Morrisons boss Dalton Philips hailed a “very strong” festive performance after the retailer posted a 1% increase in like-for-like sales for the six weeks to 2 January.

Philips claimed the supermarket was “a nose ahead of the market”, with total sales excluding fuel up 3.1% over the period.

He insisted sales had not been badly hit by the freezing weather conditions experienced in the run-up to Christmas but said trading patterns had moved around as shoppers got to stores when they could.

The traditional busiest shopping day of the year, 23 December, was down on last year but Christmas Eve was busier than normal.

“This has been another good performance in a tough market,” said Philips. “At Christmas, when customers are even more focused on great quality food at outstanding value, the Morrisons differences really stand out.”

Philips said the senior appointments made last week reflected growing momentum at the retailer. Singling new own-brand director Belinda Youngs out for praise, Philips described her as “arguably the best private brands person in the world today”.

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