Morrisons has revealed that like-for-like group sales rose by 2.8% over the key Christmas period.

Like-for-like sales in the 220 converted Safeway stores increased by 9% in the six weeks to 8 January, while the figure for the 122 core Morrisons stores fell by 2.9%. The company said that this was a reflection of the success of the Safeway conversion plan.

Total sales dropped by 9%, reflecting the disposal of 155 stores over the past year.

In a statement released today (11 January), the company confirmed the closure of three distribution depots at Warrington, Aylesford and Bristol. The company, which is in the process of removing the excess capacity that accompanied its acquisition of Safeway, said that associated exceptional, property and redundancy costs incurred this year will total about GBP£60m (US$105.7m).

Morrisons added that it expects profits for the year to 29 January 2006 will be in-line with previous guidance that the figure will fall at the lower end of its £50m to £150m target range.