits.

Pre-tax profits for the half-year to August 2 fell 47​ per cent​ to £126​m while like-for-like sales for the period dropped 2.7​ per cent​ compared with the same period last year.

New chief executive David Potts said the group faced a “long journey” to turn around its fortunes.

It comes a day after Morrisons said it was selling 140 M local convenience stores for around £25​m to concentrate on its larger supermarkets.

Mr Potts said: “With great regret we are proposing to close 11 supermarkets. This is a difficult decision but one which we cannot see any way through to make those stores viable.”

The closures are in addition to 10 supermarkets shut earlier this year. Morrisons had also announced earlier this year that it was shutting 23 M local stores.

Mr Potts said the closures being set out today were mainly smaller-sized supermarkets. He would not disclose the location of the sites straight away with the decision only just being announced to staff.

The move will result in a one-off cost of £20​m.

Mr Potts said of the firm’s turnaround plans: “This will be a long and challenging journey but an important one for one of Britain’s great retailers.”

Morrisons said it had opened just one new store this year and did not plan to open any more in the remainder of 2015/16 while it expected the sales contribution from net new stores to be negative.

Latest figures come as supermarkets continue to fight a fierce price war, with Morrisons and Big Four rivals Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s squeezed by discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Morrisons signalled further gloom as, despite the economic recovery bringing greater consumer confidence and wage growth, boosted by low fuel costs, supermarket prices remained under pressure as customers continued to seek bargains.

The group said: “We have seen no change in shopping habits, with customers continuing to shop around for value and shopping more frequently.

“In addition, as we continue to lower prices, deflation has been a consistent recent feature of our​ ​like-for-like sales.

“Although some commentators predict the return of food price inflation, driven perhaps by higher global commodity prices, we expect deflation to continue as we keep investing in our proposition.”