UK supermarket group Wm Morrison has said its core Morrisons store sales excluding fuel were up 0.1% on a like-for-like basis in the six weeks to 9 January, while like-for-like sales at stores it has converted from the Safeway format were up 4.7%.

However, like-for-like sales under the continuing Safeway fascia fell 8.4%.

Total sales under the Morrisons fascia, including new stores and Safeway conversions, rose 31.9% compared to the year-ago period.

“As anticipated the like-for-like performance in core Morrisons stores was affected by a combination of competitors’ new store openings, some cannibalisation resulting from Safeway conversions, one less trading day and aggressive couponing activity by others to support the relaunch of stores which we were required to divest. Resultantly we believe the performance of core Morrisons stores is acceptable short term – especially given the tough 2003 comparatives of 9.6% like-for-like main store growth,” the company said.

Morrisons said it had converted 56 Safeway stores by the end of November, and plans to restart the conversion process in January. The company plans to convert a further 180 stores this year.

Despite the weak Christmas trading, Morrisons said it is on target to meet its expectations regarding profit before exceptional items for the year ended 30 January 2005.